If there is no God, the Declaration of Independence is meaningless

by Scott Smith

Declaration-IndependenceIt all started when I posted this to Facebook:

Something to ponder: Without the existence of God, what exactly is meant by the phrase ’human rights’?

What followed was an interesting conversation, but one that failed to provide any reason to counter my contention. Here is a summary of my argument:
According to Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

“Rights are entitlements (not) to perform certain actions, or (not) to be in certain states; or entitlements that others (not) perform certain actions or (not) be in certain states.”

I would contend that rights must be granted by persons. By Stanford’s definition, rights are abstract objects. They are intangible. The only way they may even be conceived of is in a mind, and minds are elements of persons. It is meaningless to speak of rights as existing prior to minds existing. It’s like talking about forests that existed before trees.

Once a right is conceived of, or proposed, it must be evaluated on some basis. Just as prices must be expressed relative to the value of currency, and weight must be expressed relative to the force of gravity, rights must be evaluated with reference to some standard. Without an objective referent, rights are merely expressions of what an individual or culture holds valuable. History is replete with examples of cultures who have held different ideas of the value of humans than we hold today. Even today we see varying rights displayed in other cultures. Whether we examine the inherent value societies afford all human beings, or varying values based upon skin color, sex, pedigree, or other factors, it is clear that there is no agreed upon norm. Many cultures and organizations have attempted to create such a standard, but the fact that the standard must be created and ratified is further illustration that rights is fluid without proper grounding. I believe that the only standard by which the notion of rights may be seen as objective and transcendent is God – if He exists…


The Poached Egg ApologeticsIf there is no God, the Declaration of Independence is meaningless | TC Apologetics



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