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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Theism and human rights are philosophically inseparable


It seems that this Alisdair Denvil doesn't believe that our rights come from God.

He's wrong. Thomas Jefferson- rationalist and Deist though he was- was right when he argued in the Declaration of Independence that they have their origin in "nature and nature's God" (or, in old Tom's case, "god," or "to whom it may concern," or something).

If our rights don't come from God (or at least from a god), then they're the gift of the state- or, as Mao would have it, they grow from the barrel of a gun.. If God isn't the Author of our rights, then might makes right. There simply is no third option- and that's a burden I'm afraid that non-theists have to bear as an inevitable consequence of their position.

The alternative to our rights being seen as coming from God is to say that we have no rights that those bigger and stronger than we are have any moral obligation to recognize. And there's no way out of the conundrum: if God isn't God, then Caesar (or the biggest bully on the block) is.

Now, mind you, I don't say that Mr. Denvil (or non-theists generally) want to go there. But I do say- and I defy them to prove me wrong- that there is where you inevitably end up if you deny that our rights have their origin in a Creator. They certainly can't be shown to be "natural" on any other ground; after all, where in history does nature assert itself to demonstrate otherwise?

Granted, it could theoretically be any god- including Jefferson's neglectful clockmaker, Allah, Brahman, Krishna, the Mormon deity, or any other. But that's another discussion. The bottom line here, though, is that if human rights aren't precisely the gift of a Creator,  they aren't rights at all. They're merely the temporary largesse of whoever is in a position to take them away.

HT: Real Clear Religion
 

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