How Do We Explain Human Rights?

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I have often asked myself why human beings have any rights at all. I always come to the conclusion that human rights, human freedoms, and human dignity have their deepest roots somewhere outside the perceptible world. These values . . . make sense only in the perspective of the infinite and the eternal.
– Václav Havel,
Former Czech President

When man is reduced to a mere animal—when the force of one’s worldview logic demotes humans to mere biological machines—morality and human rights die and power is all that remains. This has happened with every communist regime, and happens with all governments as they get increasing secular. It cannot be otherwise.
– Greg Koukl,
The Story of Reality

It’s exceedingly difficult to see how we move from a valueless series of causes and effects from the big bang onward, finally arriving at valuable, morally responsible, rights-bearing human beings. If we’re just material beings produced by a material universe, then objective value or goodness (not to mention consciousness or reasoning powers or beauty or personhood) can’t be accounted for.
– Paul Copan,
Passionate Conviction

It is impossible to develop a secular account of human dignity adequate for grounding human rights.
– Prof. Nicholas Wolterstorf,
Yale University

How Do We Explain Human Dignity?

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If man is not made in the image of God, nothing then stands in the way of inhumanity. There is no good reason why mankind should be perceived as special. Human life is cheapened. We can see this in many of the major issues being debated in our society today: abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, the increase of child abuse and violence of all kinds, pornography … , the routine torture of political prisoners in many parts of the world, the crime explosion, and the random violence which surrounds us.

― Francis A. Schaeffer,
Whatever Happened to the Human Race?

The Fall of Man

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Unless a thing is dignified, it cannot be undignified. Why is it funny that a man should sit down suddenly in the street? There is only one possible or intelligent reason: that man is the image of God. It is not funny that anything else should fall down; only that a man should fall down. No one sees anything funny in a tree falling down. No one sees a delicate absurdity in a stone falling down. No man stops in the road and roars with laughter at the sight of the snow coming down. The fall of thunderbolts is treated with some gravity. The fall of roofs and high buildings is taken seriously. It is only when a man tumbles down that we laugh. Why do we laugh? Because it is a grave religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.” Unless a thing is dignified, it cannot be undignified. Why is it funny that a man should sit down suddenly in the street? There is only one possible or intelligent reason: that man is the image of God. It is not funny that anything else should fall down; only that a man should fall down. No one sees anything funny in a tree falling down. No one sees a delicate absurdity in a stone falling down. No man stops in the road and roars with laughter at the sight of the snow coming down. The fall of thunderbolts is treated with some gravity. The fall of roofs and high buildings is taken seriously. It is only when a man tumbles down that we laugh. Why do we laugh? Because it is a grave religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.

 –G. K. Chesterton

The fight against slavery

piqKgqo7TWe have little information on who invented the fore-and-aft rig to sail against the wind. Some historians think the technique may have originated as early as the second century after Christ. What we do know, however, is that this invention eliminated the galley and slave labor. We also know that the Bible was the intellectual and moral force that made slavery abhorrent… [T]he Bible played the most important role in promoting technology that liberated slaves. We also know that, back then, secularism did not exist. And neither pagan philosophers or temples promoted or celebrated technology that emancipated slaves. The Bible, in contrast, began to be written because God heard the cries of Hebrew slaves. Rodney Stark explains that most of the ancient philosophers supported slavery because they had “no concept of sin to put teeth in their judgments and no revelation from which to begin” critiquing slavery, Stark continues:

dreamstime_m_32349546-1“Although it has been fashionable to deny it, anti-slavery doctrines began to appear in Christian theology soon after the decline of Rome and were accompanied by the eventual disappearance of slavery in all but the fringes of Christian Europe.”

. . . A culture will not invest in wheelbarrows or pumps if its decision makes feel that there is a surplus of time and woman-or manpower. Only a society with a theological climate that values human dignity begins using technology as a force for human emancipation and empowerment.

–Vishal Mangalwadi,
The Book that Made Your World:
How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization