Dennis Prager on adultery, character and politics

I happen to think Dennis Prager is right — and I say this as someone who does not have a personal stake in the adultery issue.  I’ve known people who committed adultery because they were obnoxious jerks, and people who committed adultery because it was the only way to survive emotionally in a terrible marriage that nevertheless needed to continue as a marriage.

I’m curious as to what you think.

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  1. Old Soldier says

    Perhaps you might think this irrelevant, but please consider:  marriage starts with a solemn exchange of vows.  “Right out in front of God and everybody,” as my atheist brother-in-law put it.  You promised her; she promised you – and it’s the most solemn promise most of us are likely to make.
    So – adultery is first a breaking of that promise.  It is dishonesty; it is a failure to keep your word.  We can produce a thousand excuses for it – but that’s what they are, excuses.
    Tell me, then:  do you trust a politician’s word when you know he couldn’t keep his word to his wife?  Or did honesty depart the White House with Abraham Lincoln?
    (More at http://www.becomingcloser.org/ancient_mind/marital_fidelity.html)

  2. jj says

    I find Prager a putz most of the time, somehow or other he just rubs me in all the wrong directions.  His take this time strikes me as reasonable, though.  I believe I’m on record here as having said I’d rather commit a sin than be wrong: the definition of sin is subject to change, right and wrong is not.  (I’m pithier than Prager.)  We’ve all known people who have done – and do – things for a variety of reasons, none of them subject to our approval or dis, and in the end it often doesn’t say a hell of a lot about the person.  Often enough it says nothing at all about them in their essence.
     
    For me it’s kind of like abortion.  When I get right down to it, I don’t much care one way or the other.  I’m not going to indulge, and I’m equally not going to step between anyone and their conception of God.  If you want an abortion, go ahead, Sweetie – I won’t ask you about it.  It is, I suppose, possible that there is a God, and it’s possible that He may have some questions for you about it when your time comes – and that’ll be between you and Him.  I won’t make it between you and Him and me.  No matter how self-important I get, I don’t have a place in there between you and Him.
     
    Ditto adultery.  No plans to indulge, and I don’t see it as much of an indicator of much of anything.  As far as I can see it’s mostly based in religion, and I have never been able to believe that someone setting himself up as being responsible for every event in all the universes – God – really cares much about where anybody on this little rock sticks it.  I mean – why?  Don’t’cha got something better to do?  How could you not?  And then – speaking of the mutability of sin – there’s the fact that God’s pal Al Lah has no such strictures; the Buddha didn’t particularly find it important enough to address, most religions other than Christianity seem not to much care. 
     
    So I don’t much care.  If you want to, you have your reasons, no doubt – please don’t tell me what they are – and you can figure it out for yourself.  If you are a solid person, that will not, of itself – for me, only for me – degrade you into an unsolid one.  If you compel me to listen, I will accept any reason, including that you believe we’re in a box in the ground for a long, long, lo-o-o-ng time, and only capable for about fifty years out of all eternity so you should grab for what floats by every chance you get.  Okay – I buy it.  I won’t condemn you, and if you pick up the check at lunch, you’re okay by me. 
     
     
        

  3. Simplemind says

    He’s right about Newt but not because of any moral argument. Its just common sense that you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    The baby is intrinsically valuable, even though its going to get dirty again, we don’t throw it out with the dirty water.  Newt is going to dirty himself. He does it about every six months or so.  He will do it again before the election. Its going to be a tight one between Gingrich and Romney neither are ideal. But ideal isn’t an option, never is.

    Prager’s moral arguments are flawed however.

    “For example, religious people regard saying the word “God” for no religious purpose (“taking God’s name in vain”) as sinful, but to regard saying, for example, “goddammit, I stubbed my toe” as evil is to trivialize evil.”

    Basically he’s saying there are no lesser evils.  His example above is a poor one.  Taking the name of God in vain is evil because it cuts into your relationship with God. If you so trivialize his name, it is a marker of how diminished your relationship with him actually is. . .    Its a lesser evil sure.

    Committing adultery is wrong. Its never not a sin. All sin is individual so it doesn’t mean that all adulters commit the same evil even though its the same sin.  Also sin can be forgiven, but only if you acknowledge the wrongulness of the act. There are an endless variety of rationalizations available to humans when it comes to wrong doing. The reason why we are here though is not to rationalize our failures but to keep trying.  Everyone is going to sin.  If I had to choose between someone who tells me they never really sinned (because of some rationalization) or someone who sinned and said yeah I screwed up. I failed, wish I hadn’t but I did. I’ve done better since and work at it every day. I’d probably pick the latter.  At least the latter recognizes that s/he screwed up. The former thinks they have nothing to answer for because they had a good reason. . .    

