If rights are not given by God, where do they come from?
“It’s not stupid, it’s a fact. Rights don’t come from anywhere but the state,” an online commenter snarled.
Imagine a world where your right to life itself was handed to you by bureaucrats. Remember that government is notorious for setting incorrect precedents, following them to the letter for a century or more, and then quickly reversing the notion to such an extent that the new policy is likewise wrong.
One example of this is the 1856 Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford. The highest court in the land ruled that African-Americans could not be citizens. This decision forced many men, women, and children to live the dream of modern leftists: the state gives rights. Clearly the situation was less than optimal. A slave who hoped to be a citizen could only continue hoping. The United States government did not even consider African-Americans fully human.
Although America has rectified the injustices of the Scott v. Sandford case, the fact remains that government is an unreliable source of paychecks, protection, and especially personal rights.
But more important than the observation that government is sometimes unwilling to give rights is the fact that if there is no God, there is no reason to believe in personal liberty or rights in the first place. An atheist who believes in rights may have whimsically decided that liberty sounded nicer than otherwise. Assuming that God – who gave us a conscience and a sense of justice – does not exist, who is to decide what is fair and what is not?
Without God, there can be no absolutes. Thus in such a situation, the word “justice” itself is meaningless. Deciding that tolerance is a virtue or that puppies are good would not only be arbitrary, but futile. Any points of reference would be gone and personal opinion would be the only guiding light.
Ultimately, freedom is good because freedom works. Freedom works because God ordained it to work. The same is true for all aspects of moral conscience. Theft is wrong for the same reason that freedom is good – because God said so.
Possibly the most famous excerpt of our Declaration of Independence asserts that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights. A common error is to claim that your right to life, liberty, or a fair trial is your Constitutional right. Rather, rights are given to us by God and merely acknowledged and protected by the Constitution.
Long ago America wittingly forgot that God gives rights – and in doing so adopted the same mindset that led Hitler to commit his atrocities and the same creed that influenced Marx to formulate a system that brought forth the most bloody governments of all times. Clearly the United States capitol has not turned into the Kremlin, nor has Washington transformed into Pyongyang. Sadly, however, the American people have disowned the principles that made the nation possible. In so doing, they have removed a crucial thread from the fabric of our nation. The cloth itself may appear to be the same – but the moment you attempt to stretch it, it will rip in two.