The Right Side of History

The Right Side of History

How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great

Book - 2019 | First edition.
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An outspoken conservative commentator considers the state of the West today, asking why, if American lives have never been better than at any other time in history, the United States' political, social, and economic situation is beginning to erode.
Publisher: New York, NY : Broadside Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2019]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780062857903
0062857908
Branch Call Number: 306.0973 SHAPIRO
Characteristics: xxvii, 256 pages ; 24 cm

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b
Boych2018
Aug 12, 2020

Not an easy read but many will be rewarded for the effort. As noted in IOrOzcO’s comment Shapiro covers the underpinnings of Western Civilization (religion and reason) and outlines how we’ve arrived at the current political climate in the West (no religion, reason is subjective).

c
C_larsen
Jan 28, 2020

Not much in the way of ideas or well reasoned or researched arguments.
I am especially suspicious of any theory of historical progression through a narrowly defined schema. This holds for me whether it is dialectic materialism (communism) that posits class conflict as the means of progression of history, Hegel's state as God's march through history or Mr. Shapiro's concept of Jerusalem and Athens (Judeo-Christian values and Greek teleological thinking - purpose) as the means to secure our modern society.
In the first part many Christians including Augustine and Tertullian did not think Greek philosopy had anything to do with Christianity.
It has been remarked by others, including Sam Harris, that neither Judaism or Christianity can lay claim to freedom of speech or freedom of religion so it is difficult to see how these cornerstone rights can be considered a 'Judeo-Christian' value. Much less can one see why it took Enlightenment thinkers like Locke and Montesquieu to develop thinking on individual rights and democratic frameworks.... after more than 2000 years of 'Judeo-Christian' value development.
Ben Shapiro states that revelation is insufficient for political development and that people must use reason (Athens) to determine political structures. Why? Why can't God describe political processes that secure the inherent worth of each human that Ben says that Judaism and Christianity believes. God can give commandments but not describe workable politics? This should cause as much questioning over the veracity of religious beliefs as the question of why God couldn't describe Germ theory.
I'm all for education and ideas generation (I believe this has more to do with the growth of rights and freedoms that anything that Shapiro posits). I'm all for the dignity of all people and the need for this to be a grounding for all of our laws (individual human rights). I don't see how this is an inherently religious ideal as much of Christian history (particularly Middle Ages) that describes humanity as flawed, sinful, tainted with original sin and lacking worth or value. Much of Christian history sees humanity as unable to comprehend or undertake their own thinking or action in the world. It is only through the actions of God (grace and atonement) or an indwelling of God (Holy Spirit) that humans would have any worth in the eyes of God. This has been a part of a significant religious tradition in our world.
What Ben Shapiro esteems seems to be Humanism which saw humanity as inherently valuable and capable of improvement. This tradition had much hostility from established religion. Humanism developed from Christian origins (i.e. Petrarch) to more non-religious forms.
There are many other things wrong with what Ben says on nearly every page but I found that his book was exhausting and not worth the time. At least it was short!

a
AQUILEA777
Aug 14, 2019

Zionist Shapiro declares that religion and virtue are "the product of Jerusalem," that the "spiritual genius" of Jerusalem "built our civilization and built us as individuals." Righteousness came only from the Chosen People; Gentiles were soulless brutes till redeemed by Jewish inspiration. The thesis is absurd and insulting.
--- The Old Testament writings were composed after 587 BC (Chaldeans captured Jerusalem), many centuries after the mythical persons and events they describe. Earlier the Hebrews were calf and Baal worshippers.
--- Shapiro denies the far older, higher moral codes of the Egyptians, Zoroaster, and the systems of Buddha and Confucius. All people have religious and moral feelings. 30,000-year-old cave paintings in France and Spain, many times older than the OT, show great sensitivity; their painters no doubt had ideas of deity and justice. Many centuries of Egyptian civilization preceded the Great Pyramid, and it was built 2,000 years before the OT was written; Stonehenge predates the OT by 1,500 years. There are no monuments of David and Solomon.
--- Shapiro touts his strict Orthodox Jewish insight. Does he really believe and approve the OT tales that God drowned all mankind but eight persons (Gen 6-8)? turned the Nile into blood and all the dust of Egypt into lice (Exod 7-8)? wiped out the Egyptian firstborn (Exod 11-12)? made the sun stand still a whole day to help the Hebrews slaughter their enemies (Josh 10)? enabled the southern Hebrews to kill 500,000 northern Hebrews in one battle (2 Chron 13)?
--- OT virtue meant slavish observance of countless taboos, and fanatical destruction of Gentiles and their shrines. God's Chosen People must exterminate the inhabitants of Canaan (Palestine) and seize their land (Deut 3,7,20, etc). In long, venomous tirades, Jehovah threatens fiendish punishments for Hebrews who fail in any way (eg Levit 26, Deut 28). Saul is cut off for sparing one Amalekite after killing all the rest (Deut 25:19; 1 Sam 15 & 28:5-19; 1 Chron 10). David is praised for slaying tens of thousands (1 Sam 18:6-8). "[C]ursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood." (Jer 48:10)
--- Moses also massacred dissenting Hebrews: "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor." (Exod 32:27). Elijah slaughtered 450 Hebrew prophets of Baal: "And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there." (1 Kings 18:40)
--- Jehovah set the Hebrew tribes at war with one another, then gave most of them to death or enslavement by the Assyrians, leaving only a remnant, mainly the tribe of Judah (whence "Jews"), who were then consigned to subjugation by the Chaldeans.
--- Shapiro stresses "Judeo-Christian values," a phrase used by Zionists to win Christian backing. Proper Christianity entails chivalrous treatment of adversaries; the OT denounces mercy. Christians celebrate Christ's birth and resurrection; Jews celebrate the extermination of Egyptian firstborn (Passover) and the massacre of 75,800 Persians (Purim, Esther 9). Jesus told his followers to love their enemies and forgave his executioners. He renounced Jewish exclusivity and offered salvation for all, which threatened the foundation of Jewish culture. Jesus predicted his countrymen would kill him and be cast out, replaced in God's favor by others (Matt 8:5-13, 21:31-43).
--- Shapiro once said Arabs like to live in open sewage. He supports US/Israeli invasion of Muslim countries; civilians need not be spared, as their lives are worth far less than those of US/Israeli troops. He urged the total removal of Palestinians from Palestine. Later he retracted some of this. In 2013 he tried to smear Israel-critic Chuck Hagel by falsely linking him to Hamas. (Wikipedia)

