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Old 09-11-2008, 09:11 PM   #46
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Again you are trying to frame me as saying that the state is the justification of human rights, you are either misunderstanding me or deliberately misrepresenting me. The people are what hold the state to account, the people with guns and the capacity for revolution when the government becomes tyrannical, not God. The state guarantees property rights as well as law and order because the governed pay their taxes to support the institution, the state as a consensual institution does not rely on any concept of God; it doesn't mean that laws are always just or that the nature of government is to maximise liberty, only that human rights and the mechanisms to protect them are man made.

Appealing to God the higher power as justification for anything is rife with problems. It sidesteps genuine justifications such as consent and harm with a weak appeal to authority that says absolutely nothing about the merits of anything. It is no coincidence that rulers throughout history have used religion as a tool of social control, it gives carte blanch justification for any action by the state. A state justified and accountable to the people guarantees freedom far better than one justified by God (who represents the whims of the clerical class and the dictator).

You have the dilemma, you can't answer why any action is right or wrong if you are just following the orders of God. Just because something is in the bible does not make it right, the argument that God gives justification falls apart with most basic considerations. Appeals to God say nothing about the ethics of any position, the American constitution is not guaranteed or justified by God and the explicit rejection of America being a Christian state in official documents demonstrates this.

Agreements between people provide far better justification for human rights than any charlatan claims that God makes something right. Even if God existed it would say nothing about how right or wrong the entities commandments are.
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:30 PM   #47
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And if we're going to credit John Locke for the philosophy that "we have inherent and inalienable human rights that transcend government" (which according to the Declaration is specifically cited as coming from the hands of the Creator), then we would do well to remember Locke's thoughts in "Two Treatises on Government": "the Law of Nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men's actions must . . . be conformable to the Law of Nature, i.e., to the will of God. [L]aws human must be made according to the general laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made."
No mention of John Locke and religion cannot leave out how he defined religion, which he outlines in "A Letter Concerning Toleration" (1689). Locke proffered the then-radical idea that religious diversity strengthened the state and prevented civil unrest, countering Thomas Hobbes' earlier belief that religious uniformity was preferable. Thus, the revisionist notion that our Founding Fathers were interested in a "Christian nation," as often used as a rallying cry by American conservatives, is directly contradicted by their strong Lockean influence.

Going a bit further with Locke is his even more intriguing definition of "tolerance," which only extends toleration to those churches that teach tolerance. Thus, from Locke's 17th century English POV, the Roman Catholic Church could not be tolerated, because it demanded loyalty to a foreign jurisdiction outside of the state--i.e., the Vatican--and he also happened to hate atheists, because he thought that "promises" and other oaths that "bond" human society had no hold on them.

Nonetheless, no philosopher ever likely meant that their ideas had to be taken literally ad infinitum, presuming that the underlying logic still had any meaning. Thus, Locke's polemics against Catholics and atheists are irrelevant, due to the underlying logic collapsing, and Locke's philosophy on the inalienable rights of mankind can still be upheld with or without religious philosophy, due to the later philosophy of Hume and Kant--both of whom, incidentially, were influenced by Locke considerably. "Nature," as it is today, is science, and science is officially neutral when it comes to the idea of God. Thus, as a believer, I still think it is perfectly logically acceptable to maintain Locke's philosophy regarding the innate rights of mankind and still have it work within a natural, atheist outlook.
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:36 PM   #48
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The people are what hold the state to account, the people with guns and the capacity for revolution when the government becomes tyrannical, not God.
Perhaps so, but in most political systems that are not ours, the people have tremendously little power. Consider various regimes in South America or South Africa, where corrupt regimes are swept out of power by "the people," only to have the new regime become as corrupt -- if not moreso -- than its predecessor. The people are still left behind. Clearly there is a limit to the ability of "the people" to hold the state to account, and even for "the people" to govern itself -- it's hard to keep majority rule from becoming mob rule.

