Dennis Prager, a nationally syndicated conservative radio talk show host and author, spoke to The Daily Signal’s Genevieve Wood about why the Bible is relevant to the issues of today. An edited transcript of his Daily Signal interview is below.
Genevieve Wood: Of course, everybody knows you as a radio show host. They’d know your voice. So they know you as a TV personality, too. Some also know that you’re an author. I don’t know how many know that you’re also a biblical scholar. Tell us your history there.
Dennis Prager: Well, it’s very funny for me to sit here and tell you I’m a biblical scholar.
Wood: But you are.
Prager: I’m looking for words, which I don’t normally do. But I love life, and … I conduct orchestras. I love everything, and I work hard at them. And this, though, was the great challenge of my life because I have been teaching the first five books of the Bible for all of my life.
I went to yeshiva, which is rigorous Jewish training in the sources. So Hebrew, biblical Hebrew is almost like English to me.
And that was a very big factor in my ability to write this. This is just volume one. I’m doing a volume on each of the first five volumes of the Bible. This is Exodus. I didn’t begin with Genesis, I began with Exodus.
My fear is it’s not a fear. My realization is the most important book in American history has become an unimportant book, and for most Americans. And this is a major tragedy for the country.
Where I ask people often, “I admit, I get my wisdom, if you believe I have any, I get it from the Bible. Where do you get yours from?” And it’s fascinating, “Oh, experience, my parents.” And that’s lovely, but if everybody gets it from their experience and parents, where do they get it from? I mean, in the final analysis there isn’t much wisdom.
Prager: Look at the university. It’s wisdom-free, and it’s also Bible-free.
Wood: Well, because there’s no truth, right?
Prager: There’s no—
Wood: What’s truth?
Prager: Well, of course. Look, there isn’t even gender. You’re born with a certain set of markers, but you’re not male or female. I’m not talking about what we call somebody who has gender dysphoria, that’s a humane issue. But there’s a truth issue too.
Anyway, we are in trouble. Western civilization is in trouble. There is no source of meaning other than what you create for yourself.
This is the greatest book ever written, there’s no doubt in my mind, and I want to make that clear to the reader.
Wood: So this is volume one?
Wood: It’s the new book by Dennis Prager, it’s called “Exodus—”
Prager: And it’s a big volume.
Wood: “God, Slavery, and Freedom.” It is a big volume. It’s put out by Regnery Faith.
Prager: It’s called “The Rational Bible.”
Wood: “The Rational Bible”?
Wood: I like it. OK.
Prager: That’s the reason for its existence. I never ask the reader to make a leap of faith. Never. This is what reason suggests you choose. But let me tell you what reason suggests. And let me give you just one example of something that could be life-changing.
The Bible tells us, the Old Testament, we’ll stick to the Old Testament for a moment. The Old Testament tells us to love God, to love the stranger, to love our neighbor.
But it doesn’t tell us to love our parents. It tells us to honor our parents. And that is so liberating, because if you don’t love your parents, God has no issue with you, it’s how you treat them. And, by the way, the only creature we’re told to honor is the parent.
I mean, it’s a very important thing, the parent issue, and I think it’s important. In America, we have an unspoken epidemic of adult children who don’t speak to parents, and those parents never see their grandchildren.
They call my radio show, and they weep. That’s also, by the way, something I bring to this aside from, I hope, a real knowledge of the Scriptures, I also bring a very worldly background of talking to millions of people for 35 years on every subject. How do I know about this epidemic? Because people call and cry. And then I’ve asked audiences, “Raise your hand if you know one family, doesn’t mean yours, where the adult children do not speak to their parents.” A third of the hands go up.
Wood: Why did you start with Exodus? As we know, Genesis is first.
Prager: It has the Ten Commandments.
Wood: OK. So you wanted to start with that.
Prager: The Ten Commandments is the key. If people observe the Ten Commandments and, just as important, I have to say, or virtually as is important, believe that they were commanded.
See, I begin the introduction to the book by noting that when I was in my early 20s, I had my own issues with my parents, as so many young people do. But because I believed God had said, “Honor your father and mother,” I never missed calling them every week in their lives, and they lived til their 90s.
I never missed because whatever ambivalence I felt, and it ultimately subsided, but when it was there, I still felt I had to show them respect. And that’s the difference between feeling commanded and not.
Wood: Well, and the difference between a God who’s saying, “I give you these commands because they’re good for you, not just because I want to give you rules to live by.”
Wood: I saw you interviewed earlier, and you made the point that we’re entering into a period where we’re doing this grand experiment with people who say—
Wood: People believed in different gods, but now we’re kind of in a generation where there’s just no God.
Prager: This is the first godless generation in human history. Pagans had gods, obviously, then we had monotheism. And this is the most radical experiment in the history of the world.
Can you make good societies that have no reference to the transcendent? You are the source of your own values. I think it’s a failing experiment. At the very least, the secular world doesn’t even reproduce itself. The will to survive as a distinct group, is dead.
You know, If somebody calls my show, and they tell me they have five or more children, I know, I don’t even guess, I know they’re either an Orthodox Jew, an evangelical Christian, a Roman Catholic who is faithful to the church, or a Mormon.
Wood: You know it’s one of those, right. But it’s definitely a religious person.
Prager: I would like to know what percentage of families in America that are secular have five or more children. One percent? And the consequences of the death of God, even conservatives don’t want to look at. My column today, I have a syndicated column, my column today is about secular conservatives.
There are so many secular conservatives, and they’re wonderful people and they write tremendously important things, but they’re as secular as their left-wing adversaries. And they don’t acknowledge that America has a trinity in e pluribus unum, liberty, “In God We Trust.” They think “In God We Trust” is as irrelevant as the left does.
Wood: It’s a throwaway line.
Prager: It’s a throwaway line.
Wood: When you just look at the culture broadly, where did you see this trend starting? And I don’t know if you address that here. And how do we get back on the right track? Buy the book, give it to a friend. That’s one, I know.
Prager: Right. Well, no. When did secularism begin? I mean, the 19th century is the answer.
Why did it begin? In large measure, to get a Ph.D. in the late 19th century, you had to go to Germany. The Germans had already established socialism and secularism as the intellectual ideals. So they were shipping over Americans with Ph.D.s who believed in socialism and secularism. And the college, even then when few people attended, is very influential on the societal thinking. And that’s where I believe it began.
But I also hold a lot of religious people responsible. They forgot how to make the case for religion, and it just became faith alone, which is lovely faith, but it’s not enough. God gave us reason, let’s use it.
Wood: As I said, people should buy this book. And you can do that by going to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.
Prager: Even Costco has just picked up.
Wood: Costco. That’s right, Costco.
Prager: By the way, I just want to note, I am shocked, I admit it. This is No. 2 on Amazon. It is the second best-selling book in the United States of America as I speak to you. Now, how is that possible? How is a commentary on the Bible—
Wood: Because people are hungry for it.
Prager: That’s it. That’s exactly right. And the term “rational” is a turn on. This guy’s going to use reason to lead me to God? I’d like to see that.