    The reason why we elect politicians is not to rationalize our government’s failures, but to carry out solutions. If you don’t see the problem you can’t fix it.  So I won’t vote for a self deluder. Which is basically why I don’t vote for democrats. They are all self deluded.

  4. jj says

    Of the 7 billion people on the planet, over five billion belong to religions that don’t subscribe to the Christian view of adultery, Simplemind.  I don’t know who’s right – if there is a “right.”  Neither do you.  Neither does Joe Ratzinger.
     
    What’s with the embedded links popping up all over the place?

  5. says

    “What’s with the embedded links popping up all over the place?”

    It’s an experiment in my ongoing effort to make money from my passion for blogging.  If it irritates you guys, I’ll stop, because I’m not sure the money will be worth the irritation.  I suspect that, rather than being a profit center, it’ll pay for me to justify a quart of Haagen Daaz once a month!

  6. Simplemind says

    I think there is a right and a wrong and so do you – because  you think  I’m wrong.   As to which of us is right, that argument doesn’t get settled in this life.

    That’d be too easy.  Everyone hauls their own carcass to market.

  7. Simplemind says

    JJ
        So if  everyone in a given relgious culture felt it was okay to commit human sacrifice would that make it okay? Cause there was a time when that was a pretty popular expression of relgious devotion in some cultures.  

    Adultery is  not a great idea.  Don’t do it if you can help it.  That’s not religious teaching its common sense. (You want std’s, illigetimate children, live a lie, potential fatal attraction drama, divorce?) Now it may be that someone gets into a situation where they are choosing between evils. That happens. Thats why it sucks to be human, but being human is like boot camp - its a test and its designed to be hard.

    As far as adultery goes if Gingrich goes down the Clinton road of I didn’t really do anything wrong  because what I did wasn’t sex. . . that is a complete disqualifyer.  If he says, hey I made an error, I try every day to walk the walk — which is what he has said so far — not a huge problem.  

    I may be voting for him actually, if he doesn’t shoot himself in the foot.

  8. jj says

    Yeah, as a matter of fact that would make it okay, in that time and in that place – for them.  If you were there at that time and place and you disagreed with it – which I’m sure you think you would, but I doubt it – you’d have a pretty hard time.  As a member of that society I don’t think you’d object, either.  You would have been raised to it, it would be normal for you.  You object now, with the current mindset, but if you were from there, and from then – no problem.  The moral absolutes are not nearly as absolute as any generation supposes them to be; they do change – and people have been killing people with religions as moral arbiters either approving, tacitly or explicitly; or turning a blind eye and ignoring it, for as long as there have been people.
     
    “Normal” and “acceptable” behavior is whatever 90% of the people think it is.  This country used to shut down Sundays and Christmas, and only gradually discovered there are other traditions alive and well amongst us, so we no longer do.  We used to expect them to just deal with the fact that the kosher deli was closed on Christmas – and they did, because “closed on Christmas” was normal and acceptable behavior in this country.  I suppose there are those of us who look back on our grandparents and think that was pretty insensitive of them – but it wasn’t.  It was normal.
     
    Anything is normal and moral and fine – if enough people think it is.  We look back at the idea of sacrificing Aunt Joanie as something nobody in their right mind would do.  We look back and weigh it against current thinking, but that’s our current thinking.  It doesn’t apply, and what we think now is nothing more than what we think now: it isn’t necessarily – or guaranteed to be – “better,” or more “right.”  We think it is.  We didn’t have a vote back then.  It is presumptuous for us to look back and say they were immoral, or bad people, or even “wrong.”  (Maybe they weren’t.  Our god, the god of the Hebrews, has always liked sacrifice.  He favors a little blood now and then.  When he told Abraham to take Isaac up the hill, Abraham distinctly did not say: “what?  Are you nuts?”  He went right along with it – just like he’d been doing this sort of stuff his whole life.  The heaviness of the sacrifice of his only son was his problem, but the idea of the sacrifice itself?  Feh!  What can you do?  He took the kid, went up the hill.  God let him off at the last second – he already had the knives out – but Abe was perfectly willing to do it.  Didn’t seem in the least odd to him.)
     
    I just posit it’s wise to have some care with those moral judgments based on moral absolutes.  As a matter of mankind’s religious history there don’t seem to be any of those.  Very little is carved in stone.  It’s all subject to change.  Yesterday’s sin is today’s routine, and a hamburger for lunch on Friday is fine, these days. 

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