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1,099,579 Views
Mar 31, 2014
Presented by
Dennis Prager

In our universities, newspapers, and television shows, it is a given that external forces are the cause of crime. If not for poverty, murder and rape would be much lower. If not for racism, America's inner cities would be far wealthier. So on and so on. At the core of this belief is that people are basically good, and it is society that makes them bad. This notion is simply not true. As Dennis Prager explains in this video, human nature is not basically good. It is not, though, basically bad. People are born more or less neutral. And it is incumbent upon parents, teachers, and yes, society, to turn children into good adults. It doesn't happen on its own.

There are two fundamental questions every person must answer: The first is “Does God exist?” The second is “Are people born good?” 

  • Dennis Prager on two of the most important questions: “There are two important – indeed, fundamental – questions you have to answer in life: The first is: Is there is a God – specifically a moral and judging Creator. The second is: Are people basically good? Your answer to the second question will shape just about all of your moral, social, and political views – even more than whether you believe in God.”View Source
  • Related reading: Are People Basically Good? – R.C. SproulView Source
  • Related reading: Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Modern Times – Paul JohnsonView Source

Believing people are born good undermines personal responsibility and lessens the emphasis on teaching children good moral behavior. 

  • People who believe that humans are basically good tend to explain away criminal behavior and other social ills as simply a result of poverty or other difficult circumstances, rather than as the fault of the person committing the crime. The result: people are often not held personally responsible for their actions.View Source
  • Example: Many people, particularly on the left, attempt to blame Islamic terror on poverty.View Source
  • An honest look at radical Islamic terror, however, reveals that poverty is demonstrably not the root cause of terrorism.View Source
  • WATCH: Dennis Prager on “Are People Born Good?”View Source
  • Related reading: Are People Basically Good? – R.C. SproulView Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source

The American public education system is increasingly trying to usurp the role of parents in the moral upbringing of their children. 

  • The American education system has allowed schools to take the place of parents. Schools have increasingly replaced Judeo-Christian morality with modern values, limited mainly to stressing the roles of racism, classism, and sexism as explanations for the major problems of the world.View Source
  • American schools and big government leaders in general increasingly view parents as less enlightened and therefore less fit to teach their own children.View Source
  • Dennis Prager on the Left’s attempts to undermine parental authority in order to empower the state: “As with religion, the further left the state or ideology, the more it seeks to undermine parental authority. In the Soviet Union, Komsomol, the Soviet Youth League substituted for parents. Mao, too, did what he could to destroy the family’s authority. Although no way comparable to Stalin or Mao, the American and European left also seek to undermine parental authority.”View Source
  • Related reading: Are People Basically Good? – R.C. SproulView Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source

The secular left’s war on religion stems from the belief that people are born good—they see religion as a problem, not the solution. 

  • People who believe that humans are born good tend to view religion as the source of problems rather than solutions.View Source
  • Ideas of innate human goodness make the claims of religion morally unnecessary, or at best simplify them to teachings about social compassion.View Source
  • Dennis Prager on the secular left’s campaign against religion: “From Karl Marx — ‘man is God’; ‘religion is the opiate of the people’ — to today’s left in America and elsewhere, God and God-based religion, specifically Judaism and Christianity (Islam, too, but in the West, Islam has played little role) have been the primary obstacles to leftist victory. That is why the further left a government or an ideology, the more it has opposed religion.”View Source
  • WATCH: Dennis Prager on “Are People Born Good?”View Source
  • Related reading: Are People Basically Good? – R.C. SproulView Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source

Believing people are born good removes the need for moral instruction & divine moral authority. This is why society is in moral decline.

  • Believing that people are born good inevitably undermines the need for moral instruction and negates any need for a divine moral authority. The belief that people are essentially good also leads to the belief that giving people more power will lead to a good and just society, which can result in authoritarianism and dictatorship.View Source
  • WATCH: Dennis Prager on “Are People Born Good?”View Source
  • Related reading: Are People Basically Good? – R.C. SproulView Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Modern Times – Paul JohnsonView Source
  • Related reading: Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values – Dennis PragerView Source

Believing people are essentially good, and thus can be trusted to hold great power, lays the groundwork for authoritarianism and tyranny. 

  • Believing that people are essentially good can lead to the belief that individuals can be trusted with great power, which – as history has repeatedly demonstrated – can result in authoritarianism and tyranny.View Source
  • Example: Chinese Communists killed 65 million of their own people.View Source
  • Example: Nazi Germans killed approximately 11 million non-combatants.View Source
  • Example: Since 1998, the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed over 5 million people.View Source
  • WATCH: Dennis Prager on “Are People Born Good?”View Source
  • Related reading: Are People Basically Good? – R.C. SproulView Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Modern Times – Paul JohnsonView Source
  • Related reading: Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values – Dennis PragerView Source

If people are basically good, why does every civilization have so many laws to control human behavior?

