Appreciating Ayn Rand’s moral defense of capitalism makes one an Atheist like appreciating “thou shalt not kill” makes one Jewish.
I see that The Declaration of Independence has catapulted back into the news with Paul Ryan’s statement that “rights come from God and nature, not from government.” What is most shocking is not what Ryan said, but the fact that he said it is in any way controversial. That it has caused controversy means that many have acquiesced to the idea that rights find their origin in government; an idea that is completely contrary to the foundation upon which the nation was built.
In what can only be described as an epic reversal of logic, those who reject the idea that rights precede government claim that if one holds God and nature to be the source of rights then it must follow he also must believe that government too is a creation of God.
What a farce!
Nothing could be further from the truth. In acknowledging that rights come prior to government, we must also acknowledge that government is a man-made institution; one built for the purpose of protecting what we have inherited from God and nature.
Somewhat ironically, it is their logic that holds that government must be mystical in origin. If a man holds that rights find their origins in government, then present him with this question: If government institutions precede men’s rights, then by what right do men proceed to institute governments?
That governments came prior to rights was the same idea upon which monarchies and all manners of tyranny were built. Such states held that governments were natural institutions. Those who ruled did so by natural or divine right. The laws he instituted were likewise natural or divine. His rule was ordained by natural or God’s law, and handed from one generation to the next through blood.
The enlightenment turned this concept on its head. Enlightened thinkers held that governments were no more natural than any other institution men build. Rather, it was men’s rights that existed in nature. It was those rights that compelled him to build governments not the other way around.
The fact that this basic idea has not simply been lost, but has become altogether controversial, does not bode well for this nations futures. It represents a philosophical breach through which every utopian scheme and ideology will pour, reducing men back to serfdom under some tutelary authority.
The hour is late. Either America turns back soon, or she is lost.
If a rising tide lifts all boats, then I submit that drilling holes in the larger ones might not help the smaller.
When I wrote that advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper, I honestly hadn’t considered those blaming candidates for cancer deaths.
Sort of a game-changer isn’t it?
I’ve become quite convinced of this economic theory which holds that regulating antiquated technology can eliminate the intermediary stages in the development of the technology which ultimately supplants it. If strict coal regulations will produce the advancement of green energy technology, I can’t help but think that if we’d strictly regulated coal emissions in the 18th century, Americans would live in a techno-utopia by now. Similarly, had they known to simply strengthen regulations on the printing press, man could have had the word processor hundreds of years sooner. It also occurs to me that the Inquisition’s regulation of Copernicus’ theory of heliocentricity must have hastened Einstein’s theory of relativity!
Just imagine the results if mankind had only discovered this wonderful tool of progress years earlier.
Over at Salon.com, Ian Murphy has a piece profiling five atheists who “believe in some powerfully stupid stuff, thereby eroding the credibility of all atheists.” Well, he doesn’t so much profile them as he does offer ham-handed criticism of them.
Making the list are neuroscientist Sam Harris, talk show host and comedian Bill Maher, magician Penn Jillette, activist Ayaan Hersi Ali, and columnist S.E. Cupp. One quickly notices that three of the five (Jillette, Ali, and Cupp) could, generally speaking, be characterized as limited government advocates. This would not be striking, but for the fact this advocacy itself seems to be the greatest measure by which Murphy considers them to be ruinous to the reputation of the atheist community.
I always found it to be curious that many atheists, and indeed skeptics of religious institutions in general, fail to see the intellectual consistency in applying that same skepticism to the efficacy and efficiency of the state. One who applies the same standards to the state as he does religion is almost certain to find that the two bear considerable resemblance. For example, they both tend to satisfy sentiment as opposed to reason. They will both operate according to false doctrines and reject rational adjustments when it suits the needs of those in power.
Note, my most pointed criticisms of religion were almost always of the tendency for the clerical class to ally itself with those who wield state power. As I wrote in 1800, “The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.” It is the cleric’s wielding of the power inherent in the state that ultimately represents a threat to the individual. But that power is not made benign because it is wielded by civil magistrates or well-intentioned moralist busy-body. Therefore, approaching it with a credulous attitude is not only intellectually inconsistent, but dangerous and irresponsible.
To cure himself of this intellectual inconsistency, a skeptic must first ask himself, are religion and state not both man-made institutions? As such, are they therefore not both equally reflections of mankind’s flaws including his tendency to err?
I would submit that Murphy’s piece at Salon is representative of the skeptic communities greatest flaw: its unwillingness or inability to apply its skepticism in a more objective way. They seem to apply it only to that institution that they themselves find superfluous, while the state, a considerably more deadly institution, escapes similar scrutiny.
If this is what passes for skepticism, I’d happily consider accept the label of dogmatist.