On the death of God

Nicholas Wolterstorff asks whether human rights can survive.



Nicholas Wolterstorff asks whether human rights can survive.


Does the death of God imply the death of morality? I think that’s not true. There are people who don’t believe in God, atheists who – many of them anyway – are still highly moral. And some of them can give an account of sorts, a Kantian account that morality is grounded in our ability to engage in rational agency and so forth.

But I do think that when we’re talking about rights, natural rights, the fact that the idea of natural rights emerged out of medieval Christendom leads one to wonder, anyway, whether it can survive the death of, not just Christianity, but the death of theistic religion in general.

If we in Western society are destined to (by and large) become atheists, secularists, one naturally asks what long-term effect – probably not immediate effect, but what long-term effect does that have on how we think about moral issues? We can still think in terms of happiness and so forth, but would there be any basis left for rights, duty, obligation, things like that?