Sunday, January 29, 2017


We are inundated with the concerns of human rights, their origins and the confusion of individual rights and groups, particularly as individual rights are mediated by groups. A current debate concerns the relationship between the concept of "liberty" and parallel notions that arose at the same time. Is free trade involved? Science and scientific thinking? The movement away from agriculture? There is a lot of debate and it is intense; here is one of the more disputed ideas: 

In his recent book Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, political theorist Larry Siedentop hints that Christian doctrine, in the form of the ideas set forth by St. Paul, is the necessary foundation for liberal individualism and that the ideas of rights not only emerged from a particular context, but could not have emerged elsewhere, and perhaps could not be realized at all without the necessary theological context. Siedentop argues that it was St. Paul’s message that made liberal individualism possible. According to Siedentop, St. Paul’s "understanding of the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection introduced to the world a new picture of reality. It provided an ontological foundation for “the individual,” through the promise that humans have access to the deepest reality as individuals rather than merely as members of a group."
And read this shocking excerpt from the writings of the lawyer, Pope Innocent IV, about the year 1250 where he writes about the rights of non-Christians:

"I maintain . . . that lordship, possession and jurisdiction can belong to infidels licitly and without sin, for these things were made not only for the faithful but for every rational creature as has been said. For he makes his sun to rise on the just and the wicked and he feeds the birds of the air, Matthew c.5, c.6. Accordingly we say that it is not licit for the pope or the faithful to take away from infidels their belongings or their lordships or jurisdictions because they possess them without sin."

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