April 30, 20001
Here's a quote from the Washington Post ombudsman which should warm Prager's heart:
• Religion. The subject doesn't seem to play much of a role in a large newsroom, although it plays a big part in the lives of many readers. This is one of the larger disconnects between journalists and their audience. Readers are quick to question, for example, whether the mention of someone's religion in a story is relevant or whether it reflects bias. They are skeptical about editing of quotes that seems to reduce their religious power or flavor. In The Post's special inauguration section, for example, readers noted that a famous line from Lincoln's second inaugural had been shortened, leaving out, "as God gives us to see the right." Just last week, several readers asked why a quotation from the U.S. Navy pilot who said he had prayed while trying to land his damaged surveillance plane in China had been edited. Left out was the phrase, "I had already accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior." These readers said they knew because the full quotation was in the New York Times.
April 29, 2001
Doug Hill writes to Dennis Prager:
Dear Mr. Prager: Today on your show, you read a letter from a listener (Joel, I think) who compared your show with Uri Geller with the Fox show alleging a moon-shot hoax, that you criticized. Unfortunately, Joel didn't flesh out his argument. I called in to attempt to do that, but unfortunately you ran out of time before you could get to me. So I'll attempt to do that briefly here. FYI, I'm a long-time listener to you and participant in the Prager-L internet discussion group (where I'm cc'ing this letter). I also share a radio show (on a volunteer college station) so I understand your time constraints.
What your show with Uri Geller, and the Fox show on the "No-Moonies" have in common is failure to do the homework. There are answers to many of their arguments that Fox declined to air. Because of your expertise in photography, it was apparent to you how lame many of their arguments were. Fox could have had some real experts on to debunk their claims, but this would have detracted from the spooky conspiracy "X-Files" atmosphere they were trying to create.
With all due respect, you did something similar when you had Uri Geller on your show. Here, the relevant experts are professional magicians. I am often amazed and astounded (as well as entertained) when I see professional magicians. Typically I cannot tell how the trick was done. Neither you nor I are qualified to evaluate if a magician is doing a trick with ordinary magical techniques, or, as Geller claims, by telekinesis. You should have had some magicians on your show observing this. But Geller will not perform in front of professional magicians. (In fact, he's been quite a scoundrel, frequently filing harassment suits against his critics. He rarely if ever collects, but this has a chilling effect on those who would criticise him. It is ironic that you, who has been so critical of such legal abuses, would have him on your show and not call him on this.)
Geller's foremost critic has been James Randi, author of The Truth about Uri Geller. Randi has been one of Geller's SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation) victims, tho he's never paid him anything. I would suggest that you try to get him as a guest on your show. You can contact him at http://www.randi.org/. He'd be a terrific guest to address your recent issue of "how can we know what is true?". Frankly, I'd love to hear the 2 of you together.
Michael Shermer of the Skeptics Society has also written on the no-moon hoax. Ironically, he did a show on the Fox Family Channel that dealt with this in more balance. I would be happy to send you his brief response to the other Fox show if you are interested.
Shannon writes: Randi is also incidentally an atheist, with membership in Freedom from Religion Foundation... On that basis, I think we can comfortably expect Prager to decline your suggestion.
April 27, 2001
The Jewish Journal (JewishJournal.com) again devoted space to the LA Times article doubting the historicity of the Exodus.
Dennis Prager writes to the Journal:
In his article on the Exodus controversy, Jewish Journal Editor Robert Eshman wrote: "Radio talk show host Dennis Prager spent almost two hours fielding calls from across the region, and let callers know of his own strong disagreement with Wolpe."
It is entirely understandable why Eshman wrote this, as I mentioned to him that I discussed the issue for two hours on my radio show. But I never discussed Rabbi Wolpe or his sermon.
The reason is simple: In 19 years of radio I have never discussed anything I myself did not hear or read, and I certainly was not going to make an exception in the case of my friend Rabbi David Wolpe.
Both on the air and in print I discussed the issue, not a talk that I never heard.
The error was, as noted, entirely understandable, but it is important that it be corrected.
Luke says: I wonder about Prager's statement: "In 19 years of radio I have never discussed anything I myself did not hear or read..." But Prager all the time comments on quotations in newspapers. Yes, DP often uses the disclaimer, if so-and-so was quoted accurately, then...
Is Tickling Cheating?
Dmoore writes: Before I got married last year I and my bride to be discussed tickling fetish at length. During our conversation the talk of what she considered cheating in a relationship would be. Ofcourse the usual "sex with another woman or man" came up but also something I hadn't considered. She said if I were to tickle another woman she would consider that me cheating on her. I don't agree. (I didn't tell her that though)
Dlaink writes: Though I'm no Dennis Prager (a well-known L.A. talk-radio host and Torah scholar who specializes in morality) I think I may be able to offer something in the way of clarity, especially since I'm in a similar situation: I'm married, never cheated, no interest in sex, per se, outside the marriage, but tickling other women is a true temptation, especially since the missus really isn't into it, nor is she terribly ticklish (but she's a fabulous match for me in every other way). Bottom line is (for me as well as you), SHE considers it cheating. Doesn't matter if tickling another gal has the moral equivalence to eating a corn dog for you (which it obviously doesn't, or you wouldn't be so troubled about it that you'd ask the counsel of a group of total strangers), she has made it clear SHE considers it serious.
Shock, Horror - DP.com Adds Content
Usually there's not much content on Dennis Prager's official site, DennisPrager.com. But now he's added a great new feature on his "What's New" page.
I copying the feature over here because DP.com usually does not archive this type of material.
New York Times Columnist Says Republicans Have “No Hearts”
“You might say that because people with no heads indulged their idealism by voting for Ralph Nader, people with no hearts are running the world’s most powerful nation.” Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist, April 22, 2001
DP says: For years I have been saying that in general, conservatives think liberals are wrong and misguided, while most liberals think conservatives are much worse than wrong, they are bad. This is but one more example. The major reason many liberals believe this is that most liberal positions are felt, not thought through. Hence, those who oppose those positions are almost definitionally unfeeling.
In China Nationalism Is Now the Dominant Ideology
“This growing Chinese nationalism did not arise by accident. In the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown on the student democracy movement, Chinese leaders consciously cultivated nationalism as a new glue to unite the country. Communism was discredited, so President Jiang Zemin and others used the education system and the propaganda apparatus to nurture a prickly national pride and suspicion of the outside world. As He Xin, a commentator with close ties to hard-liners, said at the time: ‘The new unifying force in China is patriotism.’
“Wu Jiaxiang, a former senior official who was imprisoned after Tiananmen and now lives in Boston, puts it differently. ‘Chinese nationalism is something that the Communist Party started after Tiananmen,’ he said. ‘They use nationalism to replace Communism. They invented it. There was some in the 1980’s, but it has become much stronger since the 1990’s.’” New York Times, April 22, 2001
DP says: With the death of Marxism in China — no one has believed in Marxism for 50 years except for some Western intellectuals — nationalism is the dominant ideology in China. This will not be a blessing. With the overturning of traditional Chinese religion, nationalism of the chauvinist and xenophobic type will become the de facto Chinese religion. People will die and kill for it. And in China that means a lot of people:
Are These Abortions Moral, Too?
“Early figures from the 2001 [India] census, conducted in February and March, have made it clear that female fetuses are being regularly aborted, continuing a trend that first became marked in the 1980’s. The number of girls per 1,000 boys dropped to 927 this year from 945 in 1991 and 962 in 1981.
“The fall in the ratio of girls to boys over the past decade, when India’s population grew by a staggering 181 million, has been most extreme in the richest states of the north and west, where more people can afford tests and abortions, demographers and economists say.
“For example, here in Punjab, India’s most prosperous farming state, the ratio of girls to boys has plummeted to 793 girls per 1,000 boys from 875, while in Gujarat, a leading industrial state, the figure for girls has fallen to 878 from 928.” New York Times, April 22, 2001
DP says: Is this “reproductive freedom” or wanton sexist destruction of nascent human life? What do pro-choice advocates who resist any moral condemnation of any abortion (including in the third trimester) say about the millions of abortions solely because the aborted is a female?
