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Recently, Dan asked an interesting and important question: Is self-defense a human invention or is it God-given? If there is no right to self-defense, there is surely no right to the implements necessary to exercise that right, no right to keep and bear arms. If that’s the case, we live, essentially, in a state of nature, where, as Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan (1651), life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” Anything large and vicious enough to take life may do so and . . .

unless their intended victims are equally large, vicious, and martially skilled, there is no ready, convenient means to stop them. Women, children, the weak, elderly or otherwise infirm are nothing more than prey, and all are prey to a totalitarian government that recognizes only its own imperatives.

Dan’s question provoked a great deal of commentary. Here is a sampling:

Art Out West:
All of our rights are bestowed upon us by our Creator. This includes the right of self defense, and a right to the tools of defense. Yes, we have a Creator. The God of the Bible always allowed for the defense of innocent life.

The statists believe that the State is supreme, that it is in a sense “god”. That is why they believe that it has the authority to bestow, or remove all rights.

As an athiest – Self-Defense is still a “Natural” right. You can attempt to defend your life from attack with whatever tool is handy. Cats, Dogs, mice, rabbits, Deer, etc etc etc – all have weapons with which to use.

People are part of the animal kingdom. We just happen to be the top of it, With the best toys.

{and note, that’s just the right to try – doesn’t mean you’ll succeed of course}.

Denying someone the ability and means to defend themselves from one intent on doing them harm is tyranny at best, outright evil at worst. It’s really just that simple.

Michael Nieto:
the right to armed self defense is self evident like all human rights as all creatures inherently will protect themselves. i haven’t the wisdom or knowledge to say if it comes from the divine.

Chip Bennett:
Where does the concept of “morals” come from, if not from God? Where does the concept of absolute right and wrong come from, if not from God?

“Where does the concept of “morals” come from, if not from God? ”

Why not ask the MILLIONS of people who lived with morals long before the Jews were anything more than desert nomads? In all functioning societies, things like murder are outlawed because if people are constantly dying, then you can’t have a functioning society. It’s pretty freaking simple.

Disclaimer: I am a Christian. That I am is a logically, practically, well-considered choice, which is the basis of Christianity. I have no need to prove the existence of God. God says, “I am that I am,” and I chose to say “right.” I accept this on faith, which is what God asks, not demands, not threatens. We freely choose to believe in God or we don’t. There is no conflict between my religious beliefs and science, or logic, or a just and limited government that derives its powers from the consent of the governed.

I have faith because it answers life’s most meaningful questions–to the degree they can be answered in this fallen, earthly existence. I feel that human beings have a spiritual dimension, an emptiness in the soul, if you will, that God, and only God can fill. But most of all, because I am a professional, classically trained singer, when I study and perform the music of men who can only have been touched by God–something else I choose to believe–I see the hand of God, and it moves me more than I can possibly express.

Does a right–an unalienable right–to self-defense exist simply because, as an animal, we, like all animals, are generally willing to fight to survive? Obviously, such a right can’t be unalienable, because there can be no penalty for violating it. In a state of nature, we are poorly equipped for survival; there are a great many creatures that can make a tidy and rapid lunch of us. Obviously only the strongest have a chance in such a scheme, and because animals act on instinct, how can morality enter into their killing and eating us? Obviously, there can be no such crime as murder, no crime at all, just unending struggle for mere existence.

Whether one chooses to believe in God, there is practical value to acknowledging the logic of God as the creator. Some have observed that there were moral codes prior to the Ten Commandments, and this is true, however, they were not absolutes based on the inestimable value of each individual life, a life that had value because it was given by God, and therefore, had a soul that could choose or reject eternal life. Again, believe it or not, as you choose, but follow along for a few minutes.

Thomas Cahill, in his fine book, The Gifts Of The Jews, argues that when God spoke to Abraham and made the Jews his chosen people, everything changed. Before that moment, people lived not as individuals with an individual future, a future they controlled, but as spokes in a great, ever-turning wheel, interchangeable servants in various kingdoms, their lives and fates predetermined by accidents of birth and whims of potentates. Individuals mattered little, and rights hardly existed at all. Instead, elite classes had lavish privileges, but even they could be put to death at the whim of rulers.

This was not the only gift of the Jews, but it was the most important, and one we take for granted, one that is the very foundation of our republic: individual sovereignty, If Cahill’s interpretation is correct–I choose to believe it is–that voice speaking to Abraham was the beginning of the right to self-defense, because we have a soul, and that soul has the opportunity to be something more than we are. That is why we are different from all the animals, no matter how similar to some our DNA may be.

While one may argue that it is possible to live a moral life without belief in God, it is arguably easier and more productive to do so with belief in God. Beginning with a God-given right to self-defense adds a strong moral component to what quickly becomes a political football.

The First Amendment embodies the separation of church and state, but it does not eliminate moral arguments, and what stronger moral argument can one find? We can suggest that morality and emotion have no effect on politics, but we know better. All too often they overwhelm reason and law, so who better to have on our side on those occasions than the Almighty? Even if you don’t believe, you’ll still accept the help, the effect, I presume?

Some have argued that without law, no right has meaning. Law is a necessary step, and an extension of God’s law. However, whatever man can write is a poor imitation. Yet we have the Constitution, the most important and perfect governing document ever devised by men. And we have federal, state and local gun laws, all much less perfect.

Unfortunately, even the Constitution is only ink on paper. As some have discovered during the reign of Obama the First, to our horror, the Constitution means only what those we elect to represent us choose to say it means. If Americans of each generation do not revere the Constitution and believe in its principles, if they do not hold to that ancient faith, as Abraham Lincoln put it, then it is only ink on paper, because rights are abstractions in the human mind, and laws, merely our attempt to record those abstractions and claim them inviolable.

If appealing to a higher power, to morality and power beyond our understanding helps us to hold to that ancient faith, and helps to influence, even convince others, is that not worthwhile?

Ultimately, the Second Amendment exists not only for the purposes of self-defense, but to provide Americans the ability to resist a tyrannical government. It is perhaps less difficult than ever for Americans to imagine what was once all but unimaginable. Should such resistance ever become necessary, we will need all the moral suasion we can muster, for many, perhaps most, will not be eager to abandon their lives unless and until a despotic government makes it individually impossible for them to lead normal lives. By then, it may be too late.

One can say that unalienable rights exist merely by virtue of the existence of homo sapiens, but if so, what Man invents, Man may destroy. Such rights exist only as long as the balance of power allows it, and only as long as men choose to believe in such rights. That tends to change when self-interest changes. Take away electricity, functional gas pumps and running water and all bets are off.

God created man and gave him a soul, which imbues him with inestimable individual worth. Therefore, man has an unalienable right to life — to self-defense. Therefore, the Constitution recognizes — not creates — the right to keep and bear arms, because not everyone has the size, strength and skill to protect their life with bare hands, and because it may be necessary to force government to honor the Constitution. Therefore murder is a capital crime. Therefore the right to keep and bear arms secures every other right. Which is the stronger argument, that or one beginning with man has an unalienable right to life just because man says so?

America remains a nation where most of its citizens profess a belief in the Christian concept of God. Fewer, of course, can be seen actively acting on that belief, but their numbers are not to be underestimated or ignored.

The best part is that whatever our belief in the origin of the unalienable right to self-defense, that belief remains a matter of choice. Practically, however, it would be unwise to ignore the social and political utility and persuasive power of the belief that its origin is God, a power far beyond man, government, even any pseudo-messiah worshiped by a political party.

Your choice.

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  1. Every living thing has a right to defend its life by whatever means necessary.

    This right is inherent in the created order which we call nature.

    PS. If you don’t think you have a Creator, no problem. The two of you will meet one day and all your doubts will disappear. You may be wise to get to know Him before that awkward moment.

    • As stated during WW2 I believe, (but I may be wrong about the war) There are no atheists in a fox whole during a firefight.

        • “Or in the ocean on a boat or during a big set.”

          Been there, done that many times. God didn’t keep me afloat. Maritime engineers who designed my ship did.

