The Christian roots of freedom and tolerance

Feb 12, 2018 by

by Philip vander Elst, BeThinking.

[…] The glaring contrast between its commitment to ‘tolerance’ and its censorious attitude towards those who challenge its precepts, however, reveals the internal incoherence and inconsistency of humanistic ‘liberalism’. Even when its belief in choice and toleration is sincere, it is inconsistent with its other assumption that all values are relative. This is because if nothing is objectively right or wrong, tolerance becomes an arbitrary prejudice rather than a moral virtue, and its rejection by others cannot be logically condemned – a point to which I will return.

In reality, careful philosophical reasoning and close study of the historical record do not support the assumptions of secular humanism, even if one ignores its internal contradictions. They show, on the contrary, that the growth of liberty, the advancement of science, and the general progress of society, have been intimately linked with the development of Judaism and Christianity. Just as belief in a divine creator stimulated scientific discovery because it implied that nature was orderly and therefore open to systematic investigation, so, in a similar way, the belief that we are all God’s children, made in his image, paved the way for the eventual abolition of slavery and the recognition that all human beings have a right ‘to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’.[1]

The historical case for linking the growth of freedom with the development of Judaism and Christianity begins with the observation that the world of classical pagan antiquity was almost entirely hostile to the idea of liberty. With the rare exception of some Stoic philosophers, it had no conception of human rights, let alone respected them in practice.

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