God Given Rights?
In two of my previous hubs I've discussed the trend of theistic believers giving credit to God for nearly everything from athletic and musical talent to their survival of cancer. There are a great many things that we humans deem wonderful and beautiful i this life and, as if to save themselves from pride or excess joy, God gets credit for all of these from believers. Yet when something bad happens few believers blame their all powerful deity who is meant to be in control of EVERYTHING.
In this hub we will discuss even more ways in which God is given undue credit, specifically we will focus on the idea put forth by many theists throughout the centuries, that our rights as human beings were granted by some supernatural creator.
Real World Example
Before diving into the issue of God given rights I want to touch briefly on a real world example of what I mean when I say God getting credit for the oddest things.
Tornadoes have been tearing through the USA lately leaving many people without homes. During this time a tornado tore through Bridgeton Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. According to an article by AOL News over 100 homes were devastated BUT no one was killed. These people's lives are in shambles because of this disaster, their homes are destroyed and they are likely emotionally devastated as well. Yet they are thankful to be alive and guess who receives the credit for their lucky escape from Death - God.
Now in this case it is true that the weather service ALSO got some credit from the residents, however a local Pastor was sure to thank God. But why. Why would anyone thank God for destroying their homes? If God had the power to spare their lives why did he allow the tornado to tear through their homes or even to form to begin with? If anything believers in this God should be blaming it for allowing their livelihood to be so torn up. For a God of love this sure seems like a dick move.
Endowed by our Creator
In modern times when a believer brings up God given rights they often reference Jefferson's wording in the Declaration of Independence of claiming the rights of men were endowed by their Creator. What few of these people realize is that Jefferson was not a Christian, certainly not in the traditional sense. He rejected the supernatural aspects of the Jesus story even going so far as to pen his own version of the Gospels focused on Christ's moral teachings and downplaying any supernatural elements.
Jefferson was, if anything at all, a deist and his wording here is meant to imply the enlightenment idea of Natural Born rights, rights that all men were born with. Jefferson was most certainly not invoking the Christian monotheistic version of God here and even if he had been it wouldn't give the words any wisdom.
The idea of a Creator giving us rights seems laughable the moment we look at the harsh reality of nature. It is clear that rights stem from societal structure, from our ability to coalesce into groups, form systems of law and government and from that coupled with empathy and morals figure out that treaty other equally is a good idea. Giving people rights was a way to ensure that people would be treated fairly. Out in nature we don't see rights and indeed a human being stripped of society would have no rights and be feral. It is clear that we are not endowed by a Creator with any rights.
Supposing that God did grant rights why on Earth would such rights require man's protection? A perfect all powerful deity needs his principles protected? And why would such rights be difficult to figure out for human beings? For instance debates were carried on for decades as to whether women or blacks had any rights at all and to this day we still deny gays the same rights enjoyed by us heterosexual folks. To anyone who gives the subject much thought it seems obvious that God has nothing to do with our rights and that they are a flawed human concept. I'll let George Carlin do the explaining for a moment:
The Reality of Nature
I've mentioned this before: God did not create you. Even if you hold to a Creationist point of view God did not create you personally, your parents did and their parents created them. And that's the issue with the idea of God given rights, we can trace back the history of life, the history of reproduction, the history of Evolution. Life-forms are, at the base level, reproduction machines, whether they do it asexually or sexually is irrelevant, they are merely trying to pass on their genes. We can trace back that process all the way single-celled organisms and at no point along the Evolutionary time scale do we see rights developing for animals or any evidence of any kind of supernatural tampering.
We do see morality in animals however, particularly social animals that work well together in groups and morality, empathy and a sense of fairness all go into the concept of rights. Rights are man-given, not God given (and not Natural either) and without some structure or government to protect them they're hardly rights at all. So I have to wonder why people give God credit for this as well
The Christian Nation Myth
I think that a lot of the time those giving credit to God for rights are part of the religious right in America, those who mistakenly believe that America is a Christian nation built on Christian principles. This idea is laughably absurd and easy to shoot down. All one needs to do is put a copy of the bill of rights next to a copy of the ten commandments or any of the Jewish laws. The only thing that God and the Founders seem to have in common is their support of slavery (though not all of the Founding Fathers supported slavery). You'll see no endorsement of stoning as a punishment in any of our founding documents as a nation and you'll equally find NO right to bear arms or join a militia in the scriptures.
The tendency to give credit to God for everything is a strange one indeed and I have to wonder at times what exactly motivates it. In some sense I think its an absent-minded thing. God is embedded in the language since the vast majority of people who have lived here in the USA, past and present, believed in some kind of deity. Some people however seem to explicitly want to give undue credit to God for anything and everything even if he had nothing to do with it.
If you have any more examples of how God gets credit he doesn't deserve or if you disagree with me please leave some feedback in the comments below.
More by this Author
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A brief journey into the bizarre branch of New Age woo called Spirit Science. Can you tell real Spirit Science from stuff I just made up—take the quiz!
A review and analysis of A Matter of Faith, a 2014 film about the Creation vs Evolution debate by an independent Christian production company. An atheist reviews a Christian movie.