          Choose to believe as you wish, but I have never called on your (or anyone’s) god for help. I handle or deal with my own problems.


    • Oh hi, ummmmm… So I guess you’ll be wanting that sorry for thinking you weren’t real stuff now, hmmm?

    • Well, if it doesn’t turn out to be a distinguished looking gentleman in a long white beard, I’m not buying it. Because, that’s what I’ve been told.

  2. I’ve personally gone over the nature of existence in my head over and over until I nearly went mad. I’ve come to the conclusion the universe doesn’t make sense springing into existence without a creator. And the creator doesn’t make sense, either. So I don’t bother with it. We are here and now, and we have a job and a pourpose to do regardless of why we’re here. To continue our duty to make what’s embodied in the constitution a reality, and keep it alive. Be that in the legislature or in blood, depending on the circumstances.

        • Which is why your belief in science is as religious as my belief in God. You have faith that science will answer the great questions, when the cosmos do not owe you an answer and are vast enough that we are more akin to ants than most would care to admit. For every question science answers, ten more pop up. Not to mention that the science you have such faith in has changed radically, repeatedly. You even tout that as an advantage of your belief, that someday the “truth” and the “answers” will be known. Your posts smack more than a little of “there is no God, and I hate Him.” You reference things that cast Christianity in a poor light while pointedly ignoring all the good (and indeed, there is much that Christianity has done that is good, and even great.) and are so cock-sure of your own choices that the idea of a pascalian wager is rejected out of hand. Choosing science as your religion is no more “enlightened” than someone unthinkingly choosing deism. The difference is that most religions have done good for the world, as well as bad, and atheism has done nothing, because it is nothing. Monuments to nothing will not be built, the poor and the downtrodden will not be helped in the name of nothing. In short, atheism helps no one, achieves nothing, and requires as much belief as religion, while failing to provide meaning or purpose to it’s adherents, and has no great humanitarian achievements to it’s credit.

          If that is truly how you view the world, you have my condolences.

          • >> For every question science answers, ten more pop up.

            Sure. But at least it does answer questions, and in such a way that the answers are verifiably useful (you can predict things with them, and those predictions generally come true).

          • Just have to point out to you: you start by criticizing Science but end by criticizing atheism on the same basis you criticize Science. Those are two entirely different things, which means you are confused.

            Then you promote the idea of religion, by which you mean your religion. Your screen name, it’s reasonable to think, indicates you are promoting Christianity versus both Science and atheism. Yet, Grindstone didn’t indicate whether or not he’s an atheist. You just jumped to that conclusion.

            Bottom line is that you’re a volunteer soldier fighting for one of scores of religious ideologies. Your the American version of an Islamic jihadist. Religions come and go, that’s the norm and has been for all of recorded history. That says a lot about the futility of your effort. Belief in God does not require adherence to any religious ideology, those were all invented by men, there’s no proof God created or supports any of them.

            Everything you have or are is thanks to Science, scientific research and development: which is why you have a computer, a car, a phone, the clothes you’re wearing and the food you eat every day. Without Science you might not have survived past the age of five. I’d say that’s a pretty good record compared to your belief in the supernatural. Yet scientists don’t demand anyone bows down and worships them, despite that God has no patents or copyrights for anything. It’s the religious whose lives are empty: full of nothing but belief in the intangible and undetectable. You’re 1000 times safer going to a doctor than to a witch doctor.

            Now, as a demonstration of the validity of your belief in the super natural: your assignment is to go without any scientifically developed thing from today onward. Report back if you’ve survived even five years.

        • Re: int19h

          Right, which is why I have no problem with science or mathematics. I’m rather fond of both. Neither of those, however, will prove or disprove God. Hawking tried his best to come up with a way to explain away the need for a “start” to our universe, but it’s all incredibly speculative and unprovable.

          Ultimately, humans believe what they wish to. There isn’t enough proof of God’s existence for the skeptic and there’s more than enough proof for the believer.

          Re: The Defenders Team

          That you fail to see the link between modern Atheism and Science as a religion is your problem. You and Grindstone are as much “footsoldiers” in the name of your religion as I am. You would both see my religion stamped out, viewing it as useless at best and backwards at worst. Your religion must be taught to children in schools, and my religion needs to be relegated to the dustbin of history in the name of scientific progress, because only SCIENCE can answer the great questions of the cosmos. Nevermind that your origin theories and answers change constantly, and one minute we’re climbing out of a primordial soup and the next forming on the backs of crystals, or that we evolved slowly but the gaps in the fossil record mean there must have been LEAPS in evolution and that’s why we never find the “missing links”. To say absolutely nothing about how the Universe must have exploded into being, and somehow that explosion created incredibly specific, organized systems, which instead of deteriorating grew increasingly stupefyingly complex, because when you put energy into a system, any system, it causes order to spontaneously erupt – like when you set a forest on fire and it spontaneously creates a log cabin. And through it all, you remain the faithful believer and follower of… “science”.

          At least I’m honest about my religious beliefs. And to be frank, this is only my second comment. If we measure religious zeal by number of comments, you and Grindstone are by far the most militant in the name of your beliefs.

          I have nothing against Science. I stand with Pasteur, Pascale, Newton, Copernicus, Boyle, Linnaeus, Mendele, Planck, Lenard, and Fleming – who by the way, were ALL scientists who made incredibly important contributions to science (that’s not even an exhaustive list of Christian Scientists btw) The difference is, Christians see those contributions as trying to understand God’s creation. So I’ll continue enjoying the benefits of science, thanks. The only problem I have with “science” is Atheists who interject their halfbaked, unprovable and frequently changing beliefs into the body of actual scientific knowledge, and then cling to it as dogmatically as I cling to my religion, hailing the achievements of ACTUAL scientific progress as their own, while looking down on those poor ignorant hicks in flyover country.

          • Can you give an example of “atheists interjecting their halfbaked, unprovable and frequently changing beliefs” into science? You sound like you have an ax to grind regarding evolution – you cite all the usual creationist crapload like “missing links” and whatnot – but if you actually researched that subject even cursory, outside of creationist sites, you know that there aren’t actually any problems with “missing links” or “irreducible complexity”.

            FWIW, I don’t want to see your religion “stomped into” anything. I think that it will eventually go away, same as all other religions, just because as times go by, the specific claims that it makes are disproven by scientific progress, and the only ones that remain become so abstract and removed that not that many people care about them unless they’re indoctrinated from birth (and even then…). The steadily rising rate of people identifying as “non-religious” is a testament to that. And yes, I don’t think that your religion (or any religion) has a place in schools, unless they are religious schools (which are fine, but shouldn’t be funded by taxpayer money).

            • @ int19h: I agree generally with the points you’ve made to Christian.

              I think it’s interesting that Christian and MALTHUS both have the constant problem of trying to fend of threats to their mystical beliefs. This is the motive behind their “intervention” with you and me. They both know at some level that people will gradually see the mythical beliefs don’t matter and they’ll lose their social / psychological cocoons.

              Also interesting: Both Christian and MALTHUS believe there’s only one explanation of who Jesus was. But it’s known that during that time, “prophets” and “messiahs” were fairly common. Jesus performed the same things that today’s magicians and psychics do: any successful magician could trump anything Jesus ever did. Jesus knew of this occupation and how “followers” provided food, drink, clothing and other things to the “prophets” and “messiahs” who were just itinerant magicians. Jesus’s “apostles” also knew how this “job” worked and tried to continue with their own adaptations once Jesus got himself killed. This is why there’s a new and old “testament” in the Holy Bible. The old testament is about psychics and magicians of the time when there were only Israelite writers to write those stories down. About 330 years after Jesus got himself killed, “Christian authorities” decided to collect the later-occurring stories about Jesus. They heavily redacted all the versions that didn’t fit with the then-current version of Christian mythology. But “religious people” today insist everyone MUST regard the compendium as “holy.” Only one explanation will do – you see.

              After reading the “holy” bible a few times, it’s fairly easy to see the other (and much more plausible) explanation for both Jesus and the bible itself. The bible is a (rather laborious) collection of short stories which all have in common tall tales about the feats of variously named magicians and psychics. Jesus got the most coverage – by design.

