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America, Not Keith Ellison, Decides What Book A Congressman Takes His Oath On

Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran.

He should not be allowed to do so—not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.

First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism—my culture trumps America’s culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison’s favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don’t serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

Devotees of multiculturalism and political correctness who do not see how damaging to the fabric of American civilization it is to allow Ellison to choose his own book need only imagine a racist elected to Congress. Would they allow him to choose Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” the Nazis’ bible, for his oath? And if not, why not? On what grounds will those defending Ellison’s right to choose his favorite book deny that same right to a racist who is elected to public office?

Of course, Ellison’s defenders argue that Ellison is merely being honest; since he believes in the Koran and not in the Bible, he should be allowed, even encouraged, to put his hand on the book he believes in. But for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament, and the many secular elected officials have not believed in the Old Testament either. Yet those secular officials did not demand to take their oaths of office on, say, the collected works of Voltaire or on a volume of New York Times editorials, writings far more significant to some liberal members of Congress than the Bible. Nor has one Mormon official demanded to put his hand on the Book of Mormon. And it is hard to imagine a scientologist being allowed to take his oath of office on a copy of “Dianetics” by L. Ron Hubbard.

So why are we allowing Keith Ellison to do what no other member of Congress has ever done—choose his own most revered book for his oath?

The answer is obvious—Ellison is a Muslim. And whoever decides these matters, not to mention virtually every editorial page in America, is not going to offend a Muslim. In fact, many of these people argue it will be a good thing because Muslims around the world will see what an open society America is and how much Americans honor Muslims and the Koran.

This argument appeals to all those who believe that one of the greatest goals of America is to be loved by the world, and especially by Muslims because then fewer Muslims will hate us (and therefore fewer will bomb us).

But these naive people do not appreciate that America will not change the attitude of a single American-hating Muslim by allowing Ellison to substitute the Koran for the Bible. In fact, the opposite is more likely: Ellison’s doing so will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones, as Islamists, rightly or wrongly, see the first sign of the realization of their greatest goal—the Islamicization of America.

When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization. If Keith Ellison is allowed to change that, he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11. It is hard to believe that this is the legacy most Muslim Americans want to bequeath to America. But if it is, it is not only Europe that is in trouble.


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Why I Smoke (Cigars)

There are few personal confessions more likely to alienate many Americans than to admit to smoking. Singles ads are filled with people who will never even go on a first date with someone who smokes. I strongly suspect that more women would date a millionaire who earned his money disreputably than a millionaire who smoked.

Drinkers are far more highly regarded than smokers, as are playboys, gamblers, lawyers, politicians and almost anyone else except child molesters.

So I have no doubt that some readers who until now have held me in esteem will lose respect for me when they learn that not only do I smoke cigars and a pipe, but I love doing so, have no interest in stopping and have been happy to pass this pleasure on to my older son. In fact, we regularly have some of our best talks while we enjoy our cigars.

For the record, I never smoke cigarettes, which I happen to dislike the smell of, and which I acknowledge to be dangerous. But what I write here largely applies to cigarette smokers as well. In fact, I find anti-smoking zealots far more dangerous to society than cigarette smokers, and would much sooner date a cigarette smoker than one of the zealots.

Having said that, however, it does need to be pointed out that there is little in common between cigar (or pipe) smoking and cigarette smoking. Most important, we don’t inhale. This is not meant in the way former President Bill Clinton meant it when he said he “never inhaled.” The purpose and joy of cigar and pipe smoking are to enjoy the taste of tobacco in one’s mouth. The purpose and joy of cigarette smoking are only vaguely related to the taste of tobacco.

And that leads to two other great differences between cigarette smoking and cigar (and pipe) smoking: First, there is no issue of addiction regarding cigars or pipes. I have been smoking both since I was 15 years old, and could stop tomorrow if I wanted to. Indeed, as a Jew who observes the Sabbath prohibition on kindling fire, I do not smoke for a day every week, and it is effortless. Likewise, I am frequently on the road lecturing, and often miss days at a time with absolutely no discernible effect. Second, because one does not inhale when smoking a cigar or pipe, the likelihood of lung cancer is minimal.

Yes, I am warned by doctors that I am more liable to contract mouth or lip cancer, but while physicians may see such diseases, in 40 years of smoking I have never met or heard of one person with either cancer.

Indeed, I am quite convinced that my one-a-day cigar or pipe may well have had a positive impact on my health given how much relaxation it induces. Stress kills far more people than cigars or pipes do.

It is a sign of the times that the latest James Bond film has prohibited 007 from smoking a cigar. One of the most benign practices a person can engage in was banned, but our macho hero can be shown drinking alcohol and bedding women (and without any mention of condoms!), not to mention killing people and engaging in behaviors infinitely more dangerous than cigar smoking.

We live in the Age of Stupidity. This new age has been induced by widespread college education and widespread secularism—Psalms is entirely accurate: “Wisdom begins with fear of the Lord”—which explains, for example, why only well-educated secularists came to believe that there were no innate nonphysical differences between men and women.

Nearly 100 years ago, before widespread college education and before widespread secularism, when America tried to prohibit a vice, it chose alcohol, not tobacco. It knew that there were immoral consequences to alcohol consumption—most child abuse, most spousal abuse, about half of violent crimes and most rapes are accompanied by alcohol. Nobody has ever raped because smoking a cigarette or a cigar numbed his conscience. And no one fears smoking drivers; we rightly fear drinking drivers.

Both in my hometown and on the road, I find great joy in visiting cigar stores and schmoozing with the owners and with the guys smoking there. In fact, cigar stores may be the last place men can get together without women.

Of course if you think I am really killing people due to the secondhand smoke they inhale from my cigar or pipe, I presume all discussion ends. I am then simply a killer who needs to be stopped. I find absurd the notion that more than 50,000 Americans are killed every year just by being in the presence of smokers. But if you believe it, all you need to do is open a window and enjoy yourself.

The late legendary comedian George Burns was a listener to my radio talk show. When he was around 90 years old, he invited me to his Beverly Hills home. In the course of our two hours together, he smoked two cigars and had a couple of martinis. I asked him what his doctor said about those habits. George looked at me and responded, “My doctor died.”

My father is 88 years old and has been smoking a few cigars a day (in my 87-year-old mother’s presence, I might add). They are both in near-perfect health. He not only taught me the joys of cigars. He also taught me the importance of thinking for myself and how to lead an honorable life that includes as much joy as possible.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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The Smugness Of The War’s Opponents

In this week’s New York Times Book Review, a historian reviewing a major new work of 20th-century history, Oxford and Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson’s “The War of the World,” notes that “Ferguson argues that the Western powers should have gone to war in 1938, which would most likely have avoided much of the horror of World War II . . . . “

Imagine that. The New York Times publishes a favorable book review of a book arguing that a pre-emptive war in 1938 would have saved tens of millions of lives aside from preventing the Holocaust, “without parallel . . . the most wicked act in all history.”

You have to wonder if the Times’ editors and all their allies on the Left, who have spent the last four years mocking the very notion of pre-emptive war, read this review.

Whatever incapacity for self-doubt George W. Bush’s critics charge him with, it has been more than matched by his political enemies. They are as certain as human beings can be that the invasion of Iraq was wrong from the outset because no nation should ever engage in a pre-emptive war, since such wars, they contend, are inherently immoral, not to mention illegal.

They know that Saddam never had weapons of mass destruction, and they know that even if he were working on acquiring such weapons, he would never have used them or shared them with Islamic terrorists. They know this despite these facts:

Virtually every intelligence service believed that Saddam either had or was working on attaining WMD.

Saddam Hussein had already used biological weapons against his own people.

Saddam refused to allow UN inspectors unfettered access to Iraq, even when he had every reason to believe that America would attack him.

