Whenever you hear someone claim that rights come from god, that speaker is a person who (intentionally or unintentionally) wants to take your rights away. That is someone who wants a theocracy. It’s not about using god to claim that you have rights (even though that in itself is absolute nonsense), it’s about others claiming that their rights come from their god to take your rights away.
Our rights do not come from god as no one has ever had the authority to speak for god any more than anyone else. We can’t even get people who follow the same book to agree on the interpretations and meanings. We don’t even know what god is or even if god exists at all. Someone stating, or even taking the impressive effort of writing down that they speak for god doesn't make it true. Thomas Jefferson in mentioning a creator in the Declaration of Independence was no more a divine prophet with the authority to speak the will of god than Thomas Paine who (like Jefferson) heavily criticized religion. In reality, our rights come from mankind. Our creator is not a divine moral law giver, it's 3.6 billion years of evolution.
If you are caught and convicted of driving under the influence on multiple occasions, you will face jail time. Your liberty and pursuits of happiness will be taken away. A U.S citizen was executed for supporting terrorist activities. His life was taken away. Ask someone who’s in jail for smoking pot where their rights come from. Arguing that their rights come from god doesn't remove the bars. Smoking or possessing marijuana is currently against the law. This law was created by mankind; not god. The laws are made by people in government and the laws are enforced by people in government. The laws of our society dictate our rights.
In the United States, alcohol used to be illegal. It was legal, illegal and then legal again. This was not due to an indecisive god. Slavery used to be legal and now it is not. For most of U.S. history, women did not have the right to vote. Human progress is dependent on the greatest moral reasoning of mankind, not god. Laws can be improved to better a society. Laws can oppress rather than protect if a societies’ leadership morally degenerates. There are good laws and bad laws. This is regardless of any claim that a god commands or doesn't command that a particular law has divine authority. This is the way it has always been, the way it is, and the way it always will be.
There are those who claim humans cannot be moral law givers because then how do you decide which laws should be followed. Adding god to the equation only pushes the question. How do you decide which people claiming to speak for god and which laws of the religion should be followed? For example, should we stone people to death who work on the Sabbath? Should we cut off the hand of a thief? When it comes to laws of Western religious scripture, even the religious pick and choose what to follow based on their own moral reasoning. Everything comes down to what we connect with as individuals and as a society. Some people have a greater authority to enforce their opinions than others. It is political authority they wield, not divine authority.
Who was the moral law giver for the ancient Egyptians long before the Torah was written? Who was the moral law giver for the Native Americans who were enslaved by Columbus? Who was the moral law giver for the Midianites as they were being murdered by Moses under “god’s” command? Did those people have freedom of speech? Did they have freedom of religion? Did the Midianites have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Had they lived in today's’ time in the United States; the Midianites would have been protected, but under what moral authority? God’s?
Some claim acknowledgment that laws come from mankind equals submissive compliance to whatever laws people make. Actually the opposite is true. Since laws come from people they can be protested and changed by people if they are perceived to be wrong. If laws are considered to be from an all-powerful and perfect god, that implies they can never be changed no matter how unjust or irrelevant they may be. Acknowledging reality is vital for solving our problems. The individual liberties enjoyed by United States citizens are a result of great thinkers. Although we still have many problems to solve, there is much to be proud of. Progress must continue and can only do so through reality based thinking.
Secularism and excellence in moral reasoning is what’s necessary for a high standard of human rights. So today at the dinner table, ask your kids where their rights come from. I have rights you know. Really!? From where? Push them! Teach them a lesson! Because if you don’t push them now, they’ll be pushed, shoved and shot by religious fanatics later.
“The foundation of our Empire was not laid in the gloomy age of Ignorance and Superstition, but at an Epoch when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period”
George Washington, Circular to the States, June 8, 1783
-James Kirk Wall
This article is in response to the following rhetoric by Glenn Beck.
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