Without Christianity there is no good argument for human rights. Without the language of religion, there is no way to say that all men are equal. That’s the thrust of Douthat and Robinson’s arguments. Well, so what? What’s so great about human rights? What so great about regarding each person as equal to others in moral standing? Is there answer? If there is, if Douthat and Robinson can say what’s so great about equality and rights in secular terms, then they’ve undermined their original argument. If failing to believe in human rights or human equality would lead to intolerable consequences, then it seems we can just cut out the theology and point directly at the intolerable consequences by way of grounding our support for human rights and human equality.
A few years ago, actually going on probably 5 now, I was fortunate enough to see the late Christopher Hitchens debate an Emory University theology professor in Atlanta. One thing he said during a rebuttal was that, look, the Jews lasted 40 years in the dessert before they received any moral code from God. Do you really think they had no idea that murder was bad?
That sounds really flip. But I find myself using that rebuttal consistently. I think it’s actually quite salient.