1. I wasn’t going to listen to Radio Sputnik again today, so I went to one of Washington’s many, many AM talk show stations (right wing all) and spent a half hour with Dennis Prager, who is typical of the lot. I learned that the third hour of his show on Tuesdays is devoted to “Ultimate Issues”. Who knew? Or cared? Today, the “Ultimate Issue” was God – about as ultimate as you can get.
He kept referring to a recent New York Times article written by a secular graduate student, who seemed to be arguing that a happy life required a purpose. This led Prager, a self defined religious Jew, to conclude that you cannot have a purpose if you don’t believe in God, and therefore a secular argument for purpose (and thus happiness) must either fail, or be in fact an argument for God even if the person making the argument does not realize it. At least, that is how I interpreted Prager.
Basically, he said that “everyone” knows that you are only able to be happy if you have a purpose, and that without God, the universe is meaningless (no reason for it to be here and at some point it will disappear), so you need to believe in God to have a purpose, to put meaning into the universe, and to be happy. And he believes the public schools shoukd teach this. He was clear to say he was not (today) trying to prove the existence of God, just to say that a belief in God is required to be able to lead a meaningful life.
How many times have I heard this argument, which to me makes absolutely no sense as a generalization? Even if you accept the premise that a purpose is necessary for happiness, it seems clear to me that a belief in God is important for some people in this regard, and irrelevant to those happy secularists who find enough purpose In serving their fellow human beings and being a custodian of the planet.
Although this hour was not political in the typical talk radio sense, Prager did get his swipes in at “the left” which is a secular group and whose adherants have a mean streak, such as feminists who apparently conclude that women who don’t agree either are not women, blacks who conclude that blacks who don’t agree with them are not black, and Jews who think that Jews who don’t agree with them are Nazis. There is no comparable mean strike in members of the right (Dennis, are you serious?), and the alt-right doesn’t exist.
Prager has been involved in some controversy regarding Islam, such as when he told then recently elected US representative Keith Ellison that he should not be allowed to swear on a Koran at his inauguration. He obviously is anti-Islamist, he’s a strong Zionist, and I frankly don’t know what he thinks about the average Muslim on the street.
And anti-Islamist as he is, it seems to me he doesnt realize that he is doing a good job describing the Islamist movements as he talks about purpose and happiness in regard to the NYT article.
Islamists believe in God, they are 100 percent purpose driven, and they appear (in their way) happy. As for me, I would prefer secularists any day of the week, purpose driven, happy secularists.
So, Prager’s one size fits all definition of how happy people must look at God and the universe doesn’t stand up. People are different. They view the universe differently and different things make them happy.
Religion is a wonderful aide for many people – perhaps for most people. But it is dangerous when it creeps into the public sphere. This is why separation of church and state is so important. There is nothing more frightening than a religious-driven state enlisting the help of its religious (by either instinct or requirement) citizenry to lead a purposeful life by fulfilling the aims of their God. And this is where the Dennis Pragers of the world will lead us if we don’t watch out.
2. I ordered a Morning Glory muffin this morning at Firehook in Cleveland Park this morning, and from the first bite I didn’t like it. In fact, when I had eaten just about half, I decided to call it quits. It was only then when I looked at it and didn’t see the raisins, the carrots or the pineapple that I realized that I had been given a pumpkin muffin. I don’t like pumpkin muffins. At all. And it was too late to do anything about it.
And that’s all I have to say about that.