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.
One of the first things you learn in Judaism and Christianity is that the eyes and heart are usually terrible guides to the good and the holy. " . . . (D)o not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after" (Numbers 15:39); "the heart is deceitful above all things . . . " (Jeremiah 17:9).
Supporters of same-sex marriage see the loving gay couple, and therefore do not interest themselves in the effects of changing marriage and family on the children they do not see. And since they venerate their hearts, the biblical ideal of male-female love, marriage and family is of no significance to them.
Animal rights supporters' hearts are deeply moved by the animals they see experimented on, not by the millions of people they do not see who will suffer and die if we stop such experiments.
Likewise, the hearts of the people who support PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) are so moved by the plight of slaughtered chickens that the organization has a campaign titled "Holocaust on your plate," which equates our slaughtering of chickens with the Nazi slaughtering of Jews.
For 25 years I have been asking high school seniors across America if they would save their dog or a stranger first if both were drowning. The majority has nearly always voted against the person. Why? Because, they say with no self-doubt, they love their dog, not the stranger. An entire generation has been raised with no reference to any moral code above their heart's feelings. They do not know, and would not care if they did know, that the Bible teaches that human beings, not animals, are created in God's image.
So, too, those who cannot call any abortion immoral are moved by what they see -- the forlorn woman who wants an abortion, not by the human fetus they do not see. That is why abortion rights groups are so opposed to showing photos of fetuses that have been aborted -- such pictures might move the eye and the heart of viewers to judge the morality of many abortions differently.
It is undeniable that many people have used their minds and many have used the Bible in ways that have led to evil. And some of these people have been truly heartless. But not one of the great cruelties of the 20th century -- the Gulag, Auschwitz, Cambodia, North Korea, Mao's Cultural Revolution -- came from those who took their values from the Bible. And the great evil of the 21st century, though religion-based, doesn't come from the Bible either.
Meanwhile, the combination of mind, Judeo-Christian values and heart has produced over centuries the unique success known as America. Reliance on the heart will destroy this painstaking achievement in a generation.
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.”