Saddam gave $25,000 to the families of Palestinian terrorists who blew up Israelis.

Saddam had already invaded two countries, attempting to eliminate one from the map (Kuwait) and killing a million in the other (Iran).

President Bush had very good reason to believe then, and we have very good reason to believe now, that Saddam was indeed seeking uranium from the African country of Niger.

Given these facts, George W. Bush believed that a pre-emptive strike was the moral thing to do, just as any moral person now understands it would have been moral to do against Hitler’s Germany in 1938.

Given the same facts, his critics were/are at least as certain that such a war has been wrong strategically and morally.

They now argue that obviously they are right.

But it is not so obvious. It is overwhelmingly likely that even if we had found WMD in Iraq, The New York Times, Michael Moore and nearly all college professors would have still opposed the invasion. After all, they would have argued, it was still a pre-emptive war and therefore wrong by definition; and besides, Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11.

Of course, the critics look right because we hardly seem to be winning the war in Iraq. But even here the critics are too smug. We have not won the war in Iraq because of something completely unforeseeable: widespread massacres of Iraqi civilians by other Iraqis and Muslims. We have never seen mass murder of fellow citizens in order to remove an outside occupier. No Japanese blew up Japanese temples in order to rid Japan of the American occupier. No Germans mass murdered German schoolchildren and teachers to rid Germany of the American, British, French and Soviet occupiers.

The level of cruelty and evil exhibited by those America is fighting in Iraq is new. Had Iraq followed any precedent in all the annals of resistance to occupation, America would likely have been victorious in Iraq. It may just be impossible, if one is morally bound not to kill large numbers of civilians, to fight those who target their own civilians and hide among them. But George W. Bush had no way to foresee such systematic cruelty.

With the election of a Democratic Congress and the reversion to the visionless “realists” of George W. Bush’s father’s administration, the critics are more certain than ever of their moral rectitude. But unless they disagree with Professor Ferguson’s assertion that a pre-emptive war in 1938 would have been the most moral thing the Western democracies could have done, they ought to show a little humility. Based on what was known at the time, George W. Bush made a moral choice. And he would have won were it not for something new in the annals of human depravity.


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Is A Gay Who Opposes Same-Sex Marriage A Hypocrite?

Why did a gay prostitute tell the media about the homosexual behavior of a leading Christian opponent of same-sex marriage on the weekend before an election, an election in which eight states vote on whether to maintain the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman?

Because he knew, first of all, that the media love to publicize the sexual lives of public figures. How else to explain the extensive reporting by the mainstream news media of the private sexual acts of a prominent sportscaster a decade ago—a basketball announcer, not a politician, not a religious leader?

But the main reason was that our gay prostitute knew the media are almost unanimously supportive of redefining marriage and therefore against all the states’ propositions to defend marriage’s definition. He and the news media hoped that publicizing that a major Christian opponent of same-sex marriage was secretly involved in gay sex could potentially undermine the movement to maintain the historical definition of marriage.

Now, of course, the sexual orientation of a person has no relevance to the merits of his pro- or anti-same-sex marriage argument. But the homosexual prostitute was certain that because the Rev. Ted Haggard was (allegedly) gay—or bisexual—this proved that:

—the reverend is a hypocrite; and therefore

—the movement to keep marriage defined as man-woman is a phony movement.

That both arguments are false is irrelevant to many, perhaps most, supporters of same-sex marriage. Apparently, they feel that since they cannot radically change society’s most important social institution through intellectual argument, or through the democratic process, or even via sympathetic judges, they might succeed by exposing any opponent who has homosexual tendencies.

So the first argument goes as follows: Show as many of the religious opponents of same-sex marriage to be hypocrites and you undermine the moral credibility of their efforts to keep marriage defined as man-woman. As Michael Jones, the gay prostitute, said (quoted in the Rocky Mountain News), “I felt obligated to get the information out about the hypocrisy of people who make these laws and those who support them.”

This is intellectual nonsense. Even if every opponent of same-sex marriage were a closet homosexual, it would say nothing about the merits of their arguments. Moreover, being an opponent of same-sex marriage and a closet homosexual (if that is what Haggard is) has nothing to do with hypocrisy.

As defined by every dictionary I consulted, Haggard is not a hypocrite. For example, the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition) defines hypocrisy as “The practice of professing beliefs, feelings or virtues that one does not hold or possess.”

But we know that the Rev. Haggard never professed a belief that he did not hold. He believed at the time of his homosexual activities, and he believes now, that homosexual sex is a sin. He readily concedes that, in his view, he was sinning when he engaged in homosexual sex. He may therefore be considered a sinner, a person who acted inconsistent with his own admonitions and a poor model for a clergyman, but he is no more a hypocrite than a reverend who teaches the Ten Commandments and dishonors his mother or father, or bears false witness or even commits adultery. Hypocrisy requires a person to believe that he is the exception to the rule that he espouses for everyone else; that behavior that is wrong for others is not wrong for him.

If everyone who violates a standard he advocates is a hypocrite, the word is meaningless. And worse, it makes it impossible for just about anyone to advocate moral behavior.

The arguments against redefining marriage, the central institution of society, are profound and decent, no matter what the sexual orientation of those who offer those arguments. The sexual confusion we will bequeath to future generations, especially among children, if the same sex is regarded from childhood as equally desirable as marriage partners, endangers society immeasurably more than global warming.

But while not a hypocrite, the reverend was extremely irresponsible. By not resigning from his position (for “family reasons,” “personal reasons” or myriad other believable excuses) the moment he began his homosexual liaison, he endangered the entire defense of marriage movement, something infinitely more important than his staying in power, and, in my opinion, more sinful than his sexual sin.

That said, anyone who changes his mind and decides to vote against a proposition defining marriage as man-woman because a prominent Christian leader was exposed as privately engaged in homosexual behavior is not thinking clearly. Worse, he is rewarding the loathsome tactic of weekend-before-elections humiliations of public figures. One hopes that even proponents of same-sex marriage can agree that is no way to win elections.

In the meantime, however, those who argue for redefining marriage have their bases covered with ad hominem attacks. According to same-sex marriage activists, if you’re a heterosexual who opposes same-sex marriage, you’re a homophobe, and if you’re a homosexual who opposes same-sex marriage, you’re a phony and a hypocrite. Defenders of marriage should not lend credibility to these characterizations.


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Note To Angry Republicans: Stay Angry, But Vote Republican

One repeatedly hears that some conservatives and Republicans will either vote Democrat or not vote at all—out of anger at the Republican Party.

According to these Republican holdouts, the Republicans have governed as Democrats-lite by greatly increasing government spending and doing little about illegal immigration. Accordingly, it is better to have liberal government under liberals than liberal government under Republicans, and the Republicans need to be taught a lesson so that in the future they will govern as authentic Republicans.

Conservatives should file this thinking under the heading “Cathartic,” but not under “Smart.”

One of the great realizations one comes to as the years pass is how small a role reason plays in most people’s decisions. From choosing products based on their packaging to deciding how to vote, passion and emotion usually eclipse reason.

Any Republican, let alone conservative, who votes Democrat or stays home out of pique with the Republican Congress or the president has chosen emotion over reason.

Have the Bush administration and Republican Congress spent too much money? Of course. And it really is quite annoying. Nothing unites conservative and moderate Republicans as does opposition to big government.

So it is not surprising that so many Republicans are furious at the increases in government spending, such as the staggeringly expensive Medicare prescription drug plan.

Add to this the fury of the conservative base of the Republican Party at the administration’s apparent apathy toward illegal “immigration,” and you have an Election Day problem.

Now, regarding spending, I share Republicans’ anger. Republicans who don’t control government spending do far more harm than Democrats who don’t. Why? Because when the smaller-government party expands government, those who believe in smaller government have nowhere to turn.

