Human Rights and God


Most of the time, however, when people say that our rights come from God what they are most concerned about affirming is that those rights are not created by human beings. That, it seems to me, is true, or else there are no human rights at all.

But why could what we understand as human rights not be, in fact, the contingent achievement of a contingent civilization, i.e. the West? And why can these rights not be defended as contingent human achievements that have advanced human dignity and well-being? It seems to me that the mark of the epistemological conservative is precisely a capacity to defend the contingent without illusions and with passion. I can see, in other words, why many would ascribe such rights to God, but not why they can only be ascribed to God. But this is, I guess, a deep divide within conservatism - between those of us who see no reason why humanists and secularists cannot defend the West on contingent grounds and those who believe that only transcendent faith can defend a contingent constitution.