There was a recent conversation entitled “Is Christianity or Secular Humanism a better foundation for human rights?: A conversation Between a Christian and a Secular Humanist.”
Steve Kim was the moderator of the conversation. Kim earned “a diploma in Worship Arts and a BA in Biblical Studies from Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, BC. He has completed a master’s degree in Christian Apologetics through Biola University.”
Dr. Andy Bannister was the Christian side of the conversation. Bannister is the “Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and an Adjunct Speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries” and holds a “PhD in Islamic studies.”
Ian Bushfield was the Secular Humanist side of the conversation. Bushfield is the “Executive Director of the British Columbia Humanist Association” and “also the co-host of the PolitiCoast podcast.”
The dialogue covered a wide variety of subject matter including human rights, ontology, the Third Reich, the Silver Rule and the Golden Rule, varieties of societies around the world and across time, the source of morality, the binding nature of human rights, Down Syndrome, Canadian culture and Western civilization, reflections on Friedrich Nietzsche, good and evil in relation to human rights, metaphysical beliefs around morality, empowering people as part of ethics, relativism, rational discussions, and many others, especially entertaining and enjoyable because it was framed as and turned out as a “conversation” rather adversarial as a debate – and was covered in a humorous and respectful light. Kudos to Kim, Bannister, and Bushfield! Take a peak:
Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.
“Is Christianity or Secular Humanism a better foundation for human rights?”
I found this debate to be ok. That’s to say that nothing struck me as profound or persuasive. It also lacked focus, as evident in the numerous touched upon subjects.
Does Christianity or Secular Humanism provide the better foundation for human rights? I really don’t know, but I think Christianity may have a slight edge. As I understood it, the humanist grounds human rights in humans. It’s ground, therefore, can be no deeper than the ground we walk on. Since we all walk on different grounds, the humanists basis for human rights is – philosophically – relative to space and time. In this model, there can be no objective basis for human rights. I’ll note that there was an attempt to ground human rights in, perhaps, evolutionary biology; I would think approach has some merit for the secular humanist perspective, but it needs more support.
I can’t say much about the Christian perspective, but there is something to the idea of grounding human rights in a transcendent person (whether true or not). In this equation, the often used notion of “inherent human rights” finds an actual ontological ground. If something is inherent, than it has, by definition, a permanent and essential quality to its character.
The humanistic position, as the speaker admitted, is relativistic, and therefore contradicts the very notion of something fundamentally inherent. The secular humanist can only say “human rights” but, as far as I can tell, he cannot consistently say “inherent human rights” because relativism cannot have an absolute, essential, or inherent anything: everything exists only in relation to culture, social, or historical contexts.
At most, it seems, the secular humanists can only spout platitudes – and that’s mostly what I heard – but he cannot ground human rights in anything essential. The Christian, however, has an actual framework and language for grounding human rights in a foundation that transcends all those millions of humans walking about.