          • RE: “At least I’m honest about my religious beliefs. And to be frank, this is only my second comment. If we measure religious zeal by number of comments, you and Grindstone are by far the most militant in the name of your beliefs.” Hilarious example of the mystic’s need to set up a conflict and generate a criticism of “outsiders” just to make themselves believe they are right (and in your case, to be long winded while claiming it is we who “post more”). Somehow your type always has to make a it matter of blame and guilt. Somehow your type believes having the last word settles every dispute – no matter how stupid the last word is.

            You even densely accuse us of believing in perfect knowledge (as if Science provides any such thing). It’s your negative assumptions and resorting to them that reveals your hostility toward those who admit they don’t know and enjoy the quest of expanding human knowledge. You live in a static universe created once by one “Supreme Being” – this is the home to innumerable intellectual cowards.

            Just stating the obvious (it”s saner to ignore magical thinking than adopt it) is enough to set you off. That’s not militancy as you assert. It’s just that there’re so many people like you who insist on relying on magical thinking to justify yourself. “Because I rely on belief alone, I’m right” is the argument of an imbecile. Because you know it’s wrong, you have to jump into conversations involving proof versus magical assumptions every time you see one.

            You don’t even get that it’s not about God. It’s about phony religious ideologies which are entirely the product of scam artists. God exists / doesn’t exist has yet to be proven important either way. It’s simply not important because there is never evidence of God’s existence or non-existence and NO indication there’s a god-entity involved with human kind.

            Last time: there’s never been any evidence of “God-given rights.” NONE. No proof, no objective thinking, just “personal preference” which works when talking about flavors of ice cream but not when talking about reality.
            Humans alone “give” rights and defend them against anyone who wants to take them away from human kind. Humans need rights – gods don’t need them and therefore wouldn’t be interested in them if gods existed.

            And please stick to the point of the discussion which is: guns are tools we NEED to defend our rights and our lives. We need rights, we need guns to defend them from time to time. “keep and bear” is an inclusive statement: we must keep guns and bear them because we must have that ability to defend both rights and lives. There’s absolutely no need to wander off on mystical premises at all.

        • @Christian

          Except that no matter how many times you want to call science a “religion” it isn’t. It isn’t, because its method is fundamentally different.

          Religion fundamentally works off “revealed” knowledge, either to you or to someone else that you trust to relay the revelation. St. Paul had his “Road to Damascus” moment of revelation; he spent the rest of his life spreading the news of that revelation all over Asia Minor, Greece, and finally Rome (though Rome had Christians in it before he got there). Many attest to their own personal experiences, but there, it’s a personal experience; I can’t have your experience but I can listen to you describe it. I also can’t disprove it. No one can. And it’s absurd to claim that you didn’t experience what you experienced. (At most, I could try to demonstrate that you misinterpreted what you experienced.)

          Science isn’t so much an body of knowledge but a process; it looks at physical evidence, either experimentation (e.g., an experiment in a chemistry lab) or observationally (e.g., observing galaxies in a telescope) [Incidentally, let me dispose of a common misconception–science does not require repeatable experiments, but it does require some way to check a hypothesis. One can’t set up a star in a lab and watch its lifetime, but you can look at a bunch of different stars, recognize they are of different ages, study them (a spectroscope is an astoundingly useful instrument; we can analyze something we will never be able to touch, using one) and piece things together that way. It is verifiable (because someone else can go look at the same stars, or even other stars) but it’s not a repeatable experiment.]

          Science relies on physical evidence, that can be checked by others. Religion does not. Science and religion both have to interpret what they are looking at. Science is subject to finding new evidence and realizing the old interpretation and story is wrong. Religion does too–the next guy who has an experience probably comes out with a different notion of the nature of god and the universe–but then, because no one else can verify what he experienced, they often reject what happened, and the result could be a schizm or even a totally new religion.

          So there are plenty of differences between the two, enough that it’s just downright asinine to call “science” a “religion.” Both are ways that people form a “picture” of what the world around them is like, but that’s where the similarity ends. (And I haven’t even touched on the question of whether revelation is even a legitimate means of gaining knowledge.)

      • I’m aware. I included that in my thought as well. Doesn’t make anymore sense than anything else either.

      • There is a very large problem with the idea that the universe has always existed: there are no observations and no evidence to support it. Even worse, there are observations and evidence to the contrary.

        Regardless, every position is based on faith because no one, I repeat no one, is all knowing. No one has been around forever. No one has been around since the “Big Bang”. No one has been around since God said, “Let there be light.”.

        • Jjmmyjonga,

          Here are three problems with a universe that has existed forever:
          (1) All energy/order would have run out in the distant past and nothing meaningful would exist at this point.
          (2) All current observations show us an edge to our universe and hence an event-horizon limiting the age of the universe.
          (3) Life would have developed all over the universe and would have had an infinite amount of time to advance and explore. Thus, extraterrestrial visitors would be commonplace. But they are not.

          Anyone can dream up anything and propose it. For example, Hawking could propose that the Star Wars franchise really happened and the participants beamed the idea to George Lucas for posterity sake. However, there is no evidence that any such thing happened and I refuse to allow such a notion to shape policy in my life.

        • Current versions of past-infinite cosmological models circumvent (a) and (b) e.g. Carrol and Chen’s model with a reversed thermodynamic arrow of time at the Big Bang. Not quite sure where you’re going with (c). Also, I don’t think a past-finite universe is incompatible with the universe having always existed. (Just think about the operative word “always” in there)

          In any case, I personally don’t think a lot rides with regards to atheism / theism whether or not the universe existed infinitely into the past or finitely into the past. Neither Aristotle nor Leibniz seemed to require the latter assumption in their respective theistic arguments.

        • How do you know God said, “Let there be light?” Thomas Edison is more likely to have said that. There’s no record that God has said anything. I’m not saying God doesn’t exist – just that no one can honestly say they know God “said” anything to any human being. There ARE lots of claims about what God said or did but those are just claims made by men who stood or stand to get a free ride by making such claims.

          On the other hand, if God leaves a message on my voice mail, I’ll surely let everyone know.

        • Publius,

          When you have a “theory of everything” that hasn’t changed for 2,000+ years, let me know.

        • Unless you’re using some more expansive meaning of “theory of everything,” I’m not sure how anything I stated would depend on the fall-out of something like LQG versus string theory, for example. Can you elaborate?

    • AllAmerican,

      So, which is more comforting? That everything exists by random chance and could just as easily disappear by random chance and hence life has no meaning? Or that a loving, holy, all knowing, present-everywhere Creator who can do all meaningful things created the universe and us?

      I am pretty well versed in Physics, Mathematics, Cosmology, Astronomy, etc. Nevertheless, I do not have an absolute understanding of many mechanisms in our natural universe. Just because I do not have a commanding knowledge of their properties doesn’t mean that their existence is uncertain or chaotic or even nonsensical. The same applies with the idea of a Creator who has existed forever.

      • Somehow, the image of the Creator God in every single monotheistic religion out there comes through as anything but “loving”. An omnipotent God that can suffer Hell to exist – and, to hear some Christians say, even enjoy it – is a disgusting deity that I wouldn’t bow down to even if he were real.

            • This might surprise you but John Calvin wasn’t a Calvinist. The people I know who are strict 5-pointers would never claim what you have alleged. God does not enjoy sending people to hell. He loved the world so much that He placed His wrath on His son for our sins.

              • The notion that he had to “place his wrath” somewhere is disgusting in and of itself, and even more so that it could be placed on an innocent person, and the result then called “justice”. Who knew that an omnipotent being would have such poor attitude control?

              • Justice is the wrath of God being placed upon us for falling short of God’s holiness. Mercy is the son of God taking that punishment for us. Tell me, in all seriousness, where will you spend eternity?

              • Seeing how there’s no God, no Hell, and no Heaven, I don’t have an eternity to spend anywhere.

                “Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.”

