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Old 02-25-2009, 07:39 AM   #91
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I think the issue here is "What are rights?"

Speaking only of "animal" rights, I would suggest that domesticated animals deserve and should have some basic rights which I don't think anyone would disagree to (the right to shelter, food, water etc). These "rights" appear, to me, to be very similar to those basic human rights that we all (I hope) believe are acceptable to humankind and given that these animals are domesticated for our use (as either pets, working animals or for consumption) then to not would, it appears to me, be against our own moral/religious/political beliefs.

The argument above seems more along the lines of whether or not animals and humans are equal.

No we are not.

Human beings have capabilities that animals do not - our brains are "apparently" more highly developed (though sometimes I wonder about this) - but, on the other side of the coin how many of us can do many of the things that animals must be able to do to either survive or exist on this planet, as they have developed their own unique characteristics to survive on Earth. Not being equal, however, does not make us better or worse than the other species on the planet, it makes us different. I do believe though, that with our supposedly increased powers of reasoning we would be able to have some respect and compassion for the other beings on this planet. Given, however, our own dreadful history of atrocities towards each other, I often wonder how we can consider ourselves a "higher" species and doubt that this will ever be the case (much to our own downfall).

Looking at the "rights" of animals in the wild, shouldn't it also be a given that these animals should have somewhere to live, food to eat and water to drink?

As human beings with our supposedly superior brains, we contaminate the planet, destroy environments and then have the audacity to use a variety of arguments to justify why these animals can't have "rights".


Maybe I am simplifying the whole "rights" process, or have missed the point, but lets face it, if your house was going to be knocked down or you didn't have clean drinking water or you had no food - how would you react?
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Old 02-25-2009, 07:43 AM   #92
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Totally off topic


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Old 02-25-2009, 08:55 AM   #93
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Old 02-25-2009, 03:15 PM   #94
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Are you stating that these are ideas that are unique to Christianity?
Cause if you are, I would have to disagree with you on that one.

I would argue that the idea of there being something greater, than even the leader of a given group, is a long standing tradition, dating before Christianity - except it used to generally be polytheistic rather than monotheistic. Simple example: (para)vedic tradition. In fact, I would argue that such a notion is a motif, a common thread that occurs in many cultures.

And the greeks were all into the idea of freedoms and human rights. And I'm pretty sure they weren't Christian.
You'll get no argument from me on the influence of the Greeks on Western politics, philosophy, art, reasoning, patriotic duty, citizenship et cetera. But they never argued that rights were universal, equality was for all and not just Greek citizens. Not only was slavery commonplace it was rarely even criticized. Understanding that "slave" has many meanings depending on the era and the countries and peoples involved. The same for women and rights.
Again, we didn't arrive at our modern notions of "rights" overnight so who knows how they may have evolved in Greece (Athens in particular) given another 2000 years. But I'd like to think that Christianity grew from an outlawed cult into the dominate world-view not only because of a theology that seemed more relevant to people's lives but also because the philosophy seemed to point the way forward.

Part of that philosophy is that humans are distinct from the other creatures.
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Old 02-25-2009, 05:24 PM   #95
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You are building an argument for Christianity based on abolition and women's rights, I think that point needs some corroborating evidence.

You have a 1500 year gap, including the Dark Ages, between "man jumping on the right track" and the beginnings of abolition and women's rights (that had to wait even longer).

I would submit that human progress would have continued regardless of Christianity, and it is entirely possible that without it what we consider to be western civilization would still have emerged (but that is pure speculation, if not for Christianity then there probably wouldn't be an Islam, and history could play out quite differently).

We've had progressive crusades, progressive pogroms, progressive incinerations, progressive tortures, progressive slavery, progressive misogyny, progressive iconoclasm, progressive temperance, progressive indulgences, progressive etc.

Christianity (as some monolithic blob) has at various times enabled all these things, and a late stage adoption by some Christians of radical humanist causes doesn't undo that history. It will be the same revisionist story in 50 years time when the megachurches pretend that they were at the forefront of gay marriage because it's socially acceptable.
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Old 02-25-2009, 06:26 PM   #96
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You are building an argument for Christianity based on abolition and women's rights, I think that point needs some corroborating evidence.