b
bibliotek74
Aug 11, 2019

The very first point in Shapiro's book arrested my attention. He talked about the concept of Happiness. What is happiness? His perspective comes from Orthodox Judaism, and he centers on the idea that happiness really equates to morally right living and purpose. This stands in contrast to the fleeting sense of "bliss" that people today are taught to chase after, and which they ultimately fail at, because we were created with purpose, and our rights can only coexist with accepting our responsibilities as well. Living life rightly, and embracing our purpose actually brings joy and satisfaction.

Shapiro was educated at Harvard Law School, and what I really appreciated was his compelling case for the lost study of Western Civilization. We have been increasingly hammered with opposing viewpoints, as popular media demands that we reject this field of study. The results are tragic: our history is remade in the image of socialists and atheists with a radical agenda.

His book serves as a very effective yet concise outline for western philosophy. He does this in a way which is very accessible, and engrossing, and I enjoyed the way in which he provided a historical narrative, to build a mental timeline of these people and they way in which they impact us today. I found his views of Christianity especially interesting, given his perspective in Judaism. We have ordered a couple personal copies of this book, for the family, and I plan to go through it a second time, making notes, because it's a fantastic starting point to delve into the subject matter.

s
sturmundrang
Aug 07, 2019

Great and important book unfortunately titled in a way that will alienate the people who will most profit by reading it.

n
naturalist
Jul 03, 2019

"So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence."
Bertrand Russell
further reading:
“That’s Not What They Meant : Reclaiming the Founding Fathers From America's Right Wing”
Michael Austin
Prometheus Books 2012, pbk, 253 pages
ISBN-10: 1616146702, ISBN-13: 978-1616146702
and,
“Enlightenment Now : The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress”
Steven A. Pinker 1954-
Viking 2018, hc, 576 pages
ISBN-10: 9780525427575, ISBN-13: 978-0525427575
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Pinker
and,
“Fixing America : Breaking the Stranglehold of Corporate Rule, Big Media, and the Religious Right”
John Buchanan (author), John McConnell (foreword)
Trine Day 2005, pbk, 270 pages
ISBN-10: 0975290681, ISBN-13: 978-0975290682
and,
“Imagine There's No Heaven : How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World”
by Mitchell Stephens
St. Martin's Press (Feb. 25 2014, hc, 336 pages
ISBN-10: 1137002603, ISBN-13: 978-1137002600
and,
“Wrong and Dangerous : Ten Right Wing Myths about Our Constitution”
Garrett Epps
Rowan & Littlefield Publishers 2012
ISBN-10: 144221676X, ISBN-13: 978-1442216761

j
Justyn
Jul 03, 2019

The author does a basic survey of western history and the main pillars which built it. That being two great ancient cities.....Athens and Jerusalem. Athens which gave us reason, and Jerusalem which gave us our spiritual and moral framework (the Judeo-Christian worldview). That those two influences worked to compliment one another to form western civilization, and eventually the United States which is the freest and most prosperous nation on earth.

Early on he makes the case for the pillars which built our modern society, but ask the question why are we being so foolish to screw this good thing up?!

He states that America is essentially running on the fumes of what built our society but we're heading towards a serious fall. We reject reason and objective truth in favor of emotionalism and subjectivism. We reject individual rights in favor of mob rule and collectivism. We reject God and the powerful foundational idea that all people are made in God's image.

The author points out that there are many nations on earth blessed with resources for great wealth, but that is not enough. Its the ideals and morality of western civilization that has made the west great, not it's resources. That if we erode these ideals we will bring ourselves to ruin.

In the end his solution for how we can fix this just doesn't go far enough with me, and that's the only thing I didn't like in the book. The west is literally committing suicide.....from elementary schools to our elite universities we have stripped our history down to a bare bones starvation diet. Our young people don't know how awesome their own history is, and sadly this has been by design since the days of John Dewey. We don't have a perfect history, who does, but we have a very remarkable story.

All in all I loved this book, it's probably my favorite read of 2019. Whatever your political persuasion..... I highly recommend it.

j
justpedd
May 18, 2019

Great read

g
GeneralAmerica
May 08, 2019

This book is based on pure fantasy. The author obviously has never read a real history book.

l
l0r0zc0
May 04, 2019

Shapiro traces the ideas that form the foundation of Western civilization (religion and reason), and how those ideas have been eroded over time, culminating in the current political climate (no religion, reason is subjective).

Broad and thought provoking.

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