The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great by Ben Shapiro

The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great by Ben Shapiro

America has a God-shaped hole in its heart, argues New York Times bestselling author Ben Shapiro, and we shouldn’t fill it with politics and hate.

In 2016, Ben Shapiro spoke at UC Berkeley. Hundreds of police officers were required from 10 UC campuses across the state to protect his speech, which was — ironically — about the necessity for free speech and rational debate.

He came to argue that Western Civilization is in the midst of a crisis of purpose and ideas. Our freedoms are built upon the twin notions that every human being is made in God’s image and that human beings were created with reason capable of exploring God’s world.

We can thank these values for the birth of science, the dream of progress, human rights, prosperity, peace, and artistic beauty. Jerusalem and Athens built America, ended slavery, defeated the Nazis and the Communists, lifted billions from poverty and gave billions spiritual purpose. Jerusalem and Athens were the foundations of the Magna Carta and the Treaty of Westphalia; they were the foundations of Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Civilizations that rejected Jerusalem and Athens have collapsed into dust. The USSR rejected Judeo-Christian values and Greek natural law, substituting a new utopian vision of “social justice” – and they starved and slaughtered tens of millions of human beings. The Nazis rejected Judeo-Christian values and Greek natural law, and they shoved children into gas chambers. Venezuela rejects Judeo-Christian values and Greek natural law, and citizens of their oil-rich nation have been reduced to eating dogs.

We are in the process of abandoning Judeo-Christian values and Greek natural law, favoring instead moral subjectivism and the rule of passion. And we are watching our civilization collapse into age-old tribalism, individualistic hedonism, and moral subjectivism. We believe we can reject Judeo-Christian values and Greek natural law and satisfy ourselves with intersectionality, or scientific materialism, or progressive politics, or authoritarian governance, or nationalistic solidarity.

We can’t.

The West is special, and in The Right Side of History, Ben Shapiro bravely explains that it’s because too many of us have lost sight of the moral purpose that drives us each to be better, or the sacred duty to work together for the greater good, or both. A stark warning, and a call to spiritual arms, this book may be the first step in getting our civilization back on track.

The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West GreatThe Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great by Ben Shapiro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It was an insightful, thought-provoking read that I think readers will gain something from no matter where they land on the social, religious, or political spectrum.

I ended converting to the audiobook version which is narrated by the author, Ben Shapiro, himself, which I’d highly recommend as it made all the difference in getting into the author’s head, whether it was the objectives in the writing or the subject matter itself.

I’d recommend it to anyone and I think high school and college students in particular will find great value in exploring the topics explored in the book in preparation for topics discussed in ethics, philosophy, political, and religious study courses.

I will say that it took me a bit to get into the rhythm of the book. Largely because I was not invested into the style of writing at first, especially since it had a mix of data-driven research and personal commentary. It was the audiobook version that really helped to make it more of a conversational piece with more clear objectives, personal interpretation, relatability, and more easily distinguished perception/personal application versus data-driven research.

Sometimes it came off as an almost moralizing tone at times coupled with a teetering on a semi-comprehensive 8th grade book report, not that there is anything wrong with writing a book using either approach, but I just wasn’t sure as a reader whether I should expect every sentence to be cited with original research (and cross-check each source as per my norm) or whether I wanted deeper, more personalized, experience-based stories much like the telling of the UC Berkley story and his relationship with his family, or a book strictly exploring apologetics with a focus on reasoning, purpose, and being made in God’s image.

I found all of the content rather intriguing and ended up quite enjoying the author’s ability to integrate it all into one book. There was a lot to unpack and the author did an excellent job communicating the important message. I imagine it difficult to write, organize, and edit a book of such scale and nature that appeals to such a wide audience in just less than 300 pages. Some parts were more generalized where I thought there would be more detail, but others were belabored where I thought there would be less. It was well-researched nonetheless. I appreciated the in-depth review of certain key historical events and figures as well as the “hit the ground running” approach in others.

I think it would serve as an excellent book club discussion as it explores the early social and moral construct of civilization, how it has unfolded, what it means today, and how it will serve and look like in our future. There was a lot of ground covered in this book and it continues to affirm and linger with me, which is what good books do in my opinion.

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