We Share The Planet With More Than A Few Very Weird People
“DENVER—Two therapists were convicted Friday of child abuse in the death of a 10-year-old girl who suffocated while undergoing a controversial “rebirthing” therapy.
“The jurors deliberated for five hours before finding Connell Watkins and her assistant Julie Ponder guilty of reckless child abuse resulting in death.
“In the procedure, Watkins and Ponder wrapped Candace in a flannel sheet, which was to represent the womb. The two women pushed against Candace with pillows to simulate contractions. They urged the girl to fight her way out, as if coming out of a womb, and join Newmaker.
“Newmaker was present during the session, and she faces trial in November on charges of criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death.
“Watkins testified that she had learned the technique from ‘New Agers’ in 1999 and had performed it four other times, saying she found it to be effective in releasing the rage of some children. This time, however, the procedure went terribly wrong. The prosecution’s most damning evidence was a 70-minute videotape of the session. On the tape, the therapists can be heard mocking Candace’s cries for help, calling her names and discussing other matters while the child begged for air. Candace repeatedly told the therapists that she couldn’t breathe. She told them she had vomited and defecated. One therapist responded, “Scream for your life.” The girl repeatedly said she thought she was going to die, and one of the women told the girl she would have to “die” to be reborn. “You mean like you want me to die for real?” she asked. Ponder, who was sitting on top of the child, replied, “Uh-huh.” “Die right now and go to heaven?” Candace asked. “Go ahead and die right now,” Ponder said.
Los Angeles Times, April 21, 2001
Narcissism, Adoption, and Cloning
In an article about the urge among some people to clone themselves, a scientist with a an infamous reputation, Dr. Panayiotis Zavos, remarks about the e-mail he receives: “Zavos has received hundreds of e-mails from people desperate to produce their own children since he made the cloning project public. One U.S. naval officer stationed in Japan wrote that he and his wife had adopted three children, ‘but it’s just not the same as a child from our blood.’” Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2001
DP says: If that e-mail is accurately represented by the infamous doctor (kicked out and censured by various hospitals), the Naval officer is another example of the greatest moral/psychological problem of our time — narcissism. If this primitive man really believes that adopted children are “just not the same as a child from our blood,” why did this man ever adopt children? So many people who know there is no difference between loving an adopted or biological child, would have ached to adopt and propely love those children. Clearly, he views children as owned products, not as lovable autonomous human beings. Those poor three children to have such a narcissistic primitive for a father. The truth is, the man deserves a clone of himself — that would be the ultimate punishment. Please see my article from The Prager Perspective — Thoughts on the Virginia Baby-Swapping: Do You Love Your Child or Your Seed?
Blacks Are For Vouchers, Liberal Democrats Are Opposed — Why?
“Despite the massive propaganda against school vouchers, 60% of blacks support them. The number is even higher among the poorest blacks: 72%” Arianna Huffington, Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2001
Why don't liberals and the Democratic Party, who claim to be the spokesmen for black America, support what the great majority of African-Americans support? Because of the stranglehold of the teachers unions, among the most reactionary groups in American life, over the Democratic Party. If blacks were not so angry at whites — an anger fueled by black and white liberals (as in the 2000 election’s NAACP as associating George W. Bush with the lynching of James Byrd) — and not so emotionally invested in affirmative action, most blacks would realize that the Democratic Party and liberal politics have hurt them almost as much as Jim Crow laws did.
For A Decade We Have Lied To Ourselves About China
“George W. Bush's early run-in with China over U.S. reconnaissance flights is more silver lining than cloud. Beijing's continuing haggling over right and wrong, and over truth and fiction, is more deeply revealing than a thousand policy memoranda or interagency meetings would be for the new president.
“International law, and indisputable facts, matter little when they conflict with Beijing's version of history and the Communist Party's hold on power. China's behavior since the Hainan emergency landing strikes at the heart of the elaborate Clintonite fantasy that this is a government pretty much like any other, with rough edges that can be smoothed over with patience and diplomatic wooing.
“This is a government that permits schoolchildren to blow themselves up making fireworks for export, and then lies to the nation about the children's fate. Any government that will do that will certainly lie about an airborne disaster it helped create.”
“China, Revealing Its True Nature” By Jim Hoagland Washington Post, Sunday, April 22, 2001; Page B07
DP says: More evil has been committed because of lies believed (Jews are an inferior race = Holocaust; blacks are an inferior race = slavery;) than from of any one other cause. As lying is endemic to Communist regimes, there is no reason at this time for optimism about China’s moral future.
Cardinal Who Opposes Capital Punishment Compares Relatives of Oklahoma City Victims To Spectators At Roman Coliseum
“The capital’s new cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, was asked Thursday at a luncheon interview with Washington Post reporters and editors how he would counsel relatives seeking to watch McVeigh die. “His answer: ‘It is like going back to the Roman coliseum.’
“His Eminence is a slight and twinkling man, full of quips and stories, but he brought the moral equivalent of a lion’s roar to the discussion. ‘I think we are watching, in my mind, an act of vengeance, and vengeance is never justified. Vengeance belongs to God . . . . He’s the master of life.’”
“Hardly a Sight to See” By Mary McGrory Washington Post, Sunday, April 22, 2001
DP says: This is what opposition to capital punishment so often leads to — a broken moral compass and meanness. Washington DC’s new cardinal, an opponent of capital punishment, a man who prays that Timothy McVeigh, murderer of 168 people be allowed to live out his full life, compares the poor souls who want to witness McVeigh’s tender execution with those barbarians who went to gladiator matches. There is no doubt in my mind that Cardinal McCarrick does not really believe that there is a moral equivalence between those watching the execution of a man who murdered their loved ones and the Romans who watched innocent people killed for sport. But that is what opposition to killing any and all murderers often leads to. In the ancient words of the Talmud, “those who are merciful to the cruel will be cruel to the merciful.”
April 20, 2001
The Jewish Journal (JewishJournal.com) devoted several articles to the LA Times article doubting the historicity of the Exodus.
Here's the link to Prager's article (my comments are in italics):
During Passover and on Good Friday the Los Angeles Times published a front-page article titled "Doubting the Story of Exodus." The timing was typical of the insensitivity often shown in mainstream media to religious Jews and Christians. It is unimaginable, for example, that any mainstream newspaper would ever print a front-page article on Martin Luther King’s extramarital affairs on Martin Luther King Day.
I don't think that is unimaginable at all. I've seen newspaper coverage of MLK's misdeeds, though I do not remember its timing. Newspapers are insensitive by definition. Think how they treat the President after his State of the Union address.
Good newspapers routinely cover things in ways that their subjects and many readers find insulting. Good newspapers do not allow their subjects and readers to set the agenda but rather their own journalistic instincts. A story during Passover on the historicity of the Exodus was legit. In fact, there's no better timing.
According to the article, most archaeologists and even some Jewish clergy do not believe the biblical Exodus occurred. That most archaeologists conclude from the alleged lack of archaeological evidence that Jews were never slaves in Egypt and the exodus to Canaan never took place tells us something about these individuals, but nothing about the Bible or the Exodus.
Dennis Prager has no expertise on the question of the historicity of the Exodus. He's not a Bible scholar. He's not a historian. He's not an archeologist. He has no credentials to address the question of what archeology and historical tools have to say about the Exodus and the factual truth of the Bible. None. So it chutzpah for Prager to proclaim that the work of those scholars (archeologists, Bible scholars and historians) who've devoted their lives to this question is meaningless. How can Prager proclaim that the experts in this field have nothing to say? Prager certainly can't speak from experience or education or expertise.
Prager can say that he believes in the historicity of the Exodus and that he believes or disbelieves in this or that part of the historical record or scientific truth, but it is ludicrous. The historicity of Israel and of the Bible is not properly a matter of faith or belief. It is a matter of fact. That God chose the Jews, that God inspired the Bible, and that God guides the destiny of Israel are all properly matters of faith which are immune to scholarly investigation.
