Saturday, January 5, 2013

Been reading some Thomas Jefferson history...

An opening disclaimer:  I'm not much of a religious man.  I am not an atheist.  I am an agnostic.  In other words, I just "don't know."  Maybe someday I will, but I doubt it.  Since the universe is a pretty cool place, and since anything is theoretically possible, it's against my nature to shut the door on one possibility simply because I don't like it.  That said...

Just a thought about "God given rights".  Note that the Declaration of Independence contains the phrase "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them" in the opening.  This choice of words could not have been accidental.  Many of the Founders were religious men, but hardly what we might call orthodox or evangelical by today's standards.  Jefferson even made his own version of the New Testament, removing miracles and what he considered supernatural acts and events.  What he ended up with is known also as The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.  In other words, he looked to Jesus as a great teacher of morality and ethics.  This paints a somewhat different picture than what many people assume was (or was not) that basis for the founding of this nation. 

The point is that whether one believes in God, or not, there is no need to solely rest the notion of inalienable rights upon the existence of God.  Why?  Because in the Enlightenment many men questioned the nature of God and religion, its teachings and purposes.  During the Enlightenment, thinking people saw the very fabric of human nature as deriving from whatever power created us, even if that power was simply the unguided meanderings of nature itself.  To exist as thinking, feeling, reflective humans is proof enough that there are certain aspects of humanity to be held non-negotiable - the right to live and protect your life, the right to question the nature of existence (and really to question everything), the right to your own thoughts and so forth. 

I put this out there because I realize there are those who do not believe in a higher power and who think human existence is merely the result of random chance.  That may be so, and I choose not to debate one side or the other.  The terminus of the line of reasoning stands that, whatever our origins, the essence of what we are establishes we must have certain innate powers of self-determination in order to *be* what we are.  Circular reasoning?  Perhaps.  A fallacy of logic?  Only if reasonably disprovable. 

Humans were not meant to live in chains, social or otherwise.  A social contract is one thing.  The wholesale shedding of the very qualities which endow us to be humans is another.  I encourage everyone, on both sides of the debate, to look back in time at how our system of government originated, why it originated, its original goals, the fiery debates which forged the creation of a constitutional republic and the external and internal influences upon its creation.  To say we are an experiment is true.  To say we are a flawed system is also true. To say the principles that our nation is based on are somehow outmoded or outdated is a sign of ignorance. 

Sorry for being so long-winded.


  1. Ed,
    Yes I do see your point and I was using God given rights in answer to another who was defining the rights in the Constitution has American. I believe they are mankind's natural rights. If you strip away society, each of us is has the right to self defense for example. I suppose my point is that each person is sovereign. I would like to add you to my blog list if you don't mind.

  2. Sure, that would be great!

    I forget who said it, but "Each man is a sovereign unto himself" rings as true today as it did in the 18th century.