This was originally published to The Dialogue's website, but I felt the Vericast audience would enjoy it, too.
First let me invite the liberals amongst you to put away your swords and torches. I’m not an anti-semite, or anti-Ben-Shapiro-because-he’s-Jewish. Cal and I have heaped praises on Ben Shapiro numerous times in our shows. The thing is, I’m anti-nonsense—whether it comes from a Jewish person, an atheist, a Protestant, or a Catholic. Ben Shapiro seems like a great guy, and I believe he’s a person of good character. I’m also confident that he’s a good Jew. But he’s making moral statements from a point of view that is entirely detached from Catholic thought, resulting in conclusions and statements that are not only wrong, but dangerous.
This is a video of Ben Shapiro having a brief exchange with an atheist during a Q&A. As is usually the case with a Ben Shapiro jam (as I call it), it’s quite good. But it’s also a problem. Check it out, and then continue reading
Kudos to the atheist for asking such a fantastic question, to which Ben offers a pretty good response. We love Ben Shapiro. But the problem with Ben’s response—specifically where he talks about free will—is that it’s very much detached from Catholic thought, rendering it not only incomplete, but very misleading. It’s almost half-baked. That’s a recurring problem whenever Ben Shapiro talks about morality philosophically.
…there is no discipline of moral theology or moral philosophy in Judaism, because there doesn’t have to be.
I‘ve heard Ben say that rapists should be castrated, and/or executed. I’ve heard him suggest that people should be able to deal with gender identity issues however they see fit. He also seems to approve of contraception (probably not for himself, but who knows?). Now he’s saying that free will can only be defended from a supernatural context. He’s a very good conservative, and as I said, I’m sure he’s a very good Jew. But the fact that he’s a Jew may be part of the problem. Not because there’s something intrinsically wrong with Jewish people, but because, being Jewish, he’s detached from the treasury of the New Testament, and from the intellectual wealth of the traditions of Catholic thought.
There is no central teaching authority in Judaism, and therefor there is no engine that drives a culture of learning, thinking, and understanding Truth; particularly deep moral truths. Put simply, there is no discipline of moral theology or moral philosophy in Judaism, because in Judaism there doesn’t have to be.
There’s no one in Judaism to say “Castrating or executing rapists is wrong…and here is why.“
There’s no one in Judaism to say “Castrating or executing rapists is wrong…and here is why.” There is no teaching body to authoritatively declare “This is true, and that is untrue, and here is why.” It’s just not how Judaism rolls. Of course there is the occasional Jewish scholar or Rabbi who dips their toes in the waters of this sort of deep philosophical thinking on moral issues but it never results in doctrine or teaching in Judaism. Therefor some moral questions are left to the authority of opinion.
Good, practicing Jews have a lot of good things to say on morality, because they base their thinking on scripture. But only on half of it—the Old Testament. As they lack the wealth of New Testament scripture, and where they are detached from the intellectual and theological traditions of Catholic thought, even good Jews like Ben Shapiro fall short of the Truth when it comes to answers to moral questions. His moral calculations are not informed by Catholic thought (Moral Theology/Philosophy in this case), and so the product of his thinking on moral issues, as far as I’m concerned, sometimes falls flat on its face.
…it’s a problem when [conservatives talk] sense about politics while also saying fairly outrageous things about moral issues.
It may not seem like a grave issue, and perhaps it’s not. After all, Ben Shapiro is a political commentator and speaker, not a religious speaker. He doesn’t use his platform to teach morality, but to talk about politics and social issues. But I can’t help but feel that it’s a problem when we have conservatives talking sense about politics while also saying fairly outrageous things about moral issues. The integrity and strength of their political comments/analysis lends strength and validity to their thoughts and statements about moral issues, and we can’t have people drinking the poison of error simply because it’s sweetened with orange juice.
Here are my brief responses to some of the moral issues mentioned in this post:
• Castration mutilates the body and negates the sexual function of the body. It is objectively wrong
• Execution ends a life. God alone is the master of life, because He is the author of life. If abortion is wrong, as Ben knows it to be, then so is execution. We must honestly and fairly draw distinctions between innocent life (the unborn) from non-innocent life (a convicted criminal), but the value of the human person is intrinsic and absolute, and not contingent upon the person’s moral status or condition. Life is sacred because it’s sacred, not because it’s innocent. The question of a person’s innocence has value in guiding our consciences and our actions to protect and preserve that life. The issue of a person’s guilt of crime should guide our strategies in how we protect the innocent in a society. In both cases guarding the innocent is the name of the game. Execution of a rapist is an excessive “solution” that violates a principal. We can protect the innocent from the criminal in countless alternative ways that do not destroy human life.
• Of course we have free will because of the supernatural (God). But man’s freedom is exhibited naturally, and strong natural arguments can be made. When we’re telling atheists that we can’t establish the basis of our argument in nature (the common denominator in theist/atheist dialogue), we’re telling them that free will is really a matter of religious faith, and effectively conceding the argument to them. I’m no master of “Free Will theology” but it is mastered in Catholic thought. I think a moral theologian would take great issue with what Ben said here.