What does it tell us? That most of these archaeologists have the same bias against traditional religious beliefs that most of their academic colleagues have. Ten years ago, Dr. Robert Jastrow, an agnostic and one of America’s leading astrophysicists — founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and now director of the Mount Wilson Observatory — wrote about this in his book "God and the Astronomers." Jastrow described a disturbing reaction among his colleagues to the big-bang theory — irritation and anger. Why, he asked, would scientists, who are supposed to pursue truth and not have an emotional investment in any evidence, be angered by the big-bang theory? The answer, he concluded, is very disturbing: many scientists do not want to acknowledge anything that may even suggest the existence of God. The big-bang theory, by positing a beginning to the universe, suggests a creator and therefore annoys many astronomers.
This anti-religious bias is hardly confined to astronomers. It pervades academia, home to nearly all archaeologists.
Take one of the archaeologists’ major conclusions: Because they have found no evidence of Israelites in the Sinai desert, no Israelites made the trip from Egypt to Canaan. That conclusion strikes many of us as so unwarranted — even arrogant — as to demand explanation. According to the book of Exodus, the Israelites spent only 40 years in the desert over 3,000 years ago. What could possibly remain from a mere 40 years in a desert 3,000 years later?
What does Prager know about archeology and its methods? What is Prager's knowledge of historical tools of investigation? Where did Prager get his Ph.D. in archeology and Ancient Near East history or in Hebrew? These proclamations are particularly amusing as Prager constantly proclaims his erotic love of truth, no matter how painful. And how very rational he is.
And since when does the alleged lack of physical proof mean something never happened or doesn’t exist? I have no doubt that many of the archaeologists who are so certain that the Jews never wandered out of Egypt are quite sure that there is intelligent life somewhere in the universe. But on what basis? Despite decades of highly sophisticated probing, we do not have a shred of evidence to support the belief that intelligent life exists anywhere else. They choose to believe it because logic suggests to them that intelligent life exists out there.
Well, logic suggests to many of us that Jews were slaves in Egypt and that there was an exodus. For thousands of years Jews have been retelling this story. It is possible that it is all a 3,000-year-old fairy tale, but do logic and common sense suggest this? Why would a people make up such an ignoble history? Why would a people fabricate a myth of its origins in which it is depicted so negatively?
Prager shows no knowledge of the historiography of the Exodus, how, for instance, for hundreds of years, according to the Bible, the Israelites did not observe Passover.
There is no parallel in human history to the Hebrew Bible’s negative depiction of the Jews’ national origins.
The Christian Bible shows most of the early Christians to be just about as miserable as the Jewish Bible shows the founder of Israel.
The Torah’s depiction of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt to Canaan portrays the Jews as ingrates, rebels and chronic complainers, undeserving of the freedom God and Moses brought them. Moreover, aside from Moses, the heroes of the story are nearly all non-Jews. It is the daughter of Pharaoh who saves and rears Moses (later Jewish tradition actually holds her to be his mother); it is a Midianite priest, Jethro, who tells Moses how to govern the Jewish people; and the two midwives who refuse the pharaoh’s order to kill all male Jewish babies are almost certainly Egyptians. As for Moses himself, he is depicted as being raised an Egyptian.
That is one of the three reasons I am certain of the Jews’ slavery and exodus. Any people that makes up a history for itself makes sure to depict itself as heroic and other peoples as villains. That the Torah’s story does the very opposite is for me an unassailable argument on behalf of its honesty.
Second, I do not believe that a nation tells a story for 3,000 years that has no experiential basis. Moreover, the text has allusions to Egypt that only contemporaries could know. Even the name Moses is Egyptian (compare the pharaohs’ names Thutmose, Ahmose and Ahmosis).
Third, I choose to believe the story despite the archaeologists’ (subjective) claim of no evidence just as, despite the powerful arguments of history and of archaeologists of the past generation, some archaeologists — and those who trust archaeologists more than the biblical narrative — choose to believe the exodus never happened.
As for the argument of some Jews that they do not depend on the veracity of the Exodus for their faith, from a Jewish standpoint this is destructive nonsense. If the Exodus did not occur, there is no Judaism. Judaism stands on two pillars — creation and exodus. Judaism no more survives the denial of the Exodus than it does the denial of the Creator. Creation and Exodus are coequal Jewish claims. A creator God who never intervened in human affairs is Aristotle’s unmoved mover, not the God the Jews introduced to the world. Moreover, any Jews who believe the Exodus did not occur should have the intellectual honesty to stop observing Passover. They should spend the week studying the truths of archaeology — that is their haggadah — rather than what they regard as the fairy tales of the haggadah and Torah.
Fifty years ago, when anti-religious dogma was less suffocating, archaeologists showed time and again how archaeology confirmed essentials of the biblical narratives. Today, most archaeologists argue the opposite. In a couple of decades, they will probably change their minds again. I didn’t rely on archaeologists for my faith when they confirmed it, and they have no effect on my faith when they deny it. They will continue to find meaning in their lives from excavating ancient ruins and deconstructing the Bible. And I will continue to find meaning in life telling my children, and hopefully one day my grandchildren, what Jews have told their children and grandchildren for 3,000 years. "We were slaves in the land of Egypt and with a mighty hand, God brought us out."
Luke says: Has Prager ever had a Bible scholar as a guest on his show? What about a Biblical archeologist? I don't remember one, and I've been listening since 1986.
And is Prager's source of values really the Bible? I suspect that his values would correspond with those who graduated from his high school (Yeshiva of Flatbush) and received a similar amount of secular education (elite graduate school, Colombia).
Steve writes on the Prager List: Boy, i must say i was really amazed by this article, by its dishonesty and by its stupidity, but then i remembered that one of Dennis's job requirements is to provoke. In any event here are some of my responses to his piece:
Of course, even if astronomers are annoyed by G-d, they all accepted that the Big Bang best described the available evidence. Prager on the other hand dismisses current archaeology precisely and solely because of his own bias, instead choosing to engage in ad hominem.
Also according to Exodus, over 600,000 grown men left Egypt (meaning more than a million counting women and children) of which most died in the desert and they spent 38 of those 40 years in the same spot, which has been extensively escavated. Archaeology has found evidence of nomadic peoples living in the Sinai dating before and after the time of the Exodus, but nothing matching the described Exodus. And of course there's much more: For Example Moses is said to have been denied passage by the King of Moab, yet Moab became a nation long after the supposed time of Moses. (Moab was well known in the time that these stories were written yet did not exist in the time the story is set.) There are many such anachronisms in the Bible. (Another example: Egypt controlled Canaan in the time of the Exodus yet the Bible never mentions this, because of course the writers of the Bible didn't know.)
If Prager doesn't know these facts he's an ignoramus. If he does he's a cravenly immoral propagandist. Take your pick.
"Why would a people make up such an ignoble history?"
Since much of the Bible was likely compiled and written by priests living in Babylon during the exile (after the fall of both Israel and Judah), the story of an enslaved people going on to found a great and united kingdom (it also appears now that David and Solomon did not rule a great or united kingdom, and that Israel was always Judah's superior) would be quite noble and inspirational to an exiled people struggling to retain and forge their national identity.
Furthermore the Exodus may well be based on reality: the reality of the Hyksos. They were Palestinians who came to and settled in Egypt during a time of famine, like the story of Israel in the Bible. They rose to great power (and in fact ruled) in Egypt, again like the story in the Bible. Then a wave of nationalism in Egypt led to their expulsion back to Canaan. But they were not Israel, and they were expelled some 500 years before the time of the Exodus. Certainly this historical memory could've been part of the Canaan culture from which the people and nation of Israel did arise.
Prager's simpleminded approach to this subject is either intended for the simpleminded, or indicative of his grasp of this subject. Again take your pick.
"As for the argument of some Jews that they do not depend on the veracity of the Exodus for their faith, from a Jewish standpoint this is destructive nonsense. If the Exodus did not occur, there is no Judaism. Judaism stands on two pillars — creation and exodus. Judaism no more survives the denial of the Exodus than it does the denial of the Creator. Creation and Exodus are coequal Jewish claims. A creator G-d who never intervened in human affairs is Aristotle’s unmoved mover, not the G-d the Jews introduced to the world. Moreover, any Jews who believe the Exodus did not occur should have the intellectual honesty to stop observing Passover."
