When Secularism Is Not Enough

Can Islamic jihad be resisted simply on the basis of Western secular values? Some readers of my posts on the role of Christianity in resisting Islam have objected that bringing Christianity into the debate only muddies the water. As one reader wrote, “the anti-jihad movement can better be served if blatant theocons stay away.”

A number of important individuals in what might loosely be called the resistance movement do seem to believe that secular values are sufficient to rally citizens to a defense of Western civilization. A good example of this belief is the 2006 manifesto, “Together, facing the new totalitarianism,” which was signed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, Salman Rushdie, and others. The manifesto calls for “resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity, and secular values for all.” The document also speaks of “universal values,” “universal rights,” and “Enlightenment” with a capital “E.”

But how sturdy are Enlightenment values once they are cut off from their Christian roots? Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s own experience provides some perspective. In her autobiography, Infidel, she tells how, after escaping Somalia to the Netherlands, she fell in love with the thinkers of the Enlightenment. At the same time she became an atheist—rejecting not just Islam, but all religions (although she willingly admits that Jews and Christians have a more humane concept of God). Of Holland she wrote, “Society worked without reference to God, and it seemed to function perfectly.”

But the problem with substituting Enlightenment humanism for religion jumps out, if not from every page of Infidel, at least from many pages. On the one hand, Holland is “the peak of civilization,” and “no nation in the world is more deeply attached to freedom of expression than the Dutch.” On the other hand, her colleagues keep warning her to keep her thoughts to herself, and in the end, enlightened Holland forces her out of the Netherlands precisely for freely expressing her opinions about Muslim treatment of women. Ironically, Hirsi Ali’s next port of refuge was the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank which numbers quite a few traditionalist Christians among its scholars.

Others, such as Oriana Fallaci, Geert Wilders, and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff have discovered that “enlightened” but post-Christian Europe is not nearly as friendly to freedom of expression as one might expect to be the case in the birthplace of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was an important civilizational advance, but of late it seems to have gone a bit wobbly. Why is that?

One possible answer is that the core Enlightenment values are inextricably tied to Christian values. This view has been put forward most forcefully on the Continent in recent years by Marcello Pera (former President of the Italian Senate, and an agnostic) and by Benedict XVI (not an agnostic). They have argued that the Enlightenment grew out of Christianity organically, as a tree grows from its roots. Cut off from its roots the tree dies.

In this view the rights of man are based on a belief in the importance of man. The belief that ordinary individuals have a value and dignity of their own apart from their membership in a tribe or a society has its origin in the Judeo-Christian declaration that man is made in the image of God. Thus, if you take away God, you take away the foundation of human importance. As Thomas Jefferson undoubtedly discovered while composing the Declaration of Independence, it’s a bit difficult to establish the case for human rights without reference to the Creator.  Purely secular societies can only assume human dignity and human rights as a given. We tend to forget that these concepts are now a given because they were given to the world by Christians. Before Christianity, the idea that all human beings are endowed with intrinsic value was not considered “self-evident,” it was considered ludicrous. Espousing human equality was a good way to get yourself laughed out of polite pagan society. Human dignity may seem self-evident to us now, but that is because the Christian moral view became internalized over the centuries. Gladiatorial combats and slavery didn’t go out of fashion because societies evolved but because people began to see one another in the light of the Christian revelation.

Of course, not everyone sees it that way. Some seem to think that Enlightenment humanism came out of nowhere, thanks to spontaneous advances in science, reason, and ethics. In this view, Enlightenment values can get along fine on their own without reference to God. But then you’re still faced with explaining how it is that these values have fallen on hard times precisely in those places that might legitimately be called post-Christian. Freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion are defended much more vigorously in still-Christian America than in post-Christian France or Holland. For that matter, there’s more freedom of speech in Bible-belt America than in your average American university. With their speech codes and “hate speech” rules and their habit of disinviting “controversial” speakers, universities are among the least free institutions in society. And it’s no coincidence that most of them can be described as post-Christian, and in some cases, anti-Christian. There is also, of course, an increasingly anti-Semitic climate on American campuses.