Nevertheless, if it were not for the Bush administration, we never would have gotten the substantial tax cuts that have led to such a robust economy (especially impressive in light of the costs of the war in Iraq and of Katrina).

As for illegal immigration, here, too, I identify with those who are frustrated that Republicans have not done more while in control of both the executive and legislative branches of government. But at least President Bush has signed a bill authorizing the building of a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. No Democratic president would do that. If you care about reducing illegal immigration, isn’t that reason enough to prevent the Democrats from gaining power?

And what about the single most important reason to elect Republicans—the appointment of judges, especially justices to the Supreme Court? What sort of reasoning would lead a conservative to conclude that it is more important to express anger at Republicans than to prevent Democrats from appointing Supreme Court justices and other judges?

And taxes—what rational conservative would prefer tax increases, one of the major goals of the Democratic Party?

As regards national security, what sort of Republicans are so angry at the Bush administration and/or the Republican Congress that they would want to replace the party that made the Patriot Act and NSA wiretapping possible with the party that opposes the Patriot Act and NSA wiretapping? And doesn’t the Bush administration deserve credit for the absence of a single terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11?

How about Social Security? Why would a rational Republican want to reward the party that opposed any attempt to fix a system that will fail the next generation of Americans—and hurt the Republican president who bravely, if ultimately futilely, spent political capital trying to fix it?

And what about tort reform? Republicans have begun reducing abuses of the legal system by passing some tort reform legislation. With Democrats in power, such achievements will be reversed, and trial lawyers and legislators will be empowered to continue to damage this country through law. That is, after all, why trial lawyers are among the biggest donors to the Democratic Party.

Finally, please remember that it was disaffected Republicans who voted for Ross Perot who helped elect Bill Clinton president, and it was disaffected Democrats who voted for Ralph Nader who helped elect George W. Bush president. Unless you run yourself, dear annoyed Republican, you will never find an ideal candidate. Compared to you and your conservative principles, real-life Republicans are indeed a failure. But compared to real-life Democrats, they are almost giants.

Vote out of anger, and you’ll either vote Democrat or stay home. Vote out of reason, and you’ll vote Republican. Please choose reason. If you don’t like the Republican candidate, the place to get rid of him is in the primary, not the general election. The general election is not between good Republicans and irresponsible Republicans; it’s between Republicans and Democrats.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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A Vote For Patty Wetterling Can Hurt Children

I do not live in Minnesota.

Nor have I ever written a column about any congressional race.

But what Patty Wetterling, Democratic congressional candidate in Minnesota’s sixth district, just did is so wrong, so dishonest, so low even for the generally negative tone of political advertising, and so injurious to children, that I am breaking a lifelong silence on congressional races to beg Democrats and others in her district not to vote for her.

This is not motivated by partisanship; I would even prefer a candidate to the left of her. Vote for the Green candidate if there is one; write in someone to the left of her. But to vote for Patty Wetterling is to harm political discourse and compromise our society’s battle against child abuse.

Her recent television ad, referring to the Mark Foley scandal, states: “It shocks the conscience . . . congressional leaders have admitted covering up the predatory behavior of a congressman who used the Internet to molest children.”

Even the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, among America’s most left/liberal newspapers, which essentially endorses only Democrats, published an article under the headline, “Wetterling ad overstates facts: The TV spot by the Sixth District candidate is wrong in stating that members of Congress admitted to a coverup—none has.”

But that lie in the Patty Wetterling ad is actually the lesser of its sins. The greater sin, the unforgivable one, is its characterization that what former Republican Congressman Mark Foley did was “molest children.”

Foley not only did not molest any children, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, he did not even engage in consensual sex with any page over the age of consent. (There was a relationship with one adult male who had served as a page.)

So that is the second lie in the Patty Wetterling ad. No one was molested. And no child was involved at any time in any way.

That is what prompts this anger at Patty Wetterling more than her lies, which she continues to defend. It is her use of the words “molest children” when everything that happened took place via the Internet, and the youngest page to receive his cyberspace attention was 16 years old.

Now, for the sake of clarity, lest there be even one reader who is wondering, I oppose any sexual activity between a politician and a page, even of majority age. In my capacity as a nationally syndicated radio talk show host I have had numerous young women (and men, but they are not relevant to this discussion in my case) serve as interns. I have always believed that in their eyes I was supposed to represent the ideals that I stand for, not a man on the hunt for young flesh.

Therefore, of course, I believe what Mark Foley did in his e-mails—attempt to seduce young men—was wrong.

But that is all he did. He never molested a child. First, he never touched any page(s), since you cannot sexually molest a person you don’t touch. It utterly cheapens the word “molest.”

Second, no “children” were involved. A 16-year-old is a minor as far as sexual relations are concerned (though, ironically, not in Washington, D.C., whose Democratic lawmakers have made 16 the age of sexual consent). But minor is not the same as child. Foley had no sexual contact, verbal or physical, with any children to the best of anyone’s, including Patty Wetterling’s, knowledge.

To equate seductive e-mails to a 16-year-old—or even the more explicit instant messages with an 18-year-old (which no Republican knew about)—with “molesting children”—only undermines our efforts to fight the enormous, almost unparalleled, evil of child molestation. What Patty Wetterling has deliberately done for political gain is to cheapen, redefine, and thereby reduce hatred of, child molestation.

Democrats who excuse her point to the fact that she suffered the unspeakable tragedy of having her own child abducted 18 years ago.

This is a new development in American moral discourse—the granting to people who have suffered the loss of a child moral credibility, thereby excusing them from normal moral judgments. The father of Nick Berg, the young American slaughtered by Islamists in Iraq, has made morally absurd comments from the national platform accorded him as a grieving father; Cindy Sheehan has attained iconic status solely because her son was killed in Iraq.

The loss of a child entitles a parent to the deepest, sincerest sympathy the human race can offer; there is no pain like the loss of a child. But that loss does not justify using that sympathy to claim special moral status—incidentally, do any conservative parents use the loss of a child to claim that status?—let alone excuse immoral actions.

Patty Wetterling’s child was abducted in 1989, a loss compounded by the horror of never learning what happened to her child. She deserves every expression of sympathy the rest of us can muster. But that pain does not absolve her from normal moral considerations such as honesty in political discourse, let alone excuse her deliberate cheapening of the term “child molestation.” If that ad helps her win, she will have done so at the price of diminishing the horror of real child molestation.

If Patty Wetterling believes that Mark Foley molested children, she does not understand the problem of child molestation. If she does not believe that Mark Foley molested children, she defamed a man and redefined molestation. In either case, she is not fit to serve in the U.S. Congress.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Some Sobering Lessons From Muslim Taxi Drivers

Understandably, those troubled by the contemporary Muslim world point to the amount of gratuitous violence emanating from it and the apparent absence of Muslim anger against it.

In response, Muslim defenders of their faith—and Western defenders such as Karen Armstrong and John Esposito—inform us that the terror, suicide and cruelty that emanate from a portion of the Muslim world are all aberrations. We are assured that the average Muslim is as appalled as all other decent people are by Muslims who torture, decapitate and blow up innocent people.

Some recent news items from Britain, Australia and the United States, however, suggest that we can make a more accurate assessment of contemporary Islam by looking beyond Islamic terror and beyond the lack of Muslim opposition to it.

I am referring to news reports not about Muslim terrorists but about the far more mundane group of religious Muslims who happen to be taxi drivers. In Britain and Australia, Muslim taxi drivers refuse to pick up passengers who have a dog with them—even when the passenger is blind and the dog is a Seeing Eye dog. Nearly all religious Muslims believe that Islam forbids them to come into contact with dogs. Therefore, Muslim taxi drivers will even drive by a blind person standing in the cold, lest they come into contact with the dog.