You have a 1500 year gap, including the Dark Ages, between "man jumping on the right track" and the beginnings of abolition and women's rights (that had to wait even longer).

I would submit that human progress would have continued regardless of Christianity, and it is entirely possible that without it what we consider to be western civilization would still have emerged (but that is pure speculation, if not for Christianity then there probably wouldn't be an Islam, and history could play out quite differently).

We've had progressive crusades, progressive pogroms, progressive incinerations, progressive tortures, progressive slavery, progressive misogyny, progressive iconoclasm, progressive temperance, progressive indulgences, progressive etc.

Christianity (as some monolithic blob) has at various times enabled all these things, and a late stage adoption by some Christians of radical humanist causes doesn't undo that history. It will be the same revisionist story in 50 years time when the megachurches pretend that they were at the forefront of gay marriage because it's socially acceptable.
Yes, well the Enlightenment that gave us the American Revolution also led to the French and Russian Revolutions.

Women's rights evolved through marriage first, from being mostly arranged to being consensual. And slavery, while never disappearing, certainly became less common. Economies in Europe were no longer based on the practice. And people were arguing against it. The Catholic church prohibiting it in medieval times. Slavery still exists today, in the 21st Century as do barbaric practices towards women. But not in Western societies.

My only premise, simple as it may be, is that human rights arose from Western Civilization and Western Civilization has been predominately Christian. And in fact today, the freest peoples live in predominantly Christian countries or countries one time ruled or rebuilt by such.

Your premise seems to be that the next evolution in human rights is the abandonment of Judeo-Christian philosophy and an embracement of secularism and scientism.
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Old 02-25-2009, 06:42 PM   #97
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My premise is that Christianity is not an ethical system (I don't consider collective guilt and vicarious redemption through blood sacrifice as an appropriate base for morality; and biblical law is horrific off the bat, for instance how many commandments do you really obey?), that we have workable legal systems that don't appeal to religion, and that a society that embraces a secular public culture is generally more moral than any theocracy.

I'll also point out the implicit message which you appear to convey, that without Christianity people will become barbarians. I don't think this holds in western societies.

You say secularism as if its a negative, when it is practically a defining feature of free societies, the separation of church and state guarantees freedom of religion (or lack thereof), how would you feel if the laws you are subject to were built around Catholic or Islamic doctrine? What right do you have for asserting that your worldview ought to be the basis for society rather than some other dogma, because I don't think that your historical claims add up (Jefferson was not really a Christian and he understood the importance of liberty)
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Old 02-26-2009, 12:57 AM   #98
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i listened to something the other day on NPR that was fascinating.

in a nutshell, this very religious man, this Christian, rejected the notion of Christ as divine. he thinks he was more like a prophet, and he served a purpose -- his teachings tell us that our relationship with God begins with how we treat other people. and that's about it. he thought the idea that God sent his "Only Son" to earth to be tortured and crucified through the blood sacrifice is an absolutely ghastly notion. but more importantly, what it has done is seal into the Western brain the notion of redemptive violence. that violence is often justified, that pain purifies.

that cannot be the way forward for human rights, that only provides justifications for violence.

the interview was kind of a revelation, honestly. the idea of worshiping a nearly naked, tortured human being gives a nobility to violence that perpetuates its existence.

but, anyway ...
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Old 02-26-2009, 02:34 AM   #99
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But the Enlightenment being the product of the West and the then accepted virtues of Christianity (new and dangerous 1500 years prior) and the resulting freedoms, but also the abuses of Christendom.
Why abuses of "Christendom"? Were the actions of King John, against which the barons rebelled with the Magna Carta, abuses of some prior "Christian" notion of what the balance of power between monarchs and aristocrats ought to look like? When Locke argued against Hobbes that indeed citizens do have the right to overthrow a sovereign who acts without regard for their rights, was he upholding some prior "Christian" doctrine about the political rights of citizens relative to sovereigns? Why didn't Jesus declare that all Roman subjects ought to have equal political rights and be empowered to effect the replacement of 'Caesar' with someone else, if these were such critical corollary precepts of the religion he founded?

