Tuesday, June 21, 2011

No God, No Rights


What's behind Barack Obama, NBC, Harry Reid and a host of other progressives editing God out of the Pledge of Allegiance, the Declaration of Independence, and public discourse in general?

Simply put, get rid of God (or The Creator, or Divine Providence if you prefer), and you eradicate the concept of natural rights.  Erase our natural rights, and you destroy the foundation upon which rests our constitutional republic.  Progressives hate the concept of natural rights as espoused by our founding fathers, because it stands in the way of their grandiose master plan to remake society in their own twisted image.

Awhile back, a liberal blogger said a very ignorant thing:
There is no such thing as "God given rights" because if we returned to the original state of nature, or that which was "God given" we would find ourselves bound only by our own personal power, our conscience, and or by forces superior to our own.

The rights that we enjoy today are man made rights; and as such are not "natural rights" nor are they permanently fixed.
The first sentence is incoherent, and the second absurd. They cannot be defended. The first sentence is either nonsensical or it contradicts the author's thesis. It is so poorly written that a sane person cannot tell what was intended.

The second sentence is absurd. We get our rights from man? OK. So if "man" decides to enslave all bloggers then it's OK? If man grants rights, he can take them away. This explains liberals' infatuation with strongmen like Mussolini, as well as uber-liberal Tom Friedman's current love affair with the Red Chinese politburo.  It also explains how 20th century statism was able to kill over 100 million people.

The writer didn’t even cite a philosophical work to defend his unsubstantiated claim. I know why. No credible thinker could defend this. Even if there were someone loony enough to try to defend such a preposterous supposition, it would be written in incomprehensible Cornell West psychobabble.

American liberalism is a hopeless, self-contradictory tangle, an intellectual cul-de-sac.  In contrast, our Natural Rights, as enunciated by our founding fathers, are axiomatic:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (Declaration of Independence)
Yes, we have a social contract called the US Constitution, but our rights do not emanate from that document.  They are natural rights that preexist and supersede man-made institutions. 

Natural Law -- Our Foundation

Natural Law is a philosophy, a theory.  As such, it is open to debate and question, as is Christianity and global warming.  Natural Law is the philosophical foundation of our constitutional republic, and today it stands in stark contrast to the central economic planning and social tinkering of progressives.

Jonathan  Dolhenty explains:
What do we mean by "natural law"? In its simplest definition, natural law is that "unwritten law" that is more or less the same for everyone everywhere. 

To be more exact, natural law is the concept of a body of moral principles that is common to all humankind and, as generally posited, is recognizable by human reason alone. Natural law is therefore distinguished from -- and provides a standard for -- positive law, the formal legal enactments of a particular society.

To sum it up, then, we can say that the natural law:
  • is not made by human beings;
  • is based on the structure of reality itself;
  • is the same for all human beings and at all times;
  • is an unchanging rule or pattern which is there for human beings to discover;
  • is the naturally knowable moral law
  • is a means by which human beings can rationally guide themselves to their good.  
(Source:  Radical Academy)
Banish God, and you destroy the concept of Natural Rights.  Without natural rights, the US Constitution is a worthless piece of paper.  This opens the gates for progressive hordes to storm the citadel of individual liberty, and that is the goal of those statists who are offended by free people exercising their God-given individual rights to shoot guns, drive gas guzzlers and live however they damn well please. 

Such a free society is deeply offensive to the social engineers afflicted by Hayek's fatal conceit.

Further Reading:
Locke's Second Treatise Of Civil Government
The Principles of Natural and Politic Law

42 comments:

Jack Camwell said...

Although I am a huge advocate of Natural Rights, you completely kneecap yourself in the overall philosophical discussion by claiming that Natural Rights come from God.

Why? Because you basically end any chance you have of conducting this discussion with Atheists. Unless you only plan on ever talking about Natural Rights with people you agree with, or people who believe in God, then you must be able to argue Natural Rights theory from a non-theological standpoint.

The best non-theological argument for Natural Rights comes from science, actually. The logic goes that if there are natural laws that govern the universe, ie. gravity, mathematics, chemistry, physics etc., then there must be natural laws that govern human discourse. It would at least be reasonable to assume that universality doesn't stop at physical science.

Human beings are also built with natural sentiments, inclinations toward indignation. Even tyrants have a sense of "what's mine is mine and no one else's." The difference is that tyrants don't understand, or don't care, that everyone else feels the same. No one in their right mind would want their stuff to be stolen. No one in their right mind would want to be murdered, wrongly imprisoned, or tortured. So assuming that you're not the only one who feels that way, it's logical to assume that there is something natural about those feelings.

