Photo Credit: Dennis Prager
Dennis Prager

How can we determine what is morally right? The answer to this question – the most important question human beings need to answer – is a major difference between Left and Right.

For conservatives, the answer is, and has always been, that there are moral truths – objective moral standards – to which every person is accountable. In America, this has meant accountability to the Creator, the God of the Bible, and to Judeo-Christian values.

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For the Left, the answer has always been that there is no transcendent source of morality. On the contrary, as Marx wrote, “Man is God,” and therefore each human being is the author of his or her own moral standards.

There are, of course, both religious leftists and secular conservatives, but the secular-religious difference explains many of the fundamental differences between Right and Left.

As a rule, leftists fear and have contempt for people who base their values on a transcendent source such as religion and the Bible. Such people, in the Left’s view, “can’t think for themselves; they need a God and a religion to tell them what’s right and wrong.”

Leftists contrast these conservatives with themselves, people who think issues through and do not need God or religion. This ideal of thinking everything through for oneself sounds admirable. And to a certain extent it is. People should think things through. And too often, religious people can sound like they haven’t done so.

But if there is no God and no religion, there are no moral truths, only moral opinions. Good and evil, right and wrong, don’t objectively exist without God and religion. They are subjective terms that just mean “I like” or “I don’t like.”

Therefore, no matter how much one thinks things through, without God and religion – specifically, the God of and the religions based on the Bible – the individual’s conclusions about what is right or wrong can only be opinions about what is right or wrong. Without God and religion, morally speaking, there is no fixed North or fixed South. The needle points wherever the owner of the compass thinks it ought to point.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Recently a professor of philosophy wrote in The New York Times about this complete absence of moral truth among younger Americans:

“What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised? I was.

“The overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture.

“Our public schools teach…there are no moral facts. And if there are no moral facts, then there are no moral truths.

“It should not be a surprise that there is rampant cheating on college campuses: If we’ve taught our students for 12 years that there is no fact of the matter as to whether cheating is wrong, we can’t very well blame them for doing so later on.”

So, then, if there is no moral truth, how do most secular people arrive at moral decisions?

According to how they feel. On the Left, personal feelings usually supplant objective standards.

Many liberal parents and teachers do not tell their children what is right and wrong. Rather, they ask their children and students, “How do you feel about it?”

In fact, feelings often supplant reason, not just moral truths.

On the Left, feelings for the poor, for selected minorities, for the downtrodden, gays, women, Muslims, and others are frequently all that is necessary to formulate policy.

For the conservative, as important as feelings may be, they are just not as important as standards in making social policy. But for the contemporary liberal, feeling – or “compassion,” as the Left puts it – is determinative.

As much as one may – and should – feel about historical injustices committed against black Americans, the conservative will not eliminate standards. Therefore, conservatives oppose lowering admissions standards at academic institutions for black students; liberal compassion is for it.

Conservatives generally oppose changing the marital standard of one man-one woman; liberals’ compassion for gays supports it. Indeed, given the supplanting of standards with feelings, liberals will find it difficult to oppose polygamy. If love between people is the criterion for marriage, two people who love a third person should not be denied the right to marry that person.

Conservatives oppose abolishing the biological standard of gender identity and therefore oppose allowing men who identify as women to play on women’s sports teams; liberals have compassion for the transgendered and therefore drop the athletic standard.

Conservatives’ commitment to a standard of true and false means identifying terrorists as Islamic; liberals feel for the many good Muslims in the world and therefore often refuse to identify Islamic terror by name.

In his Farewell Address, President George Washington’s most famous speech, the first president perfectly expressed the conservative view on the need for God and religion for moral standards and for societal standards generally:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”

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13 COMMENTS

  1. The 10 Commandments cover it all. So do the mitzvots we follow; as well as the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights. When we, humans, are alive we should abide by these moral compasses. When we pass on, we shall join Hashem’s essence and add to the Greatness of the Oneness. Ironically, as simple as these tenets are, progressive liberals find them as impediments to their existence . To them, what the history of humanity has shown to be empirically true is no longer valid. They are wrong, but because they outnumber those of us who adhere to these precepts they have become politically correct. What they fail to understand is how inconsequential their beliefs and behavior mean in the history of humanity

  2. 1 BEHOLD, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.
    2 And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.
    3 And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken.
    4 The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly.
    5 The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful.
    6 For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.
    7 The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right.
    8 But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.

  3. What is moral for one culture could be Unacceptable to another. And what one says is wrong, the other says is okay. People can't be totally objective to this. We need Someone outside of human limitation to say what is truely right and wrong.

    Some might point to Muslim extremists hurting people. But they use it as an excuse to do what they want. G-d wants people to be good to each other, respect each other, and spread goodness through the world

  4. I have come to the conclusion that pondering “morality” in an amoral society is a meaningless exercise. Geoffrey Bryson’s post that “G-d is in itself a subjective construct” is a demonstration of my point because in his clear and unambiguous statement he is saying what way too many people believe . . . morality is relative. As a side bar, ISIS could legitimately use his statement to justify everything they have done and everything they will do.

  5. ….which is why Prager says: "without God and religion – specifically, the God of and the religions based on the Bible…" There can be only one immutable source if truth, which is why G-d gave the Jewish People of diseminating its truths (the 7 Noachide laws) to the world at large. One 'moral truth' – one peaceful world.

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