What a load of crap this is! Prager has shown himself (or at least his public persona) to be a fundamentalist of the worst sort. First of all Judaism is about deeds more than beliefs. Doesn't Prager know this? Even atheists can be good Jews. (Not me of course.) Don't atheists deny the creator? Has Dennis Prager's ego now grown so large that he rules the rabbis, and the he alone decides what Judaism is? Furthermore one of the best things about religion, about celebrating Passover, is the connection you get to your family, to your people, to your fellow man, knowing that your father, and that his father and his father before him also followed the very same rituals. Judaism is about observance, not about belief.
Prager has drawn a line in the sand: you can't be a modern man and a Jew at the same time. He's a fundamentalist pure a simple. And a bigger fool than even I ever thought.
Shannon writes on the Prager List: A masterful response to Prager's meandering folly. Unfortunately he will neither read nor respond to it. A fanatic religious polemicist of Prager's ilk finds the celebrating of religious ritual and ceremony by the nominally religious or atheists completely incongruous... But the joke's really on him.
My response [to Prager's essay]: I am curious why the archaeological veracity the Exodus tale holds such pivotal interest to Prager in the practice of his Judaism. Why not too the account offered for humankind's origins in the Garden of Eden? No doubt, under the scrutiny of scientific evaluation, Adam and Eve, a talking snake and our incestuous intermarriage origins implied in Genesis look rather feeble.
Equally so, the Flood account, a literal interpretation of which, is scientifically preposterous. Religious faith by its very nature absolves itself of the usual empirical strategies employed in determining truth. It is, plain and simple, an insistence that a theological claim or tenet is true and factual purely by virtue of a mass held belief. Religiosity largely functions by affirming metaphysical assumptions, thinly veiled by history.
So, whether or not the Exodus occurred; and at this juncture it appears that there is no tactile evidence to believe it did, the theology of Judaism, as the theology of all religions, remains untainted. Religion operates outside the realm of the real, and in that aspect its claims warrant no serious evaluation by the scientific community.
Steve Zimmerman writes: I think if one were to sit down with a rational, thinking Orthodox Jew, that person would have to agree that taking the Torah as the literal word of G-d is a belief, not a fact. It has to be because there is no objective proof that it is the literal word of G-d.
It's no different from Christians taking on the belief that the words of Jesus as quoted in the Christian bible are Jesus' actual spoken literal words. Again, there is no objective proof since they were written down minimum 30 years after allegedly spoken.
I don't think Judaism needs proof of the Exodus to exist. The Torah is a collection of stories meant to give Jews a roadmap on how to live in the world. It is designed to inspire our people...which it has for thousands of years. It has confounded rabbis and sages throughout the centuries.
Because it is a collection written by different authors at different times, with different writing styles, it is full of contradictions and inconsistencies (as is the Christian bible). To try to take every word literally sets one up for controversy at the least and failure at the max.
DP's last sentence above makes no sense. I personally believe something like the Exodus occurred...but it's a belief, not a fact. And absence of proof is not denial. So I have no difficulty remaining Jewish no matter what the archeologists find or fail to find.
Apr 19, 2001
Dennis Prager spent his first two hours on this front page Los Angeles Times article:
The more time toddlers spend in child care, the more likely they are to display behavior problems in kindergarten, according to the results of the largest and most authoritative long-term study of child care in the United States.
That was true regardless of the quality or type of child care, the study found.
"We don't know what the implications are," said Sarah Friedman, a psychologist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and one of the lead investigators on the study. "We don't understand why we got these findings."
Luke says: Prager found that last comment the amusing comment of the new millenia. He believes it is obvious that it is best for young children to stay home with their mothers.
Apr 18, 2001
Dennis Prager attacked the successful new TV show "The Weakest Link" as sadistic. Prager was particularly disappointed that news media like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal praised the show.
The WSJ wrote: NBC's "The Weakest Link," a hybrid of "Millionaire" and "Survivor," has only aired three nights, but faster than you can say "Richard Hatch," British hostess Anne Robinson has become a pariah. Viewers used to the anodyne patter of Regis dislike her badgering contestants and dismissing losers with a curt "You are the weakest link! Goodbye!" The New York Post calls her a "leather-loving ice queen."
So sensitive! She's merely perpetuating a great British tradition, the fusion of intellect and sadism. Obviously, her rattled critics haven't watched "Question Time" on C-SPAN, with its bare-knuckle exchanges between members of Parliament. Buck up, America! Stiff upper lip. Eh what?
From the NYTimes.com: "The Weakest Link" is a fast, enjoyable trivia contest, much like "Jeopardy." Its thin gimmick is that the host, Anne Robinson, imported from the successful British version, is a martinet who insults the players for their ignorance. Her manner has been described as that of a dominatrix, but with her practical cropped hair and glasses, she is more like a school librarian in a black leather coat. Her insults, at least tonight, are innocuous. "It's of no interest to you, who the president is?" she asks the man who flubbed George Walker Bush's name. He does not wither under such criticism.
Luke says: But Prager has taken offence to the show. He does not believe that we should make sport of humiliating people.
DP says: It reaches a new low in terms of humiliating its participants. The purpose of watching this program is to watch people humiliated.
"I watched some of it and I lost my appetite."
Luke says: Many people would believe that Dennis Prager humiliates many of his callers and many figures in public life with his acerbic comments. But Prager denies humiliating others and he says how deeply he hates humiliating attacks.
DP says: The greater the humiliation of the participant, the greater the cheers from the audience. It's a rape of the soul. After watching it, you feel that you have been sullied. So why is this popular? Why do we enjoy watching people humiliated?
I would've been voted off the show because there were so many questions about television. Nobody asked who was the first prime minister of Poland after World War II. I would've known that.
I would like you to watch gameshows from the past to see how polite and courteous they were.
I cannot believe that watching this new show is anything but a symbol of what is going on in America.
"For 18 years, it has been a policy of mine to protect the dignity of all of my callers. And believe me, some of my callers have said silly things. Protecting people's dignity is significant.
"I believe that what we ingest affects us. You all know that in terms of air, water and food. But what we do to our soul can be just as polluting as what we do to our lungs. I think if you spend an hour a night watching people humiliated it sullies your soul.
"What if people agreed to eat like a dog? Where the contestant who most mimics a dog, wins. Would you watch that?
"I think there is a place for people to indulge their dark sides [Prager has little problem with porn for adults] but this stuff is not good for us. I just don't think this is innocuous. If you saw the faces of some of these contestants, fools that they are for going on this to begin with. How does this teacher look at his students after being made a fool of national television.
"You have the army of capitalism and the army of a degraded values system converging on America. Capitalism is wonderful if you have good values."
April 16, 2001
Dennis Prager spent his first 90 minutes on this topic. He says the article has had him burning since it came out.
On April 13, the LATimes.com ran a front page story doubting the historicity of the Exodus:
On Passover last Sunday, Rabbi David Wolpe raised that provocative question before 2,200 faithful at Sinai Temple in Westwood. He minced no words. "The truth is that virtually every modern archeologist who has investigated the story of the Exodus, with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all," Wolpe told his congregants.
Wolpe's startling sermon may have seemed blasphemy to some. In fact, however, the rabbi was merely telling his flock what scholars have known for more than a decade. Slowly and often outside wide public purview, archeologists are radically reshaping modern understanding of the Bible. It was time for his people to know about it, Wolpe decided.
After a century of excavations trying to prove the ancient accounts true, archeologists say there is no conclusive evidence that the Israelites were ever in Egypt, were ever enslaved, ever wandered in the Sinai wilderness for 40 years or ever conquered the land of Canaan under Joshua's leadership. To the contrary, the prevailing view is that most of Joshua's fabled military campaigns never occurred--archeologists have uncovered ash layers and other signs of destruction at the relevant time at only one of the many battlegrounds mentioned in the Bible.
