Is Christianity the origin of modern egalitarian liberalism?

Clark Coleman posted this comment in the discussion at Mangan’s:

The idea that Christianity is the source of modern, egalitarian anti-discrimination liberalism does not stand up to historical scrutiny. Have you wondered why egalitarian liberalism arose only in the most recent three centuries of a 20 century religion, if the religion is the source of it?

Thomas Sowell does a superb job of examining the history of ideas that led to modern liberalism in his favorite book, A Conflict of Visions. The punch line is that liberals and conservatives have a different conception of human nature, which leads to different conceptions of the limits of government and the origins of inequality. Liberals have the Jean Jacques Rousseau view that people are inherently good until imperfections in society cause them to be unhappy or ill-behaved or dysfunctional or whatever. Hence, liberals think that criminals are the “victims of society” and other such claptrap.

Conservatives believe that human nature has inherent weaknesses, hence we must (1) make great effort to mold children into self-controlled, moral adults, and (2) we had better not concentrate too much power in any one person or group of persons, who inevitably will use it corruptly (among other beliefs that I could list).

The implication for egalitarianism is that inequality will be explained by the liberal blaming it on “society” and its “structural discrimination” that must, in some unseen way even, be responsible for inequality, as all those inherently perfect human beings would not turn out so unequally otherwise. To deny this, as conservatives do, is to “blame the victim,” a phrase often heard from liberals.

Any honest examination of the history of ideas will lead one to conclude that the Rousseau view of perfect human nature is not compatible with Judeo-Christian scriptures, much less derived from them. It is a very recent, very modern conception that originated with French philosophers who were hardly profound Christians in any sense.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 21, 2009 10:36 PM | Send

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