And in Minneapolis, Minn., Muslim taxi drivers, who make up a significant percentage of taxi drivers in that city, refuse to pick up passengers who have a bottle of wine or other alcoholic beverage with them.

This is significant. We are not talking here about Muslim fanatics or Muslim terrorists, but about decent every day Muslims. And what these practices reveal is something virtually unknown in Judeo-Christian societies—the imposing of one’s religious practices on others.

Now, many of those with a graduate degree in the humanities, and others taught how not to think clearly, will object that religious Christians do exactly this sort of thing when they try to impose their religious views on abortion, for example, on society.

But there is no analogy between a Muslim not allowing a non-Muslim to bring a bottle of wine or a dog into a Muslim-driven taxi and Christians trying to convince a democratic society to outlaw most abortions.

There is no comparing ritual prohibitions with moral prohibitions. Christians argue that taking the life of a human fetus where the mother’s life is not endangered is immoral. And so do religious Jews (and Muslims) and many secular individuals—because the issue of abortion is a moral issue. Contact with dogs, on the other hand, is a ritual issue, not a moral issue. Which is why non-Muslims do not consider it immoral—unlike the many non-Christians who consider most abortions immoral.

And Christians and others who deem abortions immoral when the mother’s health is not threatened have as much right to argue for passing laws banning most such abortions as other citizens do to pass laws banning racial discrimination.

Ah, the skeptic may argue, but what if Muslims deem human contact with a dog (except, according to Muslim jurists, for security purposes, farming and hunting) an immoral act, not just a ritually prohibited act for Muslims?

If indeed such were the Muslim argument, we would have an example of an unbridgeable difference between a Muslim conception of morality and that of non-Muslims.

There is then no analogy between Christians wanting to use the democratic process to ban a practice regarded by hundreds of millions of non-Christians as immoral and the Muslim ban on human contact with dogs, a practice regarded by no non-Muslims as immoral.

The appropriate analogy to Muslim taxi drivers refusing to take passengers accompanied by a dog or carrying a bottle of wine would be religious Jewish taxi drivers refusing to take passengers eating a ham sandwich or Mormon drivers refusing to take passengers drinking alcoholic or caffeinated drinks.

But such Jewish or Mormon examples don’t exist (and if they did, religious Jews and Mormons would regard such persons as crackpots). They do not exist because Jews and Mormons do not believe that non-Jews are required to change their behavior owing to Judaism’s or Mormonism’s distinctive laws. Religious Muslims, on the other hand, do believe that wherever applicable, non-Muslims should change their behavior in the light of Islam’s distinctive laws. And that difference is at least as important to Muslim-non-Muslim relations as the vexing issue of violent Muslims.

As for the difference between fundamentalist Muslims and fundamentalist Christians, a Christian mailman in Denver called my radio show to say that despite his profound religious objections to pornography, he could not imagine objecting to delivering even the raunchiest porn to homes that ordered it. First, religious non-Muslims, especially in America, believe that liberty, too, is a religious value; that is why Christians put a quote about liberty from the Torah on the Liberty Bell. And second, they have no doctrine that holds outsiders bound to their religious practices.

And that is why there may be more to be learned about the future of religious Muslims’ relations with non-Muslims from Muslim taxi drivers than from Muslim terrorists.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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The Best Are Killed In Every Generation

Have you ever heard of Anna Politkovskaya?

She was a Russian journalist who regularly reported on Vladimir Putin’s undermining of press and other freedoms in Russia. This past weekend she was murdered.

If you are debating whether to be optimistic or pessimistic about humanity’s future, here is a point to consider: In every generation, especially in the last century, vast numbers of good people—often the best people—have been murdered by the worst people.

Think about all the decent (and, of course, some indecent) people Stalin murdered among his 20 million to 30 million victims. Think about many of the best people in Poland being systematically executed when Soviet agents rounded up the elite of Polish society and massacred them in the Katyn Forest in 1940. What effect did that massacre have on Poland’s development?

Think about the decent Germans the Nazis murdered. And, of course, think about the Holocaust, the murder of six million Jews in Europe. Given the wildly disproportionate role Jews play in medical discoveries, the arts and other areas that improve society, the price paid by the world (forgetting for a moment the unbelievable loss to the Jews) because of the Holocaust, is immeasurable. Only God knows what cures for diseases the near-extermination of European Jewry deprived the world of, what great symphonies we will never hear, what inventions we will not be allowed to benefit from.

Consider the millions of decent Chinese—those who wanted freedom for their people—murdered by Mao Tse-tung.

In North Korea, it is not far-fetched to believe that almost every Korean who has expressed a decent thought has been murdered by the psychopaths running North Korea for half a century.

Think about those slaughtered by Islamic murderers in the last few years. Compare them with the victims—Iraqis fighting for freedom, thousands of Americans working to provide for their families in the most tolerant society in the world, Israelis living in one of the world’s most humane societies and unknown individuals in Muslim countries trying to bring their governments out of the dark age.

Consider the type of Homo sapiens who literally slaughtered Daniel Pearl—the Wall Street Journal reporter whose life was dedicated (perhaps naively, but nobly) to promoting understanding between peoples—and compare them with him. You then have the paradigm of what has been happening for a hundred years—the worst of humanity eradicating the best of humanity.

You have to wonder how long the world can endure the constant removal of many of its finest souls, and the simultaneous survival and reproduction of many of its most vicious.

As if this were not bad enough, a major portion of humanity vigorously opposes the decent fighting the indecent. The world’s Left increasingly flirts with pacifism—Europe is militarily worthless, and America’s elites largely disdain the military. And when the decent fight the indecent—such as when America fights barbarians in Iraq and Israel fights terrorists who advocate genocide—they are pilloried.

Indeed, much of the world is no longer capable of even identifying the indecent—or the decent, for that matter. Moral relativism, multiculturalism and dividing humanity between strong and weak or rich and poor, as opposed to dividing it between the decent and the indecent, have all virtually paralyzed the human conscience.

The net result is that not only do the bad keep eradicating the good, but much of the world actually denies that fact, denies that we can even categorize any people as “good” or “bad,” and often opposes the best taking up arms against the worst.

Is the prognosis for good triumphing over bad therefore hopeless? Not yet. The good need to fight not only the bad but also the vast middle of humanity who can’t tell the difference between the two. It is a daunting task.


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Five non-religious arguments for marriage over living together

I have always believed that there is no comparing living together with marriage. There are enormous differences between being a “husband” or a “wife” and being a “partner,” a “friend” or a “significant other”; between a legal commitment and a voluntary association; between standing before family and community to publicly announce one’s commitment to another person on the one hand and simply living together on the other.

But attending the weddings of two of my three children this past summer made the differences far clearer and far more significant.

First, no matter what you think when living together, your relationship with your significant other changes the moment you marry. You have now made a commitment to each other as husband and wife in front of almost everyone significant in your life. You now see each other in a different and more serious light.

Second, words matter. They deeply affect us and others. Living with your “boyfriend” is not the same as living with your “husband.” And living with your “girlfriend” or any other title you give her is not the same as making a home with your “wife.” Likewise when you introduce that person as your wife or husband to people, you are making a far more important statement of that person’s role in your life than you are with any other title.

Third, legality matters. Being legally bound to and responsible for another person matters. It is an announcement to him/her and to yourself that you take this relationship with the utmost seriousness. No words of affection or promises of commitment, no matter how sincere, can match the seriousness of legal commitment.

Fourth, to better appreciate just how important marriage is to the vast majority of people in your life, consider this: There is no event,  no occasion, no moment in your life when so many of the people who matter to you will convene in one place as they will at your wedding. Not the birth of any of your children, not any milestone birthday you may celebrate, not your child’s bar-mitzvah or confirmation. The only other time so many of those you care about and who care about you will gather in one place is at your funeral. But by then, unless you die young, nearly all those you love who are older than you will have already died.

