Many parents, for example, measure their child's character by the child's social activism, not by his or her behavior toward fellow students. If the child has walked for AIDS, or marched for breast cancer, or works on "environmental issues," the child is deemed -- and the child deems himself -- a fine person. That he or she might mistreat less popular kids in class is not considered.
There are, of course, religious Jews and Christians who do not lead decent lives and there are leftists who do. But leftist ideals, being overwhelmingly macro, will always be more appealing to the less decent who want to feel good about themselves. That helps explain those Hollywood celebrities who lead narcissistic, hedonistic personal lives but nevertheless feel very good about themselves by raising money for "peace" or by demonstrating against global warming.
I first became aware of this vast discrepancy between "social activism" and personal ethical behavior when I saw the personal behavior of the "pro-peace," anti-war, activists at my graduate school (Columbia University) in the early 1970s. They demonstrated for world peace but led personally narcissistic lives. Their theoretical altruism was all macro. Meanwhile, most of the religious students were preoccupied with personal character issues.
Why? Because Judeo-Christian values have always understood that the world is made better by making people better. On occasion, of course, a great moral cause must be joined. For example, it was religious Christians who led the fight to abolish slavery in Europe and America. But in general, the way to a better society is through the laborious and completely non-glamorous project of making each person more honest, more courageous, more decent, more likely to commit to another person in marriage, more likely to devote more time to raising children, and so on.
That is why all those peace studies institutes and courses are morally meaningless. Only by people learning to fight their yetzer hara will peace reign on earth.
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.”