              • Anyway, like I said, the idea that an omnipotent being can be so irate about the failings of his own imperfect creations as to require a bloody torture-sacrifice, only goes to indicate that said being is morally disgusting. I’d rather be in Hell then serve such a petty tyrant.

        • Also, there should be no need for a hell anyway. An omniscient God should know exactly what would be required to convince each individual to accept Him, an omnipotent God could arrange for those circumstances to come about, and an omnibenevolent God would cause them to occur.

        • “Tell me, in all seriousness, where will you spend eternity?”

          Among the stars. I will return to where I came from, star dust.

        • See, this is where the conversation always goes astray, and misses my point entirely. We can sit here and bash religion, or God, or Jesus, or Buhddah all we want- but I’m not talking about “GOD” or Jesus or Buddha. I’m talking about a being that created the universe. There’s a difference. Thats why everyone despises atheists, because ya’ll always make the discussion about “GOD” and what the Catholic Church did 900 years ago. Frankly I don’t give a f**k. My point is simple, and can be debated on either side with thought and reason instead ideological entrenchment.

        • int19h,

          The Bible tells us that all of Heaven jumps for joy when a single person turns their life away from a destination of Hell to a destination of Heaven. Thus God does not enjoy people choosing to go to Hell.

          And therein is the rub: God doesn’t send anyone to Hell … people choose to go to Hell. This is an important distinction for two reasons. First of all, if people did not have choice — free-will to choose God and Heaven versus Satan and Hell — then there is no love and such a God would indeed be a tyrant. Second, consider a person who despises God and wants nothing to do with him. A God who drags such a person kicking and screaming and forces such a person to spend eternity with Him is effectively condemning that person to a Hellish eternal existence. Instead, God turns that person loose which is an act of mercy if you think about it.

          The fact that Hell is awful is a consequence of the fact that God is absent from Hell. Again, you cannot fault God for stepping out of the way when people want to go to a place where God has withdrawn himself. Imagine a child who runs away from home because they have decided that they despise the rules of their home. The real world (where mom and dad’s provisions and protections are absent) is a pretty awful place for a child. But that isn’t mom and dad’s fault. It is a natural consequence. So it is with Hell.

        • CarlosT,

          Your description of God precludes free-will and is still tyrannical. It is a much more clever and conniving tyrannical, but it is still tyrannical.

        • From Paul Helm: If a man decides to buy a bag of sweets and invites his friends to take as many as they wish, he has not failed to offer the sweets  if in fact none take any, particularly so if all his friends have an allergy to sweets.

          God is sweetly reasonable in his good-faith offer. If a man declines to receive it, the failure is all his.

          • So if I offer you a life of reason based on verifiable reality and you decline my offer: the fault is all yours. I can go with that! 😉

        • Your offer is superfluous and denigrating. I enjoy the power of reason as a gift from God, just as I enjoy my liberty

          • @MALTHUS: What you really mean is you enjoy the power of reason AS IF it were a gift from a mystical being.
            Which is one indication that you commonly misuse “the power of reason.” Misusing the power of reason IS the hallmark of the magical thinker. You couldn’t arrive at a belief in a magical being if you used the power of reason properly. You MUST make a leap of imagination and it must be cartoonish (because proper use of imagination is to produce something that’s actually useful in some way). In other words: you enjoy entertaining yourself by creating mental cartoons.

        • The Defenders Team,

          I have used my powers of reasoning to their fullest capability to arrive at my worldview:
          (1) Reason tells me that there are things in this universe that are beyond my comprehension. And my reason also tells me that they nevertheless exist. Therefore my reason tells me that I cannot discount something because I don’t comprehend it.
          (2) While existing matter and energy can change forms, something cannot come from nothing. I have yet to see a rock or an orange spontaneously appear in my home … nor do I know anyone claiming to have evidence that such an event has happened in the last 200 years.
          (3) There are 10s of thousands of ancient Biblical manuscripts that countless academics have verified for content and authenticity.
          (4) The people who wrote those manuscripts made specific predictions that could never happen by random chance.
          (5) The surviving monarchy and a few dozen verified supporting manuscripts are sufficient evidence to reasonably believe that King Henry V was a real person who really claimed to be king of England. Therefore, the surviving church and tens of thousands of verified supporting manuscripts are sufficient evidence to reasonably believe Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who really claimed to be the Son of God.

          Those manuscripts provide an explanation for the big picture in life. For me, that explanation fits what I see, provides the foundation for peaceful existence on Earth, and provides meaning to life and death far better than alternate musings which are pure imagination, have no basis in reality, and can never be proven. It doesn’t matter to which post you hitch your horse: all of them require an element of faith.

          • Your first mistake is to try to equate “what I can’t comprehend” with validity. If something is incomprehensible that only means “so far” and the human mind is such that it continues to try to comprehend by further investigating the phenomenon. Error: the matter of God being incomprehensible seems obvious but it really isn’t the same “incomprehensible” because God is an invention MADE TO EXPLAIN the unknown. In other words, the concept of a “mysterious god” is used to REPLACE the effort of investigation and eventual comprehension. You have to know that the insurance companies use that to dodge paying out on the policies they sell and profit from. “Act of God” is one of the biggest scams ever perpetrated but it’s allowed because enough dummies believe “on faith” that it’s true. Yet you continue to provide them with that dodge and “invite” me and everyone to join you in excusing ourselves from the honest work of investigation and thinking. This is why solar eclipses were once mis-identified as “an act of the gods.” Until about 20 years ago, black holes were only a byproduct of theoretical physics, then we found out they are real and “incomprehensible.” But Hawking proved that black holes don’t really violate the laws of (advanced) physics. If we’d taken the original statement about black holes to be “incomprehensible” we’d have been mistaken. You literally CANNOT take anything ‘on faith” other than simple daily things which “never change” – and even then it’s nothing more than a bet that they won’t change.

            Get over it: God does not grant humans the right to exist.

            As far as Jesus goes: you’ve seen the MORE plausible explanation for the imaginative descriptions of him in the bible. He was a magician and psychic – and any magician and psychic could perform “miracles” for the people back in “biblical times” or in the Court of King Henry V or 6th or 7th or 8th.

            The people of whom you speak would have taken comedian Johnny Carson’s “psychic demonstrations” completely seriously. They were ignorant and thereby credulous and believed in magic rocks and goats and rings. Just because they genuinely believed in magic doesn’t mean we have to because we have the advantage of all that’s been learned since they died and we know that learning will continue (provided people aren’t duped into believing in “faith”).

        • The Defenders Team,

          I’ll boil it down for you this way:

          The idea of a Creator God who has always existed, is present everywhere, knows and sees everything, can do all meaningful things, is holy and loving, created us with free-will, etc. etc. etc. is beyond my comprehension and reasoning.

          The idea of a universe which appeared from nothing, how heavy elements ejected at near light speed from supernovae somehow coalesced into a tiny (on a galactic scale) static cloud to form our solar system, how the Earth’s molten core has been stable for billions of years, how the wildly over-the-top complexity of our DNA came from nothing, and how the organic computer that is our brain imagines complex ideas out of nothing is equally beyond my comprehension and reasoning.

          Your “reasoning” requires at least as much faith, if not more faith, than my “reasoning”. Fortunately, I have nothing to lose if your worldview is right. I encourage you to consider the implications if my worldview is right.

          • You’re making some false claims now. There’s a reason why the stuff you attribute to God is incomprehensible to you. It’s because all those things are made up to make God “invincible” to analysis and reason. ALL of the things you cite were “contributed” by men and they had their own motives for making themselves ‘final authorities’ on the topic. You know NOTHING about God or if God even exists, you know only the claims made by strangers who lived and died at a time when people’s general knowledge was only about 1/1000th of the knowledge that even an average person has today.

            My reasoning, properly, is based on what I know and what I’ve seen verified. You see, verification is crucial to true knowledge and true reasoning. It makes no sense to grasp as tightly as you do to a collection of short stories written by strangers 100 generations ago. Most of us don’t even know our own great grand parents very well. If one of my great grand parents wrote, “I witnessed God’s wrath today.” one hundred years ago -should I believe it?

