Introductory quotes:

“Just what are the immutable moral laws of secularism…such laws simply do not exist!  The best answer we can ever hear from secularists to this question is a hodgepodge of strained relativist talk of situational ethics.  They can cite no overriding authority…most people would be morally and spiritually lost without… the Judeo-Christian tradition.” J.D. Steinrucken.[1]

“All major cultures since the beginning of history have understood this concept of a universal order – all, that is, except postmodern western culture.” Charles Colson et al.[2]

Western nations have until recently believed their moral and ethical values had an extra-legal origin. If morality is just a set of accepted rules made by just another species of animal called homo-sapiens then they are no more than an evolved script that can always be re-written.  That is exactly what we have seen happen over the last 50 years.  The West has forgotten that no-one can assert something is right or wrong unless there is an independent and un-reproachable standard of right-ness, accepted as human virtue, from which wrong can be recognised. On their own laws are insufficient to guarantee ‘social solvency’

it was once accepted that human rights and their supporting moral code were unalienable and immutable.  They came from a recognised natural order that owed its origins to a first cause creator to whom all were accountable - God.  It might be possible to do away with God and still retain the code, providing it is regarded without question as innate and sacrosanct, but in societies that believe survival of the fittest and mindless genetic adaptation is the rule how likely is that?  It was once understood that no legal system confers rights, all they do is recognise and codify them. That is what lay behind the Magna Carta (great charter) of 1215, or the great English and American bills of rights. The rationale for these watershed declarations was the concept of natural justice. Certain rights were accepted as natural to ‘human-ness’.  Human-ness had to be based, for legitimacy and sure social navigation, on ‘rightness’, and rightness had to be about ‘goodness’ and truth.  From there a range of character traits and conventions are regarded as naturally right.  Bravery triumphs over cowardice, honesty is better than dishonesty, truth is superior to lies. More importantly the historic legislation enthroning natural rights were regarded as impervious to the role of the state and should not be subject to state control. This convention has been progressively and largely lost to the West in the last 50 years.  Its abrogation has been made possible by resort to the dictates of political correctness pertaining to ‘hate speech’, gender/sex politics and diversity.

Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury coordinated a peaceful revolution with the 25 so called ‘Surety Barons’ to get Magna Carta signed. Going back even further the Bible recorded in detail a system of social practice that emphasised the need for virtue, rights and social obligation, which from about the 6th Century, was spliced into the emerging post-Roman western civilisation. Behind it lay the idea that humans should enjoy rights to property possession, personal freedoms, justice and safety from harm caused by others.  They were accepted as transcendent and mandated by a God who had endowed us all with aspects of his character. Those characteristics will be explained when we get to the discussion on human potential (Part 2/22). Believing in human rights and other principles relating to family and individual character, going beyond any man-centred consensus (they are part of the natural order’s DNA) gives them an invulnerability that ensures their survival and endowers them with the power to convict oppression and tyranny.

It is very difficult to believe in objective truth and right-ness, without some sort of belief in a higher order that goes beyond revision. Without acceptance that there is a natural moral order human rights cease to be immutable and unalienable.  They are merely conferred or agreed to and reduced to legally or socially acceptable claims. That was never the western understanding, except under tyrants. The only legitimate basis for a legal system that will remain truly just is acceptance that rights are natural to individuals and cannot be taken from them. Western culture will disintegrate if this natural right protection is abandoned. Any redefinition will inevitably result in arbitrariness and submission to the capricious will of despots. Atheists who remain true to their creed recognise it, of necessity, lacks any foundation in natural law. Atheist Joel Marks puts it this way:

“I experienced my shocking epiphany that the religious fundamentalists are correct: without God there is no morality.  I now take the non-existence of a commander (God) as a kind of proof that there are no commands, i.e., morality…I became convinced that atheism implies amorality; and since I’m an atheist I must therefore embrace…’hard atheism’.”[3]

An innate recognition ranges across humanity that, in ‘good conscience’ certain things ought to be, even if the culture tends to work against them. All humans seem to have an inbred sense of equality and justice. There can be no higher law to which people may appeal in the presence of evil and oppression if human rights do not have a natural order origin which remains sacrosanct.  Without that acceptance, locally and internationally, humanity is left with nothing but a hopeful reliance on the vagaries of a benevolence those with power have no compelling reason to bestow.[4]  The American constitution and Bill of rights are now threatened with this vague benevolence as the justices in the Supreme court are divided on sticking to the actual intent of these documents.  It has now come perilously close to reinterpreting them as merely ‘living documents’, subject to change.

