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On Christianity and human rights: a mixed bag

Summary

Samuel Moyn says the influence of Jesus on our understanding of humans has not been straightforward.

Summary

Samuel Moyn says the influence of Jesus on our understanding of humans has not been straightforward.

Transcript

I don’t doubt that Jesus Christ in particular brought about a revolution in thinking of people as equal in the sight of God. Later this idea of moral equality became an ideal of political equality, and there’s no doubt that that’s caused the world to change drastically. Now of course, part of that change is the creation of secular versions of this idea of moral and political equality that have been advanced by non-Christians and non-religious people.

When we get to the 20th century, it seems that the idea of dignity was made important by those who insisted that the state should have limits. And that’s surely made a big difference – except that sometimes the state needs to get bigger. Maybe the state’s the agent that is going to create political equality, especially when it comes to things like economic equality.

So I think it’s just a mixed bag. These are ideas that we have to credit with great innovation, but it doesn’t mean that those who hear them won’t act in surprising ways.