This Monday is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was a great achievement. Nobody publicly disapproves of human rights. They are too important.
But as soon as we ask what these things are, we get into trouble. Nobody has seen them. Do they really exist? Or are they, as Jeremy Bentham argued, ‘nonsense on stilts’? Positive rights are easily recognised: buy a bus ticket, have a right to ride on the bus. The right is granted by a known authority. Human rights, on the other hand, are a type of natural rights, and appeal beyond all human authorities. To what?
Britain has been the laughing-stock of Europe for a couple of years, but I write this at a time when it seems in complete disarray, with government ministers campaigning like fury against each other.
The presenting issue is Brexit, but Brexit alone cannot explain the depth of hostilities.
THIS WAS the title of the Modern Church South West group day conference in Bath last month, led by Stephen Parsons, author of survivingchurch.org.
The seeds for this day conference were sown at the Modern Church annual conference in July 2017 when Stephen told some of us about his research on the subject.