Where Do Rights Come From?

Here’s an article from some twit named Frank Pastore: A Leftist Declaration of DE-pendence. The article opens with:

Despite a 45-year monopoly on public education, the Left has been unable to persuade most Americans to abandon their belief in God and creation and replace it with a belief in atheism and evolution.

The rest of the first half of the article continues along that line. Ordinarily, I’d make fun of that. What I found more interesting, however, are his assertions later in the article, which is what I’m going to examine here. His basic premise is that the rights we enjoy in this country are granted by God:

The Bible is the foundation, the Declaration [of Independence] is the “why,” and the Constitution is the “how” of this wonderful experiment in liberty and self-government known as the United States of America.

And the “how” is telling you to keep your grubby “foundation” out of government!

Because each man is equally responsible before God, he is to be free, and each man is responsible for the use of that freedom in governing himself. The principle of self-government roots in our equality before God.

No, the principle of self-government roots in the fact that we overthrew our tyrannical overlords. The Declaration of Independence only references a vague, generic, undefined “creator”. It says nothing about “God”, let alone “The Christian God”. Virtually all cultures have a creation myth, with some sort of creator. The Declaration of Independence was deliberately inclusive of all people, no matter what their beliefs.

Another thing to remember is that philosophy evolves. In the 18th century, most people were hung up on the concept of there having to be a creator. In the centuries since, non-theistic philosophies have become more sophisticated and can better explain the great philosophical questions. Just because the Declaration of Independence mentions a creator (without defining it), are we to be forever rooted to 18th century beliefs?

It took 18 centuries of Christian thought to produce the Declaration.

Isn’t the phrase “Christian thought” an oxymoron? (Well we know the moron part is correct!)

Many things needed to be worked out, among them the separation of church and state…

Wow. Pastore admits that the Constitution includes the separation of church and state!

If no God, then no Creator, no natural rights, and no equality.

WTF? He’s hung up on this idea of God granting rights. Rights are granted by the people themselves.

When the first humans decided to live in groups, they agreed (although not consciously or explicitly) to surrender some of their rights to the group, for the purpose of group survival. Anybody who didn’t like that arrangement could wander off and be a tribe of one.

Societies evolved in various fashions over the millennia. By 1776, we (the American colonists) were sick of the rights that had been seized by society, specifically the king. We declared independence (i.e., wandered off on our own). By 1786, we had come up with a Constitution that granted the government certain rights. All other rights were reserved for the people. I don’t see God in this anywhere. The rights are from the people.

If no Creator, then evolution.

He’s suffering from that either/or myopia of creationists. What if there is a creator who used evolution as the process?

If evolution, then all rights are positive rights, expressions of power rather than authority.

That’s the concept of Social Darwinism, which is usually used by conservatives of various stripes to justify their perpetuation of all sorts of social ills. Civilized human society did not evolve on a strictly power structure. His view of evolution is overly simplistic.

And, if evolution, then no equality since the different races evolved separately…

Race is not a scientifically valid concept, so we toss this argument straight into the dumpster.

…and no human exceptionalism—man is but an animal. Meaning, if man were to consider himself on a higher moral plane than the brutes, he would be guilty of the highest form of racism: speciesism.

Another ironic fundie statement. Fundies are the most guilty of speciesism, because they believe in special creation. There’s humans, and then there’s everything else.

Ultimately, rights come from either God or Government.

Wrong. Rights ultimately come from the people. The government then comes from the people.

If rights come from God, then government is under God, since it is the role of government to secure those rights. But, if government is the source of rights, then what is granted can be withdrawn. Rights would be alienable, only temporary.

Except we’ve just established that rights come from the people, so his argument is bogus. Furthermore, any government can overstep its bounds and seize rights, whether those rights are granted by God or the people.

Consider slavery. Lincoln argued slavery was immoral though legal. Douglas argued it was both moral and legal. Both men accepted the divine origin of rights.

Well that settles it then. If both Lincoln and Douglas accepted the divine origin of rights, nobody who came after them is allowed to disagree.

But, if rights were mere positive rights, as the Left contends…

I never heard the Left contend that. I only heard Pastore contend that the Left contends that.