ANY ideology or sentiment entertaining the notion that a group of people collectively bear loyalties towards each other 'greater' than those arising from their shared allegiance to a sovereign--and there are many such ideologies and sentiments, from tribalism to monotheism to nationalism and beyond--will be considered "dangerous" by authoritarian rulers, particularly if they prove unamenable to adaptation by said rulers to their benefit.
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Another Christian concept, no less crazy: the concept of equality of souls before God. This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights."
-- Nietzsche
Somehow I suspect you're quoting Nietzsche opportunistically here, and without regard for his broader views on the role of religion in shaping culture. Yes, Nietzsche did write that (as part of a fragmentary passage in his journals, not in the context of a developed argument in a published work); he also argued, at much greater length, that both Judaism and Christianity were "slave moralities" strategically propagated by their founders for the express purpose of maintaining collective self-valuation in the face of humiliation and oppression, by reframing the qualities associated with slavedom as virtues--an idea I suspect you'd be far less sympathetic to. Like Kierkegaard or Camus, Nietzsche was as much poet and storyteller as philosopher, and his vision of intellectual history is filled with thought-provoking, often brilliantly eloquently put, yet also undeniably eccentric and quixotic leaps of metaphor. And he lived and wrote during the post-Enlightenment ferment of late 19th-century Europe, in the long political shadow of Locke's particular formulation of rights doctrine; any thinker looking to interrogate such ideas had no choice but to do so at least partially on Locke's terms, even if only to reject them. This isolated quote is of no use as 'proof' that Christianity is in itself the source of "all theories of equal rights."
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Constantine legalized Christianity in 313 AD opening up Western civilization to the Christian ideas of:
1) the notion of something greater than the State or Caesar
2) morality being based on something objective and not the subjective whims of humans
3) the rejection of Paganism
4) equality before God (Galatians 3:28 being just one example)
5) criticism of slavery
6) individual freedom (hinted at by Socrates)
1) As I already commented a couple paragraphs above, this was not a new idea. Nor did it prove immune to self-serving imperial expropriation, which Constantine in fact "opened it up to." Much as, for example, Samuel had done for Judaism, transforming a clan-based society into a theocratic monarchy.
2) As opposed to the teachings of who or what? Thrasymachus in Plato's Republic? Aristotle didn't teach this, neither did Seneca, neither did Judaism...just for starters.
3) So what? Paganism makes authoritarianism, slavery, legally institutionalized patriarchy, etc. inevitable?
4) We are talking in this thread about legal and political equality. Not the metaphysical equality (to be realized only in the afterlife) professed by those who meanwhile adopt a quietist stance on real-world inequality. Again to use a Jewish example: pre-Classical Judaism taught that all nations were equally God's 'children' and that God has great plans for many of them; but that clearly didn't stop Jews from declaring that God doesn't give a damn and in fact approves of it when those who are more advanced in virtue conquer and rule over those who are deemed morally deficient. Nonetheless conquered peoples were allowed to continue operating according to their own laws, so long as this didn't necessitate Jewish participation in anything which violated Jewish law.
5) Not to any unique or unprecedented degree, not at all. He forbade branding of slaves on their faces and the breakup of slave families (save for infants, who unlike his pagan predecessor Diocletian he permitted to be sold); that's about it. Muhammad also introduced several reforms that modestly improved the legal and social standing of slaves; would you say based on that that abolitionism is an "Islamic" idea?
6) You cannot meaningfully talk about true individual liberty before the emergence of a cultural ethos characterized by individualism, and there's no way you could characterize any culture in the world at that time as individualistic.
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But I'd like to think that Christianity grew from an outlawed cult into the dominate world-view not only because of a theology that seemed more relevant to people's lives but also because the philosophy seemed to point the way forward.
Well, I'm sure you'd like to think that...I'd like to think the Jewish belief that God's indivisibility and immanence entails universal human obligations to pursue justice for others continues to have a vital role to play in all kinds of social justice campaigns, too. But just because some particular person or persons associated with a religion happened to author some work(s) of lastingly enduring influence on certain modern political, social or cultural institutions, doesn't mean that we can cite that as "validation" of the religion or its broader intellectual system in general. Nor that if we reject some particular idea associated with it, then all the other ideological influences that tradition has had on us are doomed to come crashing down like a house of cards.
