To the surprise of many, Europe’s arguably most important intellectual, Jürgen Habermas (1929-) has made religion a major theme of his work late in life.
The origins of Human Rights is Christian theology: Realizing that religion’s prominence in the public sphere has not diminished, rather on the other hand, is more vital than ever, Habermas is critical of his own, former hardline stance on the need for a secular democracy in which religion is separated into the private sphere.
His point is that secular progressivism – one may read the aggressive, atheist push for relegating religion into the private sphere and thereby out of the public sphere – this method has not achieved its goals, writes Hanne Nabintu Herland, historian of religions, bestselling author and founder of The Herland Report Scandinavian news site and TV channel on YouTube with millions of readers/viewers.
We live in a society in the West with less empathy, compassion and solidarity than what we had under Christian rule. Did secular progressivism kill solidarity? (Feature photo: Hanne Herland in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul)
The origins of Human Rights is Christian theology: In this context, Habermas has pointed out that many of the important values, such as “human rights”, that are now explained as secular, actually were rooted in the historical religion of Christianity in Europe.
They are not of atheist or secular origin.
That Catholic Christian monks and priests were the ones who laid the foundation of human rights in the Middle Ages? All we seem to hear about the Middle Ages is that it was dark, gloomy, full of the Church injustice, horrible popes, and witch-burning priests.
In truth, the Middle Ages was one of the most advanced periods in European history. There was exploding development all over the continent which lay the foundation for the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment with its focus on rationality, science and technological improvement.
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The origins of Human Rights is Christian theology: Habermas’ book, The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion, a conversation between Habermas and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the later Pope Benedict XVI, is well worth reading to dive into secularization, the role of reason and religion in a free society.
In the 1600s, philosophers and rationalists continued building on the same Judeo-Christian ideals that the learned monks and scholars in European monasteries earlier had reflected on.
A religious set of ethics were grounded in the heart of European philosophy, that at the height of its golden age fostered Capitalism mixed with the Protestant Ethic that brought growth and prosperity to the whole Western civilization. European culture has undeniably strong ethical roots in one specific religion: Christianity. To say otherwise is to deny history.
Habermas points out in Europe: The Faltering Project that modern moral philosophical and political theory pays a high price for excluding the very ethics that first provided explanatory strength to the moral form with the ability to motivate the individual to perform just actions. He reminds us that genuinely active traditions often remain hidden in culture. Only in bad times, when they are in danger of disappearing, does its real greatness become visible.
From this perspective, it may be argued that there is an irrational element in modern secular society when it insists on keeping religion outside the public sphere. It rather displays the intense desire from an extreme-secularist and atheist thinking of crushing the role of religion and quelling traditional ethics altogether.
It deliberately uses a twisted definition of secularism – implying that secularism means the implementation of an anti-religious system, and uses this system in order to impose repressive, intolerant ideologies.
The origins of Human Rights is Christian theology: The underlying idea, of course, being that religion is irrational and incompatible with “secular, modern society”, – thus the need to remove this old-fashioned superstition from intellectual debate. One almost gets the feeling that all Christianity ever did was harm the European society, oppress the people, quench the hope of freedom, abuse women, harass men and turn the common man into a Church slave, as if Christian history only represents a long list of irrational arguments, superstitions, and atrocities against the innocent.
Ironically, it was Christian thought that initially brought the quest for rational explanations of faith as a vital part of understanding the world. As God is rational, man’s ability to be rational was an important point to the early Christian thinkers.
It seems that scholars have wished to change the memory of how religion impacted history and willfully omit certain historical facts, so that history may fit well into the politically correct, anti-religious ideologies of the present. This has been happening for a long time in the West, and impacted the culture to the point that today we refer to the West as an atheist culture. The knowledge of its Christian roots and the historical values that once built the West, are almost extinct.