The problem with the theological argument for Natural Rights is what if there is no God? What if society collectively stops believing in God? You can't base something as important as Natural Rights theory on faith, because then Natural Rights theory becomes dependent on faith. We should all know by now that faith has nothing to do with knowledge.

But we want to argue that Natural Rights are universal, that man comes into existence with those rights and retains them as long as he draws breath. If you try to argue Natural Rights theologically to someone who has lost faith in God, then you're fighting a losing battle.

Persuasive discourse can only be successful if you argue on the terms of your "opponent," not on your terms.

Always On Watch said...

What of those atheistic conservatives who believe in Natural Law but not in God-given rights?

I'm a Christian and come to my views of Natural Law via my faith. But I know others who are atheists who support the concept of Natural Rights without having any faith at all.

Silverfiddle said...

Then the founders kneecap themselves as well. They are the ones who invoked Divine Providence in our founding documents.

Of course one can believe in natural rights without believing in God; I did not argue otherwise.

Progressives are not editing out references to natural law or natural rights. They are editing out God, which in classical American political theory is a virtual doppleganger to natural rights.

Kill one and you kill the other. "Our Creator" is more recognizable to the populace than a nebulous Lockean concept, so that is what the progressives attack.

Kill "Our Creator" who endows us with our inalienable rights, and we are no longer endowed.

Silverfiddle said...

BTW, I agree with both of you on how to argue for natural rights, but that his not my point in this post. I am accusing progressives of attacking natural rights by consciously employing the tactic of attacking God.

I have discussed natural law and natural rights extensively here, and I never based my arguments upon a belief in God (c'mon, you should know me better than that!)

Google Search results for natural law rights Site:westernhero.blogspot.com

Mustang said...

Liberalism: defending the indefensible since 1912.

conservativesonfire said...

I agree that eliminating all reference to God is the tool of choice of the liberals to justify the trampling of our Constitution, which was designed to protect our God (Natural giiven rights. Excellent post, Silver.

Jack Camwell said...

"Banish God, and you destroy the concept of Natural Rights."

It sounds to me that you're arguing it from a theological stand-point. I haven't read your blog long enough to glean otherwise on your personal view on Natural Rights theory.

The Founders didn't knee-cap themselves because the times were different. They didn't have to face Nihilists and Godless commies. There wasn't a big atheist movement, getting angry at them every time they mentioned God in public discourse.

Their argument, although I think it is a good one, especially if God does exist, was good for their time but has lost some of its usefulness in a society that is trying to over-secularize everything.

But this brings us to the Euthyprho question: are things good because God loves them (says that they are good), or does God love them because they are good?

Silverfiddle said...

Jack: Again, my purpose is not to defend natural rights in this post, it is to accuse progressives of taking down natural rights by taking down God.

That is why I began this piece with...

What's behind Barack Obama, NBC, Harry Reid and a host of other progressives editing God out of the Pledge of Allegiance, the Declaration of Independence, and public discourse in general?

I don't expect everyone to be conversant with my complete body of (very amateur) work, which is why I provided the link to posts where I do defend natural rights, and I do not invoke God to do so.

Karen Howes said...

A.Men.

This is something I've been saying for years: if there is no God, there can be no rights.

If "rights" are given by men, they can be revoked by men-- thus making them privileges.

And nature cannot grant you rights because nature is not a being or a personal force. It would be like saying that the computer I'm typing on gives me rights.

Jack Camwell said...

Silver,
Forgive my misunderstanding of what you were trying to say.

Karen,
The idea of Natural Rights is that they are not granted to us by anything. The idea is that they are inherent by virtue of our existence as beings who have aspirations and can make claims on the world.

If you argue Natural Rights from the theological perspective, then you can only argue it with people who believe in God.

Silver's purpose is to show that some people use the denial of God's existence in order to deny the existence of Natural Rights. The problem then becomes how do we tell them that God has nothing to do with Natural Rights?

Something that is natural is not something that is granted or bestowed on an entity, or else it would not be natural, would it? It would be an augmentation to the thing's true nature.

It might suffice for your mind to believe that Natural Rights are granted by God, a being whose existence we can never prove either way, so then Natural Rights can never be taken away so long as we can't prove that God doesn't exist. But that argument does not work when you're trying to tell some of these liberal idiots that they're wrong.

Besides, the Bible never articulates Natural Rights theory.

Anonymous said...

We're really not talking about "getting rid of God."