            You make a false claim: you say that my faith is the same faith as yours and that is incorrect. Your faith (as you keep insisting) is based on the bible and probably what your parents told you about God and possibly what a “minister” or two had been telling you if you listen to that kind of scam artist. NONE of the things you base your faith on are verifiable, testable or even reasonable. So your faith isn’t the same as mine because I’ve taken the little time necessary to check the facts and what I’ve been told before trusting that information “as a matter of faith.” When I read Science Fiction I have reason to know it’s speculation. But if I “had faith” in the validity of all that’s claimed in a work of Science Fiction, I’d end up doing some stupid and possibly dangerous things. To your kind of faith I say: “no thanks” because I have my own systematically verified faith.

        • Your “reasoning” requires at least as much faith, if not more faith, than my “reasoning”. Fortunately, I have nothing to lose if your worldview is right. I encourage you to consider the implications if my worldview is right.

          It posits that humans all bet with their lives either that God exists or not. Given the possibility that God actually does exist and assuming an infinite gain or loss associated with belief or unbelief in said God (as represented by an eternity in heaven or hell), a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.).

          • @ John in Ohio,
            Though you addressed your comment to int19h, I see you use the same claim about your faith and his as was made by another about his and mine.

            I think someone should tell you: your faith is NOT the same faith as int19h’s or mine.
            You see: you clearly say that you have faith in such things as the bible and God but those things are not verified or verifiable while the thing that int19h and I have faith in ARE verifiable and understandable.

            There’s no way to test the veracity of the statements made in the bible. Primarily, the stories which tell of “miracles” and “prophecies” are worthy of only skepticism because we KNOW the level of knowledge (and credulity) of those who wrote those bible stories does not stack up against the accumulated knowledge we possess today.

            It is you, not us, who should wisely choose to have faith in verifiable facts and knowledge (versus claims made by men we can never know to any useful degree).

        • @The Defenders Team: Respectfully…

          My post included a quote from uncommon_sense’s comment. My reply consisted entirely of a URL and a direct quote from the Wikipedia article. I made absolutely NO faith based comment. I proposed no personal opinion; nothing, nada. AFAIK, I have only made one other comment on this article and that was, “Both.” The post that you are replying to was clearly ONLY to give reference for those who were unfamiliar with Pascal’s Wager. The article gives background, explanation, and criticisms. I took no position for which you could possibly debate with me.

          Please leave me out of y’all’s little circle jerk. Thanks.

          (BTW: I am a degreed and trained scientist; biology, chemistry, physics, and medicine.)

          • @ John in Ohio
            Sorry – I have been having trouble with the way the notifications from this blog are “identifying” who is posting. I just clicked on “reply” and “trusted faith” (lol) to see that my response was to the right person / commenter. It seems as if God isn’t providing very good service on this self-proclaimed faith-based blog site.

            It’s not even sure my apology and explanation will end up being seen by you. Says something about the “importance” of our labors here, doesn’t it?

            So please leave me out of your little hissy fit.

            • The way blog comments work here, if you subscribe to “follow-up comments”, you’re actually subscribing to any comment that will end up being posted to a given post, even if it’s not in response to your own.

              (which is something that I wish they’d fix)

              • @ John in Ohio,
                re: (which is something that I wish they’d fix)

                Agreed. The “method of notification” here has confused me more than once.

          • @ John in Ohio: “You should put something on that burn.” I didn’t get burned. 🙂

            BTW: I took the little time needed to read up on Pascal’s wager. Thanks, that was interesting. I can’t say I think much of Pascal’s overall viewpoint though. “Pascal asks the reader to analyze the position of mankind, this crisis of existence and lack of complete understanding. While Mankind can discern a great deal through reason, it is also hopelessly removed from knowing everything through it.”

            Don’t know if you agree with my position but I think that (reason)”is also hopelessly removed from knowing everything through it.” is the statement of someone who (at the time he was saying that) didn’t understand that it’s not about “knowing everything” but only about knowing enough. (elaborating a bit: people – and all living things – get waylaid by what they don’t know all the time. “If I had known at the time” is the operative statement, I think. Any my response – as opposed to Pascal’s – is that I should therefore endeavor to learn enough to deal with situations before I get myself into them.)

            What do you think about that?

        • @The Defenders Team:
          I should therefore endeavor to learn enough to deal with situations before I get myself into them.

          That seems to be a prudent choice and demonstrative of wisdom in plotting one’s own course through existence. Pax and I’m out.

  3. The only answer to this: Is self-defense a human invention or is it God-given?
    Is both. It’s a personal belief. Some people even choose to believe that there is no right to self defense. Rights are a nebulous thing. They are hard to define.

    I’m not saying religion doesn’t build certain values in people, because it absolutely can. But tying it to the gun debate doesn’t help anything. It creates arguments and divides people who otherwise see eye-to-eye.

    • I agree, I think it can be argued from many perspectives, religious, utilitarian or via the nature of our humanity. Doesn’t matter to me. I tend to believe in some sort of creator, although I’m not a huge fan of most religions only because many seem to dwell on silly stuff that doesn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme of things. At least matter to me that is.

    • Rights are not hard to define: we as living beings know when there’s a threat to our existence and we know we will fight for our right to remain living and unharmed. Given only that one must assume that rights do not include harming others unless in defense of oneself or one’s fellow humans, “rights” are easy to define.

      The original question was whether God gave us the right to live and to defend life or is it humans who strive to maintain that right.

      Some people have posed the question of whether the need to live justifies killing or stealing to live. The answer to that is “no” because that’s a contradiction. We reserve the right to kill for defense and to kill other species for food. That just makes us the top predator on the planet because we do not allow animals to kill humans. It’s a one-way conference of rights for humans only. If God exists and created humankind, then this must be his plan because that’s what we’ve been doing since humans came into existence.

  4. As some have discovered during the reign of Obama the First, to our horror, the Constitution means only what those we elect to represent us choose to say it means.

    I really don’t get how the “conservatives” keep saying things like this.

    Do they honestly believe that Obama was the first president to do these bad things (many of which were just the continuation of policies by his predecessors)? Do they not understand History?

    US Presidents have been pissing on the Constitution since the ink was barely dry. John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made it a crime to criticize the government. Wilson and Lincoln both imprisoned people who spoke out against their wars, without trials. Lincoln even had an arrest warrant prepared for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, because the court ruled against him (he never executed the warrant). Nixon started the drug war so he could arrest anti-war protestors.

    If you say that Obama is a horrible president and a dangerous enemy of liberty, you’re correct. With a few exceptions, each president was worse than the previous one. But that’s mainly because the bad policies of the prior presidents stick around (Obama didn’t start the policy of black-bagging US citizens and flying them to foreign dungeons for torture, or the NSA spying policies, but he’ll never end them, either). In general, presidents are just corrupt, soulless, smiling idiots who trade power for money and look at the Constitution as an impediment.

  5. Robert A Heinlein once said what right to life does a man drowning have. Our laws and culture in America are tied up in French and British philosophy that ground law and government in rights. I think this is good in that it keeps the individual from becoming lost in the interests of the state. But, there is another view of the world from the pagans of Greece. Thucydides attributed all human motivation to selfishness, honor, and fear. If this is the nature of humanity you cannot expect people not to defend themselves. Thos does not mean that it is a right, just impossible to expect a reasonable person not to do.

    Also, your conection between God’s law and man’s is spot on. Laws are commandments. Some from men some from God. But back to my point human nature is like gravity, it is always there and inescapable.

    • The Greek view and the Anglo view aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, the former grew out of the latter. The Founders acknowledged human nature when establishing a system of checks and balances. Greece started it all with representative government and a tradition of heroic individualism. I don’t see much difference between a citizen-soldier defending Athens and a Minuteman fighting for a free America.

      • You are correct there is no difference between a citizen soldier and a minuteman. But there is a difference between the view of self defense grounded in human nature and it grounded in natural right. Natural right leads to the conclusion that any law that violates a natural right is unjust. As Thrasymachus argued justice is just the benefit of those in power. Which leads right back to the selfish, honor, and fear basis for self defense.

