In a wide-ranging essay on the decay of Europe and its lessons for America, Roger Scruton observes that the notion of human rights has filled the gap left by the decline of religion:
Europe is rapidly jettisoning its Christian heritage and has found nothing to put in the place of it save the religion of “human rights.” . . . The notion of a human right purports to offer the ground for moral opinions, for legal precepts, for policies designed to establish order in places where people are in competition and conflict. However, it is itself without foundations. If you ask what religion commands or forbids, you usually get a clear answer in terms of God’s revealed law or the magisterium of the church. If you ask what rights are human or natural or fundamental, you get a different answer depending on whom you ask, and nobody seems to agree with anyone else regarding the procedure for resolving conflicts.
However, notes Scruton, there is one thing that human-rights doctrine does not oppose, namely, anti-Semitism:
It was inconceivable in my youth that anyone should voice an anti-Semitic sentiment, still more inconceivable that he should exhibit violence, contemptuous language, or any kind of assault towards others on account of their Jewishness. This has changed, and changed almost overnight.
Of course, people say that it is all the result of the bad behavior of Israel, but what is now considered bad behavior is precisely what was cheered on and endorsed a decade ago. The real cause of the new wave of anti-Semitism is the growing self-confidence and numbers of the Muslim minority—a fact that you cannot publicly declare in Britain, still less in France or Belgium, for fear of provoking the charge of Islamophobia and even the threat of legal action.
So much for the rights culture, which displays its foundationless character precisely in this matter, for which it should put itself aggressively on display. It is precisely the advocates of human rights as a social panacea who are the most ardent in seeking excuses for anti-Semitism.
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