I have been watching David Bentley Hart debating Terry Sanderson, a member of The National Secular Society. Hart is always worth watching. His mental prowess is astonishing, His learning is prodigious and his ‘take no prisoners’ attitude is invigorating.
All Christians must and do sorrowfully deplore wicked acts perpetrated by Christians in the past and in the present, most particularly when these acts have been ‘justified’ by reference to Scripture. Nevertheless, a fair examination of the historical record must conclude that the moral influence of Christianity has been, on balance, good. Christianity’s insistence on the intrinsic value of every human life makes it difficult (if not impossible) to justify gratuitous cruelty and rapacity. The atheist Ayn Rand asserts that every man is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others. I absolutely agree. But what is the source of this belief? It is very difficult to find candidates other than Christianity. Christ’s second commandment that we love our neighbours as ourselves is the only credible origin of ‘human rights’.
Professors of Christianity have a theological basis for human rights. The pagans do not (slavery and crucifixion); Muslims do not (slavery, persecution of unbelievers and the subjugation of women); modern ‘ideologies’ like Communism and Nazism do not (slavery, genocide etc, etc). Insofar as we have a background belief in human rights at all, we owe it to Christianity. And as Christianity declines as a cultural phenomenon, we can expect secular professions of human rights to be an increasingly flimsy protection. Indeed, we see this already.
In 2013 there were over 180,000 abortions in Britain alone, the vast majority of which were carried out without any medical justification at all. In a more morally robust age abortion was a sin and a crime for which there were NO justifications at all: not medical, nor on the grounds of rape or incest. Human rights (the right to Life itself) have not protected millions of babies from being slaughtered. As for ‘doctor assisted suicide’, the prognostications grow worse and worse.
In the debate Sanderson alleges that modern societies have grown ‘kinder’ and that our welfare states are the product of… Actually, I don’t think he completed this thought coherently.
How a materialist can, with a straight face, maintain that Evolution (which explains everything) has brought about a gentler society defeats me.
During the ancien regime aristocrats were exempt from taxation. The poor and middle classes bore the entire burden. By being cosy with the government you got immense privileges. Does this not smack of corruption?
In Britain today government employees are more highly paid than their equivalents in the private sector. They are virtually unsackable. When they retire, they get inflation-proof pensions. Corruption?