  • Believing that people are essentially good can lead to the belief that individuals can be trusted with great power, which – as history has repeatedly demonstrated – can result in authoritarianism and tyranny.View Source
  • Example: Chinese Communists killed 65 million of their own people.View Source
  • Example: Nazi Germans killed approximately 11 million non-combatants.View Source
  • Example: Since 1998, the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed over 5 million people.View Source
  • WATCH: Dennis Prager on “Are People Born Good?”View Source
  • Related reading: Are People Basically Good? – R.C. SproulView Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Modern Times – Paul JohnsonView Source
  • Related reading: Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values – Dennis PragerView Source

Why do people commit evil? Because it’s easy to. Because it’s tempting to. And because it often accords with human nature.

  • Dennis Prager on two of the most important questions: “There are two important – indeed, fundamental – questions you have to answer in life: The first is: Is there is a God – specifically a moral and judging Creator. The second is: Are people basically good? Your answer to the second question will shape just about all of your moral, social, and political views – even more than whether you believe in God.”View Source
  • Related reading: Are People Basically Good? – R.C. SproulView Source
  • Related reading: Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Modern Times – Paul JohnsonView Source

Figuring out how to make good, moral people is the single most important project in all of human life. 

  • Dennis Prager on two of the most important questions: “There are two important – indeed, fundamental – questions you have to answer in life: The first is: Is there is a God – specifically a moral and judging Creator. The second is: Are people basically good? Your answer to the second question will shape just about all of your moral, social, and political views – even more than whether you believe in God.”View Source
  • Related reading: Are People Basically Good? – R.C. SproulView Source
  • Related reading: Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Modern Times – Paul JohnsonView Source

There are two important  -- indeed, fundamental -- questions you have to answer in life: 

The first is: Is there is a God -- specifically a moral and judging Creator. The second is: Are people basically good?

Your answer to the second question will shape just about all of your moral, social, and political views -- even more than whether you believe in God. That’s why a believer and an atheist who have the same views about human nature almost always have the same social and political views.

Let me give you some examples:

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Poverty causes crime.” If you believe that people are basically good, you are likely to believe that poverty or bigotry or some other outside force causes people to commit violent crime. That’s the only way you can make sense of the fact that some people commit crimes despite their basically good nature -- something drove them to it. But if you don’t believe people are basically good, you are far more likely to blame the criminals themselves, not outside forces, for their actions.

One more example: in a society where it is believed that people are basically good, parents and society don’t devote great efforts toward making good people. After all, if we are born good, why do you have to teach goodness? On the other hand, those who don’t believe we are born all that good understand that parents and society have to undertake major efforts to make children into good adults.

Ok, then, are people basically good? As I will show, given humanity’s history, the answer should be obvious. Of course, human nature isn’t basically good. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that people are basically bad. We are born with real potential to do good. But we are not basically good. 

Take babies. Babies are lovable and innocent, but they are not good: They are entirely self-centered -- as they have to be in order to survive. “I want mommy; I want milk; I want to be held; I want to be comforted, and if you do not do all these things immediately, I will ruin your life!” That’s not goodness; that’s narcissism.

We are born narcissists, preoccupied with “number one:” ourselves. And if you’ve ever worked with kids, you know how cruel, how bullying, they can be. 

And don’t parents have to tell their child tens of thousands times “Say thank you”? Now, why is that? If we are naturally good, wouldn’t feeling and expressing gratitude come naturally?

And then there is the historical record. Evils -- huge evils affecting much of the human race -- have been the norm. 

Here goes, just a few examples: 

The Ottoman Turks targeted millions of Armenian Christians for death during World War I.

The German Nazi regime murdered six million Jews -- two out of every three European Jews, including more than a million children and babies. 

The Soviet Communist regime slaughtered about five million Ukrainians and about 25 million other innocents. 

The Chinese Communists killed about 70 million Chinese and enslaved the rest of the Chinese people.

The North Korean Communist regime has built what one can only call the world’s largest concentration camp -- most of North Korea.

In post-colonial Congo in the decade between 1998 and 2008, over 5 million people were murdered, and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of women, were raped.

Of course before that, about ten million Africans were kidnapped and made slaves in the European slave trade. And another 10 to 18 million Africans were enslaved by Arab slave traders.

And, let me ask you this, if people are basically good, why does every civilization have so many laws to control human behavior?

Knowing all this, those who believe that people are basically good have simply made a decision to believe that and ignore all the evidence.

Why do people commit evil? Because it’s easy to. Because it’s tempting to. And, yes, because it often accords with human nature.

That is why figuring out how to make good people is the single most important project in all of human life. But first, you have to believe it’s necessary.

I’m Dennis Prager.

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