We're talking about what happens when we fail to recognize His presence and His authority. In other words we're talking about the dire consequences of denying His existence.

Well, God is God no matter what anyone thinks, and His presence and Authority are undeniable. He does not punish sin. Sin, punishes itself; sinning punishes sinners. Deliberately choosing to alienate oneself from God brings about terrible changes in one's personality and powers of judgment and discernment. Adopting the atheistic perspective pollutes the influence one has on others.

If we embrace God, things may not go the way we'd prefer them to, and disaster still may strike at any time, but those who have faith are more likely to cope better with adversity than those who do not.

Personally, I think we'd do well to try to understand better how and what God really is. In many ways God is like the US Constitution -- i.e. everybody talks about it, but few have read it and fully understood its meaning.

What do you think of when you talk about God? What does His name mean to you?

I, personally, believe that many who think they do not believe may in fact be very godly, because the way we relate to others and the deeds we perform are far more important than the words we say, and the conventions we abide by. By those lights an atheist could be in fact a better Christian than many a regular churchgoer who says all the "right" things and goes through all the "right" motions, but remains untouched and unmoved by the SPIRIT of the law he obeys only on the surface.

~ FreeThinke

Jack Camwell said...

There are a lot of atheists that tick me off, mostly because they think they are somehow smarter because they don't believe in God, but there are a few atheists I know who are really good people.

They don't frown on me for believing in God, they are kind and generous, and they recognize the sanctity of life. So how is it that atheism must necessarily lead to being a bad person?

Bunkerville said...

It seems we must be inclusive of other Countries and their belief systems, but as for us, let us remove any inkling from whence our moral belief system and democracy emerged. The better to balkanize us, and that is exactly the intent. No lofty moral outrage, just sit back and accept other moral values.

The Grey Geezer said...

Silver . . Your post was excellent and the comments also. There is a related point that has interested me for years. The word "God" can be uniquely defined by any individual. For example,some folks speaking of "God" believe the word is used to explain the creation. They can not comprehend that before there was a universe there was a void containing nothing. In a sense, they think the first "spark" would have been impossible without the combining of a few atoms - and the presense of atoms negates the concept of an absolute void of nothing. So they consider that it is beyond human comprehension to believe the original spark could have accidentally resulted in becoming a universe and all things therein contained. In so many words, the universe and everything in it is too complex to be an accident, and that being said, the creation must have had direction - and that direction came from "God". To be an atheist requires an even larger leap of faith. . . Bump

Anonymous said...

All right. I finally read the link at the bottom of this post.

Militant atheists are the ones we must despise, reject and put firmly in their place. honest skeptics and those who happen not to feel able to Believe, but respect others' right to worship as they choose, are all right, an deserve our respect and protection.

It's the ACTIVIST atheists who are pushing for the destruction of Christianity as the dominant force in shaping Western culture whose wings we must clip.

From the linked article:

"... The street, 'Seven in Heaven Way' was officially dedicated last weekend in Brooklyn outside the firehouse where the firefighters once served. The ceremony was attended by dozens of firefighters, city leaders and widows of the fallen men.

“There should be no signage or displays of religious nature in the public domain,” said Ken Bronstein, president of New York City Atheists. “It’s really insulting to us. ...”


Did you know that TROTSKY'Sfamily name -- the name he held at birth -- was BRONSTEIN?

A coincidence to be sure, but WOW! WHAT a COINCIDENCE!

These moral and intellectual termites have been voraciously eating away at the foundations of Liberty since long before we were born. They've been dedicated to bringing about our destruction for well over a hundred years. And these devils -- these vicious, unprincipled enemies of Truth, Love, Justice, Peace, Mercy, Prosperity, Freedom and Decency -- have infinite patience -- and infinite guile.

As Christians we may be enjoined to love our enemies and bless those who despitefully use us, BUT we are NOT told to FORGET that they ARE our enemies, and we are NOT told NOT to be WARY of them.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
I know something evil this way comes."


~ Traditional

"Presentiment is that long shadow on the lawn --Indicative that suns go down --
The notice to the startled grass
That Darkness is about to pass."

~ Emily Dickinson

Bring harm to no one, if you can possibly help it, but never forget that we have a duty to protect ourselves -- and our children -- against the harm others would surely send our way.

Speak softly, but carry a big stick, indeed.


~ FreeThinke

Jersey McJones said...

Silver,

First of all, it doesn't matter where rights come from, only that we protect them. It's a highly subjective issue, though, and I think you try to condense a subject that is too big for such digestion when you assume that all rights come from the Bible. That's a really, really, really bad idea. Theocracy is always bad. And essentially that is what you're offering.