Today, the prevailing theory is that Israel probably emerged peacefully out of Canaan--modern-day Lebanon, southern Syria, Jordan and the West Bank of Israel--whose people are portrayed in the Bible as wicked idolators. Under this theory, the Canaanites took on a new identity as Israelites were perhaps joined or led by a small group of Semites from Egypt--explaining a possible source of the Exodus story, scholars say. As they expanded their settlement, they may have begun to clash with neighbors, perhaps providing the historical nuggets for the conflicts recorded in Joshua and Judges.
"Scholars have known these things for a long time, but we've broken the news very gently," said William Dever, a professor of Near Eastern archeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona and one of America's preeminent archeologists.
Dever's view is emblematic of a fundamental shift in archeology. Three decades ago as a Christian seminary student, he wrote a paper defending the Exodus and got an A, but "no one would do that today," he says. The old emphasis on trying to prove the Bible--often in excavations by amateur archeologists funded by religious groups--has given way to more objective professionals aiming to piece together the reality of ancient lifestyles.
Dennis Prager said the timing of the story was completely inappropriate and disrespectful. Would the Times, on Martin Luther King Day, run a story about MLK's many affairs and his plagiarized Ph.D. thesis?
Would the Times run a similar debunking story about Mohammed and Islam during its holy month of Rammadan?
DP says he's been burning [with indignation] since the story came out.
Luke says: I found it fascinating that in his 90 minutes on the topic, Dennis Prager did not mention the main figure in the Los Angeles Times article who happens to be a personal friend of Prager's - Conservative Rabbi David Wolpe.
Why didn't Prager have Rabbi Wolpe on as a guest? I suspect that Rabbi Wolpe would've destroyed Prager's positions and Prager's objections to the LA Times article.
Rabbi Wolpe is a Bible Scholar and Dennis Prager is not. What the article and Rabbi Wolpe told his congregants has been familiar to all those literate in these matters for decades. My father is a Bible Scholar and I knew about this stuff when I was a kid. (Even though my dad believed in the historicity of the Patriarchs and in the historicity of the Exodus.)
DP says: This Times article raises significant issues. Does it matter what archeologists says? Do you have to be a fundamentalist literalist to buy these stories like the Exodus?
"If there was no Exodus, there is little reason for a Jew to remain a Jew."
Steve writes on the Prager List: "Combine this with Prager's "I would fall in to despair if i thought Hitler would face the same eternal fate as his victims" and you see a pathetic, deranged, emotionally deficient man who appears incapable of finding happiness in the material world. It's sad really, funny too. And probably not true, he probably just says these things so people will call his show and he can continue to earn a living."
Luke says: Prager's statement is ludicrous. As Rabbi Wolpe pointed out, our faith does not depend on a literal interpretation of the Torah. Torah means teacher, it doesn't mean history book, as I thought Prager had said on occasion.
Rabbi Wolpe told the Times: "You do not serve God if you do not seek truth."
"I think faith ought not rest on splitting seas," Wolpe said in an interview. "For a Jew, it should rest on the wonder of God's world, the marvel of the human soul and the miracle of this small people's survival through the millennia."
"Among Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews, there is a much greater willingness to see the Torah as an extended metaphor in which truth comes through story and law," said Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles.
Luke says: My understanding of the Torah, my faith in the Torah as a moral guide, is not rocked by whatever archeology or science or history shows to be true. If none of the events in the Torah historically took place, my faith in the Torah is not altered. I view the Torah as a religious/moral/spiritual document, not as a history book.
I observe most of Judaism's basic laws. I put on tefillin every day. I study a page of Talmud every day. I keep the Sabbath and the Dietary Laws. And none of my observance depends on the historicity of the Torah or of the Exodus.
All the callers on the topic essentially agreed with Prager and none of them seemed conversant with Bible scholarship.
Prager says: "There are two pillars of the Jewish faith - that God created the world, and the other is the Exodus."
Luke wonders: Prager does not take the Creation account literally, yet he insists that if the Exodus account is not literally true, there's no reason to be Jewish.
DP says: If God did not create the world, or if there was no Exodus, then so long Judaism. Jews are marching nowhere if these events did not take place. It's just another one of the world's cultures. It matters whether there was an Exodus. Whether the Exodus took place is of colossal significance.
The Passover Holiday, one of Judaism's and the Bible's, three festivals should be abolished if there was no Exodus. How can you say at the seder, 'We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt,' if you weren't slaves to Pharoah in Egypt.
The significance of the Exodus to Judaism is analogous to the significance of the resurrection of Jesus to Christians.
DP says: "I would not tell my children a fairy tale as truth. I'm not going to lie to my children because it's a nice story with good values. That's ridiculous. I happen to believe the Exodus did happen.
"I'd like to begin by explaining that many people in academia have a strong bias against Biblical religion. I recommend the book "God and the Astronomers" by agnostic astrophysicist Robert Jastrow."
He directs the Mount Wilson Observatory. He used to head the Goddard Space Center at NASA.
Prager then relays the familiar story he's told a thousand times about how Jastrow found that many scientists were upset when they discovered evidence for the Big Bang. Because the Big Bang meant the universe had a beginning, and validated the notion of God creating the world.
Jastrow wondered how scientists could be angry at data. I thought they were supposed to only care about scientific truth.
DP: "The archeologists seem to dominate the story in the Los Angeles Times."
Luke says: "But it is Rabbi Wolpe who is the most significant character in the story. Why didn't Prager discuss the story with Wolpe, a Bible Scholar? When Prager gives his teachings on the Torah, he regularly relies on Wolpe."
DP says: It is not merely that the typical secular academic is secular, it is that he is secular passionately. They have an emotional investment in secularism and in debunking religion. They want religion to be false.
And if this is true about astronomers, who are in a pure science, imagine the folks who are in archeology? Do you think they have no agenda? Do you think they are as happy to find evidence that corroborates the Biblical narrative as they are to find no evidence that corroborates the Biblical narrative? Of course not.
That's my first response. We have here a group of people with a secular debunking agenda, conscious or not.
Number two. Does it matter? Does it matter that archeologists claim there is no evidence for the Exodus from Egypt? Well, it matters to me as much as it does that many academics would announce that there is no evidence for the existence of God.
Luke says: This is a ludicrous comparison. The existence of God is properly a matter of faith that cannot be proved or disproved. Whether the Israelites were in Egypt, served as slaves, and then left Egypt and conquered the land of Canaan, is a matter of historial record, and is not properly a matter of faith.
DP says: You can't prove the Exodus. You can't prove God's existence. Do I prove whether or not academics find proof for God's existence? Do you think it bothers me one iota? That's preposteous.
Luke says: Methinks he does protest too much. Listening to the show, it certainly sounded like the LA Times article bothered Prager. DP constantly remarks about how little he is personally affected by this and that. He frequently and loudly proclaims that he is not bothered by this or that. If Dennis must constantly proclaim how little bothered he is by stuff, then surely he probably is bothered by this and doesn't want to admit it?
DP says: When I was growing up, archeologists were constantly coming up with finds that did corroborate the Bible. It was a regular thing that archeology confirms once again that the essential Biblical narrative is accurate.
Do you think that's what made me faithful? Do you think that made me believe in the Exodus? Of course not. It's interesting but it was never the source of my faith.
It's of no consequence to me whether archeologists come up with proof that the Jews were in Egypt and went on an Exodus. Do you think I await archeology for me to have a religious faith? Or my belief that it happened? I don't only believe in it because I am religious.
I believe in the Exodus for the following reasons.
Number one: I do not believe that for 3000 years the Jews have been telling a fairy tale to themselves.
Luke says: Prager's point is pathetic here. Jews have not been observing Passover for 3000 years. In the prophets, it says at the time of Josiah, about 2700 years ago, there was no observance of Passover. Then they found the missing scroll of the Torah (Deuteronomy) and that brought (or brought back) observance.
So let's say that Jews have been observing Passover for 2700 years. Is that any more of an argument for the historicity of the Exodus than Christians observing the resurrection of Jesus for 2000 years? Or Muslims observing the ascending of Mohammed to heaven for 1400 years?
DP says: Why do I not believe that people could tell themselves a fairy tale? For one thing, we don't have a similar record of a people for 3000 years making up the entire story of its origins. And especially not making up an entire story of its origins that is so negative about itself.