So this is it. Your wedding will be the greatest gathering of loved ones in your life. There is a reason. It is the biggest moment of your life. No such event will ever happen if you do not have a wedding.

Fifth, only with marriage will your man’s or your woman’s family ever become your family. The two weddings transformed the woman in my son’s life into my daughter-in-law and transformed the man in my daughter’s life into my son-in-law. And I was instantly transformed from the father of their boyfriend or girlfriend into their father-in-law. This was the most dramatic new realization for me. I was now related to my children’s partners. Their siblings and parents became family. Nothing comparable happens when two people live together without getting married.

Many women callers to my radio show have told me that the man in their life sees no reason to marry. “It’s only a piece of paper,” these men (and now some women) argue.

There are two answers to this argument.

One is that if in fact “it is only a piece of paper,” what exactly is he so afraid of? Why does he fear a mere piece of paper? Either he is lying to himself and to his woman or lying only to her because he knows this piece of paper is far more than “only a piece of paper.”

The other response is all that is written above. Getting married means I am now your wife, not your live-in; I am now your husband, not your significant other. It means that we get to have a wedding where, before virtually every person alive who means anything to us, we commit ourselves to each other. It means that we have decided to bring all these people we love into our lives. It means we have legal obligations to one another. It means my family becomes yours and yours becomes mine.

Thank God my children, ages 30 and 23, decided to marry. Their partners are now my daughter-in-law and son-in-law. They are therefore now mine to love, not merely two people whom my children love.

When you realize all that is attainable by marrying and unattainable by living together without marrying, you have to wonder why anyone would voluntarily choose not to marry the person he or she wishes to live with forever.

Unless, of course, one of you really isn’t planning on forever.


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Pius Attacked For Not Confronting Evil, Benedict Attacked For…

Among the most heated debates of the last 40 years has been the debate over Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust. What did he do when the greatest evil of his day engulfed Christian Europe? Was he “Hitler’s Pope,” as the name of a widely read book about him charged? Was he too reticent in speaking out against Nazism and the Nazi extermination of Europe’s Jews? Was he perhaps even a Nazi sympathizer? Or was he in fact a great friend of Europe’s Jews who did whatever he could to save tens of thousands of Jews, especially in Italy, opening up the doors of Church institutions to hide Jews?

It is not my aim here to offer an answer to that debate. But the attacks on Pope Benedict XVI may help shed new light on some of the motives for the attacks on Pius XII. It is true that we have always known that most, if not all, of Pius’s critics were/are on the political/religious Left. But this no more discredited their critiques of Pius than the fact that the vast majority of Pius’s defenders were on the political/religious Right discredited their defense.

But recently the critics have lost credibility. If the same people who attack Pope Pius XII for his silence regarding the greatest evil of his time are largely the same people who attack Pope Benedict XVI for confronting the greatest evil of his time, maybe it isn’t a pope’s confronting evil that concerns Pius’s critics, but simply defaming the Church.

After all, has not Benedict done precisely what Pius’s critics argue that Pius, and presumably any pope, should have done—be a courageous moral voice and condemn the greatest evil and greatest manifestation of anti-Semitism of his time?

Take The New York Times editorial page, for example. It is written by people who condemn Pius for his alleged silence and now condemn Benedict for not being quiet. According to the Times, Benedict will only create more anti-Western Muslim violence. But that was exactly the excuse defenders of Pius XII so often offered for why Pius XII did not speak out more forcefully—that he was afraid it would only engender more Nazi violence. Yet Pius’s critics have (correctly) dismissed that excuse out of hand.

Another example is Karen Armstrong, the widely read ex-nun scholar of religion. She has written of Pius XII that his “apparent failure to condemn the Nazis has become a notorious scandal.” Moral and logical consistency suggest that she would welcome a pope who did confront today’s greatest evil. But she has joined those condemning Pope Benedict. She wrote (putting these arguments in the mouths of affronted Muslims with whom she sympathizes): “the Catholic Church is ill-placed to condemn violent jihad when it has itself . . . under Pope Pius XII, tacitly condoned the Nazi Holocaust.”

The argument is so illogical that only those who attended graduate school or Catholicism-bashers could find it persuasive. First, how do you condemn the silence of one pope when confronted with the greatest evil of his time and condemn another pope when confronting the greatest evil of his time? Second, if indeed the Church is guilty of condoning evil in the past, why does that render it “hypocritical” (her term for Benedict’s condemnation of Islamic violence in God’s name) to confront evil in the present? If my grandfather was a murderer, am I a hypocrite for condemning murder?

And as expected, the author of the above-mentioned critique of Pius XII, “Hitler’s Pope,” John Cornwall, has also condemned Pope Benedict, describing the pope’s words about Muhammad and Islamic violence as “incendiary” and “abrasive” (presumably calling Pius XII “Hitler’s Pope” is neither incendiary nor abrasive); and writing disparagingly of Benedict “having said that dialogue with Islam was difficult.”

The pope could have chosen a better way to warn about Islamic violence in God’s name than by citing a Byzantine emperor’s sweeping indictment of Muhammad and Islam. But he had the courage to do precisely what the critics of Pius XII bitterly complain Pius XII did not do—use the power of religion and the prestige of the papacy to focus the world’s attention on the greatest evil and greatest outburst of Jew-hatred since the Holocaust.

I have followed the arguments surrounding Pius XII and his behavior during the Holocaust all my life, and as a newly appointed member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, I particularly feel the need to attain clarity on this issue. But the condemnations of Pope Benedict by virtually every major critic of Pius XII lead me to wonder whether the critics really want popes to confront evil or just want popes to think like they do.


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What The Left Thinks: Howard Zinn, Part II

This is the second part of my radio dialogue with an icon of the Left, Howard Zinn, professor emeritus of Boston University, author of “A People’s History of the United States.” The intention of this ongoing series of what major leftists think is to enable people to see clearly what they believe. Then people can much better make up their minds about which side of the culture war they wish to identify with.

After Professor Zinn argued in Part I that America has not been a force for good in the world, I proceeded with the following questions:

DP: I believe that we [Americans] fought in Korea in order to enable at least half of that benighted peninsula to live in relative freedom and prosperity; the half that we did not liberate is living in the nightmare,  almost Nazi-like, condition of the North Korean government. Why don’t you see that as a great good that Americans did?

HZ: I think that your description of the North Korean government is accurate. It’s sort of a monstrous government. But when we went to war in Korea the result of that war was the deaths of several million people. And I question whether the deaths . . . were worth the result. . . .

DP: If America had never intervened, do we both agree that Kim Il-sung, the psychopathic dictator of North Korea, would have ruled over the entire Korean peninsula?

HZ: I think that’s probably true.

DP: Do you believe that that would be a net moral or immoral result for the Korean people and the world?

HZ: That would have been an immoral result, but the result of the war itself was also immoral—I’m talking about the killing of several million people.  And what I’m suggesting is that the answer to . . . tyrannies like that is not war, which in our time always involves the massive killing of innocent people. . . . I think we have to find ways other than war to get rid of dictatorships and tyrannies.

DP: I would love that. But this is where we often consider people on the Left, at best, to be naive. . . . Let’s talk about that naivete. You believe that there would have been another way to get rid of the Korean communists—whom we both agree are monstrous—as opposed to the Korean War. . . . This is the naivete of the Left, that ugly things can be gotten rid of in sweet ways.

