Todays question comes from Lee who asks….
I have a religious/political question I’ve been wondering about the atheistic point of how on. The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–“, so in America, our rights are not then granted to us from the government but by God.
My question is, who does an atheist feel gives them their rights? Also, if athists don’t believe people where created equally, but evolved, doesn’t evolution directly teach that things are getting at least physically better and therefore one generation would be better than another generation. What makes people equal in the eyes of an atheist?
Ps, I’m not trying to cause an argument or disrespect, I just don’t understand and can’t find an answer on Google. I really am interest to know who do artists think gives people their rights and where does equality come from?
Wow Lee. You’ve got some great questions there. Thanks for asking them.
First things first. There is no such thing as an “atheist world view” anymore then there is a world view based upon not believing in elves. It’s kind of hard to base a world view on something that you don’t believe in. I’m sure there’s lots of things that you don’t believe in and you wouldn’t subscribe a world view to any of them. Same thing with atheism. The only thing one atheist has to have in common with another atheist is a lack of belief in a god or gods. That’s it. Anything else an atheist believes about the world is their belief alone.
Now to answer your question about the Declaration of Independence, as I understand it, the architects of the declaration were careful to leave out any reference to “god”. Hence the word “creator” which can mean whatever you want it to. It can mean a god, or it can mean the earth, or the universe, or anything else that you would consider to have created you. Austine Cline, a long time writer for About.com said it best when he said…
what little is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence is only barely compatible with Christianity, the religion most people have in mind when making the above argument. The Declaration refers to “Nature’s God,” “Creator,” and “Divine Providence.” These are all terms used in the sort of deism which was common among many of those responsible for the American Revolution as well as the philosophers upon whom they relied for support. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, was himself a deist who was opposed to many traditional Christian doctrines, in particular beliefs about the supernatural.
One common misuse of the Declaration of Independence is to argue that it states that our rights come from God and, therefore, there are no legitimate interpretations of the rights in the Constitution that would be contrary to God. The first problem is that the Declaration of Independence refers to a “Creator” and not the Christian “God” meant by people making the argument. The second problem is that the “rights” mentioned in the Declaration of Independence are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” — none of which are “rights” discussed in the Constitution.
Let’s also keep in mind that the Declaration of Independence. is not a legal document which is designed to give or take away our rights. Read Austins article and you’ll get a better understanding.
So then, who, if not a god, does an atheist believe gives them rights? I obviously can’t speak for all atheists, but as for my own opinion I would say it’s the same group that gives all of us rights, namely society and by extension, the government. As I understand it’s the social contract which we use to extend our rights to each other. Hence why rights in one part of the world aren’t the same as in other parts. Society defines your rights based upon it’s culture and morality at the time. The USA was unique at the time of it’s creation because it wanted to get away from the idea of an autocracy given power by religion. So instead of rights given by religion, it focused on rights given by the people. This is the heart of democracy, that it’s the people who have the real power and that it is their right to exercise that power.
Now lastly, your question about evolution. I think you may have a misunderstanding of what evolution is. Evolution is simply about adaptation to an environment. Somethings evolve and end up becoming stagnant, somethings evolve and continue on. As Sasha said in her comment to the article “Does evolution say that it’s okay to bully“..
Science is descriptive, not prescriptive. It’s a method to tell us what the world around us is like, not to tell us how we should behave.
So to think that because some atheists believe in evolution means that they don’t think that everyone is equal, is a non sequitur, meaning one doesn’t necessarily follow the other. Besides, equality isn’t about your physical state. We all share the same rights even though some people may be smarter or stronger or weaker or dumber. These rights are given by society equally so that we all start in the same spot and so that one person can’t proclaim dominance over another.
Well I hope that helped. As always Lee, feel free to let us know what you think by replying in the comment section below. Thanks again for the great questions.