The Right Side of History by Ben Shapiro is a book about our morality. How did it come to be? What were the influences and how can we regain it? I wrote a review of this book a couple of days ago, check it out for more information.
Now I do like the premise of this book. I believe that we are in a post-truth era where relativism is going strong. There are definitely people out there who totally disregard facts and try to fill them in with their own opinions, stating them as facts. This happens on the political left and right. Misinformation is everywhere.
Yet I do believe that the answer isn’t to return to the old values. I don’t believe we should return to worshipping a God. There is still a lot of oppression today in name of a God. Most of histories oppression was because of one faith against another. I believe if we should go back, we should go back to the values of the Enlightenment. It is of course true that the Enlightenment has taken inspiration from Christianity and the Ancient Greeks, but they come to a better synthesis. Shapiro argues that there is a dark side to the Enlightenment, which gave way to Fascism, Communism and Eugenetic ideas. I would say that those movements have actually just created a religion without a God.
Fascism and Communism are good examples in my opinion. I am talking about how those two ideologies were executed in the 20th century. After parting ways with God, the communists and fascists basically created a religion with the ideal utopia. The fascist or communist utopia is the replacement of God. It is their heaven. Sure, there is no God for them, but the way I see it, God is nothing more than the ideal of human beings. Where heaven is the ideal utopia to be in. Christianity put that ideal after death. But you could interpret it as that we should keep striving towards that ideal society until we die. The two ideologies just took away the personification of that ideal namely God and implemented their own utopia. The same goes with eugenics, where there is a hope for the ultimate race.
The problem with these ideologies (I include religion in ideologies) is that they become dangerous when they become dogmatic. We should be wary of a great story, explain to us how everything works and what the ideal society would be. Most of the time it is too simplistic and wrong, with hazardous consequences. I don’t think I need to give a list of all the atrocities that the ideologies have done. So, to return to religion as Shapiro opts, would in my opinion just put the emphasis somewhere else while retaining the same ideals. Shapiro tries to give a solution to the relativistic ideas that have been going around by calling unto God to create an objective moral system. But the system of God is not that objective as at first glance might seem.
Plato wrote in the Euthyphro about the dilemma between God and morality. Is something moral because God says it is moral? Or does God say something is moral because he recognizes that it is good? If the answer is that God decides what is moral, then what is moral is completely arbitrary. What is good and evil is purely based on the whims of God. Also if the Bible is the word of God, then for example slavery or the oppression of women would be moral, which we regard as immoral. But if God says something is moral because he merely recognizes it to be moral, then morality can be split from God. God just sees what is moral, it is not he that decides what is or what isn’t. So, morality exists separately from God.
So, going back to believing into God would not solve the problem in my opinion. What would solve the problem in part, is to return to the Enlightenment values of reason, freedom and science. Everyone has the capability to use reason in order to select for him or her the best way to life their life. Everyone should be free to do what he or she wants and not be limited by anything except by the freedom of everyone else. Your freedom ends where another’s begins. We can use science to further human civilization. To make progress. How we make progress we can fill in as a society.
Though Shapiro brings a lot of philosophers to the table and is able to sell the vision of the rational thinker of the Ancient Greeks, he doesn’t achieve the same level of arguments for his plea to return to religion. The idea behind the religion can be good, but you don’t necessarily need the framework of the religion to make it work. Nonetheless tries this book to give a well-founded answer to the distrust in reason and the acceptance of relativism. God might be dead, but heaven might still be waiting if we work together.