It often happens in these gloomy November days that I become more reflective about some of the fundamentals of our existence. Today is the feast of St Martin and Remembrance Day, celebrating the end of World War I in 1918. As I wrote yesterday, the twentieth century knew crimes so heinous that civilisation could not survive their being repeated – to quote the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal, Justice Robert Jackson.
The title of this little piece is perplexing. It is about the notion that human persons have rights to dignity, life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. The utter paradox of Christianity proposed something so radical in the place of competition, power, money and the use of “lower” human beings for the use they would bring to their “masters”. Today, concentration camps, slavery and torture are repugnant to us. Going into a church and killing tens of innocent human beings with a gun without a care in the world is beyond most of us – but wasn’t to a young man whose mind had flipped in some mysterious way.
I refer my readers to Scholar: ‘Human Dignity’ Rare Before Christianity by Michael Liccione and Human Dignity Was a Rarity Before Christianity by David Bentley Hart. These are remarkable studies of a very profound theme in Christianity. If we totally extirpate Christianity from our world and our philosophy, the result could be horribly inhumane. Is that what we want?