HZ: Not sweet ways. I wouldn’t say that. And I wouldn’t say either in totally peaceful ways . . . by struggle and resistance but not by war. We have historical examples of what I’m talking about. The Soviet Union,  Stalinism, was not overthrown by war. . . . Stalinism was really replaced,  in time, by the Russian people themselves. . . . What I’m suggesting is that there are a number of places in the world where we have had tyrannies that have been overthrown without war. . . .

DP: Yes, there are. No one would deny that. And there are historical examples of where war is the only way to achieve a moral end.

HZ: Well, I’m not sure that’s the only way.

DP: Was there another way to have gotten rid of Hitler?

HZ: In the case of WWII, I don’t know what it would have taken to get rid of Hitler. We certainly had to resist him, we certainly had to get rid of him.  . . . What bothers me most today is that people use WWII as an example for what we should do today. It’s a very different situation.

DP: No, we use it as an example of where war is the moral choice. Are you prepared to say that war is ever the best moral choice?

HZ: No.

DP: Never. Not even against Hitler?

HZ: Well, I’m not sure about WWII.

DP: Wow . . .

HZ: War has reached the point where when you wage war . . . there’s always a war against innocent people. . . . Let’s be very specific about today. Take the situation in Iraq. War is not a way to bring democracy to Iraq. We are not succeeding at it . . . we’re killing large numbers of people.

DP: Why are we not succeeding?

HZ: Because there is so much resistance in Iraq to the presence of a foreign invader.

DP: No, there’s so much resistance in Iraq to the presence of democracy. That’s where you and I have a different read on the resistance. . . . You feel that they are resisting the United States, and I feel that they are resisting democracy by blowing up their fellow citizens and hoping for moral chaos and civil war.

HZ: Well there certainly is civil war in Iraq. And we have brought it to Iraq. We have brought it by the occupation of our troops. . . . Iraq is in chaos. Iraq is in violence. And the United States military presence has done nothing to stop that. It’s only aggravated it and provoked it. And the best thing we can do for Iraq right now is to get out of the place, and save the lives of our young people.

DP: What would happen if we did get out? Do you think that there would be fewer people dead or more?

HZ: I would hope that there would be fewer people dead.

DP: I believe if we left, the bloodbath would make what is happening now look like a very sad episode but not a bloodbath.

HZ: . . . The point is that war is the worst possible solution.

DP: That’s where we differ. It isn’t the worst possible. There are worse things than war. More people have died in North Korea . . . than died in the war that you thought we shouldn’t have waged. . . . So it isn’t the worst possible. It wasn’t the worst possible versus the Japanese. It wasn’t the worst possible versus the Nazis. Is it the worst possible in Afghanistan?  Are we wrong there too?

HZ: It is the worst. In Afghanistan it was not a good idea to wage war on Afghanistan. Because the fact is that Bush did not know where Osama bin Laden was except that he was in the country. So what does he do? He bombs the country, kills 3,000 at least ordinary Afghans. That’s as many as died in the Twin Towers. And today after these years of bombing Afghanistan,  driving hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. What have we accomplished in Afghanistan? The Taliban is back.

DP: No, it’s not back.

HZ: The Taliban now controls much of the country.

DP: But it doesn’t control Kabul. It doesn’t control the major cities. And women are now free to step out of their homes. Doesn’t that matter to you?

HZ: It matters a lot to me. But I don’t think that liberation of women matters a lot to the Bush administration. . . .

DP: Whatever your view [about the war in Iraq] . . . would you say that by and large the people that we are fighting, the so-called insurgents, the people who blow up marketplaces and try to create civil war, are bad or evil people? Or would you not make a moral judgment?

HZ: I would certainly make a moral judgment about people who blow up things, who kill innocent people. And I would make a moral judgment on ourselves because we are killing innocent people in Iraq.

DP: So do you feel that, by and large, the Zarqawi-world and the Bush-world are moral equivalents?

HZ: I do. I would put Bush on trial along with Saddam Hussein, because I think both of them are responsible for the deaths of many, many people in Iraq, and so, yes, I think that. Killing innocent people is immoral when Iraqis do it, and when we do it, it is the same thing.

DP: Although we don’t target them, but I won’t get into that debate. I am just fleshing out your views.

HZ: Actually we should get into that. You know, as a former Air Force volunteer I can tell you, it is not necessary to target civilians. You just inevitably kill them. And the result is the same as if you targeted them.

DP: But we have a different punishment for premeditated murder and for accidental murder.

HZ: Yeah, but when you accidentally kill 100 times as many people as the other side kills in a premeditated way . . .

DP: But we haven’t done that . . .

HZ: But we have.

DP: Not in Iraq we certainly haven’t.

HZ: No, in Vietnam . . .

DP: Don’t go to Vietnam every time I ask an Iraq question.

HZ: OK.

DP: Next, Israel and its enemies. Would you say that Israel and Hezbollah are also moral equivalents?

HZ: Well, first of all, I certainly oppose Hezbollah’s firing rockets into Israel, and I think Israel reacted with absolutely unjustified immoral indiscriminate force. I mean, you look at the casualties on both sides, and the casualties among civilians in Lebanon is 10 times the casualties . . .

DP: Well, the casualties in Germany were 10 times those of the casualties in Britain. So are Britain and Hitler morally equivalent? You are making the assessment of morality on the basis of numbers killed.

HZ: No. I think regardless of the numbers, when you kill innocent people there is immorality. So there is immorality on both sides, but I think there is a case in the case of Israel where you have to get back to fundamental causes. The fundamental cause of the violence on both sides is the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and so long as that occupation continues . . .

DP: But they got out of Gaza. And according to President Clinton, the Palestinians were offered a Palestinian state with 97 percent of their land and 3 percent more from Israel.

HZ: Well that’s according to President Clinton. But not according to a lot of people who have been studying the Middle East . . .

DP: A lot of people on the Left, but not a lot of people studying it.

DP: Professor Zinn, I thank you so much for your time.

HZ: Thanks.

The unedited transcript and the radio broadcast are both available at http://www.pragerradio.com.


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What The Left Thinks: Howard Zinn, Part I

What The Left Thinks: Howard Zinn, Part I

Every so often, one hears the argument that “Left and Right” are outdated terms, or that there really aren’t enormous differences in the ways the Left and Right view America, the world, men and women, and just about every other important aspect of life. I wish this were true. But the gaps between the Left and Right on almost every issue that matters—including and especially issues of good and evil—are in fact unbridgeable.

That is why, for many years, I have invited leading representatives of the intellectual Left onto my radio show. Not in order to debate them (though I would be happy to do so at any college), but in order to clarify for listeners exactly what the Left believes.

I recently dialogued with an icon of the Left, Howard Zinn, professor emeritus of political science at Boston University, author of “A People’s History of the United States,” lauded by The New York Times as “required reading” for all American students. And, as Wikipedia notes, it “has been adopted as required reading in high schools and colleges throughout the United States.”

Dennis Prager: I think a good part of your view is summarized when you say, “If people knew history, they would scoff at that, they would laugh at that”—the idea that the United States is a force for the betterment of humanity. I believe that we are the country that has done more good for humanity than any other in history. What would you say . . . we have done more bad than good, we’re in the middle, or what?

Howard Zinn: Probably more bad than good. We’ve done some good, of course; there’s no doubt about that. But we have done too many bad things in the world. You know, if you look at the way we have used our armed forces throughout our history: first destroying the Indian communities of this continent and annihilating Indian tribes, then going into the Caribbean in the Spanish-American War, going to the Philippines, taking over other countries, not establishing democracy but in many cases establishing dictatorship, holding up dictatorships in Latin America and giving them arms, and you know, Vietnam, killing several million people for no good reason at all, certainly not for democracy or liberty, and continuing down to the present day with the war in Iraq . . . .

DP: There is evil in the way we treated the Indians, there is no question about it. But there’s also no question that the great majority died of disease and not deliberately inflicted disease.