What happened in the universities is essentially what happened in Europe. Both suffered a loss of faith (recall that many prestigious universities began as seminaries or denominational colleges), and in the process of losing their religion both became increasingly uninterested in cultivating or protecting genuine freedoms. Moreover, like post-Christian Europe, the post-Christian university has shown little ability to resist Islamization. Thanks to Saudi money and well-organized Muslim student associations, many universities are beginning to act like apologists for the Wahabbi faith.

Judging by the sorry records of the highly secularized European state and the highly secularized American university, it might not be a good idea to place all your bets on “secular values for all” as the main point of resistance to totalitarian Islam. Ayaan Hirsi Ali deserves the gratitude of all for calling attention to the abuse of Muslim women, but she’s wrong to think that a rootless Enlightenment is going to bring them liberation. Likewise, we owe a lot to Ibn Warraq for his penetrating critique of Islam, but he’s mistaken to think that the universal values enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights would survive in the thoroughly secularized type of society he seems to favor. If these values are universal and self-evident, why is it that half the world doesn’t subscribe to them? Warraq seems not to have noticed that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was composed for the most part by individuals who had grown up in Christian cultures, and had inherited a social conscience that had been formed by the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Two of the chief framers, Rene Cassin and Dr. Charles Malik, made no secret of the influence Christian and Jewish beliefs had on their thinking.  In a 1969 speech to the Decalogue Lawyer’s Society, Cassin, a Jew, outlined in detail how Jewish and Christian thought had paved the way for the Declaration.  It’s also telling that while drafting the final version of the Declaration he received advice and encouragement from Cardinal Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII), then the Apostolic Nuncio in Paris. Malik, who later served as President of the UN General Assembly, was a Greek Orthodox philosopher and theologian from Lebanon and the author of numerous commentaries on the Bible and on the early Church Fathers. While making his arguments to the drafting committee he was in the habit of quoting from Thomas Aquinas, the medieval theologian. Jacques Maritain, the eminent Catholic philosopher was also actively involved in the work of the committee, as well as the UNESCO committee which laid the groundwork for the Declaration. Eleanor Roosevelt, the Chairperson of the drafting committee later observed that the Declaration reflected “the true spirit of Christianity.” In short, although the Declaration of Human Rights makes no mention of God, the fingerprints of a certain religious tradition are all over it.

Western culture—indeed the whole world—owes a lot to the Enlightenment, but it’s important to remember that at crucial historical junctures it was Christian activists working on Christian principles who did most of the heavy lifting. Christian Evangelicals were at the forefront of the movement to abolish the slave trade; the Civil Rights movement was galvanized by the Reverend Martin Luther King and other Christian leaders; the end of Communism in Eastern Europe was brought about in large part by the work of the Catholic Solidarity Movement, of Pope John Paul II, and of numerous priests and pastors in Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and other countries who kept alive the spirit of resistance.

At the risk of oversimplifying things, it might be useful to think in terms of two Enlightenments: the Enlightenment which remained nourished by the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the Enlightenment which cut itself off from God. The former led to the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, the abolition of slavery, and the Civil Rights movement. The latter led to the French Revolution, to the Reign of Terror, to the suppression of church by state, to Marx and Nietzsche, to Socialism, and Communism, and more recently to the Alice-in-Wonderland world of cultural relativism where human rights are looked upon as relative rather than universal.

It’s unlikely that a pure secularism—even a humanistic, enlightened secularism—can be the foundation for resisting an aggressive Islam. It’s precisely “enlightened” secularism that produced the spiritual and population vacuum in Europe which is now being filled by Islam. John Lennon invited us to imagine “no religion”… “nothing to kill or die for.” In Europe they don’t have to imagine anymore. Having lost their religion, many are discovering that post-Christian values may not, after all, be worth fighting and dying for—all the more so for those who are getting on in years, and are hoping the really bad things won’t happen in their lifetimes. The new motto for many middle –aged Europeans seems to be “Apres moi le dhimmitude.”

Which culture is more likely to protect human rights and freedoms against totalitarian movements? A thoroughly secular culture which has cut itself off from a transcendent reference point? Or a culture imbued with the Judeo-Christian belief that human beings possess an inalienable, God-given dignity? It’s one of those non-academic questions to which the wrong answer might prove fatal. And final exam time is fast approaching.