Luke says: These arguments are so tired. I heard them in Sunday school as a kid. These arguments say nothing about the historical evidence for an Exodus. They're just religious apologetics. Christians and Muslims and other believers all have similar arguments for their religious truth.
DP says: There is no parallel in the world of any nation making up a history that depicts itself so negatively.
Luke says: The Gospels paint a miserable picture of most all the founders of Christianity aside from Jesus. Jesus's disciples look like idiots. Just like Torah's portrayal of the Israelite slaves makes them all look bad except for Moses.
DP says: Why would a people make up a story that makes it look so bad?
Luke says: The LA Times article answers this: Carol Meyers, a professor specializing in biblical studies and archeology at Duke University, said the ancients never intended their texts to be read literally. "People who try to find scientific explanations for the splitting of the Red Sea are missing the boat in understanding how ancient literature often mixed mythic ideas with historical recollections," she said. "That wasn't considered lying or deceit; it was a way to get ideas across."
Luke says: The Israelites came up with the story of the Exodus as a way of getting ideas across. Myth doesn't mean "made up without a point."
DP says: First of all, there's nothing noble about being slaves. If you're going to make up a history, make up a heroic history. There is no heroism in the entire story that accrues to the Jews' reputation. In fact, most of the heroes in that story are non-Jews. Is there any parallel in human history? You just have a bunch of complaining, annoying human nuisances in the desert.
And how would you find any archeological artifacts from a mere 40 years in a hot dry desert?
DP says: "It is titled, "Doubting the Story of the Exodus. It's about how scholars have concluded that the Jews were never in Egypt and there was no Exodus. In my mind, that is preposterous but it is illuminating nevertheless. I am a non-gambler that I don't even invest in stocks, nevertheless, I would bet any of you that archeologists will all of a sudden say, 'We do have evidence.'
"Like it matters to me. Like I sit waiting to know if somebody at the University of Arizona is going to affirm it hasn't been a fairy tale. Pure logic suggests that it happened. Why would a people make up such an ignoble history? There is no Jewish hero aside from Moses, and he was raised Egyptian.
"It cracks me up. Like it matters. Like I await to find the verdict of archeologists on whether or not the Jews were in the desert for 40 years.
"I tell you, it's [archeology] a world with an agenda. Like the religious world has an agenda, and they acknowledge it. The secular world doesn't acknowledge that it has an agenda and that's what drives me crazy.
"If you should only believe what you can prove, how about all the secular people who are as close to certain as they can be that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe even though we don't have a shred of evidence to support that? They believe it because they want to believe it and because logics suggests to them that in an infinitely large universe, there is probably somebody intelligent out there. I don't happen to believe it."
DP says: "According to the Los Angeles Times, scholars generally believe that the Exodus never happened, because they don't have archeological evidence for it. There are some people of faith for whom this is depressing, even shattering. And if they do believe the article, it should be shattering. There is absolutely no reason to be a Jew if there was no Exodus. I'd join another religion or become an atheist."
Luke says: "I converted to Judaism and the historicity of the Torah played no role in the decision, and plays no role in my practice of Judaism today."
DP says: "To take one's cues from archeology as to what happened is just remarkable. It's part of that Scientism. I've given you a lot of arguments why I believe there was an Exodus. The historical logic suggests it very powerfully. A nation is born out of certain events and it records those events in its collective memory over thousands of years. Has it been a fairy tale over 3000 years? Possibly but unlikely because people do not make up negative stories as their origin. You can't get more negative about yourself than the Biblical story about the Jews in the Exodus. You couldn't make up a more non-self-aggrandizing story if you tried.
"Eighty years ago, the general trend among scholars was that science had shown that there was no God. Now it seems silly to say that you believe in science, therefore there's no God. When I was a kid, Time magazine said God is dead. Time declared God is dead. He must be dead."
Luke says: This is dishonest. Time magazine did not declare God is dead. It raised the question "Is God Dead?" as a way of covering a new breed of theologians who don't believe in God.
DP: "Now the latest is that science shows that the stories are untenable. And the key story of all, the Exodus, is untenable. If your faith is determined by the evidence of archeology, I feel sorry for you."
A caller wanted to talk about the archeological evidence but Prager did not want to discuss the details.
DP says: "I'm not going to get into the academic fight. I believe there is archeological evidence from Albright to the whole school of Biblical archeology through the mid-20th Century who all believed that archeology confirmed most of the Bible, not denied it... They go through different periods. But I don't want to argue the details. I am not going to get into an argument here about archeology. My whole point is that while I find archeology interesting, it is of no [religious] consequence. Of course the Exodus occurred.
"You might as well have archeologists tell me whether or not there was a God. Or physicists."
Caller challenges DP: You say that you don't take Creation and the Flood accounts literally, so why is it important to you to take the Exodus literally?
DP replies: For example, must we take the Tower of Babel story literally? I don't have problems with people who do [but the inference is that DP does not.] I believe there are Biblical episodes that are fundamental and episodes that are not fundamental.
Doug Hill writes to Dennis Prager and on the Prager List: I too, was disappointed in DP's response. At one point a caller attempted to make some archeological argument in favor of the Exodus; DP then said that he didn't intend to get into the archeology. That is, he seemed to be looking for a way to dismiss their arguments without mastering them. (I'm sorry to say that this reminds me of creationists.) If so, this may be why the LA Times won't run DP's criticism (much to DP's chagrin) and, IMHO, is a good reason for passing on it. OTOH, I've not read DP's piece; I look forward to reading it and discussing it here when it becomes available.
Altho I didn't hear the whole show, I did pick up a couple of DP's arguments, which I will respond to:
1) "the archeologists et. al. have an agenda."
Always good to keep in mind, since people have a tendency to find what they are looking for. But merely having an agenda does not make one wrong. The evidence and arguments must be attacked on their merits; it is mere ad homeniem to simply attack the person or the motives of the one making the argument.
2) "sure there's no evidence, but there's none for God either."
In general, the burden of proof falls on the person making the positive claim. Surely this applies to historians as it does to prosecutors. The fideist will make an exception regarding claims for God: when evidence does not, and perhaps cannot, point either way, a person is entitled to take an emotional leap of faith. If that's what DP wants to do this regarding the Exodus, fine, but let's be honest and call it faith rather than history.
3) "Why would the Israelites have made up such an ignoble history?"
This assumes that the only 2 possibilities are fraud and historical accuracy. He didn't discuss the possibility that the story evolved gradually. It seems quite clear that these stories evolved over a long time; since different versions of the story are recorded by different sources (J, E, P, & D), each with their own agenda.
The LA Times on a previous Good Friday ran a column-1 article on anti-semitism and the Gospel of John. A religious holiday when people are thinking about these things is not necessarily a bad time to run such an article.
In the Times' piece, Rabbi Wolpe is portrayed as wanting to get the latest scholarship in front of his congregation. IMHO this is something important that the mainline religions have not been particularly good at, and kudos to him for doing so.
I'd like to conclude by saying this to DP (or his staff, in case they are reading this), or to anyone who wishes to join this argument: if you want to join in the debate, you need to master and respond to their arguments. You've probably read about the documentary hypothesis (e.g. in R.E. Friedman's _Who wrote the Bible?_), so it's time to put some of that knowledge to work in your arguments.
Steve writes: "sure there's no evidence, but there's none for God either." This really illustrates how vacuous Prager's thinking can be. Prager likes the quote that when people don't believe in God, they don't believe in nothing, they believe in everything. But surveys have shown otherwise: the religious are far more likely to believe in other super natural phenomena as well (like ghosts, ESP, UFO visitation, etc.). And Prager puts it so nicely: there's no evidence for God so why do we need evidence for anything at all? Why do we need evidence about whether the Sun revolves around the Earth or whether life evolved on Earth, or whether the story of Exodus has any historical value? This is one foolish and slippery road to walk down.
Yes and the story was about a Rabbi who brought this up in his Passover sermon. So i guess the Rabbi is an anti-Semite too? Again, Prager at his weakest. And now the Times won't publish his retort: He's really coming off like a pompous psuedo-intellectual cry-baby on this one.
