Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dennis Prager's case for God

I think, after today, I'm going to try to stop writing about Dennis Prager. I have conservative friends who deeply respect him, and I admit to being somewhat confused by that: To me, his liberals are always straw man liberals (who always seem to be pulling the country toward Stalinism) and his atheists are always straw man atheists. We won't even talk about his straw woman feminists. There's always an audience for such things, of course, but the people who give credence to Prager are usually thoughtful. I'm obviously missing something.

If Prager has or attempts a moral imagination that lets him consider lives and viewpoints other than his own in non-hyperbolic, non-stereotypical fashion, it is not evident in his writing. And while I admit that my conservative friends might say the same thing about me from time to time, the effect of Prager's style is that it is impossible to really constructively disagree. That means he's mostly irritating, and almost never—in my experience—thought provoking.

His style is on display in an NRO column about why the Higgs Boson discovery is meaningless, particularly if there is no religious belief accompanying it.
One must have a great deal of respect for the atheist who recognizes the consequences of atheism: no meaning, no purpose, no good and evil beyond subjective opinion, and no recognition of the limits of what science can explain.
Prager's case for God boils down to this: Without God there is no meaning, therefore God. 

In other words: He starts from a debatable premise, then makes a conclusion that doesn't necessarily proceed from the premise.

I don't want to be an evangelistic agnostic. If Dennis Prager finds his meaning in the existence of God, well, good for him. I suspected he's joined by the vast majority of Americans, the vast majority of people. And again: Good for them.

But it seems that what Prager is ultimately saying is that my life is meaningless, probably even to me, because I don't infuse it with religious belief. And I reject that idea: Yes, my first years out of the church were a little confusing because I'd relied on that framework for such a long time. Since I left the church, I've gotten married and, with my wife, had a son. I endured a couple of tough years, and somehow didn't throw myself off a bridge. These are not acts of nihilism. I take satisfaction and find meaning in them, but I don't attribute a Larger Meaning to them. That's OK.

I also recognize that Prager and folks who think like him might think I protest too much. That's OK, too.

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