By Bosco – Irish Sentinel contributor
Human rights apparently emerged from enlightenment thinkers from John Locke to Emmanuel Kant. Locke believed that humans possess ‘intrinsic goods’, whereas Kant argued rights’ existence from his categorical imperative, or a moral imperative founded upon our capacity to reason. Kant’s categorical imperative derived from the belief that humans have inherent dignity that cannot be violated. Kant further posited that from such dignity arises the command that humans should never be treated as end in themselves. As time expectedly moved forwards, so too did the way philosophers conceive of human rights, and so rose a consequentialist conception who believed in the promotion of the common good or welfare and so an end goal of maximising the kind of good or happiness, may override the right of the individual and thus the ends will justify the means. Marxism is the quintessential consequentialist approach. Hundreds of millions of individuals were massacred for the “common good” (Translation; for the good of those who held power and sought to maintain that control at any cost).
The truth about human rights, well, rights that have any genuine meaning are not merely found in our capacity to reason but emerge from the Christian ethic of inherent value. Many secularists, even on the nationalist side, seem to formulate their ideas absent the divine. The problem with this line of thinking is that it attempts to provide mere matter in motion with inherent value. Most secularists come from a materialistic world view, that humans are the result of an equation that includes a lot of time, random occurrences and simple reducible particles of matter. Over time, these reducible particles of matter interact and collide forming chemicals and then, life. Not only is there no scientific proof that life emerges from inanimate matter (The Miller/Urey experiment, reproducing primordial atmosphere conditions and apparently explaining the arrival of spontaneous life, is now discredited). Even if it were proven that life merely is the product of colliding particles, it still doesn’t attribute value to such self- assemblies. A rock after all, is just a different collection of an accidental collision of reducible particles to a human being, but both remain, according to the materialist, colliding self assemblances arising out of timeless chaos.
Historian Tom Holland when writing his book Dominion, which traces the enduring impact of Christianity on the West came to a shocking conclusion. Holland is an agnostic and he discovered that while we in the West have broadly rejected the Christian faith, our instincts have remained deeply Christian.
’As Western power retreats, we’ve come to realise that these values that we had assumed were universal – human rights, the inherent dignity of Man, the obligation of the rich to the poor – are actually very culturally contingent. Our assumption that there are universal values is itself very culturally contingent – and specifically Christian, I think. I can find no basis for believing in any of this stuff at all that does not involve a conscious leap of faith.’
In 2016, Holland wrote a piece in the New Statesman, ‘Why I was wrong about Christianity’, in which he said that ’it took me a long time to realise my morals are not Greek or Roman, but thoroughly, and proudly, Christian.’
As Ireland enters into a post Christian epoch, it is no surprise to find that morality is being discarded at lightning speed. As morality’s anchor has been severed with the abandonment of the Catholic faith, we are left with utter chaos and societal collapse. The move away from an essential mooring has resulted in the destruction of the primary unit that maintains a functioning society, the family. Men like Tom Holland got to recognise the importance of Christianity for the West having to delve deep into the origins of civilisation itself. Others don’t have the time nor inclination to do and now inhabit a space only to find a house built on quicksand. With the Christian foundations being demolished at an alarming rate, any genuine vision to reconquer the public space cannot be effectively achieved in the absence of a Christian ethic to undergird it. Those who propose a secular nationalism have no solid ground upon which to pitch their ideological tent. As much as materialism reduces the “love” a parent for a child to an illusion created by a series of synapses firing and the discharge of chemicals, then so too the love of country. If, the materialists seek to preserve something that they consider meaningful they must first explicate their source of meaning. A collection of reducible particles randomly collating over infinite time, has no meaning but rather the arbitrary attribution of meaning.
If meaning is arbitrarily assigned, then it is not real meaning but a manifestation of a choice of illusion, a choice that can be discarded like any preference can be. Those secularists who posit that meaning can be discovered in some evolutionary process of survival conflate survival with what is beneficial and what can be beneficial needn’t be true. A man who believes that bread and water will make him into a warrior, may believe it. The man may even become a great warrior having consumed it, but just because the sun comes up when a cock crows does not mean the cock’s crowing causes the arrival of the sun. All that is necessary to be beneficial for the man and his false belief is that it is beneficial and such sustenance helps him to survive but doesn’t cause his warrior status. Meaning to be understood as mere benefit is not meaning at all, it remains a mere benefit but not necessarily true. People, after all, will not die for an illusion but they will die for something they know to be true. The apostles willingly allowed themselves be martyred, and often in the worst kind of ways. They did not suffer illusions because the evidence demonstrates they were both originally cowardly yet reasonable in that cowardice. The only conclusion is that they sincerely believed Christ rose from the dead and were willing to suffer immeasurably to promote that truth.
The Christian understanding of human rights cannot be examined without recourse to the claim that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. It is from this pedestal where human rights mark their genuine position for protection. St Thomas Aquinas discussed human law in “Article 4” (fourth inquiry) of his work Summa Theologiae, which he says must be in accord with natural and divine law. He argues that laws are established for the common good or ‘commonweal’ and rulers cannot dispense subjects from human laws arbitrarily. The common good in this instance cannot be achieved by means to an end. The end, according to Aquinas is man’s salvation, and the means to that end is itself goodness. The lawgiver, God, who commands the good, is Himself goodness and because human beings are His creation and made in His image and likeness, human beings embody intrinsic value.
