The Smallest Minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. - Ayn Rand
Good reading, Kevin. (Do you really get complaints about the length of these posts?) This comment in particular caught my attention:
Who do we go to with our claims to our proper rights? It isn't God, obviously, because if so, He hasn't made His annoyance felt at any of the more egregious mass violations of individual rights, not to mention the plebeian everyday ones.
This is a big assumption. Just because the repercussions of His annoyance aren't immediately recognizable doesn't necessarily mean they don't happen. Actually, the idea that God would make His annoyance felt is a muslim belief, a belief that God controls all things at all moments. But if you believe in a God that has given people free will, then that means God gives as much rope as possible and allows people to hang themselves. If you believe that the body perishes and the soul is eternal, then what matters really matters, Kevin? damage to the body or damage to the soul? Christians believe that bodily injury really isn't all that important. The eternal soul is what matters, and this is why the greatest punishment God can give is to be exiled from Him. Gerald Schroeder explains this in The Science of God:
Criminal trial lawyer Alan Dershowitz remarked to me that God had coddled Cain. For Dershowitz, the proper punishment for Cain's heinous murder of his brother would have been the ultimate, the death penalty. The Bible sees things from a different perspective. In biblical justice, Cain suffered a fate far worse than death: the enforced separation from God. He was denied any awareness of the transcendent unity that pervades all existence. He had no hint of a larger purpose other than day-to-day survival, a living death.
We may not see the consequences of violations of individual rights in this lifetime, but those who believe in God believe the consequences exist. In keeping with free will, God says, 'Here's the world, here are the guidelines, go to it, and by the way, I'm judging you.' His standard for judgment is that, in order to be a good person you have to respect the rights of others and adhere to the Golden Rule. Which leads me to my next comment on the subject of rights...
Every person believes in his own rights. That's easy. What is difficult is to get people to care about the rights of others, which is the subject of some of your posts. So in all these complex arguments I read here and elsewhere about the nature of rights and how to retain them, something very fundamental to human nature is being neglected.
It has been scientifically demonstrated that people are fundamentally selfish. H.J. Campbell, a neural physiologist who did some interesting research for his book, The Pleasure Areas, says that people are hardwired to be selfish. This is the biological basis of behavior, which cultures condition in order to get people to act in certain ways. For instance, The Wealth of Nations shows how capitalism uses selfishness to put people in the service other other people. But how do you actually overcome the selfishness? How do you make people care about the individual rights of others? With a belief that you are being judged by a divine being who expects this kind of behavior from you. Christians are no less selfish than others, but the selfishness is restrained and turned by their belief system. You get a Christian who wants to get to heaven, which is fundamentally a selfish thing, and for that reason it is very important for him to act according to the Golden Rule. This was probably a lot of the motivation for ending slavery and the American Civil War. God says, not only must you refrain from doing bad things, you must also actively do good things including putting your life on the line. It's a powerful test, and as I've pointed out (more times than you probably care to recall), Protestant Christianity is historically the only system that has passed this test.
Taking this historical fact, what all this arguing about the nature of rights and how to protect them boils down to is that the only way you would get another system -- a Godless system -- where people are willing to fight and risk their lives to protect the rights of others is if you could get human beings who are not selfish. Your argument comes down to the search for a different kind of human being that is unselfish and willing to promote the well-being of community over self. I don't think it's possible. Every organism on earth is concerned with its own survival. Actually, that's not true. Ants and bees act for the greater good. So, basically, the kind of human being you'd need who would selflessly protect others is an insect-like human. I dunno, but that just doesn't appeal to me.
"Ants and bees act for the greater good. So, basically, the kind of human being you'd need who would selflessly protect others is an insect-like human. I dunno, but that just doesn't appeal to me."
Actually, Sarah, that's one of the problems I have with the behavior of the devoutly religious - an apparent inability to think for oneself.
Once again we have that impasse in which my position is a belief that - through reason - it is possible for people to (as Heinlein put it) cultivate their conscience through the hard sweat of the mind to conclude that certain rights should be recognized and defended for everybody, and your position that only through a belief in God - a specifically Protestant version of God - can this be accomplished.
I will acknowledge that the Protestants were the first to pull it off, but I don't think they'll be the last.
I think the problem is the word "Rights", and its present meaning... I think you've got it with the 'universal conditions' quote from Heinlein.
The thing is, if you look at many of the "rights" in the Bill of Rights, they are simply things that people will do, regardless of tyranny. Freedom of speech? An Iranian (in Iran) told me once, "Yes, we have freedom of speech here... it's freedom AFTER speech we don't have. People will speak their minds sometimes, no matter what the danger.
Do we have a "right" to defend ourselves from attack? I don't know about rights but I assure you that, if attacked, I WILL defend myself, with the best weapon I can find, despite any laws against it.
And we are territorial... will we allow our homes to be invaded by strangers without protest?
That's the first three. Are they "Rights" in our sense of the word... Well, they are now, because of the US Constitution. But they are more acknowledgements, IMO, than "rights" as we now think of them.
Once again we have that impasse in which my position is a belief that - through reason - it is possible for people to (as Heinlein put it) cultivate their conscience through the hard sweat of the mind to conclude that certain rights should be recognized...
But I have proof that my way works. There's no proof that your way works, and in fact there's evidence to the contrary. I'll leave it to you to decide whether this constitutes faith or not.
(Have I earned PITA status yet? :))
Title: Kevin looks at rights
Excerpt: In a (one) two part series, Kevin over a The Smallest Minority lays down a solid ethical framework of morals and rights from a small \'A\' atheist point of view.
Like usual, it\'s a very well done piece, Kevin thoroughly looks at the topic...
Blog name: Solarvoid