I recently devoted my biweekly column in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles to analyzing why most Jews believe that people are basically good despite the fact that this belief is neither rational nor Jewish. In a lifetime of teaching and writing on Judaism, I have never encountered a single normative statement in 3,000 years of Jewish writing that asserted that man is basically good.
As I expected, the reaction -- apparently all from Jewish liberals -- was entirely negative. Almost an entire page of the journal was devoted to letters attacking me. One of the seven letters -- from a prominent Hollywood screenwriter -- bordered on hysteria.
The question is, why?
Why would liberals in general, and Jewish liberals in particular -- given the Jews' singularly horrific history at the hands of other human beings -- react so strongly against someone who wrote that people are not basically good?
In my original article, I offered one explanation: Since the Enlightenment, the secular world has had to believe in man (or "humanity") because if you don't believe in God and you don't believe in humanity, you will despair.
But one critic opened my eyes to an even deeper reason most liberals do not acknowledge that people are not basically good.
This is what he wrote:
"What a sad world it would be if we all believed as Dennis Prager that mankind is inherently evil."
And this is what I responded:
"I did not write that man is inherently evil. I wrote that he is not basically good. And, yes, that does make the world sad. So do disease, earthquakes, death and all the unjust suffering in the world. But sad facts remain facts."
"A distinguishing characteristic of liberals and leftists," I concluded, "is their aversion to acknowledging sad facts."
Years ago, a woman writer, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, first made me aware of this. She wrote about liberals rejecting many facts about male and female natures. She used the French expression "les faits de la vie" -- the facts of life.
The left, she wrote, rejects les faits de la vie.
I believe this is so for two reasons.
First, as with my correspondent above, people on the left tend to be unwilling to accept the sadness and pain that recognition of such facts creates. Leftism is often predicated on avoiding pain. That is a major reason why the left dislikes capitalism and free markets. Free markets create winners and losers, and the left does not like the fact that some people lose and some win.
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.”