Aquinas cites the scriptures (divine law) which commands those with authority over others “You shall listen to the lowly as well as the mighty, no shall you regard anyone who is, since your judgement is God’s” (Deuteronomy 1:17). When Aquinas stated in Summa Theologiae Article 1, Revision of Laws; that “Therefore, neither can any human being disperse someone from human law” he was emphasizing the binding nature of law that laws were to be respected and that no one was above the law. He was also propounding equality rights or egalitarian principles which society and states ought to live. Aquinas argues that natural law is a participation in eternal law and consists universal precepts that always abide it remains immutable. It is this immutability where concepts of the imprescriptible and inalienable nature of human rights are fully understood. Human rights ought to be imprescriptible and inalienable precisely because they are immutable, and they are reflections of natural reason emergent from divine law. Therefore human rights, as understood through the only logical prism worth noting, designates human kind as intrinsically valued, or predisposed to meaning beyond mere physical composition.
Materialists, on the other hand, if they are honest, must know that their “love”, not just for family but also nation, is an arbitrary illusion created by physical properties. Through ad hoc nominalism it is given a label called “love”, yet it remains, in truth the outcome of a mere physical process. However, as stated, if someone knows such “love” of country is an illusion, then illusions are by definition not real and something not real can be easily changed. Even if an illusion is beneficial to the subject, it doesn’t mean the illusion is true, it merely concludes it is just beneficial for survival. If the illusion is not true but beneficial it is no longer meaningful but merely advantageous. Those parents however, who view their affection for their child as meaningful would not be able to reduce such a relationship to mere advantage.
The lack of true meaning in society has resulted in the excruciating deaths of millions of unborn babies who at a whim can be transformed from “baby”, if wanted, to “pregnancy discharge” if unwanted. This view of the same subject whose objective status and value is decided on a selection of words designed to emote, is evidence that what is supposedly advantageous is not meaningful. There is no “meaning” to slaughtering your own child, there is however, great meaning to protecting him or her.
By eliminating the Christian substrates that underpin human rights discourse we arrive at the arbitrary and often tyrannical version we see today, where human rights organisations like amnesty will determine who or who isn’t human based upon utility. This is the exact opposite of the true meaning of human rights because if someone can be dehumanised at the whim of those in power, then human rights become obsolete. Human rights, properly recognised means that no despot can arbitrarily conclude someone not to be human, when they are objectively human (any honest scientist would conclude that the unborn child is a member of the human species, it is merely at a particular juncture of development, yet a human it remains).
Frederick Nietzsche described the shadow of Gods, where Christianity would be replaced with simulacra, other versions of “true worlds”. A true world to Nietzsche focused on the arrival to another place where redemption would occur. Nietzsche considered all “true world” philosophies like Platonism and Christianity, as inherently pessimistic, wherefrom only arises eventual nihilism or the absence of meaning. In “true world” philosophies exists a sentiment of inadequacy with present existence. Of course, such a sentiment doesn’t vitiate the truth of “true worlds”. Twentieth century psychologist Michael Mahoney spoke of “myths of arrival” where humanity would attempt to its own utopia on earth and with it the absence of suffering, but such a destination is a façade, an illusion that can never be. Nietzsche conceded that suffering itself provided meaning to life, that we should be the authors of our own meaning, but this is where the German got it wrong, conflating an illusion of a preference for what is true and therefore, meaningful.
While the moderns pretend to annihilate religion, they in fact perform the greatest of evangelisations of it. Instead of Christ as God, they think themselves as gods, or trust to the environment as a grand deity. The devotion of climate change and recently, vaccines, was as fervent as any call to prayer. All heretics who strayed from the truth of “trust the science” were to be ostracised and flagellated by hostile words like “covidiot”. The eco zealots are the new evangelisers waiting for martyrdom in incarceration (which they know will never come). Abortion too, a sacrifice to be made to the goddess of wanton pleasure and lack of duty.
The politicians of today have become the new pharisees that make the law in the interest of their own godheads. Their sacrifices made are but to satiate these voracious gods, and their chosen victims to be sacrificed are their previous faith, culture and nations, all victims eviscerated by their maniacal egotistical policies. Yet, to these men and women, they can redefine “humanity” and to realise their grand sacrifice and feign the pursuit therefore of “human rights”. In essence, modernity is a marriage of Nietzsche’s concept of “true world” and its inherent pessimism AND his concept of an irrational ‘will to power’, mostly undefined yet understood by its often brutal usurpation of “others”, either with the intention of hurting those others or in a distorted attempt to ‘benefit’ them. This is arguably where we are at present in the West.
As stated, Nietzsche predicted the demise of Christianity and its sequitur, nihilism, also too the existence of different newer versions of the “true world” philosophy. However, the secularists who tap into a Nietzschean resolution to locate meaning as they find it, collapse into a mere preference as illusion. If one chooses to ascribe meaning to something that ultimately is nothing more than an object reducible to inconsequential inert particles of matter, then meaning has become ultimately meaningless.
Historian Tom Holland conducted an honest assessment of the West and so concluded that Christianity played a pivotal role in its flourishing. It can be said too that Christianity’s dismantlement is equally functionary, in so far as its removal has played an equally important role in the West’s demise. By denying this factoid is just as an illusory as the material conception of meaning.
To understand human rights without genuine meaning ascribed to humanity itself becomes a game of words. If human rights are just a compilation of words then words can be altered and with it genuine protection, protection necessary to preserve the dignity of man.