Samuel Moyn sums up a complex historical through-line – and its dark side.
I think that Christians are not going to get as much credit as some might like for the specific idea that there are going to be these entitlements that accrue to individuals no matter what, and on a basis of full equality, and then defended in politics, law, and international law. There’s some input.
I think Christianity probably gets much more – certainly gets much more credit for human values. But they also get credit for the way those values that seem so uplifting in the Sermon on the Mount and other early statements get applied, because Christians have gotten to be not just the bearers of value, of uplifting values, but also the wielders of power – whether it was setting up states; founding the biggest empires that have ever existed to date; setting up the largest system of slavery that the world has ever known; subsequently doing a lot to overthrow it. So Christian values have been a major contribution and the main one, but not without its own dark side.