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Part of that philosophy is that humans are distinct from the other creatures.
But no traditional worldview argues otherwise; the closest thing to an 'opposite' would be the various religions in which sacred status is ascribed to certain particular animals (which doesn't mean those animals are 'treated like people' in practice). In some strains of Hinduism and its descendant religions, vegetarianism and related rejection of products derived from the killing of animals are practiced, but this is understood as part of the broader cultivation of ahimsa, the virtue of nonviolence, rather than a consequence of theological assertions concerning the metaphysical equality of humans and animals. For that matter, none of the actual philosophers affiliated with animal rights advocacy argue that humans are 'indistinct' from animals either, or that we should put animal lives before human lives when the two come into direct contest.
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Women's rights evolved through marriage first, from being mostly arranged to being consensual.
I wouldn't describe marriage, in Western history or any other, as a device likely adopted for furthering 'women's rights' as such; rather, by institutionalizing paternal responsibility for one's children, it ensured pregnant women's families wouldn't be strapped with responsibility for them, while also providing opportunities for the forging of mutually profitable ties between prospective spouses' families. As such it's unsurprising that in Western history, arranged marriage lasted much longer among the aristocracy than anyone else; not because they were 'less enlightened' or 'less Christian,' but because they simply had more to gain (or lose) where marriage contracts were concerned.
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And slavery, while never disappearing, certainly became less common. Economies in Europe were no longer based on the practice. And people were arguing against it. The Catholic church prohibiting it in medieval times.
What specific prohibition are you referring to there? I think the rise of serfdom as the primary means of organizing production was at least as important as the rise of individualism and the development of liberal democracy in laying the grounds for mass receptivity to a reconsideration of the morality of slavery. Serfdom may have been no great improvement from a quality-of-life standpoint but, roughly put, it at least got the higher-ups largely out of the habit of perceiving those who did their dirty work as useful pieces of product who could be bought and sold in their person. Nonetheless, slavery (not of Christians, granted--but many societies historically limited their slave pool to 'Others') remained a feature of medieval European life; many of the Crusaders brought (Muslim) slaves back with them from the 'Holy Land,' for instance. If anything, the arrival of the colonial era was a setback for any 'progress' the 'Christian world' could've been said to have made concerning slavery--although, precisely because of the new ways in which these colonial slaveholders justified their mass enslavement of conquered peoples (along racial lines: the 'innate heathenness' of Indios and Africans), new arguments against such hierarchical classifications of humans emerged in response...the School of Salamanca, for example.
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My only premise, simple as it may be, is that human rights arose from Western Civilization and Western Civilization has been predominately Christian. And in fact today, the freest peoples live in predominantly Christian countries or countries one time ruled or rebuilt by such.
Indeed, it may be a bit too simple; it is a correlation=causation premise, and those are always suspect. Might the historical contrasts to the 'progress' of human rights in the non-Western-yet-predominantly-Christian former empire of Ethiopia, and the both-Western(?)-and-predominantly-Christian former empire of Russia, be relevant here? Why did Ethiopia fail to produce a Locke, Montesquieu or Hegel despite many centuries of Christian rule; why did Christian Russia remain so pervasively characterized politically by authoritarianism at the center and collectivism at the popular level--yes, even before socialism!--while constitutional republicanism and individualism were progressing dramatically in Western Europe? Is it possible that the historical trajectory of Western European political thought is simply unique in ways that defy easy causative attribution to any one cultural institution?
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Your premise seems to be that the next evolution in human rights is the abandonment of Judeo-Christian philosophy and an embracement of secularism and scientism.
'Secularism' and 'scientism' emerged from the 'Judeo-Christian' world just as surely as liberal democracy did, and like liberal democracy bear the imprint of all kinds of decidedly non-theological forces at work in their cultural milieu of origin: power struggles between the landed classes and the monarchy; the opening up to new (or in many cases old) ideas through increased international trade; technological and scientific advancements fundamentally driven by profit motives but increasingly funded by an ascendant merchant class rather than Church or State; etc. etc. Darwin wasn't causally determined as an intellectual by a deep-seated desire to 'stick it' to the Church any more than Locke was, even though both of them argued for things that made some religious authorities very angry.