William Kilpatrick’s articles have appeared in Front Page Magazine, First Things, Catholic World Report, the National Catholic Register, Jihad Watch, World, and Investor’s Business Daily.

  • hmong dude

    As I have said many times…man's free will will will him everything and that includes the death of you and me. Without understanding that God is the foundation of our rights, the US Constitution will become just another scratch paper for the most popular trend or stud/gal to draw their own image and rule…vs Gods image and Gods law. Scientism and secularism holds no water for me….it is a life devoted to the study of God, morality, theology and philosophy for me.

    God bless

  • http://www.richardawkins.net Frederick

    Being a lifelong libertarian and academic, I am now disgusted at the manner in which many scholars of the West are selling out their own values and catering to the Islamists. That is why I check FP mag from time to time. However this article again reminds me of the intellectual bankruptcy of some pseudo-academics amongst us Rebuplicans.
    To promote religion as some sort of panacea to islamism is a foolhardy and ill-conceived notion. The Enlightenment was the result of the Catholic Church's endless barbarisms. When we Lutherans broke away from the Church, we were considered heretics and enemies of the Church. I wonder why the Church's inquisitioners sometimes used the same inhumane methods of torture that were used to kill Jesus. It was a result of Europe's bloodiest conflicts, popularized education and the flourishing of knowledge(which the monks and friars attempted to keep reserved for themselves) through the printing process that allowed the Enlightenment to arrive and stay in Europe. Let us also not forget the Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and other founding fathers placed no stock in sectarian christian politics.

    • Suvorov

      Well, Frederick, I am an European and the atheistic pseudo-academic intellectual fraud is clearly you.

      1. Christianity is the basis for the moral system in the West. The Catholic church is just an organization. You seem unable to grasp this differentiation.

      2. Whenever I see someone talk about others intellectual bankruptcy and then make claims like " the Catholic Church's endless barbarisms", I know I am talking to an idiot. What is the definition of endless barbarism? And what about atheists mass slaughter of more than 100 million innocent people within less than 100 years, – the worst mass murders the world has ever seen. What do you call that?

      3. The Catholic Church founded our first universities, so your claim that " knowledge(which the monks and friars attempted to keep reserved for themselves)" is retarded and dishonest.

      • Frederick

        My family is deeply vested in the Holy Roman Catholic tradition and for an eon we have rose to its defense so spare me your feeble and bovine references and your reductio ad hitlerum.
        The Catholic Church was equally brutal as these regimes which were not all atheist in nature. Their modus operandi was quite similar to a faith system where questioning the supreme leader was not allowed. A brief review of history shows us from events such as the Albigensian Crusade, the Middle Eastern crusades and the various Inquisitions that even though the Catholic Church often supported artists and scholars, it was also a barbaric and fickle oligarchy not much different from the theocratic barbarity of the islamic sultans or the Mongol khanates.
        Indeed our moral system in the West stems from Christianity which in itself borrows heavily from Roman Law, European pre-christian values and much else besides. Our moral system in the Occident only surpassed the Orient when democracy, secularism and rational thinking was allowed an inlet into our societies.
        Therefore keep your religious hysterics to yourself. Do not attempt to fight this fire of islamofascism with another fire or you will find your own house burning.

        • Suvorov

          Thank you Freddy, again you prove to us your own " intellectual bankruptcy" and "pseudo-academics".

          Reductio ad hitlerum? Don't make me laugh, pompous ignorant. Do you really claim there is no causality between Atheists killing, torturing and raping more than 100 million innocent people within less than 100 years, more than anyone else in recorded history and atheism's inherent subjective morality? There is nothing within atheism that says it's wrong to kill rape and torture innocent people.

          Catholic Church equally brutal? Really? So where is your documentation? You are a liar.

        • Suvorov

          Christianity did NOT borrow heavily from Roman Law. Christendom did. Again, you provide no examples, no documentation.

          According to the Bible, Jesus Christ was sinless. Muhammad, Islam's most perfect man and an example for all Muslims for all times, broke all the Ten Commandments in the Bible. So it's obvious that your claim that Christianity and Islam are morally equivalent (fighting fire with fire) is just another ignorant, retarded claim from you. Islam is the very antithesis of Christianity. Please name all the evil deeds done by Muslims that are forbidden within atheism. You can't find any. That's why secular liberals in Europe are such strong supporters of Islam. There are some very brave exceptions to the rule, Geert Wilders, Pat Condell et al. But in general, Islam and multiculturalism are mainly supported by the European secular left with their moral relativism.

