TWITTER | @martingruner


    Habermas on religion as a source of human rights

    I'm going to try to get back in the spirit of things on the blog. Maybe a good place to start is to share quotes and material I find interesting from my readings. I'll try to be as unsystematic as possible.

    I was listening to the entertaining debate between Christopher Hitchens and John Lennox on the existence of God which I've embedded below.

    At one point, Lennox, a noted Christian apologist, quotes German philosopher Jürgen Habermas (at around 35 minutes into the debate) as saying
    Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of western civilization. To this day, we have no other options [to Christianity]. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.
    Anyone's first response to that quote should be to go "huh" and google it. I did, because I'm fairly certain that Habermas – despite his recent arguments for religion as a source of universalism and his proponence of tolerance and acceptance of religious presence in public discourse – didn't say that. 

    It took me all of five gratifying seconds to find out I was right. He actually said:
    Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom and social solidarity, of an auonomous conduct of life and emancipation, of the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct heir of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a postnational constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just idle postmodern talk.
    Which is a different thing (although not exactly what I thought he believed). He is also quoted on that link above as saying this:
    My working hypothesis is that the standards of human rights stem less from the particular cultural background of Western civilization than from the attempt to answer specific challenges posed by a social modernity that has in the meantime covered the globe.
    Which I thought was a succinct way of putting it.