Wednesday, March 26, 2008

God-given rights again...

TF has, in response to the Court hearing being held in the US (concerning the right to carry arms in Washington DC), put out a fairly long article headed “Without God there can be no God-given rights”. I responded with three very short sentences, which were not intended to offend, and credit to TF he does not seem to have taken offence. But his thoughts, and some of those coming from other comments, do deserve some consideration and debate.

TF, your heading is absolutely correct - without God there can be NO God-given rights. And no, I am not going to debate the existence, or otherwise, of any god but take a purely practical view of the premise.

The initial premise opens further questions, not the least of which is -

Does a non-believer (in that God) have access to those same rights?

If I were Hindi or Buddhist, would I have the right to carry a gun or would God in his wisdom withhold that right because I am not a believer?

This is not intended to be a smart-ass question. It bothers me when I try and consider the "attitude" that the Christian God has to non-believers. It bothers me that those God-given rights might be limited in their availability in the same way as God's redemption of sinners.

Now please, just stay with me here a bit longer because I am at the absolute limits of my ability to debate topics religious.

My mind ticks over from that thought to the next which – to me quite logically is –

If a God-given right – let us say to bear arms – is to be limited to believers, then how would that be communicated to man? Yep, OK, that is a slightly smart-ass question so I will put it this way –

How would the devoutly Christian population of America respond if SCOTUS were to decide (in its wisdom) that the right to bear arms is limited to those people who are certified members of approved churches?

Now just think about that for a moment. Consider the problems that it might solve.

Consider the idea that a Muslim, or an atheist, would not be permitted to carry arms in the US and therefore could be jailed in an instant if he did.

Equally to the point, Obama’s church could be excluded from the list of “approved churches” because of the beliefs of the Pastor.

Now, what might happen if that pronouncement of God's will were to be made by the Pope, or the Archbishop of Canterbury (tho' in his case I suspect that most would accept it as a joke and tune out) or the leadership of the Mormon Church?

And that leads to the next question of substance –

Who should actually decide or interpret God’s intentions?

No, don’t laugh. This is serious here. TF states at length his belief in God’s intentions, existence, and ability to guide the lives of men. It is from that belief that the fundamental premise of his article depends. There are a good number of people who hold the same belief, and like TF hold that belief very sincerely. But equally, there are many people who would argue the Pope as being the only rightful interpreter of God’s intent. At the other end of the scale, I can imagine a very large number of people getting extremely concerned should Obama’s Pastor be responsible for the task.

I don’t want to bog down in the metaphysics or paranormal phenomena that might be involved because the answer really (fundamentally) is quite clear to me at least.

Irrespective of the mechanisms, or the beliefs, involved it is eventually men or a man (and that is generic, please!) who will be the final interpreter, final arbiter of God’s intent. To that extent at least there is no difference between “God-given rights” and “Sharia Law”. To be brutally honest I would despair at the idea of such “rights” depending upon the idea of Papal Infallibility as just one example.

And that, dear friends, is why I started the comment to TF’s article with the words “By choice…”

I rejoice in the fact that I have that freedom to choose.

TF can argue that I would have the same freedom in the US, and I can not deny that. But how long might it be before someone in the US political machinery has the kind of epiphany that leads to a section of the community being excluded from “God-given rights” (on well based religious grounds, of course!)?

The following is – for me at least – quite an incredible rationalization of the fundamental laws of the Judeo/Christian faiths (also God given) with the “interpretation” of God’s will in the matter of gun ownership…
The social contract that Hobbes and Locke advocated so that law could hold sway rather than the law of tooth and nail only works when humanity forgoes the jungle. By rejecting God, men turn to the law of the strong arm and the rule of selfishness and strength.

In any society ruled by the tyranny of strength, there must needs be a factor that levels the playing field so the weak can compete with the strong. Colt made men equal in the jungle. Take away the equalizer and the strong will continue to prey upon the weak.

Enlightened souls tend to believe that all other souls are rooted in morality and ethical behavior. Some otherwise well meaning enlightened souls would have us believe that there is no jungle other than what we create out of our own fears and prejudices.

