In a recent Townhall.com article titled, “A Note to Conservatives Who Are Secular,” Dennis Prager initially praises secular conservatives such as Paul Johnson, George Will, and Thomas Sowell for their understanding of history, human nature, and the state of mankind. “But,” Prager laments,
The vast majority of leading conservative writers, just like their liberal colleagues, have a secular outlook on life. With few exceptions, the conservative political and intellectual worlds are oblivious to the consequences of secularism. They are unaware of the disaster that godlessness in the West has led to.
To what disaster is Prager referring? He doesn’t say. But he appears to mean the possible or impending death of America. “Secular conservatives,” he writes, “think that America can survive the death of God and religion”; they think “fiscal and other forms of conservatism without social conservatism can preserve America.” But, Prager insists, “the only solution to many—perhaps most—of the social problems ailing America and the West is some expression of Judeo-Christian faith.”
In an apparent effort to support that claim, Prager poses some questions:
Do the inner-city kids who study the Bible and go to church each week lead wasted lives, join gangs, bear children out of wedlock or commit murder? Other than a religious revival, what do conservatives, with all their superb critiques of disastrous left-wing policies, think will uplift inner-city youths?
I’m not sure how Johnson, Will, or Sowell would answer those questions. And, being an Objectivist, I can’t answer for conservatives. But I’ll indicate how I’d answer such questions if they were directed instead to Objectivists.
Inner-city youths who embrace Judaism or Christianity are no doubt less likely to join gangs, bear children out of wedlock, or commit murder than are those who have no explicit philosophy. Religion—if tempered by Enlightenment values, as the practice of Judaism and Christianity generally are today—is certainly better than sheer whim-worship or secular subjectivism. But that doesn’t mean religion is the answer to the problems facing inner-city youths or America or the West at large.
With respect to youths, the goal should not merely be to help them refrain from joining gangs or getting pregnant or committing murder. The goal should be to help them understand, embrace, and put into practice a philosophy that will guide them in making their lives the best they can be. The goal should be to help them grasp a philosophy of reason, purpose, life-serving value pursuits, self-responsibility, respect for individual rights, and the overarching aim of achieving a lifetime of happiness. . . .