Just the same, your logic in this subject is a little obscure to me. You're mixing Natural Law (a specific philosophy) and natural rights (a variety of philosophies).

That's where that "liberal" response above goes astray. He seems to think your theory is a reversion to Natural Law that is the same as a reversion to a state of nature. That, of course is not what you mean. Nor is it correct.

Now, of course, there are combinations of Natural Law and natural rights, and I think that's what the commenter thought you were talking about. Rather than assume certain rights are obvious, you assert they are given by God Himself, the Judge of the Universe, the Big Dude, Ol' Christy in the Sky with Rights.

But your theory does not have men reverting to wild things in the woods. Rather it would be living under an assumed and enforced moral structure, different from what we have today.

However, you then say, we can never argue with certain notions of liberty, even in the name of Justice.

I think that's absurd. Without justice there is no liberty, and vice-versa. And people's ideas of justice and liberty are all over the place - especially in the world of Christianity. A Catholic has a very different definition of Natural Law than say a Penticostal.

That right there is what obviously, completely, and inarguably proves that "rights" are products of the wills of men.

Whether rights come from God or not, it is we who must protect them - with justice. Justice sets the course of rights.

JMJ

Trestin said...

Jersey:
Nowhere in this post did he make reference to the bible. In fact, he made clear that the definition of God is flexible.

As for your assertion that where our rights come from is not important; I could not conceive of a more foolish statement.

The source is more important than the rights themselves. If the rights come from men then might ultimately makes right. If however they come from a higher power, then men cannot change or annihilate them.

Jersey McJones said...

Trestin,

God is apparently endlessly "flexible."

Whether "rights" come from that endlessly "flexible" God or not, is irrelevent. It's moot. It's not as if God Himself ever enforced these things here on EARTH. It's up to us.

JMJ

Finntann said...

It is important to remember in the context of the founding fathers that were heavily influenced by enlightenment philosophies and many, possibly the majority of the most influental, were Deists. The Deist concept of God is not a Catholic, Protestant, or even Christian one. It is more abstract in that Deism advocates that from the standpoint of reason and observation of the natural world, without organized religion, a person can determine that the universe is a creation and has a creator. So...the God referenced is not necessarily what you conceive of when someone mentions "God".

That said, "that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights" doesn't necessarily imply that one hinges upon the other. Our founding fathers, or at least the Deists among them, believed that reason and observation proved the existence of a creator... but with or without that creator we are still endowed with certain unalienable rights.

Government is a social compact, in creating that compact certain things, those unalienable rights, were taken off the table... to government we, as a people said, of all that you do...these things are untouchable.

I think the crux of the issue is not one of whether or not our rights are inalienable but one of positive and negative liberties (rights, or freedoms). The original constitutional work, correctly identified but rather disparagingly referred to by Obama was that "The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what states can't do to you. What the federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf."

The argument with Libertarians and Conservatives on one side and Progressives on the other is one of the powers of government, specifically whether or not government is limited to its enumerated powers or not. Without gross abrogation of enumerated powers your liberty and your rights are relatively safe.

Sorry, long post, I'll split it in two.

Finntann said...

On the downside of the progressive movement is the explosion of "positive rights". Take for example the recently passed (not yet constitutionally challenged) law in Tennessee outlawing posting photos that "cause emotional distress".

"The specific law outlaws posting a photo online that causes "emotional distress" to someone and has no "legitimate purpose." While the law does state that there needs to be "malicious intent," it also includes a massive loophole, in that it says that you can still be liable if the person "reasonably should know" that the actions would "frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress."

From Eugene Volokh, Professor of Law, UCLA:

1.If you’re posting a picture of someone in an embarrassing situation — not at all limited to, say, sexually themed pictures or illegally taken pictures — you’re likely a criminal unless the prosecutor, judge, or jury concludes that you had a “legitimate purpose.”

2.Likewise, if you post an image intended to distress some religious, political, ethnic, racial, etc. group, you too can be sent to jail if governments decisionmaker thinks your purpose wasn’t “legitimate.” Nothing in the law requires that the picture be of the “victim,” only that it be distressing to the “victim.”

3.The same is true even if you didn’t intend to distress those people, but reasonably should have known that the material — say, pictures of Mohammed, or blasphemous jokes about Jesus Christ, or harsh cartoon insults of some political group — would “cause emotional distress to a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities.”