        • Suvorov

          Your conception of Christendom, Islam, moral values and secularism is based on popular atheist myths. Again you provide no facts or documentation. Just your usual random unfounded general statements and rants.

          So, what about hospitals? The First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. urged the church to provide for the poor, sick, widows, and strangers. It ordered the construction of a hospital in every cathedral town (Wikipedia).

          Then what about Universities? European research universities date from the founding of the University of Bologna in 1088, although the University of Paris (ca. 1160–70) and the University of Magnaura (AD 425) contend for that distinction (Wikipedia).

          What about charity? What about equality before the law? Do you know what shariah law says women and kuffar compared to muslim males? What about atheist China today and free speech for atheists vs Christians? Please enlighten me atheist.

          I am not hysteric. Thank you for your nice ad hominem attack.

        • Suvorov

          Freddy, if you believe "questioning the supreme leader was not allowed" is contrary to atheism you must be an ignorant, liar or both.

          Do you really understand the concept of atheism? So exactly what deity did the communists believe in? Stalin, Mao? Did they really believe that these two guys were preternatural or supernatural immortal beings? Please give me the documentation, unless, of course, you are lying again.

        • Suvorov

          Freddy, you really are an uneducated, unintelligent moron. So, the Catholic Church was "not much different from the theocratic barbarity of the Islamic sultans or the Mongol khanates"? Really?

          Well, why don’t you dig into these numbers, ignorant fool.

          Timur Lenk: Death toll 15-20 million (wikipedia)
          Mongol conquest: Death toll 30-60 million (wikipedia)
          Thirty Years' War: Death toll 3-11.5 million (wikipedia)

          And please remember, the Thirty Years War is clearly contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ, while Timur Lenks actions were motivated and supported by the classical Islamic doctrine of Jihad.

          So, for you to blame Christianity for the un-Christian actions committed by the Catholic Church only shows what kind of academic charlatan you are. In addition, you clearly don't know the numbers, so you base your opinions on hatred of Christianity and fairy tales from atheist la-la land, rather than facts. Pathetic.

  • Frederick

    Religion can be a tremendous inspirational force but akin to all ideologies it has the power to blind us to reason. A famous quote comes to mind " There are good people and bad people and good people usually do good and bad people usually do bad, BUT for a good person to do bad, it takes religion". It is also hyperbole to represent France and Holland as post-christian and closed to freedom of expression. Having lived in 6 EU nations, I still see Christianity alive and well and some of the most brilliant polemics and intense debates conducted against Islamism. Take for example the French "ecrivaine" Caroline Fourest who exposed the pseudoliberal jihadist Tareq Ramadan.

    • Lee

      the contrast between the American and French revolutions is instructive-the former grounded in a Christian ethos and the latter quite committed to separating itself from Christianity (as you say, due in part to the Catholic response to the Reformation). The American instance produced a flawed but workable values system that has advanced liberty and prosperity for 200+ years. The French instance produced the Terror, Napoleon's model police state, and, ultimately, fascism and communism.
      Note that those secular horrors were perpetrated by people aiming to do good (liberty, equality, fraternity, they said) – and just in terms of body counts they managed to kill more people faster than all the centuries of religious malfeasance combined. (Rudolph Rummel, Death by Government)

  • Frederick

    Our campuses may be more open to free speech but they also contain large amounts of students who believe in the unscientific malicious creationist propaganda, and young girls are called murderers for choosing to have abortions.We also had a senator on the environmental committee who dismissed global warming by stating that the Earth shall not end until God deems it fit. It is time we woke up and smelt the jesuit coffee amongst ourselves.
    The only way to defeat islamism and other hateful ideologies is through promoting rational minds, stop misinformation, foster true education and sciences and philosophy. It also requires us not to be apologetic for Christianity or our secular Western laws.

    • JSM

      smelt the Jesuit coffee"

      That is hysterical. I think this guy reads Jack Chick articles.

      Young girls being called murderers for killing their children makes perfect sense to a lot of people, especially the ones who paid attention in science class and learned that life begins at conception.

