Our Rights Are Not Derived From God

 

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During patriotic holidays, as July 4th is here in the U.S., I often here people, politicians mostly, jabbering about how our rights are from some God – usuallyof course the Judeo-Christian version of the same. Even when I was a believer, i found that an odd thing to say simply because any grade schooler knows exactly where our rights, at least in the U.S., are derived. I realize that politicians, and yes, even some pundits on television, pander to the general public but is it really necessary to give credit for basic human rights to an invisible diety? The question has always been, for me at least, is why does the United States get these special rights that no other country have?

If there was a God, wouldn’t that god want all of his human creation to enjoy the same rights and dignity? Of course, I used to hear, in church on occasion, the explanation that we were the chosen of God. Based on the outcome for the Israelites in the Old Testament, I’m not sure that’s an honorific we’d want to have, or brag about.

All we have to do is look at a simple piece of paper to discover the truth and it doesn’t exist in any holy text. It’s the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to our Constitution. Why did our framers decide that these were important for a new nation?  It’s because of the experience we’d had with our English overlords before the revolution in that people were, at times, not treated with that same dignity and respect. Of course, even in early America, only certain people were granted privilege and the Bill of Rights, corrected that, at least for most. We still had, for nearly a hundred years after, the stain of slavery.

Today, no other country on the planet has a document that lays out the rights of the people, the governed, like the United States. Our government cannot just decide on a whim of who runs the government what we can say, or write, what religions are valid, how personal property is treated, and on and on. Sure, those rights could change, but not  arbitrarily. We have an obligation amongst ourselves to respect those rights for every citizen. that’s always and always will be a struggle. No god can determine the outcome for us, only the people who are governed by  consent, can decide.

 

2 thoughts on “Our Rights Are Not Derived From God

  1. The Constitution, which the Bill of Rights amends, is not really indifferent, it’s simply godless. The Constitution’s three mentions of religion are exclusionary: banning religious tests for public office, prohibiting the government from aligning with one religion over another and religion over nonreligion, and guaranteeing the freedom of thought and belief. In other words, the Constitution keeps God out of the business of government and government out of the business of worshipping God.
    Jefferson did not cite a god as the source of our rights and even the “endowed by their Creator” phrase did not appear in his draft of the declaration. It was added later by Ben Franklin or John Adams. Elsewhere in the declaration — relying on “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”— and in writings penned both before and after the declaration, Jefferson rejected the idea of God-given rights. Rights are not given by politicians or gods, or men who think they’re god. Rights are asserted. Once they are asserted they must be defended. They are derived from natural-laws, not derived from some invisible, transcendent, supernatural, fictional psychopath of the Judean desert.

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  2. I have to think that the enlightened men who help draft our Constitution well knew that a people, who had been hundreds of years under the rule of a monarchy, would need to replace that divine rule with something that spoke to their desire for independence and for individualism. To have written that “the people” own their rights just because they are living, sentient creatures would not help to pull them together in this epic battle. Whether Deist, Christian, Atheist, Catholic, Jew or Pagan, they needed to overthrow their divinely appointed King and so a “Creator or Nature’s God” was the only source of power that was greater than what the same power had originally appointed. It was a radical change in human-Creator relationship, which altered the religious feeling that God was in control from anointing monarchs to anointing individuals in their own rights. Churches were a powerful force for the Revolution and the believers had to be behind it, as well. It was blasphemy to deny the divine rule of the King and it was treason to actually speak and take up arms against the King and/or his army. I don’t think it could have been done without this new idea that individuals own their rights because their Creator granted them. Otherwise, it would have just been individuals rebelling because they didn’t want the King, while the rest sat it out, because they still believed that the King was chosen by God, the Creator, to rule over them.

    The most important task then at hand was to gather all of the states together and if this was another compromise, such as the slavery issue, then I am glad that the phrase was included. It was a tactic that I would have used, had I been part of this great enterprise.

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