Paul Budde's History Archives

Christianity, democracy and human rights.

Over the millennia we have continually improved our value system and especially Christian values have grown and developed into democratic values, global (UN) values, human rights. Christianity was open to gentiles and Jews, no longer exclusive to one tribe of set of people. In the 10th century a start was made with splitting the secular from the ecclesiastic.

The reformation addressed superstition and put more emphasis on free will. The Enlightenment started within the Christian tradition.

The Quakers played a key role in ending slavery. They were also the first to address gender equality. We are building on all these values and will develop them further.

The positive outcomes are often a result of a ‘civil war’ of thoughts and values within the Christian society, forces between progression and conservatism. It comes from within that traditions and is not forced upon from the outside. I see that as a very positive development, sometimes frustrating to see that we need to have these internal battles. However, looking back over two millennia one can clearly see positive progress.  These internal battles have continued through politics and other ideologies and is not unique to Christendom. However, for 1000 years Christendom was enormously dominant in the development of western thought.

Now, through our global institutions, values such as democracy and human rights are more and more accepted globally. This is because these values are no longer seen as Christian or Western values but as Human values, which is a great development. Human rights are not rights that are granted, they are innate to human beings. The universal nature of a global trend that slowly but steadily sees people accept human rights confirms this innate nature. Looking at it from Spinoza’s concept of Nature, one could even argue that these are natural rights and as such apply to all elements of Nature. Ecology, climate change, animal rights are issue that comes to mind here.

It shows how much global collaboration is needed to move forwards. By using our highly individual skills and powers within global collaboration we can achieve just and equal humanity. This is an interesting combination of our selfish and our innate social attributes. Kant describes this as ‘unsocial sociability (‘ungesellige Geselligkeit’).

It is important to keep in mind that humans always have a worse picture of the future and a rosy one of the pasts. Looking at the history of humanity there is enough reason to remain positive about the future as we have been able to overcome many problems in our history and personal lives.

While we are good at solving problems, we need to remain vigilant and work together to address the problems at hand and try to act before the problems arrive. In our complex world crises that we do not prevent out of human slackness, could lead to massive social and economic destruction, far beyond we have ever seen,

Kant hints to the fact that overtime humanity will learn how we can get better as this. He also mentioned that we cannot do this on our own but that we must do this as a species. So, globalisation remains the only way forward, divided we will fail.

Immanuel Kant

Philosophy