      And if you'd like to find a lack of science on a university campus, I suggest you read chapter one of your average Biology/Earth Science text books or Richard Dawkins publication discussing origins. Reads worse than any biblical passage I've ever come across.

      Words/phrases like "can be expected", "probability", "perhaps", "probably", "if", "should" qualify every grand statement on how everything came into being.

      My favorite is this little blurb from the world's favorite atheist:
      "The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved literally out of nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice."

      Everything came from nothing……..and he is a scientist.

      • http://www.talkorigins.net Frederick

        I suggest you dont stop your day job. When charlatans such as yourself go against reason and science then there is little difference between islamofascists and yourself. I have fought in the Gulf War but when people such as yourself mouth off, I forget who i am supposed to shoot at.
        Just sit yourself down, invite your 12 year old child into the room, go to talkorigins.net and witness how even a childs mind can find the reasonable arguments in favor of evolution convincing while you are too muddled by your own religious hysteria to think straight.
        Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett may not be the brightest of minds but so far not a single Christian-muslim-jewish cleric has been able to refute their allegations against Abrahamic creationism.

  • solemnman

    We had better start believing in sonething with the fervour of religious fanatics or a particularly odious something will be rammed down our throats.

  • al Kidya

    "if you take away God, you take away the foundation of human importance".

    That being said, I wonder if science and understanding of the human body, the universe, the atom cannot bring us closer to God?
    I also firmly believe that the understanding of the Qur'an, the Hadith and the Sunnah, should be our WMDs in our fight against Islamism.
    I am a huge admirer of Father Zachariah Butros. He has converted hundreds if nto thousands of Muslims from their faith by simply understanding the truth of Mohammad.
    This will be the armour of God we should all place around ourselves. Study Islamic ideology and use the Islamic truth as the weapon to bring it down.
    It is just a conquest cult that has lasted 1400 years because nobody bothered to understand it and use the ideology itself to destroy it from within using the "pacis exsisto vobis" of Judeo-Christianity as the superior option to Islam.

  • Navigator

    I am always baffled by these "Secularism weak, Christianity strong" arguments. How exactly would a revival of Christian fervour translate itself on the world stage? What would it mean for counter-acting the pernicious onlsaught of Islam — a new Crusade? It is not the values of the Enlightment (liberty, fraternity and equality) that are the problem (and yes, they did spring from the well of Christianity — tip of the hat required), but the erosion of these ideals by the collectivist mentality of the leftists, the creators of the grievance groups trumping the concept of the individual and the individual's liberty. That is where the battle is joined.

    The Christian God is a red herring in this debate, and, in fact, if resorted to as an effective counterweight to Islam, would have to act in exactly the same manner as the Muslim's God. And we know what that God does to individual liberty.

  • MaryAnn

    Jihadists are taught that they are murdering and dieing for Allah and Islam. They are taught that Allah wants them to murder and die, he demands it, for the sake of their religion. Whatever might be going on in the minds of the people who are not dieing for their faith, but demanding that others do, those others believe they are doing it for God. They must be shown that their belief is wrong, that God does not demand murder and suicide and subjugation. The problem with the West is that we have denied God a voice in our societies, we have pretty much gotten rid of Him as some kind of superstition and not worthy of such enlightened thinkers as ourselves. Islam has not gotten rid of God. Islamists use God as an argument against our greed and selfishness, against our liscentiousness and un-godliness. If we want to fight Islam successfully, we better start inviting God back into arguments and our lives. Or, we can learn to accept the consequences of our Godless, enlightened selves.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Ageofreason Ageofreason

    Faith and Reason are incompatible. Period. The West owes a debt of gratitude to the Catholic monks who preserved, copied, studied, and spread the works of the Greek philosophers. To the extent that Greek rationality was incorporated into Church thought, particularly through Thomas Aquinas is the extent to which religion is responsible for the Enlightenment. The credit can go no further. That worm of rationality gave Christians, for the first time, a sense of the individual, a means of personal reflection, the concept of personal responsiblity that the monolithic Catholic church had lacked. It led to all that the west values today. To the extent that we reject reason, we fail.

