In a book review on a new work treating the problems of immigration and Islam in Europe, a remarkable quote:
The author notes that even the prominent German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, who is an atheist, has acknowledged that "Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter."Discussion question: What does it mean if an atheist says this? Presumably he doesn't believe the positive claims of Christianity any more, but he believes in the positive results of Christianity in bringing about a moral world.
A second question: Isn't it true that at least most of these things are strongly rooted in Christian teaching? I would call democracy the exception, given its pre-Christian, Greek rootsm and the fact that the Catholic Church for two thousand years preferred other forms; though the current Pope has strongly endorsed the American model.
As for Liberty: We've all read about the similarity between the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320, composed at a monastery, addressed to the Pope.
The deeds of cruelty, massacre, violence, pillage, arson, imprisoning prelates, burning down monasteries, robbing and killing monks and nuns, and yet other outrages without number which he committed against our people, sparing neither age nor sex, religion nor rank, no one could describe nor fully imagine unless he had seen them with his own eyes.Our conscience and our ideas of human rights are chiefly the product of Christian inquiry in the Medieval period, and reactions to that in the Renaissance. Our human rights organizations, when they chide America or other Western powers for violations of the laws of war, are pointing to a field of study that arose in the Peace of God and Truce of God movements of the Middle Ages, the protection of noncombatants being their chief intent. The Geneva Conventions are rooted in nothing so much as the laws of war that Thomas Aquinas and others developed, perhaps most especially the Doctrine of Double Effect.
But from these countless evils we have been set free, by the help of Him Who though He afflicts yet heals and restores, by our most tireless Prince, King and Lord, the Lord Robert. He, that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, met toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Macabaeus or Joshua and bore them cheerfully. Him, too, divine providence, his right of succession according to or laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our Prince and King. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand. Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
In a sense, I suppose, that's the same question. One of the principles that Christianity has created is the idea of religious liberty: out of the Thirty Years War and its echoes, we decided that it was proper for men to sort out for themselves what to believe. So here we have an atheist who has decided that he believes both that Christianity is untrue, and that it is of irreplaceable value. That ought to mean something profound; but saying just what that something is may be hard.