Likewise, the proposition that perhaps animals warrant certain limited legal rights emerges not from a drive to 'torpedo' Christianity nor the basic political values you're attempting to credit it with, but rather from an honest evaluation of the existing philosophical justifications for rights (and whom we must extend them to) which leads, for some, to the conclusion that these justifications cannot be rationally reconciled with an absolute denial of rights to all animals. In light of which I must point out that you still have not articulated a *reason-based* line of argument as to why all humans deserve rights independent of their mental or physical capacities, yet all animals categorically do not. "All people are equal in the eyes of God" is--at best--an argument why if you're going to grant rights to some people you must grant them to all people. It does not answer the questions, why must we grant people specific legal rights at all, and how does the answer to that 'why' innately rule out granting any rights whatsoever to animals.
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Old 02-26-2009, 03:04 AM   #100
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The only, and sole, point of Christianity is the example and teachings of Jesus Christ, as best as they've been recorded in the written Gospels. They certainly do constitute an ethical system (best summed up as love thy neighbour and walk with humility), but I'd hesitate to say that any society has ever paid more than passing service to them.

How we treat the animals, I think the scriptures leave up to us. They do have a bit to say about good stewardship, though. A steward is someone who tends affairs in anticipation of the real boss returning at some - possibly unknown - future point.

And I'm boring myself just typing. Toodaloo.
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Old 02-26-2009, 09:30 AM   #101
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in a nutshell, this very religious man, this Christian, rejected the notion of Christ as divine...he thought the idea that God sent his "Only Son" to earth to be tortured and crucified through the blood sacrifice is an absolutely ghastly notion. but more importantly, what it has done is seal into the Western brain the notion of redemptive violence. that violence is often justified, that pain purifies.
...
the interview was kind of a revelation, honestly. the idea of worshiping a nearly naked, tortured human being gives a nobility to violence that perpetuates its existence.
But this seems to confuse the exalting of suffering for a cause with the exalting of inflicting suffering for a cause, and those are quite different things. I don't find this idea that Christianity inevitably predisposes its adherents to mass violence any more convincing than the idea that it inevitably predisposes them to great advancements in human rights; the former seems unwarrantedly fatalistic and the latter unwarrantedly triumphalist.

