From lectures by Dennis Prager at the University of Judaism. Order his series How to be Good from DP's office at www.dennisprager.com.

Part two. Why not be good?

Reason one. Because I won't get ahead.

If I don't cheat a little, I won't be as successful as the one who cheats.

Parents call my show and say: "Dennis, how can I raise my kid with good values while all the other kids are cheating? He'll come out last."

That's part of the vicious cycle of life.

Number two. The bad thing feels good.

Doing the good thing makes you feel good, but doing the bad thing frequently makes you feel good also.

What's the difference?

Generally speaking, the bad thing feels good while you are doing it and the good thing feels good after you did it.

Number three. Good isn't rewarded by society.

Number four. People don't know how to be good.

Wanting to be good is not enough. It's like saying you want to play the piano well. So? Here's a piano.

Some goodness comes naturally, but a lot doesn't.

My panacea for little evils is the video camera. My idea of the afterlife is that you watch a video of your life. For the good, this will be reward. And for the evil, it will be punishment.

Number five. There is no God.

It mirrors reason number six of why be good.

God is significant in the moral lives of individuals. If there is no God, there is no one higher than yourself demanding that you be good. And there's no reward and punishment after this life

So if you can get away with doing bad, why not?

As Dostoevsky put it - "Where there is no God, all is permitted." (The Brother Karamazov)

From the 4/27/98 Wall Street Journal Book Review:

Make Nice, Not War


Stephen L. Carter, a professor of law at Yale University, is writing a series of books on good character, starting with "Integrity" (1996) and now moving on to "Civility" (Basic Books, 338 pages, $25). He thinks of these virtues as "pre-political," by which he means that people of any ideology should aspire to realize them. The only true pre-political language we Americans have is a religious one, and Mr. Carter is quick to rely upon it. "This book," he writes of his latest effort, "is in a sense a prayer."

Actually, it's a sermon. "Civility" implores more than it persuades. The importance of civility is so self-evidently true for Mr. Carter, and the evidence for our incivility to each other so damning, that analysis takes second place to exhortation. This is doubly a shame because the topic is so important and the author so qualified to address it.

To his credit, Mr. Carter offers a concise definition of his subject. "Civility," he writes, "is the sum of the many sacrifices we are called upon to make for the sake of living together." If we are to make such grand ideas as the free market or liberal democracy work, we must, he argues, attend to such everyday matters as politeness, respect, promise-keeping and ritual.

When the young Stephen Carter moved to a predominantly white section of Washington, one of his new neighbors, Sara Kestenbaum by name, smiled at the new black family in the neighborhood, let out a friendly "welcome" and came over with offerings of food. Mrs. Kestenbaum understood that small gestures can make big points. In such ways can civility smooth out the rough edges of democracy, even on matters as contentious as race relations.

The more we demonstrate our willingness to put others first, the better the society in which we live. To facilitate that end, Mr. Carter offers a set of rules for civility--for example, "Civility discourages the use of legislation rather than conversation to settle disputes, except as a last, carefully considered effort"--and then illustrates them with chatty examples.