“Everyone has heard the expression: let your conscience be your guide,” Dennis Prager, founder of PragerU, noted. But Prager argues that accepting that aphorism does more harm than good.
Prager argued that throughout most of Western history, the consensus view was that the conscience was not a sufficient guide and that God and instruction in a system of religious values were required for people to behave morally. Prager said that the idea that the conscience is all people need to act morally is a peculiarity and product of modern secular society.
Prager compared this notion to the idea that gender is a social construct, as well as the notion that all cultures are of equal value and that equal treatment for all people was a form of racism.
“None of these beliefs is more irrational than that the conscience is all you need, that it can replace God, the Bible, and Judeo-Christian values as a producer of moral behavior.”
Prager noted that people are exceptionally good at rationalizing their own actions and intuitions and have been known to justify everything from murder to torture to genocide on moral grounds.
“Virtually every individual who has committed or supported evil has had a clear conscience,” Prager said. “Peoples’ feelings and behavior produce their conscience — their conscience doesn’t produce their feelings and behavior.”
Prager also argued that appeals to the conscience were insufficient in public debates, even (or especially) on morally loaded topics such as abortion or transgender surgeries, because opponents from all perspectives are acting on their own diametrically opposed moral intuitions. “People on the opposite sides of every conflict are equally convinced they are listening to their conscience.”
“Given the frequent uselessness of the conscience, how is one to be morally guided? … By building a conscience.”
Prager argued that truth, courage, God and reason are the fundamental elements of conscience — stating that God without reason led to fanaticism and that reason without God leads inevitably to “the death of reason.” A person’s conscience has to be developed and trained before it can be trusted.