Most non-Orthodox Jews venerate secularism. Virtually every movement and organization advancing secularism in the United States has been founded or led by Jews, and Jews are disproportionately active in these movements.
The initials ACLU are loved and respected by most American Jews, primarily because the organization fights every public expression of religion. Secular Jews have spearheaded the movement to replace “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays.”
But secularism is endangering us Jews, just as it is endangering our country and the countries of Western Europe, and it is dulling the souls of individual Americans and Europeans.
Secularism is great for government. But it is destructive to everything else.
Among many other things, it shatters meaning, marriage and even the desire to sustain a society through reproducing its members.
If there is no God, life is inherently devoid of meaning. DNA provides no ultimate meaning. Evolution tells us that all life is random. And, of course, nothing higher cares about us because there is nothing higher than us.
But because people who do not believe in God don’t want to go crazy, they make up meanings. Often these made-up meanings — work, family, self-sacrifice for the country and for freedom — are noble. On the other hand, too often the search for meaning leads to horrific ideals. Fascism and communism gave their adherents as much meaning as Judaism gives the believing Jew, and as Christianity gives the believing Christian. Likewise spreading and imposing sharia law and killing infidels gives many Islamists meaning.
Throughout American history, Judeo-Christian religions gave the vast majority of Americans meaning. As these religions have lost their hold, Americans have looked elsewhere for meaning. And many — including many Jews, members of the most secular group of all — have found meaning and purpose in substitute religions such as Marxism, socialism, feminism, environmentalism and myriad other movements, nearly all of them leftist. Leftism, which became the most dynamic religion in Europe with the breakdown of Christianity after World War I, has become the source of meaning in the United States, too.
Others find meaning in accomplishment. Hence the great contemporary emphasis on career. Even women, who throughout history have found primary meaning in marriage, family and children, now, for the first time, often seek meaning first and foremost in career. Many eventually regret having made that choice, but by the time they do, it can be too late to make a family.
Just this week, Erin Callan, one of the most successful businesswomen in the United States, the former chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers, wrote a column in The New York Times describing her great regret at having devoted her life to career. She forsook having children, paid considerably less attention to her husband than to her work and ended up a major financial and career success — but with no children and eventually no marriage.
A few years ago she realized what she had done: “I have spent several years now,” she wrote, “living a different version of my life, where I try to apply my energy to my new husband, Anthony, and the people whom I love and care about. But I can’t make up for lost time. Most important, although I now have stepchildren, I missed having a child of my own. I am 47 years old …”
Compare her life to that of Orthodox Jews, practicing Mormons, Evangelical Christians and religious Catholics. They all believe that marriage, having children and making a home are vital.
In this regard, the very same week, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote this about Jews:
“Nationwide, only 21 percent of non-Orthodox Jews between the ages of 18 and 29 are married. But an astounding 71 percent of Orthodox Jews are married at that age. And they are having four and five kids per couple. In the New York City area, for example, the Orthodox make up 32 percent of Jews over all. But the Orthodox make up 61 percent of Jewish children.”
Secular academics tell us that the reason Europeans and Americans are having so few children is that as people become affluent they choose not to have more than one or two children.
They are mostly wrong. The primary reason is secularism, not affluence. Affluent Orthodox, Jews, affluent Mormons, affluent Evangelicals and Catholics have many children. Secularism gives you no reason to perpetuate your nation, no reason to marry, and no reason to have children. Indeed, other than better government, it gives you nothing.
Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host (AM 870 in Los Angeles) and founder of PragerUniversity.com. His latest book is the New York Times best-seller “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (HarperCollins, 2012).