86 of 92 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2000
Dennis Prager sets himself two closely related tasks in this volume: to provoke his readers to "think a second time" about matters we may have taken for granted, and to prod us to care more about ethical behavior than we do about pretty much anything else. He succeeds at both jobs.
Prager's basic contention is that ethical monotheism is the necessary foundation of all moral thought and practice. While ethical monotheism was revealed to and through the Jewish people, it does not demand that everybody in the world convert to Judaism; however, Jewish thought has traditionally set aside a group of ethical laws (called the "Noahide laws") which are binding on all humankind. (Here he is of course on very solid ground.)
Throughout this work, Prager -- who describes himself as a "passionate moderate" -- applies the insights of traditional, historic Judaism to a host of pertinent social issues, thinking the issues through carefully and insightfully to sometimes surprising conclusions.
I won't discuss his conclusions in this review because that would undermine one of Prager's purposes in writing the book in the first place. Having spent so many years working in the media, he's not expecting many (or even any) of his readers to agree with him about everything; though of course he is committed to his own particular conclusions, what he _most_ wants to do here is to stimulate thought and debate.
He's good at it, so I'm going to leave that job to him. If you want to know what he thinks -- or, more importantly, _how_ he thinks -- you're just going to have to read the book!
75 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2000
After reading "Happiness is a Serious Problem," which I enjoyed immensely, I felt compelled to look into Dennis Prager's ideas concerning a number of other interesting topics. In more ways than one, "Think a Second Time" has much to offer one who loves to delve into controversial topics.
In my opinion, Mr. Prager is a superb thinker and an excellent writer who has a gift for expounding on social and political issues from a perspective other than our typical "knee jerk" reaction elicited by the media. I applaud the way he exposes issues and counters conventional wisdom (read "bias") with sound logic and philosophical acumen. At other times, however, he can be a little too forceful in his convictions as they relate to matters of [his] faith and religion. That's good for him, surely, but in my opinion it occasionally knocks the flow of this book out of kilter.
The 47 chapters in this book are divided into four parts with different themes. The first part, which is superb, deals with human nature, gender differences, family issues and the media.
Part Two, also excellent, gets a little heavier, and discusses political (e.g., liberalism vs. conservatism), racial and religious issues. Check out the chapter on television news.
Part Three deals almost entirely with ethical monotheism (i.e., the belief in one God from whom emanates one morality) and its association with the "good vs. evil" dilemma. This is where you might get bogged down with the author's passionate Jewish convictions. I didn't come across anything totally eye opening here, but I did find the references to Hebrew writings to be somewhat interesting.
Part Four (which I believe was added into the latest edition) deals entirely with the 1995 State of Illinois Supreme Court decision involving "Baby Richard," who was taken from his adoptive family and given over to his biological father after four years. I hadn't followed this case before, and I found it interesting and well-written. If you don't care to read about major court proceedings, stop after Part Three.
Overall, I enjoyed the way Mr. Prager gets me to think (more than a second time) about a slew of important philosophical, ethical and religious issues. On that basis, I give this book a big thumbs up. Cut out Part Three, which was too much of a deviation, and you'd have a 5-star rating.
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2005
OK, the title of my review might seem a little overboard, but I can't stress enough how important this book is. One of Prager's favorite statements is "Clarity is more important than agreement", and he is brilliantly clear at articulating the need for a universal morality that come from a universal source. This is the definition of ethical monotheism, which he shows as the supreme value to which all of humanity must aspire. He stresses why a universal morality is even more important that life, love and compassion. When these beautiful values are rendered supreme, good and evil lose their relevance.
One of the greatest epiphanies I pulled from the book was the importance of distinguishing between the person-to-person laws (ethics), which are the supreme value, and the person-to-God laws (holiness). He stresses all holiness laws must, by definition, be ethical, but not all ethical laws are necessarily holy. Therefore, acts like pre-marital sex between consenting adults, attending a strip club, etc., may not elevate us from our primal tendencies, so they are therefore not holy. But as long as these acts don't result in treating others differently from how we would hope and expect to be treated, the acts are not necessarily immoral. Sadly, he states, many religious people from all faiths stress the importance of their dogma and rituals above morality--they stress the holiness laws above the ethical laws--and that is when religion is abused and gets a bad name.
There are many discoveries like these which I found immensely instructive. Prager is a man with the gift of being able to brilliantly articulate what he care most about, as stated by many: getting people obsessed with what is right and wrong.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2003
Prager doesn't easily fit into a mold of conservative or liberal. He calls his own shots and makes his own decisions on a case by case basis and as a result has detractors and admirers on both sides of the aisle. There are some practical insights included in this philosophical book. For example, on page 41 he writes, "Life consists of tradeoffs: When we do X, we can't do Y." On reading, he says, "Since the age of fourteen, I have had a love affair with books and learning, but this was always despite school." He lists three limitations of television: it is superficial, programming is solely based on the bottom line, and there is a lack of serious people watching. Prager gives readers elements of issues covered by media that are not mentioned when those issues are discussed. Consequently, he brings greater depth to public agenda items.