        This also explains the anti’s fear of guns. It takes power from them and puts limits on their control.

        • I didn’t say they were identical, I said they aren’t mutually exclusive. One can have a right to self defense and exercise it for human reasons ungrounded in moral abstractions. I also said that the Enlightenment view grew out of the Greek traidtion. Honor is a hell of a good reason alone for self-defense. A man or woman without honor is chattel. Luckily, we have a system of rights that recognizes our human fallibility.

  6. Regardless of hate you may receive, thank you for this article, Mike. It was very well-written. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams

  7. If you need a philosophical or moral justification to not lay down and die, you’re doing it wrong.

  8. Self-defense is a human trait of instinct and survival. Someone threw a rock, another a stick, it went from there. There is no need to bring religion into firearms and I believe to do so could be a mistake. A mistake as it could complicate and muddy the water ultimately creating a position whereas 2A Rights people would battle among themselves. Bad idea.

  9. I too am a Christian. My profession is science and my beliefs and facts mix very well. Having said that I see evolution in everything. Violence is another tool of evolution, the result being the breeding of larger and stronger life forms. We are currently the most advanced beings on this planet, but we are still subject to evolution. Strong people do not need a weapon against weak people. Therefore, it was the weak that developed weaponry. Firearms are also the most advanced in a series of evolution of man-made weapons. Access to deadly weapons is the ONLY thing that keeps humanity on an even plane. Note that as violent as firearms may be, as many deaths and wars as they’ve been involved with, civilization began to stabilize globally during the rise and reign of the firearm. Human life has never been better. Without firearms, civilization will wear through and the world will revert to dictatorships that littered the past.

    So to sum up, self defense isn’t a right. It is as natural as life itself. And if we remove the ability to defend, we revert to a more animalistic existence.

    • You cannot believe in evolution and be a Christian. Or, perhaps I should say, a mature, good Christian. To believe in evolution is to deny the inspiration of scripture, to call men such as David, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul liars, to deny original sin, to deny all miracles, and to make Christ’s death and resurrection meaningless (among other things) As Christ said, “You cannot serve two masters.” Choose you this day who you will serve.

        • Creationism is somewhat unique to a subset of American protestants. The rest, even Eastern Orthodox, think the clockmaker might be wise enough to make a clock that runs itself.

        • dwb, unfortunately, Eastern Orthodox Churches are not free from creationism. Unlike Catholics, they don’t have any official ruling one way or the other, and so believers are free to embrace evolution or creationism as they see fit… and of late, in the more conservative churches (e.g. Russia), creationism has been growing in popularity, and has been publicly supported even by some prominent clergymen. Ironically, they use a lot of materials from American protestant creationists, simply translating them to Russian.

      • God created and every moment since he has continued to create. It is more miraculous to think God continues to guide all things in this universe than to think he simply creates and abandons his creations. Science and religion are not at odds, you just need to rearrange three letters, o, w, and h. Science describes the how, religion describes the who.

        • That’s a clever use of the alphabet–I’ll concede you that–but “Science” is being treated as an infallible god when it is not. To reiterate my point, saying evolutuon is the means of creation negates all of scripture and makes God a liar.

          • If you seriously think that someone believes that “evolution is the means of creation”, you don’t understand what evolution actually means. Evolution does not answer, or even attempt to answer, the question of how life became to be. It only answers the question of how life as we see it today became to be from the kind of life that was there before – and what stages it went through. As far as Catholics are concerned, for example, God is still the Creator of life, and evolution is his divine plan to shape that life into the form that it has today.

        • ” saying evolutuon is the means of creation negates all of scripture and makes God a liar.”

          It also means that you have no idea what evolution is since evolution is not abiogenesis.

        • Genesis is allegory? There was no Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob? The Jews were never in Egpyt? There is no promised land? Why did no one else in scripture think it was allegorical? Are they all liars?

        • The comment was about Genesis, not any of the later books; Moses, for one, does not appear until Exodus. And yes there is a great deal of fiction written into those books as well, as allegory is a method of giving moral teachings. The Old Testament itself was not written down until a rabbinical conclave in Alexandria, Egypt in 586 B.C.–up till then it was a series of oral traditions that the rabbis sought to put down in a single definitive text. And the text that you read, likely in English, is a translation of a translation of a translation. What leads you to believe that it is accurate? that meaning has not been lost in translation?
          But we were talking about Genesis–the story of Adam and Eve, of which there are two separate versions in the Old Testament, and at least one version of the creation myth appears in every single human culture. In fact, pretty much every human culture has a flood legend as well. Add to this the scientific perspective: two people is not a viable genetic population. all of Adam and Eve’s children would have necessarily had to intermarry–and there is a very good reason–recognized long before the science of genetics–for prohibiting marriages between relatives of the first degree. Which is why populations of less than several hundreds of members are doomed to genetic failure.

      • Can you believe that Earth is older than 10,000 years, at least? Or do you also have to take the Biblical chronology as literal?

          • Oh my, an actual Young Earth Creationist!

            See, that’s one of the reasons I don’t like it when people drag religion as a rider in some fight. It inevitably comes with guys like that, and then people on the outside – you know, the guys you’re trying to convince to join your cause – see them, note that their beliefs are crazy, assume that people associating with them (or at least tolerating them) must be similarly crazy, and run like hell.

        • JJ48 is correct as far as he goes. If one uses the bible as their source, that’s pretty much the conclusion one is forced to. Archbishop Ussher came up with 4004 BC as the correct date, while the eastern Orthodox church seems to have come up with 5509 BC. The computation giving the earliest date is 5532 BC.

          If one doesn’t use the bible, on the other hand…

      • And what pray tell is the advantage in being “a good Christian”??

        For that matter, kindly tell us what disadvantage there is in pointing out that Jesus, Paul, etc. didn’t know what the hell they were talking about?

        Christianity is just one of the many ways we’re told is the “right way” to practice a belief in the super natural. We have difficulty enough with the means to record images and the spoken word to know “what happened” and “what he said.” Yet Christians (for one example) endlessly insist “we” know absolutely every pertinent fact about the (somewhat vaguely established) person called Jesus said at a time when NO ONE had the means to verify what he’s supposed to have said to mostly unknown persons at unverifiable times & places.


    • Oh shit, everybody saw the E word and totally missed the point. I’ve read the bible and studied science my whole life. They coexist very well. Jesus taught in parables, just like his father. Early genesis is a series of important parables that should absolutely be studied. Noah, Abraham and everybody else, that’s human history. Those were real people and miracles happen, but all by design. The universe was created 15-20 Bya, the earth 4.5 Bya and Jesus died on the cross 1982 years ago. God the clock-maker, predestination, original sin, nature, all that. Science describes how but not why.
      Now, did anybody notice my original point? Self defense is an act of natural selection: crabs, lions, turtles, penguins, humans. We all have methods to defend ourselves against violent attack. It is the threat of self defense that thwarts attack in all of nature. To remove that threat would return our society to a bloodthirsty collection of war lords and tribes, held together by dictators.

      • Nit: The currently accepted age of the universe is ~13.8 billion years (outside of the range you gave). Nonetheless your larger point is unaffected.

        As an aside radiometric dating is getting quite precise; meteorites are being dated to 4.567 billion years (an easy number to remember); four significant figures. (I just looked and saw the number 4567.30 ± 0.16 million years; that means they can date things to almost five significant figures, to within roughly a 300,000 year period. I also saw a slightly different number, 4568.2 million years.) That’s regarded as the age of the solar system, the Earth would be a bit younger than that (not inconsistent with what you wrote). It’s harder to date the Earth itself precisely because none of the rocks from back then still exist. Not too long ago the universe’s age was thought to be 13.7 billion years and as it happens that’s almost exactly three times 4.567 billion years.

  10. Excellent article. Bravo!

    And for my hunting brethren, a book by Doug Giles-
    Rise, Kill and Eat – is a great read on why hunting, harvesting your own food, is biblical, and OK with God.