4.And of course the same would apply if a newspaper or TV station posts embarrassing pictures or blasphemous images on its site.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110606/22513614573/post-picture-that-causes-emotional-distress-you-could-face-jailtime-tennessee.shtml

Since when did you have a right not to be offended or distressed? Not only are your 'negative' rights being eroded by government, they are being eroded by a profusion of artificially created positive rights.

Oddly enough, I find myself in agreement with both Jack and Jersey.

Cheers!

Jersey McJones said...

Finntann,

What about those who feel their rights are violated by those who feel they have not violated those rights?

That's why we have a constitutional republic.

I forgot at the moment which SCOTUS judge it was, but as I recall he retired kind of young in the early days of the republic, and in doing so he suggested the courts did not have enough power to sustain the nation. While I disagree with that in a few ways, I appreciate the notion.

You guys always complain about "liberal" courts, but rarely about conservative courts. If our nation is built on law, and the SCOTUS interprets that law, than SCOTUS judges should be constitutional scholars, and not secular lawyers. It seems like you're arguing against yourselves.

JMJ

Finntann said...

Jersey, I don't complain about liberal courts as in the sense that Judge A is more liberal in sentencing than Judge B, or vice versa, that is a matter for our elected representatives who appoint them, and the people who vote them in, either the representatives (who appoint), or the judges who are elected.

I do take issue with courts creating law where no legal precedence previously existed as opposed to interpreting existing law, which is their constitutional function. I will argue against it be it conservative or liberal.

Where our founding fathers failed, is in not creating a direct process by which the SCOTUS can directly hand cases for which no law exists directly to the legislature. Instead, the court rules one way or the other creating law, or not at all, and in the case of not at all the failure is in the presumption that the legislature will take up the issue, which it often does not...for both liberal and conservative reasons depending on the flavor of the day. It is not the courts job to create law, but interpret it, when they stray from that you'll hear me scream.

I am a strong advocate of enumerated powers, if not enumerated then responsibility falls on the states, or failing that directly on the people. It is not the purview to assume powers not assigned to them, or not acted on by the states... because inaction by the states is an action itself, the state chooses not to act.

I know you will believe that I am fiscally conservative, but would you believe that I am rather socially liberal?

You and I digress on liberalism at the point where while I am an advocate of eliminating government interference in the lives of citizens, I am also aware that the elimination of interference is a two way street.

Whereas you should have virtually unlimited freedom to do what you want to succeed, you also have unlimited freedom to fail. And if you fail, the purpose of government is not to absorb that loss.

Smoke dope, engage in promiscuous unprotected behavior, and drive at 100 mph down the interstate, fine, but society is not responsible for funding your methadone clinic, your AIDS treatment, or putting you back together after wrapping yourself and your ride around a tree.

Take for example, Gay Marriage. I don't ask whether or not government should recognize gay marriage... I ask why are they involved in heterosexual marriage in the first place? Why does a religious ceremony bestow any legal protection or rights in the first place? Want to get married in a church? Fine by me... the civil contract part should be negotiated separately between the two parties and filed with the court.

Honestly, I think if two people negotiated their divorce before they got married, marriages would be a hell of a lot more stable, because those unable to come to terms wouldn't get married in the first place.

Healthcare? Don't want insurance...fine. But you are legally bound to pay for services rendered. How many people, families, whatever, don't have health insurance but have two 25,000 cars in the driveway and giant flat screen TV, X-Box... boat, RV, etc?

How many people are in a bad situation simply because of screwed up priorities? I know people who went bankrupt with medical expenses who had all those toys to start with... would not the boat and RV payment have covered their health insurance?

It is all about personal responsibility... with freedom comes responsibility. Want to give up that responsibility? You are going to pay for it with a loss of freedom, even if it's as simple a loss as not being able to say what you're going to spend that $800 a month on.

Cold? Perhaps... but that ensures the greatest amount of freedom for the largest number of people. I am not against social safety nets... I am against social safety nets becoming a crutch by which the unmotivated hitch a free ride on the rest of us.

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Problems with the Supreme Court:

1. It has become heavily politicized. We known that both liberal and conservative leaders try to "pack" the court with judges known to be sympathetic to the political agenda they want to implement. We know almost with certainty that Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Alito, and Thomas will come down squarely on the side of the conservative point of view, and that Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Soto-Mayor and Kagan will preserve, protect , promote and defend any-and-all liberal initiatives. Only the opinion of Justice Kennedy is in question, which gives him a unique and rather terrible power as "tie-breaker."

