Rowan Williams considers our options for anchoring a strong sense of human value.
There’s an ongoing debate about the foundations of human rights and how far religion has a place in securing that. I do believe personally it’s quite difficult to sustain the kind of absolute doctrine of human rights in the long run unless there’s some notion that human beings relate to something more than just other human beings’ desires and opinions. The religious perspective says every human being relates from the word go to another order, another reality, which is the divine, the sacred. Everyone is, so to speak, plugged into that network. Whatever a society may do, whatever an individual may think, that relationship with the depth of reality is there.
Now, it may or may not be true that you can carry on pragmatically believing in human rights without that. But it’s a very, very robust anchorage for human rights, if you do think that. And I am not too optimistic about it surviving indefinitely without something like that.