During his historic meeting with Ben-Gurion, the Chazon Ish made his famous statement about the two wagons – the heavily laden wagon of the religious public and the secular public's empty wagon. This statement angered many seculars who believed that their wagon is filled with just as many values and content as the religious wagon. Perhaps a different metaphor will help clarify the issue: Instead of two wagons – a resort and a training camp.
The liberal secular public generally views the world as a resort in which people do as they please, as long as they do not harm others. Naturally, in this resort each person acts according to his or her personal inclinations. Some will seek knowledge; some will seek ways to improve the lives of the other vacationers; while others will just try to have as much fun as possible.
The resort is undoubtedly a pleasant place, but those who visit it remain the same. They do not become better people. The resort does not demand anything from them, and those who seek to improve themselves have to do it on their own. Naturally, most people will prefer a comfortable life of pleasure and entertainment over demanding work.
Moreover, the "do as your heart desires" attitude creates an atmosphere of lenience and hedonism which puts the person's ego at the center and many times leads people to ignore the "so long as you don't hurt anyone else" restriction. People whose guiding principle is freedom will find it difficult to restrain themselves when others stand in their way.
The religious public, on the other hand, views the world as a training camp. Its purpose is to mold a certain type of people, and for this, two things that cannot be found in the resort are required: A vision and a path. The vision is that of the ideal man, the one the camp seeks to create, and the path is the guidance provided throughout this process.
Those who arrive at the training camp are aware they will have to give up their personal freedom and adhere to a regimen of demands, obligations and restrictions. They can always choose to shirk these obligations, but then they will not get to realize the vision. However, those who act according to the instructions and guidance will become better people. There is no doubt that the training camp produces a significantly larger number of high quality people than the resort does.
The religious world provides people with the same things that characterize the training camp: A vision and a path, both on a personal and communal level. It offers a model of an ideal society and provides the guidance needed to create such a society. Many religious people fail to carry out the instructions, but those who do follow the path eventually become better people.
Many will point to the flaws of the religious vision, but even they will have to admit that religion succeeds in realizing this vision.
This path and vision are precisely what the secular public is missing today. It's not that secular community does not have values, it does, but these values are placed under the "do as your heart desires" umbrella, and only a select few choose to seriously dedicate themselves to these values. In the past, secular ideologies such as Socialism did push personal freedom aside in favor of their own vision and path, but these ideologies disintegrated under liberalism's false promise of freedom.
Moshe Ratt is a doctoral candidate at Bar-llan University's General Philosophy Department