Christianity, and Buddhism as well, occupy I think a rather curious place in their respective cultural spheres in terms of their historic roles in shaping political ethics: both lay claim to universal and transcendent truths in a way that has obviously inspired quests for mass conversion; yet compared to their 'parent' religions, both rest quite narrowly upon the spiritual teachings of one individual who in fact had little to say about what the enactment of those teachings at the political level should look like--what form a 'good Christian polity' or a 'good Buddhist polity' ought to take. In theory, this makes them very amenable to peaceful adoption by a diverse array of peoples, and very flexible in adapting to politically salient changes occasioned by various historical forces--as opposed to Islam, Judaism and Hinduism, which generally spell out in considerably more detail how society ought to be organized and social power distributed, and historically have often fiercely resisted various social and political reforms as a result. Yet it also makes them vulnerable to disaffectation and disenchantment aroused by the consequent seeming arbitrariness of appeals to 'Christianity' or 'Buddhism' as justifications for new political ideals, the elaborate attempts to tease out of their scriptures what in truth almost certainly isn't in them...and no more so than at times when realizing those new ideals leads to violence--one thing their founders did unambiguously condemn--being waged in their names. (Buddhism has absolutely been spread 'by the sword' at various times in history, and even today we see at least one example of explicitly Buddhist powermongering in the monk-led Buddhist paramilitaries of Sri Lanka, with their pretensions at being the guardians of Sinhalese cultural dominance over the non-Buddhist Tamils.) I wouldn't say this makes them inherently more vulnerable to charges of real-world hypocrisy than, say, Islam, except perhaps to a certain sort of all-or-nothing mind; but it does seem to me that they're perhaps unique in the kinds of skepticism their founders' silence on political ethics leaves them open to. Their perhaps at times unnerving malleability.
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How we treat the animals, I think the scriptures leave up to us. They do have a bit to say about good stewardship, though.
For what it's worth, while the 'Judeo-' philosophy towards animals is far from monolithic, I'd say the general idea you just suggested--that we do have certain ethical obligations towards animals, ones related to the concept of 'stewardship'--is common to all Jewish thinking on the topic from classical times (i.e. Talmud) to the present. It really couldn't be otherwise, since Jewish law explicitly prescribes at least a few moral obligations towards animals: work animals may not be muzzled; recreational hunting is forbidden; work animals must be fed and watered before the humans of the household eat and drink; animals cannot be 'mutilated' (literally, limbs or digits amputated) to prevent their escape; slaughter must be achieved by one swift deep slash of the throat with a perfectly smooth and very sharp blade (which until modern times was the most reliable way to make it as painless as possible); work animals, like people, must be rested one day per week; one must do whatever one can to relieve an animal in pain--even if it means breaking the Sabbath, and even if it's not one's own animal--whether that means stopping to remove a thorn from its mouth or paw, or carrying some of its burden yourself if you can see it's hurting from a too-heavy load. Etc., etc. The Talmud cites Proverbs 12:10 as the unifying ethic underlying these rules: "The righteous man has regard for the soul of his animal, [but] the caretaking of the unjust is cruelty." (Nevesh doesn't mean "soul" in the Christian metaphysical sense; I'm translating it that way based on the colloquial sense found in 'soul-mate,' since that's the closest thing I can think of to what the Hebrew here suggests. And racham, "caretaking," literally means 'womb,' but the sense conveyed here is 'mothering,' i.e. one's approach to 'parenting' one's animals.)
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Old 02-26-2009, 07:16 PM   #102
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Old 02-27-2009, 02:14 PM   #103
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But they never argued that rights were universal, equality was for all and not just Greek citizens. Not only was slavery commonplace it was rarely even criticized. Understanding that "slave" has many meanings depending on the era and the countries and peoples involved. The same for women and rights.
.

Are you kidding me?

Sorry, but what was the predominate religion of the American South? Oh....right right, those cotton pickers weren't slaves, they were totally different from the slaves the Greeks had. What endless progress has been made!

And equality and rights for all? Equality and rights for all as long as you were white and christian, and not lower class maybe?
What of the crusades?




Also, with regards to applying to everyone, not just citizens:
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In part because Stoicism played a key role in its formation and spread, Roman law similarly allowed for the existence of a natural law and with it—pursuant to the jus gentium (“law of nations”)—certain universal rights that extended beyond the rights of citizenship. According to the Roman jurist Ulpian, for example, natural law was that which nature, not the state, assures to all human beings, Roman citizens or not.
Given your arguments that hey, things have changed over the ages and rights have developed, having a few rights that were recongized as belonging to all humans seems pretty progressive. Annnnd, it seems they beat the Christians to it.
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Old 03-01-2009, 06:28 AM   #104
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Old 03-01-2009, 01:44 PM   #105
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You say secularism as if its a negative, when it is practically a defining feature of free societies, the separation of church and state guarantees freedom of religion (or lack thereof), how would you feel if the laws you are subject to were built around Catholic or Islamic doctrine? What right do you have for asserting that your worldview ought to be the basis for society rather than some other dogma, because I don't think that your historical claims add up (Jefferson was not really a Christian and he understood the importance of liberty)

I'm not arguing this except secular government did not develop in a religious vacuum. The ethos that produced it and has sustained it has as a basic ingredient the teachings of the Bible which have been reinforced and passed on in the law, literature, art, churches et cetera. I recognize the need for a secular government but not a secular populace. The new paradigm which you must defend, however, states "religion poisons everything" (Hitchens), "religion is dangerous" (Dawkins) or that "religion is ridiculous" (Maher).
Since I don't argue for a theocracy in any form I dare say I'm much more accepting of secularism than the new wave of atheists are of religion.
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