The Right Side of History | Ben Shapiro

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


Embark on a profound journey with Ben Shapiro’s ‘The Right Side of History’, as it delves deep into the exploration of happiness, moral purpose, and the core values that shaped Western civilization. By drawing insights from the Bible and Athenian philosophers, the summary distills the essence of true happiness. Understand how these ancient texts emphasized moral duty, reason, and purpose in human actions. Witness how history unfolded over millennia, across ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece, and how beliefs and values altered human societies. Eventually, this journey will take you to the contemporary era, marked by vast political movements and the influence of religion in shaping science, technology, and democracy.

True Happiness through Moral Purpose

Many Americans are not confident that life will be better for the next generation, possibly because we associate happiness with pleasure. However, true happiness comes from living a life of moral purpose according to the Hebrew Bible and Athenian philosophers. Simcha in Hebrew means to live in line with God’s will and to rejoice in the purpose that God has given humans. Likewise, for Aristotle, living a good life meant fulfilling one’s purpose. Both believed that true happiness comes from moral purpose, whether that is serving God with joy or following our moral duty to pursue reason as humans. According to Viktor Frankl, happiness isn’t about what we expect from life, but rather what life expects of us. To unlock true meaning in life, we must approach happiness as a serious commitment to living a purposeful life.

The Bible’s Impact on Equality and Progress

In ancient times, rulers were regarded as divine, while the common folk had to accept their lot in life. The Bible introduced the revolutionary concepts of human equality and free will, enabling individuals to shape their destiny. It also introduced the idea of progress, which the Greeks and pagans did not believe in. The Bible’s God drove progress by creating more complexity and teaching lessons. Religion has heavily influenced modern political thought, and we owe the concept of progress to the Bible.

Foundations of Democracy

The Athenian philosophers’ teachings on reason and government led to the foundation of modern democracies. They believed that humans alone have the faculty of reason, which led them to apply reason to how government works. Plato thought that only the best and wisest should govern, while Aristotle argued for a partly democratic system. These philosophers also encouraged the pursuit of understanding the world, which led to significant discoveries such as the Pythagorean theorem and the concept of logos. Their investigative spirit eventually led to the West’s global dominance in science and technology.

Science and Religion

Many assume religion to have stifled science, but this is simply not the case. Before the age of Darwinism, most great scientists were religious. Galileo, despite persecution from the Church, believed that science was a route to God. At the same time, John Locke believed that natural rights should guide politics, with governments existing to protect citizens’ rights to life and liberty. Locke’s ideas would be highly influential in shaping society.

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