And Rabbi Wolpe asks a great question: does Judaism need the story of the Exodus to be historically true for Judaism to have much value? Apparently Prager thinks it does. After all he said that without Exodus, there's little reason to remain a Jew. Perhaps he'll renounce his faith now?
Eltonfan writes: Do you remember over a year ago when Prager was fooled by Uri Geller into believing that he could bend spoons (with his mind) despite the fact that Uri has been a proven fraud for 3 decades? I remember Prager then added near the end of the show "I've always believed that there is something more than the physical world".
Shannon writes: I wonder if Dennis' Judaism would crumble if the veracity of the Genesis account of creation were scientifically deemed false? Or is it just the truth of the Exodus that acts as the sole underpinning of huis faith?
Lynne Lopatin: Okay...Luke, I think you've outgrown Dennis Prager. I
find your positions far more thoughtful than his. I'm familiar with the
mythology from a great many cultures, and if the Torah is useful as a
guidance to morality and faith, it doesn't have to be a Thomas Guide for
the Ancient Holy Land.
Michael Lubic from Pasadena writes the Los Angeles Times: "Thank you for your article questioning the historical basis of Exodus, which you chose to run during Passover. I look forward to seeing more front-page stories debunking the cherished myths of other major world religions on their holiest days."
Hank writes Luke: Archeology and Judaism. My father doesn't lie. His father didn't lie. And so on. I don't need archeologists to validate Torah, thank you very much.
BTW, why didn't the LA Times publish a story doubting the validity of Jesus' rising on Easter on the front page? Funny that they feel free to attack Judaism. Actually, it's crystal clear when they have a man like Conrad on the payroll.
Someone once asked Katherine Graham, publisher of the LA Times, why her paper was so anti-Semitic? "It sells papers," she answered.
Luke replies: Katherine Graham was the publisher of the Washington Post. She was never publisher of the LA Times.
In his last 90 minutes, Prager discussed the suing of psychiatrists and a drug company for the alleged overprescription of the drug Ritalin.
Dennis believes that Ritalin is overprescribed. He would not have it prescribed his sons unless they were literally climbing the walls. DP's had many shows on the subject.
But DP says that all these suits - such as against tobacco companies, and asbestos companies and gun manufacturers and silicone breast implant manufacturers - are destroying America by shifting resources from the productive to the most unproductive element of American life - trial lawyers.
DP received a bunch of calls blessing Ritalin, saying it had saved their lives. One man blamed the loss of two of his marriages on his lack of Ritalin.
Dennis Prager - Lions Club Man Of The Year
From DennisPrager.com: Lions Club honored KRLA's Dennis Prager as Citizen of the Year. Jerry Zerg, Lions Club chairman said: "Dennis Prager is a modern-day prophet. He provokes and inspires us to attain and to judge others not on what is presently fashionable or what is presumed to be politically correct, but on the timeless principles of morality, ethics and good old fashioned common sense. This is why the Miracle Mile Lions Club is honoring him as our Citizen of the Year."
DP talked about the riots in Cincinnatti. How does the looting of innocent businesses relate to one's frustration over alleged police brutality? Do people believe there will be sympathy engendered as a result?
Remember how much time I devoted to all the non-black rioters at colleges following the basketball games?
In a democracy, there is rarely reason for rioting. What is rioting? It is the hurting of innocent people because one is frustrated. When is it legitimate? When it is done by minorities.
The general tone of the press is so demeaning, as it was during the Los Angeles Riots. The title of the LA Times series was "Understanding The Rage."
I hold the mainstream media largely responsible for those riots because they kept showing the most inflammatory few seconds of the Rodney King beating.
Not holding all Americans of whatever color to the same moral standards is the ultimate form of liberal racism. When you expect less of people because of their skin color, you are the ultimate racist.
Happy people don't riot. What I want to know about those who rioted - how many grew up with a in-house father? That's the single biggest problem in black life. Married black men do as well as married white men. But part of the reason that the black leadership doesn't want to talk about this is that so many of them have kids out of marriage. Jesse Jackson. Kwasi Emfumi, head of the NAACP, has five kids out of marriage.
Perhaps inner city neighborhoods should vote whether or not they want non-black police working in their communities.
The shot black man ran away from police. He didn't show up to court.
The idea is propagated by our media that wonderful black people are plucked out of nowhere and shot by police. But that is not the case.
When something happens in my group's life, I always ask - Is there anyway that we have responsibility for the bad things happening to us?
With the high rates of criminal violence among African American males, obviously they are going to suffer more at the hands of police.
The lack of condemnation of the Cincinnatti looting by black leadership is depressing. Do you think you are going to get the nation's ear by beating up people and looting stores?
'We think that something unjust has been done to us, so we will be unjust.' That's not effective.
DP says: I have always been preoccupied with human suffering. Too much for my own good. It is a battle that I have waged to be happy in the face of this world's suffering. It's difficult for me to read about torture and murder because I internalize them. These aren't just news stories and books to me - these are real people with real suffering. They are no different from me except in their suffering.
How does one maintain happiness if you are deeply affected by the sufferings of others? I don't think you can do it without religion.
Religous people believe that a good God will right things, if not here, then in the afterlife. But if God made the afterlife clear, then people would commit suicide. They'd want to check out of this painful existence.
Doug Hill writes on the Prager List: As I recall, this thread was motivated by Dennis' question, if you were approached by a group of young men on the street at night, would you feel better if you knew they'd just come from a Bible study?
Probably you would, but I'd feel just as well knowing they'd come from a Boy Scouts, or Skeptics Society, or music appreciation society, or american athiests, or Wiccan meeting, or lots of things. All these have in common with the Bible study group is that they believe in something bigger than themselves. And this is ultimately something we all need.
So Chris, if your Orthodox community provides this for you, more power to you. I think an important function of religion is to provide this for people. (If it isn't, I'd say there's something wrong with it.)
But let's not forget that quote of DP's that I'm fond of quoting, "I don't care what your religion is, as long as you're embarassed by it." This is a reminder that no religion is perfect, and some people simply cannot buy it, for quite reasonable reasons. But these people can still find something else larger than themselves.
The LATimes.com runs a front page story doubting the historicity of the Exodus.
Dennis Prager says the Times' timing is disrespectful. They should not have run the story during the celebration of Passover, which is based on the Exodus. DP says the historicity of the Exodus is irrelevant to him.
Luke asks: Is DP ignorant of the basics of journalism? The historicity of the Exodus is most newsworthy now, just as Christianity and the events of Easter are most newsworthy now and are getting major coverage from the major news magazines.
Steve writes: I especially enjoy this part illustrating just how morally superior the religious can be, i the name of truth and justice of course:
"Herzog, Finklestein and others have been attacked for everything from faulty logic to pro-Palestinian political agendas that undermine Israel's land claims. Dever, a former Protestant minister who converted to Judaism 12 years ago, says he gets "hissed and booed" when he speaks about the lack of evidence for the Exodus, and regularly receives letters and calls offering prayers or telling him he's headed for hell."
Shannon writes on the Prager List: Steve, I too read the LA Times piece. Let's face it, the fact that archaeologists dignify ancient Middle Eastern tribal myths by scientifically investigating them, says much about how even the scientific mainstream is succumbing to the frivolous flights of fancy of a society obsessed with "proving" the authenticity of its fantasies. What next, "Unearthing the Three Billy Goats Gruff," "Beowulf Revealed," "Leprechauns On the Loose"? Does this herald a book by book debunking of Bible tales by those academicians charged with dealing with human history?
Dennis talked about Passover in his first hour. He made points that should be familiar to all religious Jews. Such as the absence of Moses's name from the Haggadah, which is read throughout the Passover Seder (ceremonial meal). The reason for the lack of the name of Moses was to ascribe the miracle of the Exodus to God, and not to a man.
DP: "It is considered praiseworthy to speak about the Exodus all night and to speak about the meaning of it in your life and among all Jews and humanity. That's why it is common for the Seder meal to last five, six hours.