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2002
Truly one of the best books I have read in YEARS! Even if you are like me, and think most issues are pretty black and white, and you know where the line is drawn, Dennis Prager will make you think a second time.
With powerful insight into many moral and social issues of today, this book made me rethink positions I once would have thought impossible to budge. Further, he demonstrates why knowing what is right, and living those truths is so important. This book made me think, and it made me pray, and it has likely made me a better person for reading it.
One might find fault with Mr. Prager's use of Talmudic Law in support of his positions, if one is not a Jew or familiar with the faith. As a Christian, I did not find that to be a stumbing block, but instead, an opportunity to expand my understanding and sensitivities. I respect Mr. Prager for being a man of faith, and for walking in the light of his faith (not merely wearing the religion, but embodying it.) This made his work MORE powerful, MORE honest, and certainly MORE significant to me than it could have been without this faith-based support.
I have liked Dennis Prager on television, but I admire Dennis Prager now, for having read this book.
49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2001
Critics have called Prager's works "Reader's Digest Philosophy" or "religious zealot, rightist rantings". These "critiques" are compliments because Prager's works are popular, enthusiastic intellectualism and actually quite right, though perhaps Prager is "right-brained" . As a non-observant Christian Prager fan, I say: the fact that this book is most entertaining only obscures (mercifully) the profound extremes to which others have taken Dennis' topics. Simplicity is not always shallowness. Here, simplicity is clarity of thought and eloquence. A common criticism of Prager's works (sometimes by me) generally center around the apparent lack of substance. But that criticism is unfortunate because the facility with which one reads Prager is only testimony to his style. Serious detractors are usually priggish and unnecessarily scholastic-sorts of academic Philistines. In fact, Prager's works are excellent popular summaries and syntheses of profound intellectual works he has obviously read, but simply not cited. Regarding the specious claim that Prager's ideas are sectarian reflections of his Judeic background, compare the clearly non-"Jewish" debate of Hobbes and Locke on man's basic evil nature or the "pagan" humanism of the stoic, Marcus Aurelius. For those who enjoy more turgid prose and stodgy profundity: don't buy this book. If you wish to read an entertaining introduction to timeless philosopical-theological social issues, buy the book. For those who criticize books like Prager's I ask: what good are works (some of them I sheepishly admit are mine) read only by the cloistered literati? A book widely mis- or not-understood is just as much a waste of human talent as a book never read? The fact that a book is a "popularization" in its style, which Prager's books are indeed,does not detract from the merits of its contents;it enhances it. Prager could easily expand and footnote this book with all the the great philosophic treatises of the world, but that would not necessarily make his book more meritorious, only ostensibly more ponderous and less appealing to those who need it the most. I suspect that those who criticize the popular style have ignored, or perhaps not even read, the content (See his excellent work on "Happiness"). Prager is really most profound but simply does not seem so. (Prager discovered that thinking clearly does not always have to hurt.)In this respect Prager's works are similar to mass market books by Hawking on cosmology and C.S. Lewis on Love. To those who criticize this book: think twice, you might be wrong. For those who are curious about this book: don't think twice, buy it; you can't go wrong. (Nice job Dennis!)
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2005
and Dennis Prager raises common sense to a high art. This does not mean that he is always right, or that you must agree with him, but you can always see where he stands, thanks to his limpid reckoning. And, his positions are invariably plausible. He may at times gloss the subtleties of complex moral issues, but this is a product I think of his deft and broad-ranging intelligence, which is all too precious a commodity. This collection of essays may seem to encompass a disparate multitude, but it is governed by a startlingly consistent logic. Dennis himself calls this his most important book, and it is worth your time.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2006
"Clarity" seems to be a watchword for Dennis Prager and clarity is what he delivers here. Simple principles with profound implications for people's lives and for our culture. Whether you agree or disagree with any specific point, it is most certainly worth reading and thinking about. SUMMARY: Wisdom on every page.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2002
Dennis Prager addresses--specifically and philosophically--one of the most serious problems in contemporary America. In a world of sound bites and quick images, too many decent people are being swayed by emotional arguments that end up hurting everyone in the long and not-so-long run. Prager cites a number of issues too often presented emotionally instead of reasonably, as well as some instances that could use more humanity--as in the case of child being torn from his "real" parents. It's a worthwhile read on the road to sanity.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2005
This book is well written, and it makes very clear arguments for how our society should be run. Prager sets forth his ideas on a variety of subjects, focusing in on ethics. His first section on human nature, where he makes the case against the argument that all people are basically good is worth the price of admission. From there he talks about everything form television to the sad state of liberalism today. I cannot recommend this book enough for anybody, not just politicos but anybody.