Friday, January 21, 2005

What is a “Right”?

So I was thinking about a conversation I had with an atheist a little while ago and I wanted to share a small part of it with you. For our purposes here, we will refer to him as “Derek” although that is not his real name. Derek clearly does not believe in God. He adamantly believes that we all came from some giant primordial soup and evolved into what we are today. Can you think of a person that sounds like this? Anyway, we were discussing “rights,” specifically intrinsic human rights; rights that belong to every member of the human race on the sole basis that we are humans. Rights like the right to love someone, the right to be loved by someone, the right not to be killed or harmed by another. Things like that. About halfway through the conversation it dawned on me that because he doesn’t believe in God, rights become meaningless. Allow me to show you how I came to this conclusion.

As an Atheist, Derek views the world differently than I do. I view the world with the belief that humans are made in the image of God and struggling to avoid sin and temptation while growing in their relationship with God. Derek views the world in terms of protons, neutrons, atoms, chain reactions and so forth. In such cases, Derek must answer the question of why are human beings more significant than drops of water? To remain consistent with Derek’s view, the only thing he can answer is “they’re not.” Any answer other then this begins to ascribe value and worth to the human. Any value and worth must ultimately come from God.

I asked Derek a hypothetical question to prove my point. I said “Let’s say that you walk into your backyard and find your child is drowning. Now right next to your drowning child is a small mouse that accidentally fell into the pool while trying to get a drink of water and subsequently the mouse is also drowning. You only have time to save one of them. Which one do you save?” Derek responded with “My child of course.” I then asked him why and he told me “Because it is a human.” Do you see the problem with this? Derek has ascribed human value to the child on the sole basis of it being a human. To be consistent with Derek’s viewpoint he can only answer that neither the child nor the mouse is better than the other. If we are nothing more than protons and neutrons arranged together than you cannot say that the human is better than the mouse because it is not. The only way you can say one is better than the other is if God has ascribed that value. Now Derek could have said “Well as a human I have the ability to …” and he could fill in the blank with a multitude of things. But this is simply avoiding the issue. Simply having an ability doesn’t ascribe worth. If it did, then birds must be superior to humans because they can fly and therefore escape danger. Starfish must be superior to us because they can regenerate lost body parts. Earthworms must be superior to us because they can divide in half. Do you see where I’m going with this? A being that is nothing but protons, neutrons and atoms, such as a human, cannot ascribe value to any other substance that is also made out of protons, neutrons and atoms.

Seeing the problem with his logic, Derek became frustrated and changed the subject and we soon found ourselves discussing gay marriage. Now this post is not going to address the issue of homosexuality (perhaps another time) but remember we are asking ourselves “What is a Right?”

Derek told me that he believes homosexuals have a right to be married. I asked him what a right was. He said it was something all humans had. I then asked him where these rights came from and he didn’t have an answer (remember our pool scenario). I then told him that I defined a right as something imposed on a human being by God. I then tried to show him that if you don’t believe in a God, then rights are meaningless. By their own philosophy, those that hold to atheism cannot say that something is good. They cannot say that something is right or that something is wrong. If the world is nothing more than atoms and electrons then anything goes, anything is fair, whether we like it or not. In fact, if one subscribes to Darwin’s theory of “Survival of the Fittest” things begin to change dramatically. Not only do rights become meaningless, but respecting other peoples becomes contrary to my own good. In other words, if Darwin is right and I am here today as the result of the right combination of random chemical reactions, than your rights infringe my ability to pass on my genes. Your “right to live” is directly contrary to my desire to pass on my own genes because if I let you live then there is more competition for me. To be accurate, by Darwin’s theory, I should kill you to eliminate you as competition. Can you imagine a world like this? Any act of charity, or helping another person is directly contrary to Darwin’s theory. Therefore, as an atheist, any unselfish act that you do, is inconsistent with belief that there is no God for there is simply no reason to do them. If you are an atheist I would like to humbly challenge you to intellectually and honestly assess your worldview. You cannot follow your own pattern of living, following the law, and respecting people’s rights, and consistently deny that God exists.

In summary, perhaps Dostoevsky said it best when he said “If God is dead, then all things are lawful.”

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