In other words – and Cold Pizza can debate this if he/she wishes – “law” only works at the sharp end of a gun. I doubt that anyone could argue that the world of Moses and the Pharoahs was a time further from the law of tooth and nail than that of Hobbes and Locke.

Equally, and more to my point, men of today (meant in the same way as cp has written) have never turned away from “the law of the strong arm and the rule of selfishness and strength.” Remember that what cp wrote was in support of the premise that “the right to carry a gun is God-given”. The God-given laws that “Thou shalt not kill, covet thy neighbours property, or his wife, commit adultery, …” and the rest of the 10 Laws that we all in the “enlightened world” are supposed to live by seem to be ignored, or at very least take second place to these "God-given rights".

It is a very long time since the probligo read Hobbes and Locke, and this (like the WITHON I commented upon earlier) is something that I should remedy.

"Enlightened souls tend to believe that all other souls are rooted in morality and ethical behavior." - Thank you from the bottom of my heart, cp, as this certainly was a fundamental in my mind until such time as I started working the 'Net in this form. I have met any number of souls who are not in their own ways rooted in morality and ethical behaviour. Some who masquerade as "experts" in their chosen fields are in fact charlatans and fraudsters with only self-interest and self-promotion at heart. Some who hold dear the beliefs in the four fundamental freedoms - belief, speech, movement and action - are in fact demagogic politicians who apply those freedoms in the form of "only as I say and do". I hasten to add that no one in TF's community - not even cp - comes even close to the two gentlemen I have in mind and with whom I have previously crossed swords.


Dave Justus said...

First off, having a God given right would in no way depend on one's belief in God. The concept is that God gives the right to all people, and therefore it is a sin to try and take that away from them.

A more sophisticated way of looking at this is the concept of natural law. For believers of course the source of this 'natural law' is God, but atheists and others can look to other sources (human reason being typical) for these self-evident rights.

With a proper understanding of the concept, one that has a long tradition all of Western culture, and particularly in the development of British Common law, I think that the answers to the rest of your questions are either obvious or moot.

T. F. Stern said...

I'm honored that my thoughts made such an impression as to cause you to hammer out your own perception of rights. I should point out that I used the US 2nd amendment issue as an introduction to the real issue, that of a steady attempt to remove God Given Rights, which would include the right to defend oneself, family, friends and property. To ignore the most basic right of self defense, regardless of which type of weapon is being used, is to deny hundreds of years of Western Civilization.

The scriptures are full of examples of righteous use of force, to include the taking of life and to cherry pick scripture in such a way as to attempt an all inclusive interpretation for the use of force is not practical.

As for the issue of non-believers taking advantage of God Given Rights, I believe Dave Justus said it in as few words as could be done effectively.

Thank you again for expanding upon your original comment to my article.

T. F. Stern said...


I went back through the archives of various talks given and recorded by the LDS Church. These can be found at and with just a little effort you can read what I would like you to consider; even knowing your lack of enthusiasm for anything having to do with God.

The title of the talk, “Just and Holy Principles”:
An Examination of the U.S. Constitution, was given by Arvo Van Alstyn and printed in the Ensign Magazine back in 1987.

Here is the URL for the topic:

In this one article you will find an answer to each and every point which you brought up along with reasonable answers which address the issue of non-believers.

I hope this serves to further your desire to understand my point of view without sounding "preachy".

The probligo said...

TF, thanks for the thought, and I have continued reading just a bit further than the link you provided.

This, amongst several, caught my eye as I read...

"The concept of principled limitations, in this context, clearly implies order and balance; it does not reject the need for appropriate legal discipline in community and societal relationships. The thrust of the revelation is toward the marking of a “just and holy” line between the range of matters subject to governmental regulation and the area of private personal conduct that ordinarily lies outside that range. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17.)

The precise nature of the “just and holy principles” is not explained in the revelation. A useful key to their identity, however, is found in their clearly stated purpose—to promote the free and intelligent exercise of the “moral agency” that all possess, allowing them to freely choose between right and wrong, good and evil, truth and falsehood, virtue and sin."

One thing that your link did provide as a reminder (and which my mind obscured as I wrote the original piece)was the First Amendment. It was a useful reminder which made me return to the original points I was making to see if they might change. That might well be the matter of another debate - I shall see...