2. The Court has long taken it upon itself to right what-it-perceives-as social injustices and inequities by effectively "legislating from the bench." This is fobbed off as "interpreting the law," but it goes far beyond that. Such a notion flies in the face of common sense. This practice means that there is no law anymore. We are ruled, instead, by the will and whims of judges. "The Law" then becomes whatever a judge or panel of judges says it is. That is definitely not what the Founders had in mind.

3. Both the Supreme Court and the Federal Courts have assumed the power to overturn any law passed by the legislature -- the bicameral body that was designed to reflect and represent "The Will of the People -- the judges find "distasteful." This practice, of course, subverts and nullifies the Will of the People denying them effective representation and leaving them powerless before the onslaught of ever more intrusive and draconian intervention.

4. The Constitution was supposed to have set up three co-equal branches of government each separate and distinct from the other -- the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial. It seems to me that ever since 1. Brown versus The Board of Education, 2. the court's ill-advised decision unleash a flood tide of pornography on the nation, 3. Madelyn Murray O'Hair versus The People of the United States, 6. Roe versus Wade, and 5. the media-generated debacle known as Watergate, that the roles of the three branches have become increasingly confused and tend more and more to overlap as "players" vie for power in a nakedly partisan, increasingly hostile, chaotic, irrationally despotic environment. We should also note the disturbing addition of a fearsome increase in the power of the Fourth Estate thanks to Watergate, which has done much to contribute the degeneration in quality of political discourse and governance.

The high court and its satellites in the next tier down have usurped a great deal, if not most, of the power that belongs to the other two branches, while the presidency has become more and more imperious in its high-handed efforts to circumvent and thus thwart the legislative process. And then we have congress abusing its power in periodic attempts to cripple and possibly destroy sitting presidents by mounting endless "investigations" on trumped up pretexts thanks to the Special Prosecutor Act -- or whatever it's properly called.

Without a firmly established policy demanding respect for and adherence to the constitutionally mandated separation of powers is it any wonder our government appears increasingly arrogant, reckless, out-of-touch with reality, and abusive of its authority?

~ FreeThinke

jez said...

One of the things that I admire about the DoI is the phrase "We hold these truths to be self-evident...". It avoids saying that they definitely are true, it only insist that we treat them as if they were true -- to me it says something like "for the sake of argument or for the sake of this document, let's not argue about this natural rights idea. Let's take it for granted."

And indeed it is necessary to read it in that light because, plainly, all men are not created equal. It isn't true. But it is a good idea to "hold" for the purpose of writing a constitution.

Lincoln said that the nation was "dedicated to the proposition" that all men are created equal; he could have said "recognising the fact" that all men are created equal etc. but he chose not to.

So anyway, I think that many an atheist would support a natural rights philosophy just out of pragmatism. The way the DoI etc. are written, I tend to think that's what (some of) the founders were up to.

You won't catch me arguing against "natural rights" even though I think their source is evolutionary psychology rather than god.

Anonymous said...

No one addressed these questions which surely are implicit in any discussion of this type:

Who is God?

What is God?

What do you think of when you refer to God?

What does the term "God" mean to you, personally?

After all, if you're going to swear allegiance to an entity, one would think you ought to have a definite idea of the nature of that entity, don't you agree?

Conversely, if you're determined to reject that entity, shouldn't you be able to tell yourself exactly what you think you'll be missing?

It might be tempting to dismiss such questions as "sophomoric," but if you stop to think, shouldn't they be better described as basic?

~ FreeThinke

jez said...

should've read these comments before pulling the trigger on mine.
A very light criticism of this post, I hope you don't mind (I'm quite a fan of your blog): it really looks like you're saying that natural rights are contingent on a Creator, which I realise now is not what your true opinion.

Freethinke, as an atheist I merely withhold belief in God (specifically the Abrahamic God of the bible etc.), I don't reject it as such. Yes, there is a myriad of popular god-ideas available, and an infinity of god-ideas possible, but it would be a Sisyphean task to define every entity whose existence I didn't believe in.

Silverfiddle said...

Jez: Criticism welcomed! And yours is always well-reasoned.

I do believe that natural rights stem from a Creator, but that is not what I base my argument on.

I do believe that eradicating the idea of a Creator makes eradicating the concept of natural rights much easier, and that is the tactic I accuse progressives of employing.

Ducky's here said...

The second sentence is absurd. We get our rights from man? OK. So if "man" decides to enslave all bloggers then it's OK?

--------------------

By OK, do you mean moral or legal? Natural rights is nothing but the Hobbesian hell.

Yeah, you can have your natural rights. Survival of the fittest and a short life with a brutal death.

Our rights are what we agree they are. Natural law? You trying to get us to relive social Darwinism? Right wingers just don't learn good.