  • http://TheAmericanView.com John Lofton

    Mr. Kilpatrick raises an important, crucial question. But, alas, his thoughts re: this question — like what passes for "Christianity" in modern American — are mush. Modern American "Christianity" is, of course, NOT real, Biblical Christianity. Thus, REAL Islam, Koranic Islam, will cut through this fake "Christianity" like a warm knife through butter — and this will have been predestined by God Who many times in history has used foreign, non-Christian forces as a stick to beat, to chastise His people. God tells us, as Christians, in Ephesians 6, how to fight the spiritual war we are in — in His full armor. It is only then that we (Christians) will stand.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Recovering Republican

  • slivovitz

    I am not threatened by my next door neighbor's beliefs as to the existence of the afterlife and my likely place in it. I am threatened by those who do not give their full faith and allegiance to the vales of democratic republicanism. I acknowledge Christianity's contribution to the realization of those values, but nothing more. Individual liberty is the necessary and sufficient foundation for building the anit-jihadist coalition. I expect to have some strange allies, but not more so than the Soviet Union to the United states during WWII.

    • netwit

      "I am not threatened by my next door neighbor's beliefs as to the existence of the afterlife and my likely place in it." Commendable! How about your next door neighbour's beliefs that you and yours are nothing but animals, of no more intrinsic worth than the dog in the alley or the bacon in the fridge? How about his belief that he can act on such beliefs with impunity, whatever the consequences to you and yours, without any regard to an antiquated Christian conscience? Still not threatened? Maybe YOU are that neighbour….

  • Samurai Hit Woman

    The Bible says that man was created by God for God. This is supported by the way "man cannot live by bread alone".

    We need the spiritual in our lives that's why we make a religion of everything we touch. And is the reason a religion of love, that is Christianity, can be replaced with a religion of hate that is Islam.

    There is always a hole in our hearts where God belongs because of the way we were made by God for God according to Jewish and Christian scripture.

    Reason and logic have their place in our hearts and minds but religion is a part of our makeup too. And if we don't volunteer to fill that hole in our hearts with the God of love we will have it filled for us with the God of hate because nature won't tolerate a vacuum.

  • vishma

    religion funny thing, keep all religion private, there is no good god than living huma being. why investment to atomic bomb at the cost of millions of hungry human being and blockade everywhere in the world intellectual , physical, color and race and religion,
    religion private item keep personal in mind, which god is asking to make human being dishearted human being, they all talk good but no salt, no medicine, no rice and no water, but why atom and supersonic jet, all these activities is due to fallacious

  • Samurai Hit Woman

    This is a ridiculous post Visma. The A bomb was a product of the need to defend ourselves and hungry humans will always be with us. One has nothing to do with the other.

    It is not God but humans who are out of step therefore how is God to blame for no salt,medicine, food, and water? And how are these out of step activities due to fallacious religions?

    Moreover keeping all religions private is absurd. Then who would know to follow Judeo-Christian ethics and only the deleterious view points would be expressed and followed.

  • http://vampon.blogspot.com netwit

    At the risk of sounding needlessly tendentious or provocative, I really have to question the author's reflex invocation of "Judeo-Christian" values. Whence the Judeo? You'd be hard pressed to find any allusion in actual Enlightenment literature to this idea. In fact, the expression started gaining currency in tandem with the Jews themselves gaining intellectual credibility in America circa the 1920's. The religious right, i.e., U.S. protestants, seem to be especially enamoured of the "Judeo-Christian" nugget, the last people we'd associate with a serious interest in Catholic Europe. Of course, Christianity itself carries an indelibly Jewish component in its origins, but insofar as today's Jews typically vilify the New Testament as inherently anti-semitic, I rather doubt that this is the sort of reference point which the author intends.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JasonPappas JasonPappas

    I’m sorry to say this but Kilpatrick is amazingly ignorant of Western History.

    He says “In this view the rights of man are based on a belief in the importance of man. The belief that ordinary individuals have a value and dignity of their own apart from their membership in a tribe or a society has its origin in the Judeo-Christian declaration that man is made in the image of God.”

    One word: Cicero. Read Cicero for an understanding of rights. It is a Greco-Roman Stoic concept that predates the birth of Jesus.

    The father of Humanism, Petrarch, fought for the reintroduction of Cicero and Roman thought. This led to the Renaissance which laid the foundation of the Enlightenment.

