A reader writes:
You speak of human rights as possibly being viewed as "contingent human achievements." But in the world view of fundamentalists there is no such thing as contingent human achievement, no evolution of development - simply a created order that got messed up in the garden, and has not improved much since, and awaits the return of Christ. The only advancements are technological, not moral - for we ever are as we ever were, save for God's dipping his hand in from time to time to help bring things into better focus, and of course sending in his Son.
However, give humankind a real evolutionary background, which reveals a history of moral development and we see that regardless of who, what or whether there is a God, this achievement is valuable to humankind and to be valued by humankind on its own terms.
In a world without an evolutionary view of ourselves, the Fall explained our shortcomings, and God our moral insights. For many, a directed moral path now requires neither.
I'm somewhere in between. I do not believe that human nature is subject to much change, but I do believe that our intelligence and civilization and institutions can harness, restrain and prevent that human nature from doing its worst. That is the essence of my conservatism, and it couldn't be more alien from the Wilsonian fundamentalism of a liberal like Michael Gerson. The West, in my view, has managed to achieve the restraint of human nature and the establishment of individual liberty by a series of accidents, economic and social shifts, great thinkers and prudent leaders. This is an entirely human achievement, as politics always is. Much of it was achieved as a direct response to religious rule.
I fear that the Christianists, whatever their intentions, have no real respect for or understanding of this inheritance. Which is why they have done so much damage to it, and why their president is such a threat to it. Iraq is an exemplum of a theological mindset with no understanding of the deep human achievement of order and law. It has created hell. If we let these people stay in power, more hell awaits.