Ducky's here said...

Is a means by which human beings can rationally guide themselves to their good.

------------------
And those means require that we acknowledge mans group origins and be careful about over worship of the individual.

MK said...

The second sentence should also cause much worry, that's how liberals think you see. The only permanently fixed right for the left will be the one to murder your unborn and the one that entitles you to your neighbors wages.

The other thing about taking God out of the equation is that once you do it, you can corrupt peoples morality and their sense of humanity, from there you can weasel in any old evil. The communist utopia that murdered tens of millions springs to mind as a good example.

If some leftist rat decides that mass murder is the go and gets enough support for it, we western Christians can never support it because we know we'll have to answer to God. If we don't believe in God and don't know that we have to answer for our actions one day, why would we stand in the way of any evil if it doesn't affect us.

Leftards are not against all religion per se, they're quite happy with the more violent and blood thirsty ones. It's only the true religion of peace and salvation that they despise so much, because they know Christianity is the biggest obstacle to their nefarious agendas and that's why they persecute decent, law-abiding Christians at every turn.

Most Rev. Gregori said...

Natural law can best be explained as that inner voice (conscience) that all humans are born with, that instinctively tells us right from wrong, such as it is wrong to murder, it is wrong to steal, to commit rape, etc.

If one refuses enough times to heed their inner voice, then after a while, they will anesthetize their conscience right into a permanent coma whereby they no longer can distinguish between right and wrong, which is what those on the left have done.

Shane Atwell said...

I agree with Jack.

Rights are natural, but not from God. Rights are the conditions necessary for our survival in a social context, namely the absence of physical compulsion so that we can think, decide, produce, trade.

I guess you could argue ala deism that God made us and the universe as it is, so he's the source of rights, but if that's your argument, then why invoke god at all? Why not just say rights come from the proper functioning of our means of survival (reason) needed to live productive, happy lives?

If on the other hand you say that god gave us rights, as in decreed that people should be free from coercion because he says so, that's ludicrous and arbitrary. (Actually saying god created the universe is arbitrary too, but more understandable.)

Not only is it arbitrary, but no religion has ever said so. Rights are in fact brazenly attacked routinely in religious stories. "put non-believers to the sword" and all that. And the founding fathers weren't founding a religion nor were they theologians.

jez said...

Rev: I certainly wasn't born with the knowledge that it is wrong to steal, I didn't even have a concept of ownership to begin with. I was taught it. Similarly I wasn't born with an understanding of death, so I wouldn't have known that murder was either possible or morally wrong.
I agree that we are born with the voice of conscience (the super-ego, as Freud would call it), but what that voice says (which is the interesting bit) is programmed by upbringing.

jez said...

I wonder if MK's ideas are any use to explain the genocides that christians have taken part in?

Silverfiddle said...

Ducky: You illustrate the liberal position that people have no inherent worth or self-sovereignty, but are merely ants in a heap, doing what the queen directs.

This is the crux of that is wrong with progressivism.

jez said...

if I understand ducky correctly (I'm reading him charitably) it's that rights are meaningless if we lack the capacity to actually protect them. I could guarantee you any right you like, but I'm probably powerless to back up any but the most modest of them.

Back on the grassland plains of pre-historic Africa when subsistence was a struggle and technology unavailable, what good were natural rights? Did they even exist?

Anonymous said...

I wonder what "natural impulse" urges aggressive, proselytizing atheists always to try to put Believers on the defensive?

God is not part of Nature; He createdNature. God is the Primary cause of Everything -- except Evil -- therefore one must ultimately come to realize and accept that everything fair, good, positive, life-giving, energizing, creative, constructive, uplifting, encouraging, comes from God.

Evil comes from the of understanding who and what God really is. Resisting God, opposing God, denying God, insulting God, thumbing your nose at God is bound to cause grief.

Negativity, destructive impulses, hatred, fear, greed, envy, etc. are symptomatic of the absence of love for and obedience to God. PERIOD!

You may think you don't believe in God, but if you believe in Truth, you believe in God. If you believe in Love, you believe in God. If you believe in Spirit, Intelligence and Principle, you believe in God.

Father Gregori is right -- every impulse and every bit of insight that impels us towards benevolence, graciousness, unselfishness, consideration of others, altruism and the kind of inventiveness and creativity that enhances civilization -- especially the development of conscience -- comes from God.

Legalistic hair-splitting and the attempt to micro manage the lives of others by threat of superior firepower comes from the sadly perverse desire too many have NOT to believe in anything greater than themselves.

