Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I haven't commented on Dennis Prager's show lately since he hasn't said anything new or particularly offensive to me or at least not anything that's offensive in new ways. It may need reminding that I mostly agree with Prager and it is usually only when he makes what I consider grossly illogical statements that I feel particularly compelled to set him straight. Today's show while discussing the meaning of Passover did include yet another offhand comment on the absurdity of a universe without God but then I have already commented on the flaws with that particular view last week on April 3.

While commenting on Passover Prager made some interesting points, some of which I agree with. Just to review, Passover tells the story of the Israelites exodus from Egypt where they had been slaves. Prager makes the point that in addition to being physically freed Israelites had to free themselves from the ideas of Egypt. Egypt's culture was focused on death as evidenced by the pyramids, which while architecturally impressive structures, were giant tombs, as well as the so-called Egyptian Book of the Dead. Prager argues that on the other hand, the Torah or teaching that God provided the Israelites is focused on life as evidenced by the kosher rules, including prohibition on drinking any blood (hence the large quantities of salt in kosher meats to draw the blood out before eating) and the prohibition of combining milk and meat (supposedly to avoid mixing a symbol of life -- milk -- with a symbol of death -- dead flesh). In addition Jewish priests (which today means descendents of the priests that originally served the Jewish temple) are prohibited from visiting cemeteries. I might also add that it is widely known that Jews cheer drinks with the phrase L'Chaim meaning "To life".

I can agree with Prager on Egypt but I only have limited agreement on Judaism. Egypt, to the best of my knowledge, was indeed a culture devoted to death as shown by the examples that Prager gave. It is also illustrated by the little progress it achieved in 3000 years of history. However, it is much more difficult to make the case that Judaism is the religion of life, especially based on a few rather nonsensical symbolic theological commands. This much can be said in Judaism's favor based on my own knowledge and experience. It is focused on living this life according to the rules God gave because God gave them. However, it cannot be fully considered life oriented because while it does focus on this life, it examines it in light of laws that came from outside life. Fortunately, it does have an effective fail-safe mechanism, a passage in the Bible that is interpreted to mean that since God ordered man to live by the laws, he never intended death (or even injury) to result from them. This is interpreted in such a way that almost no law is to be followed if it results in one's own injury or death. Also, it is quite clear that the more rational Greek philosophy had a substantial influence on Judaism making it more difficult to pursue some of its more absurd notions. Today, both Judaism and Christianity have been substantially tempered by the Enlightenment ideas of the 18th century and it is those ideas of reason and individual rights that are the true culture of life.

Prager's second hour included an interview with an Palestinian Arab intellectual which once again illustrated the fantasy world in which the Arabs live. Interviews such as this one give little hope for the future in the Middle East. Finally, Prager's third hour today discussed the absurdity of the Dutch court giving former Holland prime ministerial candidate Pim Fortuyn's assassin a mere 18 years in prison and once again pointed out that far from Europe being morally superior for having abolished the death penalty, it is American that is morally superior for preserving it and not keeping murderers alive.

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