  11. The Truth About Jebus? I didn’t expect to see right-wing evangelism on this blog today.

    Thomas Cahill, in his fine book, The Gifts Of The Jews, argues that when God spoke to Abraham and made the Jews his chosen people, everything changed. Before that moment, people lived not as individuals with an individual future, a future they controlled, but as spokes in a great, ever-turning wheel, interchangeable servants in various kingdoms, their lives and fates predetermined by accidents of birth and whims of potentates. Individuals mattered little, and rights hardly existed at all. Instead, elite classes had lavish privileges, but even they could be put to death at the whim of rulers.

    That’s quite funny. How is that any different from the lives of people in the Roman Empire? The Greek Empire? The lives of people in feudal Europe? The low-born people of medieval Europe were tied to the land that their regent owned. No, the Jews didn’t change ideas of rights and government, it was the Enlightenment that gave us works such as the Magna Carta Libertatum, The English Bill of Rights, etc. The Hebrews had kings and the noble class and the lowly lowly peasants, just as much of human history before and after them.

    Anyway, I got quoted in a TTG article! Neat!

    • Dear Grindstone:

      You’re welcome. Evangelism? I’m afraid not, right wing or otherwise. My point about “The Gifts of the Jews” is that it was God that changed the minds and beliefs of the Jews, beginning with Abraham, and they, in turn changed the world by God’s inspiration, making possible the very idea of individual sovereignty, which makes self-defense the highest “natural” law.

      But as I said, one may choose to believe in God or not. Powerful arguments can be made for the right to self-defense and all that flows from it without reliance on God, but those arguments are more powerful with His moral force. I certainly don’t preach or try to convert those around me, nor do I look down on those that do not believe as I do. I merely present one possible view of the issue Dan raised.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • I cannot recall a single Biblical passage in the Old Testament that says anything about individual sovereignty, or the pre-eminence of the individual versus the power of the government. Indeed, the story of Job would dictate quite the contrary–that anyone who would place himself above and before the rest was an egoist who needed to be brought down a peg. The idea of individual sovereignty is a product of 17th and 18th century French philosophy–it was certainly not practiced by the Greeks, who believed in the overarching power of the state and the duty of the citizens to the state.

        • Mark has posted what I would’ve responded with. I’d like to see any sort of biblical passage that supports the notion of individual liberty. Any.

    • I have to agree, and with the added comment that the god of Abraham and Moses, buy “his” own words, recognized that he was not the only god. Something like “thou shalt worship no other god before me.” Hey, the world was a multitheistic place at that time in history. Abraham’s god was only saying that he was better than the others. That would change over time, and as it is in Islam, “he” became the “One True God.”

      • There’s lots of evidence out there that indicates that Yaweh was one of a pantheon of Semitic gods, all under the leadership of the supreme god El. Supposedly, Yaweh was the god most associated with war. Which answers and raises a lot of questions.


          There are numerous references to liberty in both the Old and New Testament.

          The Liberty Bell’s inscription reads, Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof–Leviticus 25:10

          The reference is to Israel’s jubilee. Contrary to popular opinion, political liberty did not originate in the 17th century.

        • I agree and in addition: Yehweh bears a resemblance to Zeus in that both were lower ranking younger super beings who GOT THEMSELVES appointed to the highest level of godhood. Many historians bring up that early Judaism borrowed heavily from Babylonian theosophy and from some others. It’s always interested me that the early Christians spent a lot of time “in conversation” with Greeks.

          But,then, what can one expect from a collection of people who make up stuff about super natural matters that mere human mortals can’t know in the first place (by their own self-contradictory definition, no less).

          Still sayin’: “God given” is a weak argument for or justification for the validity of the right to self defense. Can’t understand why anyone thinks it is.

        • Malthus, your citation to Leviticus is nonsense. The entire paragraph reads: “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.” In other words, in the fiftieth year, all of the slaves were to be freed and sent home to their families. What does this have to do with the ideology of the individual as sovereign versus the monarch/despot/government as sovereign? Nada.

  12. There is an inherent right to self defense. Not necessarily referring to the Christian God. In fact, we could say Man is endowed by his Creator, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM), if you’re a Pastafarian, with what ever rights.

    The entire purpose of that phrase it to make it clear these rights are inherent in the status of your being alive. Therefore, they are not subject to being over-ruled by Government (laws of Man).

    • Exactly. The term “Creator” was intentionally ambiguous. It could be Yaweh, it could be El, it could be Odin, it could be Zeus, it could even just be nature.

      • Never fear, someone will be along to edjumucate you that of course “creator” could only refer to Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit (though one would think they’d say it that way then). The terms used to reference the deity in the Declaration of Independence are very much out of the Deist tradition, and no such term (except in one trivial location) is used in the Constitution.

    • Agreed. This must be understood in the context of the ancient right of kings to rule “by the Grace of God” (as the English would say). The King was sovereign, owned all lands, in fact owned all the people and all the chattels, and all the people bound to obey his fiats. (Until of course the Magna Carta, but that is a whole other issue). the use of the word “creator” was intended to signify that the power of kings came from the People, not the other way around–that the People were sovereign, not the king, and that their consent of the governed was necessary for the government to provide social order. It was as radical in its day as saying that the earth revolved around the sun and not the sun around the world. his philosophy is implicit in the Bill of Rights–that the People have not consented to cede its rights and powers to the central government.

    • I still say that what’s necessary for our continued existence (self defense and things like breathing, eating, drinking) ARE the rights that MUST BE defended and maintained against all comers.

  13. As an athiest – Self-Defense is still a “Natural” right. You can attempt to defend your life from attack with whatever tool is handy. Cats, Dogs, mice, rabbits, Deer, etc etc etc – all have weapons with which to use.–Chris

    Man’s relationship to society differs from his relation to cats and dogs; man acts purposefully whereas animals act by instinct. Men may covenant together to further chosen goals using agreed upon rules but animals cannot reason, invent or construct ethical systems.

    “Nature” is red in tooth and claw but justice is tempered by mercies unknown to ants and frogs.

    As theistic philosopher Francis Schaffer observes, ” Man’s only relation to the ants is in the area of Being and creaturehood. However, in the area of personality, man’s relationship is upward to God…”

    Impersonal force, acting blindly and instinctively is an inadequate basis for social relations but if man is viewed as being made in God’s own image the reasonableness of self-defense becomes quickly evident.


  14. “If there is no God, everything is permitted”; in other words, nothing is forbidden. In such a case, in what way does an act of government trump an act of any individual in opposition? One or the other will prevail due to chance and the balance of power. Slavery prevailed until individuals acted against it; against the governments that supported it.

    • So your saying (both) that people AND God acted to end slavery?? Here again, what is that but another unfounded assertion?

      If there is no God: then all we have left is ourselves and we have only ourselves to keep our species or any members thereof from the evil acts of other humans. It’s not an either God or nothing proposition. The Chinese had their own mystical beliefs quite aside from what Europeans had and those beliefs existed w/o a “one true god” for a 1000 years before Christ was supposed to have come on the scene.

      For a people who talk so much about freedom and rights and independence from government power: we sure spend a huge amount of time convincing each other that mankind can’t rule itself by itself. “We need God” is the constant chant.

      My question to the “We need God” people is: Is it because you lack the ability or willingness to go on your own that you need a super natural sky god to do it for you?? You do NOT need God’s backing to stand for good. Do it on your own – that’s what you’ll have to do anyway. If the day ever comes, I worry about you people deciding that only true believers have rights worth defending.

  15. “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”

    So, on a site like TTAG, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid politics. I’ll grant a pass on that one.

    I think we can all agree that it probably would be best to avoid mentioning the Great Pumpkin.

    But religion keeps rearing its damned head around here for some reason. And that’s a pity.

    As an atheist living (happily and forever) in Texas, I’ve made my peace with all the god-talk that surrounds me. For the most part, I can live and let live. You want to witness to me? You want to tell me what works for you? What gives you comfort? What makes your day livable? How much you love Jesus? That’s cool, man. I can dig it.

