Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Prager Says We're the Best

Prager's making the usual argument here.

I've heard it before, and it's still wrong. Though I want to give him points for trying (he says he wants to practice "genuine humility") the fact is, when you claim superiority for your value system -- that is, when you preach that your value system is the only truly correct one, the only good one, which is, in fact, what Prager is arguing we should believe -- the logical extension of that is, in fact, crusades: progroms: death camps.

Sorry, son. It is.

And, Mr. Prager? If you think the Christians are going to stop with the Muslims?


Now: to specifics:

This part of his argument is true:

All people are equal, but that does not mean that all values are equal. The statement, "All people are equal," is itself a value, one which holds that human equality is superior to any value that demeans or denies the intrinsic worth of other human beings.

But many of the best educated (and therefore least intellectually clear) will counter, why can't people hold that their values are superior only for themselves?

The answer is that it is not only a misuse of the term "value," it betrays a complete misunderstanding of the concept. To return to the examples offered above, do those who believe that freedom is superior to tyranny believe that freedom is only superior for them? Can you imagine someone arguing: "I happen to value the ability to speak, write, worship and assemble freely as a value for me, but I do not believe that such freedom is better for anyone else"?

Leaving aside the dig at the best-educated people being the least intellectually clear, which is, frankly, stupid -- and typical of the Right-Wing's anti-intellectualism (yes, educating people makes them stupid -- sure it does. In Bizarro World, it does), this is not a bad argument.

Unfortunately, that argument doesn't, as Prager wants it to, support this:

The very implication of a "value" is that it is superior to any other. If you value monogamy, you are saying it is superior to polygamy. If you value tolerance, you are saying that tolerance is superior to intolerance.

In fact, just as I can value George Eliot and also Shakespeare, just as I can value the wisdom of Christ and also the Tao, so I can value monogamy and also see the value of polygamy (which, by the way, I can: I've often thought how handy another wife would be around here) -- or, for instance, the value of not getting married at all. (I was, after all, single for over 30 years.)

I can value tolerance, but also see that Prager -- to take an example -- might, in his own religion, that I myself don't want to live in, not want to tolerate certain sorts of ways of living. I don't want, myself, heaven knows, to become like Prager. I also (hey, imagine this) don't want to force Prager to become like me.

No, really. I honestly don't.

See that, Prager? That's how America is SUPPOSED to work.

That's why we have that thing called the First Amendment. You get to have your way of life. I get to have mine. The Amish in PA get to have theirs. The Wiccans in Indiana get to have theirs.

What's wrong with your essay -- and here's the problem with your thesis -- is you seem to think it's okay for one group, which assumes its value system is the best one, to then, since its value system is, obviously, the best, to enforce that belief.

You seem to think that's not going to cause any problems, so long as you act with humility -- whatever that means -- and caution.

Read some history.

And keep in mind: there's a reason those Christians are sticking JUDEO in front of that Christian, and it ain't cause they love the Jews, Mr. Prager.

No comments: