I hear it al the time. Our rights are given to us from God. I mainly hear that when I watch some show on a conservative news channel and what bothers me, as an atheist, is that no one explains how these rights come from any god or, if they do, why they have to be written down in some document known as a “constitution”.
And if our freedoms and rights originate with some god, why does that same god demand we fight for them? How is it possible that our rights come from god and yet in order for us to enjoy them, we have to fight and die. Is this some mystical sacrifice that determines who’s most favored? If we look at it that way, aren’t there a few more countries we could add to the list that currently don’t seem to have similar rights to speech, religion, press, etc. that we have?
Our history is fairly banal to others. We fought a war to free our selves from a tyrannical king in England. From there, our constitution, along with our Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to that constitution) were instituted.There was the civil war to free and outlaw slavery forever. A horrible war that ended when one side exhausted the other. A war of attrition. Since then? Some might count the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but that attack was meant to cripple our power in the Pacific to ensure Japanese hegemony without a challenge.
Who’s side was god on in the Civil War since both sides claimed his approval and for a while, the south seemed to have it. Why would a god place brother against brother to fight for the rights of people that the everyman was really unaware of at the time.
So the question returns to the question of “god given rights”. My final question is if our rights are truly given to us by some god, why do not all people on the planet have the same rights, or better, are able to enjoy those same rights as we have in our country? Why would some god pick one country, any country, and let the remainder of the would suffer under tyranny?
I’m certain someone will explain it to me but isn’t that just a justification for abuse and tyranny elsewhere?
3 thoughts on “Are Our Rights, “God Given”?”
I’ve had this discussion with others and as I remember my simpleton answer was “these rights are given to us by common sense”. You’ve given me some ammo for the “why they’re not God given” … thanks.
They are pre-existing natural rights. If you believe God created Nature, then natural rights derive ultimately from God. The Declaration of Independence alludes to “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
Thomas Paine, widely believed to have been an atheist, nevertheless spoke in these terms:
“The error of those who reason by precedents drawn from antiquity, respecting the rights of man, is that they do not go far enough into antiquity. They do not go the whole way. They stop in some of the intermediate stages of an hundred or a thousand years, and produce what was then done as a rule for the present day. This is no authority at all.
“But if we proceed on, we shall at last come out right; we shall come to the time when man came from the hand of his Maker. What was he then? Man. Man was his high and only title, and a higher cannot be given him….
“We have now arrived at the origin of man, and at the origin of his rights.”
“… if [these rights] do, why they have to be written down in some document known as a ‘constitution’.”
Our Constitution doesn’t grant or create rights, it acknowledges and protects them.
Paine again: “A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government; and government without a constitution, is power without a right.”