Do Atheists Still Have God-Given Rights?
Or are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness off the table?
I’ve been losing sleep over this. My brain may be a weird place but it’s also a logical one. Be careful what you say to me. I will spend far more time thinking about it than is reasonable.
In the last week, I have heard people mention their God-given rights more times than I ever imagined I would. It’s begging one huge question: If our founding fathers recognized rights given by a Creator, what happens if we don’t believe in that Creator? Do the rights then not exist?
I’m trying to work through this and it’s hurting my brain.
As a disclaimer, I’m not an atheist. I’m agnostic. That means that I don’t necessarily believe in God per se. I see the Bible as a book with a few solid lessons, not all to be taken seriously. It’s not unlike other books with philosophical teachings.
I mean, I like Henry David Thoreau and what he had to say but I’m not trading in my three-bedroom house for a shack-like cabin by a lake. Just as I am all on board with not working on the Sabbath but don’t think anyone should be stoned to death for doing it. That seems a little extreme. Just my take.
I’m cool with the idea of spirituality but mas o menos on God.
This is different than being an atheist that firmly believes there is no God. So let’s go back to the question:
If God is the one granting us the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, do atheists not have these rights since they deny the existence of the person dolling out the rights?
It would seem, logically, that the answer to the question is no. But then there’s this whole governmental assurance. This is where it gets really dicey and convoluted.
There is a local councilman in Arizona that contended that he would not support a city mandate that people wear masks in public because he feels the government is there to secure our God-given rights, including running around all willy nilly and maskless. This connects our legislative body to the generosity of a big guy in the sky. Wait. That doesn’t seem right.
Let’s move the ball down the field on this one. First, in order to do that, we need to ignore the fact that the mentioning of God-given rights does not appear in any legally binding, governmental document but exists merely in our country’s “Hey George, screw you,” letter.
So, if we focus on the rights coming from a creator, the atheists don’t have them. You can’t get something from someone you choose not to do business with. If iPhone users all get a bag of candy every year and I have an Android, I live a candy-less life. No candy for me.
This concept, when applied to our unalienable rights is terrifying. If you look at it quite literally, atheists then don’t get the right to life and we can just kill them. They don’t get the right to liberty and we can lock them up. They don’t get the right to be happy and we can spend our days feeling justified in making them miserable. Well, that tastes horrible.
What we have to recognize then is that our rights exist regardless of the existence of God. Behold, my friends, separation of church and state! This is a tried and true concept that makes sense. Hello, Supreme Court! How you doing? Did you just hear that? Church. State. Two great tastes that do not taste great together.
We have rights for two reasons, neither of which have anything to do with God. First, our rights exist because we’re humans and should be treated in a way that is…humane. Second, legislators have written into law that the rights exist and in what manner they should be protected. Thank you, legislators. Your work here is done.
I’m formally requesting we stop making references to our God-given rights. It’s sanctimonious. It’s myopic. Let’s just call them what they are: legislatively given rights. Feel free to move about the country atheists. Be happy and free.