"It is a healthy experience especially for kids. The entire evening is supposed to revolve around children. It doesn't matter if they are your kids.
"This is a great idea for any people to keep ideas alive, be they religious or national. It would be great for Americans to have a Fourth of July seder, where families and friends gathered and spoke about the founding of the country, America's exodus from Britain."
In his happiness hour (the second hour of most Fridays), Dennis Prager devoted time to the thoughts of Lisa Conrad Cohen, a woman he met for 29 minutes while doing his treadmill exercise.
She'd written up ten tips on being smart while shopping for the right man.
DP: "I am women's best friend. Even though I take positions critical of feminism. I do so because I desire to see women thrive. Feminism has said to women to be suspicious of their feminity.
"One publisher got enthused after just listening to her first tip, that he wrote me asking for Lisa's phone number. He might want to make a book out of it.
"Last week I noted her number one tip - watch how a man treats his mother, because that is how he will treat you. And I have bounced that off a number of women and they generally agree.
"I believe that when women find a good man, they should keep him and marry him. Even if you are 22 years of age. I've changed. The longer you wait, the fewer men will be available to you. Good men get taken.
"Regarding this notion of waiting until you mature - there's nothing as maturing as getting married. Marriage matures you whether the marriage is good or bad.
"Number two tip. You don't need to know what he has in his bank account, but is he financially stable? Does not have collection agencies after to him, is not in debt up to his ears and pays his bills on time."
Some female callers complained about marrying men who were overly attached to their mothers.
DP says: My father called his mother every day but she yelled at him. He called her out of respect, not because he was overly close to her. His mother was a difficult woman. She once called my mother a Nazi.
Female caller: Why not do a show on how men expect 10s in looks? After all, it is harder for a woman to look like a ten than for a man to act responsibly.
DP: The sexiness of a woman and her natural endowments are not the same. What matters is that a woman desires to be sexy for her man. But there are many plainer women who get married all the time and lead active sexual lives with husbands who go crazy for them, because these women care to be sexy for their man.
Women can't say, 'Oh, if he's really a good man, it doesn't matter how I look. It doesn't matter how I dress or if I ever wear makeup."
Female caller: "It's a certain confidence."
DP: "It's got to be a desire to appear attractive. Just as a man needs to radiate masculinity to a woman."
For women, over age 25, it is responsibility in men that attracts women. The woman instinctively thinks, 'Who will be protect my nest? Who will care for my cubs?' That's why his looks are less important.
Dennis Prager gave some interesting lines in the first hour, largely spent on the New York Times article which notes that more women than men now enroll in law school.
Dennis said that when activities attract more women than men, they lose glamor to men.
DP said that it is very tough to remain soft while working in a hard profession like law. Particularly trial lawyers.
Yet Dennis Prager has remained soft while working as a talkshow host, a tough profession, and as a lecturer to Jews, the most verbally vicious group.
DP says that law will harden women more than women will soften the practice of law.
Caller: Graduate school changes women (makes them tougher and more masculine).
Luke says: That accords with the women I've dated. The ones who went to graduate school tend to be tougher and more masculine. And have a more difficult time getting married.
DP: I gave a lecture to a law firm within the past year. And the most hard edged person at that meeting was a woman.
Caller: I've found female doctors softer than male doctors.
DP: But medicine is a nurturing profession. In law, particularly in the court room, you're out to destroy your opponents.
Caller: Men will continue to dominate in litigation, which requires you to be a bastard.
DP: So the sharks in law will remain male.
In his third hour, Dennis Prager read from today's Robert L. Bartley's editor's column in the Wall Street Journal:
If the moment looks no less hopeless, at least it promises to be clarifying.
In truth, "land for peace" was a pretty feckless notion from the first. An ingenious combination of concessions is seldom a key to anything. In this case, Israel is not about to abandon the fruits of a 120-year old Zionist enterprise. And despite his repeated promises, Mr. Arafat has not effectively renounced his ambition to occupy Israel, and never will.
That is to say, the grievance here is much more than a dispute over land. Ultimately, too, it is also about much more than Israel. It's fed by Muslim resentment at being displaced in history by the West, currently embodied in the United States. Scholars such as Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami keep reminding us that to understand the contemporary Islamic mind, you have to remember that at one time Islam was the center of civilization and Europe a barbaric backwater. It is bad enough that Israel is a Jewish state, but even worse that it is an outpost of the West, powerful with industrialization and subversive with democracy.
This is why the Arab world has gone to such lengths to preserve the Palestinian grievance. In 1948, around 650,000 Palestinian refugees were resettled in camps; in many Arab nations they were legally banned from certain lines of employment. About the same number of Jews fled the Arab lands for Israel, where they were incorporated into society. Today, some four million Palestinians claim refugee status. And of course, Arab nations went to war to destroy Israel not only in 1948 but in 1967 and 1973.
Dennis Prager says that the Wall Street Journal has been the only consistently pro-Israel editorial page among the major papers. The WSJ supported Israel's 1981 bombing of Iragi's nuclear reactor. Every other major paper condemned Israel.
At his last press conference, President Bush made it a repeated point that he'd told Chairman Arafat to knock off the violence.
DP says: There are no Arab democracies and no Islamic democracies. Syrians can't go on the internet. But when the Arab League meets, they're obsessed with Israel, a state the size of New Jersey. It should be irrelevant to them.
3/25 - 3/30
DP: The University of Michigan Library has created an entire file of the Unabomber's writings.
Scholars, political theorists, lawyers, prospective authors from across the USA come to the collection to seek meaning in the rantings of the Montana recluse whose mail bombs once terrorised the nation.
"In an exercise that could be called 'Unabomber 101,' their focus is on a collection called 'The Ten Kozinski Papers.'
Ted Kosinski should be dead.
According to this article, someone who applied to Harvard Divinity School wrote to Kosinski and got a letter of recommendation.
The corruption of our academic world is deep and I want to talk to somebody who knows about it firsthand. Professor of Computer Science at Yale, David Gelernter [an Orthodox Jew]. His book "Drawing Life" is one of the most important books of the 1990s. It is his reflections as being one of the Unabomber's victims.
DP: I faxed you this article and I would've done anything to have been in your office to see your face when you read this.
David: The only possible conclusion is that the University of Michigan doesn't give a damn about widows and orphans. The literal outcry of widows and orphans whose husbands and fathers were brutally murdered by this man is of no significance to the University of Michigan. It's more important to the University of Michigan to lick the rear end of this terrorist murderer.
It's a rich arrogant university which has more important things to worry about than widows and orphans. History will judge this university. We're too morally weak today as a society to visit any consequences on this institution. But in the long run, history stands up for widows and orphans against arrogant rich institutions.
If the University of Michigan lasts for another thousand years, and I wish that it didn't, the University of Michigan will be another name for vileness.
DP: If you showed this to your average professor at Yale, how would they react?
DG: It's an interesting question and I am afraid of the answer. I think a small minority would be actively outraged. Many would think it in bad taste, regrettable. And a fair number of people would be thrilled. For those people who have contempt for morality and religion, it must be a great day. What could be a more festive occasion than one in which we honor a contemptible vicious murderer?
DP: I believe that in my thousand articles and books I have written far more things of consequence than the Unabomber but no university has a collection of Dennis Prager's works. But I realize now that something is lacking. I have murdered no one. I have terrorized no one. Hence I am of no appeal to a university.
There's a boredom at the soul of the academic elite.
In his final hour, Dennis Prager discussed the decline in interest in the Academy Awards show which takes place Sunday evening.
DP made these hypotheses:
* We know more about today's stars and therefore have less interest in them. This is due to the proliferation of gossip in the news media and today's stars readiness to discuss their private lives.
* Today's stars do not act in as classy a manner as yesterdays. Yesterday's stars were more masculine and feminine. Tom Cruise for instance is a perpetual boy. By contrast, think about the stature of Sophia Loren and Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman.
* Today's actors, who are probably more skilled than ever, have fewer heroic roles.
* Today's stars dress in threads while those of yesterday frequently looked more classy.
DP says he spends most of his instruction time with his kids trying get them to be classy. It's a foreign concept to most kids, including his own.