And remember God does not punish, but the absence of faith and obedience to Divine Law -- or Natural Law whichever you prefer -- they are really one and the same -- invariably leads to disaster.

It's important to realize, however that the one True God is higher and more inclusive of all mankind than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The real God is better than THAT.


~ FreeThinke

jez said...

FreeThinke: "The real God is better than [the Abrahamic God]"

Interesting, do you consider yourself a Christian or a deist or something else?

Anonymous said...

Jez,

Very simply the one true God is too big, too all-inclusive too universal ever to be pigeon holed and categorized. He could never identify himself with one particular culture, because by His very nature He belongs to everyone. There is no factionalism or disunity in God. All of that comes from our willfulness and foolish desire to be perceived as "top dog."

I was raised as a Christian, and still consider myself a followed of Jesus Christ, but I long ago realized that the institutional church and all the many denominations got so caught up in competition and factionalism they lost touch with the healing, liberating message of the gospels and became just another venal, self-protective power bloc dedicated to preserving and enhancing its temporal interests.

God is SPIRIT -- the intangible, unquantifiable essence of all that is right, true and good.

Most of the self-identified Christians I know would describe me as a heretic -- others are eager to call me a lunatic. I cant tell you how many times I've been told, "You are not a Christian."

But I've never been able to let others define me or categorize me. I'm a human being who believes that every important thing ij life is spiritual and that God lives within us all, but gives us free will and the right to question everything. He wants us to come to Him voluntarily, because we "see the light" not because someone told us we must lest we want to face Divine Wrath, Hellfire and Eternal Damnation.

I do not believe that God "chose" the Jews. I regard that as a self-serving, self-perpetuated myth. I do believe, however, that God revealed Himself to many mystics worldwide over countless millennia who gained knowledge of Him though flashes of insight and that much of this insight was captured in the Christian Bible.

As far as I'm concerned most of the Old testament is pernicious. I believe Jesus Christ came to save us from the absence of Love and the barbaric misunderstanding of Truth and Spirit represented by the petty, spiteful, vengeful, irascible, irrational, utterly tyrannical precepts found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

The Pentateuch has probably created more atheists than Karl Marx and all his followers combined.

But I'm not important. God is, and the need to understand Him and accept Him into our hearts is greater now than ever before.

~ FreeThinke

jez said...

Have you investigated the ideas of Marcion, a 2nd century Christian who demoted the god of the Hebrews in favour of the loving new testament God? He recommended a canon consisting of just the gospel of Luke and some epistles.
It's fun to imagine the alternate history where his canon was preserved instead of the one we've inherited with an OT.

Anonymous said...

Jes,

Never heard of Marcion. Thanks very much for the reference. He sounds a lot like Pelagius who ran afoul of early Christian authoritarianism by standing up to Augustine who I believe is largely responsible for the anti-Sex, anti-Fun, anti-Life, pro-Agony, pro-Martyrdom, pro-Permanent Penitence for Us Miserable Sinners image Christianity has with too many.

Augustine and Pelagius were rivals. Augustine was a better politician, so Pelagius lost. What his ultimate fate was, no one knows, but I'll bet Augustine or his supporters had Pelagius put to death.

I haven't read all that much on religion, I'm afraid, but I've thought a lot and prayed a lot for sixty-odd years. I've learned to trust my insights as well the nest fellows. Every bit of doctrine, dogma, and philosophy started out as a flash of insight -- or a perception-- in somebody's mind. Intelligence and Perception are incorporeal, but probably the most powerful force on earth.

The question is: Where do these insights come from?

I do not believe human beings have the capacity to make this stuff up. I think all truth always has been and always will be there just waiting to be discovered. We discover the good stuff, we do not invent it our of whole cloth. Only God has the power to do that. It's also the result of along clumsy process of trial and error.

The passionate desire not to trust others but to dominate and dictate to them instead, which is usually born out of fear not knowledge is the primary reason things are the way they are.

I like Ronald Reagan's maxim TRUST, but VERIFY. Probably the best way to deal with the dilemma.

~ FreeThinke

Silverfiddle said...

Jez: To answer your question about man in the wild, yes, even ancients in the wild has natural rights. That still didn't stop them from being eaten by a wild beast or killed or enslaved by another man.

The natural rights of John Locke stemmed from an era where people were considered vassals of whatever lord's land they happened to occupy.

True natural rights are negative. It doesn't cost anyone else anything to respect your rights. And to be a true right, it doesn't have to be bulletproof. Just because something can be endangered or taken away doesn't make it invalid.