HZ: That’s true that the great majority of Indians died of disease in the 17th century when the Europeans first came here. But after that—after the American Revolution—when the colonists expanded from the thin band of colonies along the Atlantic and expanded westward, at that point we began to annihilate the Indian tribes. We committed massacres all over the country . . . .

DP: What percentage of the Indians do you believe we massacred, as opposed to diseases ravaged?

HZ: Oh, well it might have been 10 percent.

DP: But 10 percent is very different from the generalization of “we annihilated the Indians.”

HZ: Oh, well 10 percent is a huge number of Indians, that is. So it’s pointless I think to argue about whether disease . . . or deliberate attacks killed more Indians . . . .

DP: No, but 10 percent is very different from what the general statement of “annihilate” tends to indicate. That’s all I am saying.

HZ: Okay.

DP: If, let’s say, Europeans never came to North America and it was left in the hands of the American indigenous Indians, do you think the world would be a better place?

HZ: I’d have no way of knowing.

DP: So you’re agnostic on that.

HZ: Absolutely. We have no way of knowing what would have happened.

DP: Well, we do have a way of knowing. If the Indians had never been intervened with, they would have continued in the life and the values of the societies that the American Indians made.

HZ: Well, I suppose we could presume that. And many of their societies were very peaceful and benign, and some of their societies were ferocious and warlike. But the point is that we very often sort of justify barging into other peoples’ territories by the fact that we are sort of bringing civilization. But in the course of it, if in the course of bringing civilization we kill large numbers of people—which we did in that case and which we have done in other cases—then you’re led to question whether what we did deserves to be praised or condemned.

DP: Well, you can do both. You can condemn the massacres and you can praise the civilization that we made here.

In Part II, Professor Zinn and I discuss the morality of fighting World War II, the moral differences between George W. Bush and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and more.

A complete transcript and broadcast of this interview will appear on pragerradio.com.


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Does Religion Make People Better Or Worse?

I have devoted much of my life to arguing that religion is the finest vehicle for individuals and societies to become decent, good, moral (you choose the term you prefer). For example, in 2005, I devoted 24 columns to making the case for Judeo-Christian values as the finest system of values ever devised.

However, this advocacy of religion comes with two caveats.

First, the claimed superiority of Judeo-Christian values in no way means that all believing Jews and Christians are good people, let alone better than all other people. There have always been and there are today morally superior individuals in every religion. And there are morally superior individuals among atheists and people of no organized religion.

Second, there is no religion that has not made, or at least enabled, some of its adherents to be morally worse than they would have been had they not adopted that religion.

So our question is not whether there are good or bad people in every religion. The question is whether any given religion is likely to make one who believes in it a better or worse person than he would have been had he not believed in that religion.

Let’s begin with my religion, Judaism. I recall a young man who attended a Jewish institute I used to direct. When he first arrived at the institute, he was a particularly kind and nonjudgmental individual—and completely secular. After his month-long immersion in studying and living Judaism, he decided to become a fully practicing Jew. When I met him a year later he was actually less kind and was aggressively judgmental of the religiosity of fellow Jews, including me and others who had brought him to Judaism. In one year he had become in his eyes holier than the teachers who brought him to religion in the first place.

Now, of course, there are teachings in Judaism that, if honored (such as the Prophet Micah’s admonition to “walk humbly with your God”),  would have prevented him from becoming sanctimonious. But the religion’s emphasis on legal observance enabled him to count the number of laws fellow Jews did not observe and judge them accordingly.

One major benefit of Judaism’s being law-based is that it can provide an individual with a way to regularly ascertain right from wrong, to provide ethical rules on a daily basis. It can move him to visit the sick when he would rather be at home watching television, to resist gossiping, to give more charity than he otherwise would, to show honor to parents who may not deserve it, and so much more. But it can also lead him to judge fellow Jews by their level of ritual observance, to substitute law worship for God worship, and can lead a Jew to retreat from almost any social interaction with the non-Jewish world.

Within Christianity, faith in Jesus Christ can lead one to live a life of extraordinary loving kindness and self-sacrifice in order to emulate Jesus, whom the Christian regards as his Lord and Savior. It can also, and has, led Christians to place so much emphasis on proper faith as to neglect equal emphasis on proper behavior, to hunt down heretics, to judge other people by their faith rather than by their decency (as in Europe’s wars and killing over theology). It can lead to an almost unique support for the Jewish people—as among American evangelical and other conservative Christians—and it has also led to the most prolonged hatred of the Jews for spurning and killing Christ among Christians in Europe.

Nearly 2,000 years of Christian domination of Europe did not prevent most Europeans from doing nothing to protest, let alone rescue Jews from, the Nazi genocide. On the other hand, the relative handful of European Jews who were saved were rescued disproportionately by religious Christians.  I once asked California State University Professor Samuel Oliner—an authority on altruism and on rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, and himself a Jew who was rescued by non-Jews—knowing all he does now, on whose door would he knock if he wanted to be saved from the Nazis during the Holocaust—a doctor, a professor, a lawyer or a priest. He answered that there was no question that it would have been the priest.

The third monotheistic faith is Islam. There are many millions of decent and kind Muslims in the world. But there are also at least a hundred million Muslims (i.e., 10 percent) who support killing innocents in the name of Allah and Islam. And there are more than that who believe in the ideal of using force to spread Islam throughout the world.

So the question is this: How many kind and decent Muslims are kind and decent because of Islam, and how many evil Muslims are evil because of Islam?

I do not claim to have an answer. I only claim that the question is a legitimate one that all the decent Muslims need to answer. The evil ones repeatedly tell us how Islam is the source of their support for murder and torture. We need to know from the good ones how Islam has made them good.

So far we have only heard from one side.


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Just A Reminder About Who And Why We Are Fighting

Last year at UCLA, I debated a professor who argued that Israel and the Palestinians were moral equivalents. He is not alone (especially on college campuses) in his lack of understanding of the immoral nature of the Islamic enemies of America and Israel.

Thus it is important to remind people once again about the moral world inhabited by the people we are fighting, whom President George W. Bush calls the Islamic Fascists.

Societal examples:

—The Islamic Republic of Sudan, in its attempt to force Arab/Muslim rule on the largely non-Arab and non-Muslim population of southern Sudan, has led to the killing of well above 1 million Christians and animists and black (i.e., non-Arab) Muslims, in addition to the widespread enslavement, rape and torture of those people.

—No major international Arab or Muslim organization has condemned the Sudanese government’s mass murders that border on genocide.

—The leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and repeatedly called for the annihilation of Israel.  As the 6 million Jews of Israel do not plan a mass exodus from their ancient and modern homeland, such annihilation would in fact mean another Holocaust.

—The holy center of Islam, the Muslim country where the holiest Muslim sites are situated, is Saudi Arabia. That country bans the practice of any religion other than Islam, amputates hands of thieves, does not allow women to drive a car, mandates what women wear outside of their homes and is the only country in the world to feature a weapon on its national flag. Women were treated considerably better and had more civil rights in ancient Rome, not to mention ancient Israel, than women living in the holiest cities of Islam today.

—Virtually every Islam-based country decrees the death penalty for any Muslim who converts to another religion.

In other words, every country that calls itself “Islamic” is morally inferior to just about every country in North America, South America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, almost every Asian country and many African countries.

No Muslim country treats non-Muslims and their religions anywhere nearly as decently as any Western non-Muslim country (including Israel) treats Muslims. That is why tens of millions of Muslims immigrate to non-Muslim societies and virtually no non-Muslim immigrates to any Muslim society. In every Muslim country, non-Muslims are either systematically persecuted at worst or treated as inferiors at best.

