I recently interviewed a 26-year-old Swedish student about her views on life. I asked her if she believed in God or in any religion.
"No, that's silly," she replied.
"Then how do you know what is right and wrong?" I asked.
"My heart tells me," she responded.
In a nutshell, that's the major reason for the great divide within America and between America and much of Europe. The majority of people use their heart -- stirred by their eyes -- to determine what is right and wrong. A minority uses their mind and/or the Bible to make that determination.
Here are three examples.
Same-sex marriage: The heart favors it. You have to have a hard heart not to be moved when you see many of the loving same-sex couples who want to commit their lives to one another in marriage. The eye sees the couples; the heart is moved to redefine marriage.
Animal rights: The heart favors them. It is the rare person, for example, whose heart is not moved by the sight of an animal used for medical research. The eye sees the cuddly animal; the heart then equates animal and human life.
Abortion: How can you look at a sad 18-year-old who had unprotected sex and not be moved? What kind of heartless person is going to tell her she shouldn't have an abortion and should give birth?
The eyes and the heart form an extraordinarily powerful force. They can only be overcome when formulating policies by a mind and a value system that are stronger than the heart-eye duo.
With the decline of Judeo-Christian religions, the heart, shaped by what the eye sees (hence the power of television), has become the source of people's moral decisions.
This is a potentially fatal problem for our civilization. As beautiful as the heart might be, it is neither intellectually nor morally profound.
It is therefore frightening that hundreds of millions of people find no problem in acknowledging that their heart is the source of their values. Their heart knows better than thousands of years of accumulated wisdom; better than religions shaped by most of the finest thinkers of our civilization (and, to the believer, by God); and better than the book that has guided our society -- from the Founders of our uniquely successful society to the foes of slavery to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and most of the leaders of the struggle for racial equality.
This elevation of one's heart is well beyond self-confidence -- it is self-deification.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”