Dinesh D'Souza Reports. Bestselling author DINESH D’SOUZA’s latest book is What’s So Great About Christianity. read more
The Christian Roots of the West Posted Aug 7th 2008 12:46AM by Dinesh D'Souza Filed under: Christianity, History, Controversy, Atheism
What is the source of that liberty, equality and fraternity that are now the guiding principles of the West, if not the modern world?
Historians note the anomaly that these principles originated and developed only in Western civilization. In this sense, they are not universal. Of late, however, these principles are being exported to the rest of the world. One may say they are Western in origin but universal in their application.
But where do the principles come from? With the death of Heidegger and Sartre, Jurgen Habermas is now regarded as perhaps our leading living philosopher. Habermas is also an atheist. Yet when Habermas found out that the European Union in its charter gave full acknowledgement to ancient Greece and Rome, but none to Christianity, he erupted in learned outrage.
Habermas's argument is that it is philosophically illiterate to locate the roots of the West in Athens but not in Jerusalem. In fact, Habermas argues that Jerusalem--by which he means Judaism and Christianity--is far more responsible than Athens for the modern principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. In "A Time of Transition," Habermas writes:
For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love.
Habermas's point is that there is too much arrogance in contemporary atheism. Even the atheist is standing on mountain erected by Christianity. How ungrateful it is to scorn the mountain that is still holding you up! How ridiculous the posture of the man who cannot acknowledge the very foundation that sustains him from below!
This is what Christians mean when they say that America is a Christian society. This is not a call for theocracy or "rule of the priests" but rather a call for a public acknowledgement of the historic role of Christianity in shaping our institutions, our values and our culture. The opinions of several leading Supreme Court justices on church-and-state issues would benefit greatly from a slight familiarity with the history that Habermas is talking about.
Habermas's argument would have struck a chord with the greatest atheist of modern times, the philosopher Nietzsche. Nietzsche argued that if you want to get rid of the Christian God, at least have the honesty and the guts to repudiate the Christian ideals of human dignity, human equality and human liberty.
Yet our village atheists want to have it both ways. They want to reject God but preserve at least certain core aspects of the Christian legacy. Nietzsche would have had nothing but scorn for these little men of unbelief, Lilliputians hurling their tiny javelins at the Christian God while they continue to live off His inheritance. Permalink Linking Blogs Comments 
Reader Comments 1 2 3 4 5 Most Recent Next 15 Comments
1. DoubleD your post is as lame as modern miracles. Christian roots of the west would be asian (Middle Eastern). Would these core values of liberty, equality and fraternity exist if not for trhe force of arms that produced the Magna Carta, Martin Luthers stance of reforming the Catholic Church and breaking Romes monopoly on Christianity in Europe, the American Revolution that broke away from Britains monopoly on trade, Frances Revolution, the immigrants from the failed revolutions of central Europe. If anything, liberty, equality and fraternity were won with arms despite the recalcitrance of the church divinely giving these rights to man. You give too much credit to your church which was anti what you espouse. JefFlyingV at 1:17AM on Aug 7th 2008
2. Fairness requires us to acknowledge the role of Judeo-Christian beliefs in the history of Western thought. Now if we can just get D'Souza to acknowledge the Roman, Sumerian, etc. influences that helped shape Hebrew and Christian belief structures, some progress might be made. Skeptic at 1:25AM on Aug 7th 2008
3. Double if anything you are trying to convince us to open the eggs from the large side. Freedom of thought was not meant for the common man throughout the churches history. If anything the church is a late comer to espousing rights for humanity, granted the few Jesuits that arrived in Mexico shortly after the Aztecs were defeated by the Spaniards were humanitarians, but how long were they allowed to stay in the newly acquired empire of the New World? And How typical were these humanitarian Jesuits in influencing Rome? JefFlyingV at 1:33AM on Aug 7th 2008
4. No serious intellectual or scholar denies that the essence of "the West" is an amalgam of Graeco-Roman and Christian ideas. The only deniers are the little straw men that Dinesh D'Souza constructs to knock down so that he can then tout himself (ad nauseam) as the foremost defender of Christendom.However, just because Christian ideas are a key foundation of "the West" does not prove that Christianity is true, anymore than the fact that ancient Greek philosophy is another key foundation proves that the Greek gods are real. Logician at 1:38AM on Aug 7th 2008
6. must have been those christian greeks who came up with democracy and fraternity, zeus is just jesus written really sloppily right d'oucheza! dieter at 1:57AM on Aug 7th 2008
7. Personal liberty is NOT a christian invention. mac at 2:13AM on Aug 7th 2008