A transcendent natural law is anathema to any creed that raises ideology, or resignation to fate, above it.  That is exactly what lies behind the problem.  Liberalism is driven by an ideological creed, as is corporatism.  The western Church, on the other hand, is no longer holding to its creed, other than superficially.  It is therefore no longer in a position to be Western societies moral conscience; the social institution that reminds us that our values come from an order superior to evolutionary process.[5] The West has therefore become a ship without a moral compass.  It is only subject now to Marks’ hard atheism.   Under such a regime all that is left is positive law – a moral code found only in written legislation.  No cry for legislated freedom or justice can carry the weight of a natural right.  All it can do is appeal to a man-made legal framework, over which the people it will most effect have little control. James Madison, when framing the Virginia Declaration of Rights described natural law this way:

“…there are certain fundamental rights that follow from human nature.  These natural rights form the standard against which our laws are to be measured, and are not themselves created by the law.”[6]

Tocqueville, linked religion directly to politics by recognising it played no direct part but was nevertheless its most important component because it facilitated the presence and use of freedom. Locke, one of the fathers of our conception of rights, rooting them more tangentially in nature.  It affords humanity the means of survival, but only if individuals apply their labour and talents to make nature work for them.  Since each person alone, or with their nearest companions, creates the wealth of food and possessions necessary to first survive and then prosper, the fruit of their labour is, by any reasonable standard, theirs alone.  Any attempt to take it from them, against their wishes, is a form of evil coercion – an abrogation of natural rights.  Herein lies the idea of the autonomous individual imbued with rights and deserving of protection against the evils of theft, broken contract, the exploitation of labour (vassals and slaves), denial of justice, the expropriation of wealth and undue limitations on private property rights.  The only other element added to this, as already stated, was the requirement to have over it all a still higher authority to which people could appeal as the basis for their moral outrage and quest for justice – yes, God again.  Without that ultimate authority people have to rely on the unreliability of others’ best intentions and the often capricious nature of positive law (legislation).  Thus, both nature and religion are indivisibly tied.

American Supreme Court decisions during the liberal era illustrate what happens when this understanding is lost. The Court is defining rights by both limiting freedom and going well beyond the scope of natural rights to encompass special group privilege.  To avoid this recourse to decisions about rights should lie with the people, via referenda or votes by elected representatives, which are then open to the people’s final, ‘upper house’ approval via referenda.  If western society’s inclination to justice, freedom and equity is to be preserved the people must be given the power to exercise their Lockean naturally derived rights, tempered by the virtues sustained by a belief in Tocqueville’s ‘higher order’ – the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Western liberals cannot replace the Judeo-Christian foundations with anything as secure.  Even worse, as Roger Scruton explains, they have made a claim to a right a “non-negotiable privilege” which the state is obliged to protect even if it means trampling over the rights of others. Having a job, a higher education, a pension, a free-hold house, gay rights, and access to social welfare are claims which have been given natural right equivalency.  Marxist and fascist inspired liberals love these claims because it gives them the mandate to ride over natural rights to secure, through the state and judicial activism, special interest claims to privilege. Those who object are branded with the hot iron of political correctness. 

[1] J.D. Steinrucken, “Secularism’s Ongoing Debt to Christianity”, American Thinker, March 25, 2010.

[2] See How Now Shall We Live (1999), by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey.

[3] See his article ‘Hard Atheism’ in the journal Philosophy Now, Issue 80, Aug/Sept 2010, p.30. 

[4] For a good discussion on this point and other defences of the faith go to Mark Mittelberg and Lee Strobel’s 2010 book:  The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask.

[5] This is not to say the institutional Church has any direct role to play in government.  The two institutions should be kept separate but the socio-economic and political principles found in Christianity should be fused into the practices of government.

[6] Quote in Scruton’s (Editor) collection of essays under the title Liberty and Civilisation: The Western Heritage (2008).  

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