    Our founding fathers had to master Latin to get into college because a liberal arts education was centered on the study of Latin literature and letters. Their college courses were taught in Latin. The founding fathers admired the Roman Republic, which Cicero tried to preserve in the face of the rise of the Emperors. The Stoic senator Cato was a role model to Washington.

    I can rehash the history of “natural rights” from Cicero to Locke to Jefferson but this is standard history that Kilpatrick should know. Read Leo Straus on how Greek philosophy introduced the distinction of “by nature” versus “by convention” and how that led to the notion of natural rights; a concept that Judaism never had and Christianity only inherited from Greco-Roman thought.

    Please, we conservatives look ignorant when we publish articles that blatantly ignore standard and essential facts about the history of our civilization. We don't need to distort history to defend our principles.

    • Bruggs

      To JasonPappas: Check out the link below; I don't think your Cicero/Stoic view is as uncontestable as you think it is. And by calling them "natural rights" you miss the point in Christianity (and Judaism) "Nature" is not an entity, it is part itself of the creation as are people, and as such it- and we- belong to God. We are stewards of this natural world and of each other, and our Master will return to see what we have done with it, and if we have chosen to love Him and to humble ourselves and to serve, rather than to be served. People, both political liberals and conservatives, who pride themselves on personal "good works" in their many forms and who do not see themselves as humbly trying to obey their God ( seeing oneself as before God always reveals the great gap between God's love, forgiveness and unbelievable sacrifice for us and our own puny stabs at righteousness), tend to be puffed-up and harsh and judgemental with others.

  • http://www.resonoelusono.com/NaturalBornCitizen.htm Alexander Gofen

    I agree with William Kilpatrick. His view is identical to that well expressed in the book "America's Real War" (2000) by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. The West is in a post-Christian era: still with some remnants of civility preserved from the past by inertia. (In the freest Netherlands homosexuality is a norm, and bestiality "farms" are already legalized).

    If for no other reason, the human society needs an absolute unshakable axiomatics, backed by God's authority. Without it the West is doomed in the most direct sense: not even wishing to procreate!

    Deeply educated scientists are not in conflict with well educated theologians. In fact, the modern science discovered inevitability of an intelligent Designer of Life (W. Dembsky, J. Wells), and the Big Bang.

  • Anti-PC Man

    The godless atheistic secular humanists are enough to make me that there may be a silver lining in an Islamist takeover of the West after all.

    We can just practice our faith in our homes and the Muzzies will get rid of people like this, along with the dopers, somodites, feminazis, pornographers and abortionists.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JasonPappas JasonPappas

    I’m glad Mr. Kirkpatrick finds Christianity in harmony with the rights of man but his disrespect of secular philosophy is way off base. Let’s take another example. Let’s examine the revival of individual rights in post-war conservatism.

    Russell Kirk, the father of traditional conservatism, dismissed the concept of the “rights of man” as a hoary abstraction. He advocated sentiment over abstraction and tradition based on membership in a demographic group–a rather tribal concept. His appeal to transcendentalism didn’t yield broad abstractions such as rights.

    The economic defenders of capitalism were essentially utilitarian. Together the traditional conservatives and economic defenders make-up the so-called fusion that was the American Conservatism that led to the rise of Reagan.

    Where did the revival of rights come from? Ayn Rand. It was Rand (incidentally an atheist) who fought for natural rights, i.e. individual rights. Her influence went far beyond her followers. The ethical defense, based on rights, became currency on the right due to her writings.

    Mr. Kirkpatrick’s analysis of history is flawed with reference to the last 2000 years and flawed again with respect to the last 50 years. Let’s hope that his antipathy to secular philosophy and our Western tradition doesn’t gain traction on the right. We must base our arguments on reality and reason if we hope to have a sold broad-based revival of liberty.

  • hmong dude3

    Wow the ignorance abounds…greatly. Sounds like the drive by media has definitely brain washed many of you folks to believe that Christianity is narrow minded and looks like a cartoon figure of Jerry Falwell…
    Just play simple mind exercises with secular humanism and see how much freedom that gives you….simply look at the secular humanist countries…like china, cuba, etc…. where the state (collective humanity) is the granter of rights… Secular humanist is manifested in isms such as socialism and communism….