Ben Shapiro’s recent book The Right Side of History: the Remaking of the World examines the philosophical history of western Europe and its descendents (most notable the United States of America) and why this particular culture and no other created the freest, most prosperous culture the world has ever seen. It highlights a very perceptive point: that no other civilizations gave birth to constitutional republics in which the citizens are protected from government by defined rights. In this form of government, the citizens get to choose their leaders. Have you ever noticed that the Chinese civilization, or the Africa civilizations, or the indigenous peoples of North and South America, or the people of India, or the culture of Islam, NEVER produced such a free society and government. Why is that? Why is this kind of freedom produced ONLY in the west (and then exported to other lands)?
Ben says we owe a lot to the cultures identified by two cities. One city is Jerusalem. That is the city identified with the Judeo-Christian revelation. The God of the people reveals Himself to the citizens and culture that populated Jerusalem thousands of years ago. From that culture we have the idea that all people are created in God’s image, all are created equal, all are endowed with the same God-given rights, and that since mankind is a fallen creature we cannot entrust too much government into the hands of an elite few.
The other city is Athens. Ben says that the culture of the Greeks (and later the Romans) gave us the desire to discover our universe through reason. The Greeks give us the idea that this world is knowable, and that from reason we can discover that the world makes sense, and that we have a purpose in life. Of course, as a Christian I would say that we get all that from the Bible and that we can discover all these things from the Bible alone, but I’ll cut Ben some slack.
Still, it is undeniable that this unique blend of Judeo-Christian ethics mingled with the Greco-Roman philosophy has indeed created a culture (western civilization) that has lifted more people out of poverty and oppression than any other culture in the history of mankind. We should not discard such a beneficial culture so quickly.