    But the arrogance of some believers – the “I’m right and you’re just being ‘unwise’ ignoring the power of my logic” attitude on display here – is grating and wholly unnecessary.

    If you really believe there exists no path to absolutes – that inalienable rights magically become alienable when you take your “logically, practically, well-considered” believe in a Bronze Age sky god out of the equation – then you really ought to try speaking with nonbelievers more than preaching at us.

    Yes, this is a rhetorically well written article. But its reasoning leaves loads to be desired.

    • Nice. I always try to avoid articles like this. Always end up shaking my head after reading them.

    • I just can’t understand how Christians can claim that our Bill of Rights is inspired by their god/teachings. I mean, the opening line of the 10C directly contradict the First Amendment. Further, the bible is pretty clear about rebelling against the government, since ALL governments that exist were put their by god. So that makes the Revolution a rebellion against god as well as against King George. The bible supports slavery, albeit as long as you don’t beat your slaves to death. And it goes on to lay down all sorts of arbitrary things you are not to do. In what way does any of that support the concept of liberty?

      • God, through His Son Jesus, gives men the dignity to choose him or not. He desires voluntary love. The First Amendment recognizes that religion is a choice, not to be dictated by government in this age. When Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom on the earth, the choice not to worship Him will have more immediate consequences.

        When believers pray the Lord’s prayer “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” sometimes the manifestation of that is a throwing off of tyranny and setting the oppressed free. I believe a small measure of that happened in the Revolutionary War.

        Biblical slavery is more akin to indentured servitude. Being a slave was for a limited time (7 years), and only on the request of the slave would he be permanently attached to his master (piercing his ear thru on the doorpost).

        • God, through His Son Jesus, gives men the dignity to choose him or not. He desires voluntary love. The First Amendment recognizes that religion is a choice, not to be dictated by government in this age. When Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom on the earth, the choice not to worship Him will have more immediate consequences.

          So, if the US had a law that said “Worship Jesus or you will go to jail” would that not be considered a violation of the First Amendment? You’re free to NOT worship Jesus, but you’ll just have to suffer the consequences. How is that any different than what you propose?

          When believers pray the Lord’s prayer “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” sometimes the manifestation of that is a throwing off of tyranny and setting the oppressed free. I believe a small measure of that happened in the Revolutionary War.

          That’s quite a jump to conclusions mat. Could you be a little more specific? And why did it take 1776 years?

          Biblical slavery is more akin to indentured servitude. Being a slave was for a limited time (7 years), and only on the request of the slave would he be permanently attached to his master (piercing his ear thru on the doorpost).

          Bull. The laws in Leviticus specifically allow Israelites to participate in foreign slave trade and allows for slave to be inherited and for children to be born into slavery. They are property. Fathers could sell their daughters into sex slavery. Women captured in war were also put into sex slavery.
          Oh, but the bible is so nice, that it allows for the release of slaves after seven years! How kind! Except it’s for male Israelite slaves ONLY.

          No, the bible is pretty damn clear that it’s a-ok to own another human being. And nothing at all about individual liberty.

  16. Long before monotheistic religions, there were other religions. People worshiped the sun, animal spirits, ancestors, collections of gods, goddesses and godlings, corn and beans, you name it, people have worshiped it. And in every culture, self-defense was expected even though a defender could get executed for defending against the “wrong” person — just like today.

    From where does the right of self defense emanate? I honestly don’t know and don’t care. I have it and I’m not giving it up, no matter what god or man might say.

    • For that matter, Judaism was not the first monotheistic religion, either. Nor the first one that had a Creator God. So this:

      “Some have observed that there were moral codes prior to the Ten Commandments, and this is true, however, they were not absolutes based on the inestimable value of each individual life, a life that had value because it was given by God”

      is basically just bullshit. Go ask the Zoroastrians.

      • Zoroastrianism is still around. There are a couple of million of Zoroastrians. The most famous of modern Zoroastrians was Farrokh Bulsara aka Freddy Mercury.

      • If Judaism was a monotheistic religion, explain this (from the Old Testament version of the Ten Commandments): “You shall have no other gods before me.” The God of Moses was merely the chief god of the pantheon, and lesser gods were permitted. and it goes on to say that the Judaic god is “a jealous god,” meaning yet again that there were other gods who might be the object of worship, and that this one objected to any such practice.

        An interesting tract from Encyclopedia Britannica:

        Dating the Ten Commandments involves an interpretation of their purpose. Some scholars propose a date between the 16th and 13th centuries bc because Exodus and Deuteronomy connect the Ten Commandments with Moses and the Sinai Covenant between Yahweh and Israel. For those who regard the Ten Commandments as an epitome of prophetic teachings, the date would be some time after Amos and Hosea (after 750 bc). If the Ten Commandments are simply a summary of the legal and priestly traditions of Israel, they belong to an even later period.

        The Commandments contain little that was new to the ancient world and reflect a morality common to the ancient Middle East. They are a description of the conditions accepted by the community of Israel in its relationship to Yahweh. The differences found in Exodus and Deuteronomy indicate that the process of transmission from generation to generation brought with it modifications.

        The Ten Commandments had no particular importance in Christian tradition until the 13th century, when they were incorporated into a manual of instruction for those coming to confess their sins. With the rise of Protestant churches, new manuals of instruction in the faith were made available and the Ten Commandments were incorporated into catechisms as a fundamental part of religious training, especially of the young.

    • Human cultures have worshipped a nearly endless cavalcade of various gods. If you understand why you don’t believe in any of theirs, then you will also know why I don’t believe in yours.

  17. This is a false choice. Self defense is a law of nature, like sex and the need for food. Bears defend their cubs. Deer kick coyotes and foxes to defend themselves and fawns. Even plants produce toxins so predators dont eat them (like the chemical urishiol in poison ivy).

    The only organisms that dont defend themselves in nature are subjugated. Are you subjugated? Do you want to be?

  18. Consider as you may ( or may not ) be so inclined the following:
    The word ‘Conscience’ may be defined in part as a quality present in most individuals with the capacity to serve the individual in some circumstances as a restraint upon certain actions, and in other circumstances as a calling ‘to act’’.
    The word ‘Morality’ may be defined in part as, ‘a simple code of individual thought and conduct’.
    The word ‘Rights’ ( in context ) may defined in part as, ‘the ‘Natural’ status of each individual person.

    Consider now as you may ( or may not ) be so inclined that the simple code of Moral conduct essentially requires no more than to avoid intentionally violating the actual ‘Rights’ of another person or persons.

    • As a distillation of the duties owed by an individual to other individuals, I agree, but I think that “morality” in its broader definition is the basic social contract by which human beings agree to be bound for the good of the whole, rather than of the individual.

  19. I understand what people are saying with rights coming from God. But let’s not forget that at some point in time kings were the God representatives on earth and the same church that you cherish today justified their power and your total submission to them.
    I think that the “soul” described in this article comes from our innate nature to think. No other animal is capable of thinking at the level that we do. That ability is what separates us from animals.
    Our thinking also allow us to build abstract constructs: need to love and be loved, dignity, respect, duty, honor and so on. Humans also have the intellectual need to feel in control of their destiny.
    People smarter that me took some of these thoughts and build a framework of what it means to be human. Rights are inherent to being human. Once you loose those you are loosing something that makes your life tick. People smarter than I am realized that the only way to progress if we are to live together in a society is to respect each other. Rights provides us a framework to do so. Rights allow for the society to develop and people to be happy. Free people have rights. Man has the ability to take rights form other men, and as such they are not free anymore (incarcerated people). Free people are able to defend their rights. That power may as well come from the barrel of a gun.
    The right to self defense is a fundamental right: without life there are no other rights. It should be first in that list.
    The issue today is that leftists propagate the idea that there are such things as collective rights. They use this to justify infringing on individual rights. If you respect individual rights there is no need of a “collective rights”. Ayn Rand clearly dealt with that in her writings.
    And by the way, the Creator in the Constitution, might as well be your mother and father as they created you out of nothing. 🙂