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Appealing to God the higher power as justification for anything is rife with problems.
Naturally, but we have somehow been able to resolve this tension for over 200 years here, and while we have been at times grossly negligent in our ability to recognize the "God-given rights" apportioned to each citizen, the history of the US has been a history of progress. So there is the ability to retain an acknowledgement that our worth as individuals runs far deeper than what the state, the ruling class, or even my neighbor would decide. I would say that this ability is critical.

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Appeals to God say nothing about the ethics of any position, the American constitution is not guaranteed or justified by God and the explicit rejection of America being a Christian state in official documents demonstrates this.
Naturally, which is why the Constitution does not include references to God. At the same time, the Constitution is the application of the Declaration -- you cannot divorce the two -- and the Framers sure justified the Declaration according to God. Ideologies always have their roots in some other train of thought, whether religious or philosophical. The Bible is not a treatise for governance, any more than it is a science textbook -- yet the underlying principles can have a tremendous influence on schools of thought, and they have, which is why I think that America still occupies a unique position on the political landscape, allowing people the freedom to say whatever they'd like as not just a state-given right (which can change), but as a God-given one (which cannot). In the case of our clever "Keep your Jesus off my penis" friend, I personally wish they were a little more informed, but regardless.
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:39 PM   #49
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I feel that law must be independent of nature, it falls under the is-ought problem, just because something is natural doesn't make it right. For instance science may say that under certain circumstances infanticide is natural, it doesn't make it morally right. In that sense I feel that justification of rights doesn't come from nature.
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:39 PM   #50
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No mention of John Locke and religion cannot leave out how he defined religion, which he outlines in "A Letter Concerning Toleration" (1689). Locke proffered the then-radical idea that religious diversity strengthened the state and prevented civil unrest, countering Thomas Hobbes' earlier belief that religious uniformity was preferable. Thus, the revisionist notion that our Founding Fathers were interested in a "Christian nation," as often used as a rallying cry by American conservatives, is directly contradicted by their strong Lockean influence.
But you can't ignore the fact that it was a Christian who set this philosophical train into motion...
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:41 PM   #51
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I feel that law must be independent of nature, it falls under the is-ought problem, just because something is natural doesn't make it right. For instance science may say that under certain circumstances infanticide is natural, it doesn't make it morally right. In that sense I feel that justification of rights doesn't come from nature.
You and I don't disagree on this point, but then the question becomes, where do the justification for our laws come from? There are certainly secular trains of thought, but if we trace some of the fundamental principles that govern our system of laws, you can't divorce them from religious influence.

The more I think about the Founding Fathers, the more brilliant they become.
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:50 PM   #52
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Perhaps so, but in most political systems that are not ours, the people have tremendously little power. Consider various regimes in South America or South Africa, where corrupt regimes are swept out of power by "the people," only to have the new regime become as corrupt -- if not moreso -- than its predecessor. The people are still left behind. Clearly there is a limit to the ability of "the people" to hold the state to account, and even for "the people" to govern itself -- it's hard to keep majority rule from becoming mob rule.
That has nothing to do with a belief in a higher power, kleptocracy is not a product of unbelief or secularism.
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Naturally, but we have somehow been able to resolve this tension for over 200 years here, and while we have been at times grossly negligent in our ability to recognize the "God-given rights" apportioned to each citizen, the history of the US has been a history of progress. So there is the ability to retain an acknowledgement that our worth as individuals runs far deeper than what the state, the ruling class, or even my neighbor would decide. I would say that this ability is critical.
Again those rights are not justified by God, they are in a secular constitution and were progressively granted to more people regardless of belief, race or economic status (with some very notable exceptions).
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Naturally, which is why the Constitution does not include references to God. At the same time, the Constitution is the application of the Declaration -- you cannot divorce the two -- and the Framers sure justified the Declaration according to God. Ideologies always have their roots in some other train of thought, whether religious or philosophical. The Bible is not a treatise for governance, any more than it is a science textbook -- yet the underlying principles can have a tremendous influence on schools of thought, and it has, which is why I think that America still occupies a unique position on the political landscape, allowing people the freedom to say whatever they'd like. I personally wish they were a little more informed, but regardless.
The underlying principles that you are picking and choosing are independent of Christianity, the point is that they do not rely upon the Christian myth being true and can be arrived at independently. Pointing out dictatorships in other countries that are of a different religion than Christianity or are irreligious does not diminish this. Because the ideas are divorced from Christianity there is no debt to that religion, and the State does not need to pay lip service to the Church for the order of things.
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:51 PM   #53
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But you can't ignore the fact that it was a Christian who set this philosophical train into motion...
Is democracy conditional upon believing in Zeus?
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:54 PM   #54
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But you can't ignore the fact that it was a Christian who set this philosophical train into motion...
Actually, all Western philosophical trains start with Aristotle, and that even includes Locke. Talk of "natural law" certainly goes back to the 13th century philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, whom Locke was directly influenced by. Aquinas, although he was a Catholic Dominican priest, did not hide whatsoever that his philosophy was not possible without the works of the great Andalusian Islamic and Jewish philosophers, such as Averroës, Avicenna, and Maimonides. Averroës, known as the "Founding Father" of Western European secularism, argued that there was no conflict between philosophy and religion, and, along with his Islamic philosopher contemporaries, had an invaluable hand in reviving medieval interest in Greek pagan philosophy, particularly that of Aristotle.