…then that which is legal is that which is moral.

I don’t know what he’s smoking. Morality evolved for the survival benefit of the species and society. Laws are an attempt to implement that morality in a practical way. Laws are written by politicians, who have all sorts of conflicting pressures upon them. Immoral laws are frequently passed.

For example, the death penalty is opposed by many people on the left as immoral. Most fundies support it, citing the Bible as their primary justification. This gives us the opposite of what Pastore just claimed.

This is why to the Left, nothing is higher than the law, not even morality.

Again, he’s making that up. Just as I don’t claim to speak for the left, how can he—a conservative fundie—speak for the left? He needs to cite who on the left is making that claim. I sure haven’t heard it.

Which is why there could be no leftist moral argument against slavery, they would be limited to merely a legal appeal.

This is the exactly the same statement as the last sentence, just said in a more retarded way.

He then quotes “an Atheist’s Declaration of Dependence”, which he clearly made up. It’s a feeble rewording of the real Declaration of Independence, but filled with what he thinks the left thinks. He finishes his article with:

It is a high, noble and an especially American thing to do to reject secularism, atheism, evolution, and other ideologies of the Left…

It’s only “especially American” because of our high fundie population. Any other modern country would embrace these things.

…for such thinking could never have drafted the Declaration of Independence.

Wrong. The modern ideas of secularism could not only have produced the Declaration of Independence, but they would have written a better constitution—one without slavery or the disenfranchisement of most of its population (non-whites, women, non-property-owners).

5 Responses to “Where Do Rights Come From?”

  1. Kenny C Says:

    I know this is anecdotal, but I personally have met plenty of folks who conflate morality and legality. It’s actually one of my pet peeves, people who say ‘if it’s not illegal, it must be moral’.

    On the subject of a better Constitution, I’d have to say that most modern secular proponents I’ve met are far too fond of micromanagement. I think any modern Constitution would suffer because of it. At the same time, you’re right in that modern secularism would produce a Constitution with far fewer flaws enshrined.

  2. Ron Britton Says:


    I know this is anecdotal, but I personally have met plenty of folks who conflate morality and legality.

    It’s actually more than anecdotal. Some day fairly soon (I hope), I’m going to write an article about the psychology of fundies. Many fundies (as well as many other people) have a simplistic view of right and wrong. I think psychologists call it concrete thinking. I need to go back and read up on this stuff, which is why I haven’t written the article yet. But concrete thinking lends itself more to conservatism. Seeing the world in conflicting shades of gray lends itself to liberalism. This is very broadly speaking, of course. I’ve met many liberals who have simplistic, concrete views of things.

    On the subject of a better Constitution, I’d have to say that most modern secular proponents I’ve met are far too fond of micromanagement.

    This is probably the single biggest flaw of the dominant form of liberalism today. That’s another article I want to write. I was trying to get it done before the election, because I have a chart showing where the candidates stood on this matter.

  3. Sue Blue Says:

    Ron – I thought you might be interested in this latest on-topic tripe from “Hillsdale College”. I think my fundie neighbors got me on their mailing list. I usually just burn this rag in the woodstove after a good laugh or two – or a fit of outrage. The only reason I don’t tell them to take me off their mailing list is that it gives me insight into the twisted ways the rightwing mind works, and it reinforces my conviction that we who value real education, reason and reality must never let our guard down!

  4. Ron Britton Says:

    Sue Blue:

    Believe it or not, I actually receive those stupid little Hillsdale College newsletters. I don’t remember how I got on their mailing list. I think I read the very first one I received. I’ve been throwing them in the recycling bin ever since.

    I’ll read that article and see what it has to say. This is one of those fundamental, if I may use that word, ideas that separates right from left. If you believe rights are granted by God, then you will inflexibly demand that society conform to your beliefs in that area. You see this play out in some of the Supreme Court decisions (We desperately need to take back the Court.).

  5. Sue Blue Says:

    Ron – you get those too? Someone must be feelin’ that good ol’ christian luv for you! What’s really disturbing is that this crap is being put out by a supposed college. I wonder if their graduates were getting jobs in government, like the Liberty University retards. Scary thought.