In the quote from Van Alstyne at the beginning of this comment I have emphasised two portions.

The first surprised me in light of its detachment of government, from "[right] private personal conduct" and the Church itself - a detachment supported by the quotation from the Gospel of Mark.

The second piece of emphasis conveys, very succinctly, the difference between our points of view. You can accept (as I can not), without question and as a matter of primacy of belief, the fact of "the revelation" or - in a second article from Ensign (The Divinely Inspired Constitution By Elder Dallin H. Oaks)- the "miracle" of the Constitution.

This latter is another, very succinct, illustration of the difference between us; based upon the use of the word "miracle" by George Washington and Oaks' interpretation of that use over 200 years later.

I imagine (naively perhaps) that Washington used the word in the same way as a newspaper these days might refer to a "miracle" survival of an accident for example. That usage would be appropriate to convey great fortune without necessarily invoking divine intervention. For someone like Oaks, it is the divine aspect and involvement that is the first reaction rather than the mundane and common usage. Who is right?

And there I return to Dave Justus who complains about "... the answers to the rest of your questions [being] either obvious or moot". Dave, that is the whole intent of the rhetorical question. It is intended to have the effect of continuing the line of thought without at the same time necessarily encouraging response.

Dave Justus said...


I wasn't complaining, I was simply pointing out that if you understand what the premise on 'God given rights' is, most of your questions are unrelated to what it is talking about. I presumed that you didn't have a clear background on the subject, which is what prompted those questions in the first place.

No offense was intended.

The probligo said...

... and none was taken Dave.

As to the question - "What does the probligo understand as God-given rights?" - I should have thought the answer equally as obvious.

The reality is, and I can not get past this point, that irrespective of the existence of God or otherwise, the validity and even the existence of any "rights" in this temporal world are entirely at the mercy of man.

So it matters not whether you believe in God or not, the US has the rights outlined in the Constitution and its amendments as the result of the acts of men and not God, in exactly the same way as the rights of people in places such as Afghanistan, Iran, Zimbabwe, Myanmar and China are limited and controlled by men.

Be thankful that your nation's genesis included such men.

T. F. Stern said...

Don't know if you ever watched a television series, McCloud, with a sheriff from Tucson working in New York City. He had a line, spoken with an air of disgust to emphasis the need to pay attention, that the point was either missed or misunderstood. “Now, there ya’ go…”

You claim it “matters not whether you believe in God or not, the US has the rights outlined in the Constitution and its amendments as the result of the acts of men and not God…” This is where you, and I will quickly add, and quite a few others do not understand the very documents which establish God as the Author of the rights, not the government, not the men who are elected; but God alone was and is responsible for rights. All other powers, privileges and “entitlements” are of men; but not rights.

To deny God is to deny the very rights which men claim are theirs, no different than claiming an inheritance from someone you refuse to acknowledge or thank. You may wish to deny God given rights; however, by doing so please don’t expect me to ignore historical evidence to the contrary. What you would have us believe is that the United States, for I do not know of any nation on the face of the earth which has proclaimed God as its Author, you would have us believe that rights are no different than powers, privileges and “entitlements” are of men.

Here is the distinction between what is possible in a truly free nation and one which bows down to men; God is at the head, or at least He was when our nation was begun. It is my prayer that He remain in charge so that those rights remain in force rather than our citizens become subjects just as they have throughout the world.

Dave Justus said...

Certainly it is true that these rights can be violated by men. And it is certainly true that the legal authority and protections to prevent that are established by men. That is undeniable.

As T.F. alludes to though, there is a vast difference between a right that is established by solely by men and a right that is established by God, or impartial reason, or the moral nature of the universe or whatever impartial outside source you prefer. If a right is established by God, it is possible for us to say that a government is wrong in denying that right. The government is in conflict with moral law. If on the other hand government and moral law are synonymous, then so long as the government follows its own precepts it is morally correct.

As a real world example, I hold that the freedom of an individual to choose his own religion, including none at all, is a God given right. It is therefore correct that the U.S. Government respects and establishes this right in its legal doctrines. It is therefore incorrect for the Government of Saudi Arabia to not do so.

Your viewpoint is forces to conclude that both outcomes, since both are established by men, are equally valid from a moral sense.