Christian, Jew, Muslim, and atheist, we're all on this train we call "civilization" together.

(By the way, one can probably blame the 11th century Persian Islamic philosopher, Algazel, for steering Islamic civilization off of the "train" of Western civilization, as he condemned Averroës and his contemporaries' use of ancient Greek metaphysics in Islam. Thus, Western and Islamic civilization split apart permanently).
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:55 PM   #55
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You and I don't disagree on this point, but then the question becomes, where do the justification for our laws come from? There are certainly secular trains of thought, but if we trace some of the fundamental principles that govern our system of laws, you can't divorce them from religious influence.

The more I think about the Founding Fathers, the more brilliant they become.
Influence isn't justification, the bible may say it is wrong to murder but doesn't give any justification. If religion was the main influence on law then why aren't adulterers and blasphemers being executed?
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Old 09-11-2008, 10:11 PM   #56
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You and I don't disagree on this point, but then the question becomes, where do the justification for our laws come from? There are certainly secular trains of thought, but if we trace some of the fundamental principles that govern our system of laws, you can't divorce them from religious influence.
Simultaneously, you can't divorce religious influence from the non-religious culture it arose out of. Old Testament law, for instance, has a firm basis in the law of the Persian, Babylonian, Akkadian, and Sumerian civilizations, with additional Greek influence in the late Old Testament and Roman influence in the New Testament.

Unfortunately, due to the limitations of pre-history, one cannot search for influence beyond the Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100-2050 B.C.), as there are no known literate civilizations that precede the Sumerians, but it is pretty likely that even they had their influences from civilizations that we will never know. Interestingly, though, it has a pattern that is highly reminiscent of the legalism of Mosaic Law, which was influenced by Babylonian law, which, itself, was influenced by the aforementioned Sumerian law.

It is quite fascinating to realize that all that we have today is the result of actions set in motion that are, at least, 4100 years old and beyond.
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Old 09-11-2008, 11:53 PM   #57
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It is quite fascinating to realize that all that we have today is the result of actions set in motion that are, at least, 4100 years old and beyond.
And yet somehow we're not all at the same place, are we?

Where one starts is not as interesting as where we land.
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Old 09-12-2008, 08:16 AM   #58
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And yet somehow we're not all at the same place, are we?

Where one starts is not as interesting as where we land.
We're can quibble about minutiae like socioeconomic status, but, culturally, we're not all that far apart, in the end.

Where the game changes, though, is with China, which has had a 4100+ year civilization completely independent from the rest of us, so appeals to "our heritage" will mean something completely different to them. I think, implicitly, that many people fear the rise of China, because it means the end of the dominance of Western civilization. Of course, we'll see if that happens at all.
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Old 09-13-2008, 01:58 PM   #59
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