Nicholas Wolterstorff’s new book argues human rights must be grounded in theism. Simone Chambers counters:
Wolterstorff is implying that the category of the severely impaired will become something like the category of the fetus. Only the theist, and perhaps even only a theist who holds the view of God’s love that Wolterstorff articulates, can stay true to the proposition, “human beings, all of them, are irreducibly precious.” Forget about what secularists say, how they act, their stated convictions and moral commitments. Their philosophy is bad, and therefore they will be unable to sustain the practice.
This is the deeply problematic assumption, for which no evidence is given, that underlies Wolterstorff’s claim that human rights depend on keeping theism alive and well. This claim does not follow from the philosophical attack on secular arguments, which while I disagree with them, I find enhance rather than detract from the debate. The claim that only theism can sustain the practice and protection of human rights in the long haul is a stand-alone claim about the secularist’s moral commitments. It assumes that the moral commitment to the principle that all humans have dignity will disappear if the philosopher cannot make the slam dunk case for it. Thank goodness moral commitment does not work that way.
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