Individual examples (in just the last five months):

—“A German court sentenced a Turkish man to more than nine years in jail yesterday for the ‘honour killing’ of his sister. . . . The murder of Hatun Surucu, 23, who was shot several times at a bus stop in a Berlin suburb last year, shocked Germany. . . . Forced to marry a cousin in Turkey as a young girl, Ms. Surucu later broke with her Turkish-Kurdish family in Berlin and was living independently with her 5-year-old son, to the intense disapproval of her relatives. . . . Public outrage at the murder was exacerbated when some teenage boys at a school with many pupils from immigrant families . . . reportedly openly applauded the killing, condemning the victim for having lived ‘like a German.’” (The Guardian, UK, April 14,  2006)

—“Men using machetes attacked worshipers in three Coptic [Christian] churches in the port city of Alexandria [Egypt] on Friday morning, killing an 80-year-old man and wounding at least six other people,  the police there said.” (International Herald Tribune, April 15, 2006)

—“An Egyptian state-controlled newspaper praised Monday’s suicide attack in Tel Aviv, which killed nine people and wounded dozens,  calling it an act of sacrifice and martyrdom.” (Jerusalem Post, April 18,  2006)

—In Britain, Abdula Ahmed Ali, 25, and his wife Cossor, 23, were arrested in connection with the plot to blow up airplanes flying across the Atlantic. According to Scotland Yard, the Muslim couple planned to take their 6-month-old baby on the suicide mission, using their baby’s bottle to hide a liquid bomb. (Daily Telegraph, UK, Aug. 14, 2006)

—“We’ve got Hezbollah fighters running around in our positions, taking our positions here and then using us for shields and then engaging the [Israelis].”—words of a Canadian UN observer written days before he was killed by Israeli bombs (Ottawa Citizen, July 27, 2006)

—“Canadian authorities rounded up a group of 17 Muslim men and boys suspected of plotting to bomb major buildings in the Toronto area . . .  ” (CNN, June 5, 2006)

—In Australia, “[Islamist] propaganda has convinced many residents their suburbs are being overrun by Islamic extremists. . . .The Saturday Daily Telegraph revealed an escalation of anti-Semitic behaviour. .  . . Jewish university students were targeted and forced to hide their traditional skullcaps beneath baseball caps to avoid abuse, while attacks on synagogues have increased.” (Daily Telegraph, Australia, Aug. 26, 2006)

—“A third suspect detained in a failed attempt to blow up two German trains is a Syrian national . . . German and Lebanese authorities are each holding one of two young Lebanese men accused of carrying the suitcase bombs onto trains in Cologne station on July 31. . . . Officials say they could have caused many casualties and set the trains on fire.” (Newsday,  Aug. 26, 2006)

Does all this suggest that we are fighting a billion Muslims? Of course not.

Does all this suggest that all or even most Muslims are bad people? Of course not.

It does suggest, however, that the dominant forces within Islam are bad at this time; that Muslims who see this evil in their midst have not mobilized any counterforce either out of fear for their lives or for some other reason; and that decent men and women around the world—Hindu,  Christian, Jewish, atheist, Buddhist and Muslim—are threatened by this powerful, death-loving force.

Muslims who do not acknowledge the threat to civilization from within the Muslim world at least have two excuses—fear for their lives or group solidarity. What excuses do non-Muslims have who deny this threat?


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
**Link to this article alone ** Posted under the categories(s): Dennis Prager Joel Johannesen on TwitterFollow Joel Johannesen on Twitter

CBS Is Now Officially The Communication For Barbarians Service

A little over three years ago, CBS sent Dan Rather to Baghdad to ask meaningless questions to, and provide a propaganda vehicle for, Saddam Hussein. Last night, Communication for Barbarians Service broadcast Mike Wallace’s equally meaningless interview with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s fanatical leader.

Interviews with evil leaders are meaningless at best and destructive at worst. Few reporters will ask real questions or challenge the propaganda responses of these leaders. These interviews merely offer them invaluable “humanizing” time and ask questions that reconfirm the low state of television news.

Here are some of the tough questions Mike Wallace asked one of the vilest leaders on earth today: What he thinks of President Bush, why he is concerned about how his jacket looks on television and what he does for leisure. Never once did he challenge Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s attacks on America—such as America’s loving war, seeking to be an imperial power or oppressing its own people.

When asked about his statements that the Holocaust is a “myth,” Ahmadinejad replied, “What I did say was, if this is a reality, if this is real, where did it take place?” Wallace did not respond to the leader of a country saying “if” the Holocaust “is real” with a single question. But he probably laughed more with Ahmadinejad than any American news reporter has ever laughed on camera with the president of the United States.

If CBS wanted anything more than ratings and Wallace wanted to be more than a “useful idiot” (Lenin’s phrase for the Western journalists and academics who supported Soviet Communism), here are some questions he should have asked Ahmadinejad:

In countries with a free press and where history is understood as consisting of verifiable facts, anyone who denies the Holocaust, the systematic murder of approximately 6 million Jews by the Nazis, is regarded as either an anti-Semite or a kook or both. You have repeatedly denied the Holocaust. Why should the world not regard you as either a kook or an anti-Semite? And do you understand why most free societies wish to prevent you from acquiring nuclear weapons?

Given that you have announced that you wish Israel to be erased from the map, why would those countries that do not share your desire to extinguish a country not try to prevent you from acquiring nuclear weapons?

In Iran, under your direction, religious police walk around the country monitoring how much skin a woman reveals. Most of the world considers this primitive and another reason to regard you and your regime as fanatical. On what grounds do you support whipping women who reveal their arms in public? And do you understand why such policies help explain why most free societies wish to prevent you from acquiring nuclear weapons?

Why do you believe that millions of Iranians chant “death to America” and “death to Israel” but no Americans or Israelis chant “death to Iran”? Are people more bored in an Islamic republic than in a free society?  Does your brand of Islam promote preoccupation with death rather than life?  Or is there simply a lot more hatred in your country than in free societies?  And do you understand why all this hatred helps explain why societies in which people do not chant death wishes would like to prevent your society from acquiring nuclear weapons?

In Iran, women determined by Islamic courts to have committed adultery have been stoned to death. According to The Washington Times, “The condemned are wrapped head to foot in white shrouds and buried up to their waists. Then the stoning begins. The stones are specifically chosen so they are large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the condemned immediately. They are guaranteed a slow, torturous death. Sometimes their children are forced to watch.” Do you believe that this brings world admiration to Islam? And do you understand why most societies in which women who commit adultery are not stoned wish to prevent you from acquiring nuclear weapons?

Last year, a teenage girl who said she was raped by two young men was not only not believed, she was given 100 lashes by your Islamic republic. Many of us find whipping teenagers for having sex, not to mention for being raped, unimpressive. Does this help to explain why societies that do not whip teenage girls are not excited about your country acquiring nuclear weapons?

Last month, a British newspaper, the Sunday Mirror, reported that in your Islamic republic, “16-year-old Atefeh Rajabi was dragged from her prison cell and taken to be executed. The Iranian judge who had sentenced Atefeh to death was left unmoved as he personally put the noose around her neck and signalled to the crane driver. Kicking and screaming,  Atefeh was left dangling for 45 minutes from the arm of the crane . . .  Atefeh’s crime? Offending public morality. She was found guilty of ‘acts incompatible with chastity’ by having sex with an unmarried man, even though friends say Atefeh was in such a fragile mental state that she wasn’t in a position to say no.”

Does this help explain why people who don’t support hanging young girls from cranes might be concerned about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons?

As it happens, Mike Wallace and CBS News did what they set out to do—win in the ratings war Sunday night. But they hurt America and abetted evil in the process. Not deliberately, but knowingly.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
**Link to this article alone ** Posted under the categories(s): Dennis Prager Joel Johannesen on TwitterFollow Joel Johannesen on Twitter

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