No, You Don’t Seem To Understand…

I ran across a blog where a believer posited what he thought atheists want. It is an astounding bit of goading and ignorance. I just wanted to discuss that here rather than argue with him on his blog because the comments on his blog clearly indicate that confrontation is his goal.

I assume many Atheists long for the day when a society would be universally populated by Atheists.  Maybe they cherish the thought of never having to hear about God in the public square, or have to deal with those pesky religious people always thumping their religious books scornfully in their direction.  Ahh… paradise.

No, this atheist does not long for a day when society is universally populated by atheists. I long for the day that religions stop claiming special consideration and preferential treatments. The day when religious bigotry and delusion is not the litmus test for public office. The day when those who believe understand that their world view is only one and that the law does not permit government to support their world view or any other. Under the law all world views are equal with regard to the government and none shall be given carte blanche to do as they wish in contravention of the law. That means no stoning to death of those who sin. That means you  have to treat your children correctly and give them medical attention when needed. You can’t discriminate based on color, creed, sexual orientation, etc. What goes through your mind when you lay down to sleep is your business but what happens in the public square is the business of the law and government (at times).

But seriously, I’m curious as to what this society would look like, particularly when it comes to rights.

Clearly this blogger is having trouble defining rights, and even asks what is considered a right. A curious thing since these are laid out quite nicely in the Constitution of The United States. If we rewrite the reference to anything mistaken as their god, believers can see clearly that rights are not divine in origin.

On the Constitution and god from

God – It has often been seen on the Internet that to find God in the Constitution, all one has to do is read it, and see how often the Framers used the words “God,” or “Creator,” “Jesus,” or “Lord.” Except for one notable instance, however, none of these words ever appears in the Constitution, neither the original nor in any of the Amendments. The notable exception is found in the Signatory section, where the date is written thusly: “Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven”. The use of the word “Lord” here is not a religious reference, however. This was a common way of expressing the date, in both religious and secular contexts. This lack of any these words does not mean that the Framers were not spiritual people, any more than the use of the word Lord means that they were. What this lack of these words is expositive of is not a love for or disdain for religion, but the feeling that the new government should not involve itself in matters of religion. In fact, the original Constitution bars any religious test to hold any federal office in the United States. For more information, see the Religion Topic Page.


  • What would be considered a right?

What indeed. I believe the constitution and the bill of rights clearly answers this question to my satisfaction.

  • How would rights be determined (i.e., by what process and line of reasoning)?  By vote? By elected representatives?

The rights outlined in the US Constitution are well documented as to how they were arrived at, and how they were established as law in the USA.. This answers the question to my satisfaction.

  • Would there be some rights that just are, and not up for debate?  If so, how are those recognized?  What is done about disagreement?

The rights to life, liberty, and the  pursuit of happiness do not seem to be up for debate. Read more here

  • By what means would the rights be protected?

The US Constitution and amendments define the answers to this question far to my satisfaction.

  • Would they be inalienable, or re-prescribed over time?

They would be the rights as framed by the US Constitution. Yes, they are inalienable. What does re-prescribed over time mean?

As you can see, how rights are determined, supported, and enforced would need to be discussed.  My concern comes from my inability to see how rights flow from Atheism — at least in any manner which isn’t arbitrary and subjective.  Heck, I can’t even see how morality itself is even arrived at on Atheism (Who Needs Morality?, Good Move, Sir, From Which Worldview Does Human Equality Naturally Flow?).  But I’m not arguing these here.  I’d just like to know how you, the Atheist, believe a wholly Atheist society would approach rights.

Ok, I’ve discussed them. We need no changes for society to be unbelievers stem to stern.

Atheism does not infer or confer rights of any kind. That this blogger cannot see how morality (or ethics) itself is arrived at without a god does not mean that a god is required for morality to exist. Further he has not shown that it is his god from which morality is derived. Wouldn’t he be shocked if in fact morality is derived from Mithra.

Sadly for this blogger, we would approach ‘rights’ exactly as the US has done. That he still does not see the US government is a secular government is witness to his own ignorance.

  1. You couldn’t have missed the point more.

    • Perhaps you could have been more clear in what you were asking for. Clearly you seem to think the questions you asked have more meaning than I could discern from them. I can’t answer a question with clarity if that question has no clarity to begin with. I gave answers to the questions. You don’t have to like them.

      • You seem to have imported the idea that the US Constitution is the rule of law in this society that the new atheists would inhabiting. In fact, this is a start from scratch endeavor. Given a naturalistic worldview, how would you go about determining what rights are and what rights ought to be protected. I thought it was pretty clear if you don’t try to read between the lines.

        • Let me make this answer clear then. You don’t seem to understand. The US Constitution is based on or influenced by many previous documents, philosophies and historical perspective of what worked and what did not. There are probably no similar documents in use today that do not rely on previous efforts and documents. There is little reason, and I’ll argue that there is none, to not use the US Constitution as it is for a society without religion. Do you think I’m going to rewrite it for you here in comments?

          I would go about determining issues regarding rights by looking at what has worked in the past and what has not. What changes people made to their constitutions to improve life and society.

          Again, the US Constitution is a grand document which has been tested over time and stands worthy of reuse in this thought experiment of yours.

          One change or group of changes would be regarding election governance and personhood for corporations. I think that the combination of loopholes gives a tendency toward fascism.

          Other than that, I can’t think of anything that we need to change. It’s ready to go now and fit for the purpose. I can’t think of anything that I’d include beyond what is there. It works. I’m not going to redefine rights and wrongs simply to ‘not use this great document as a reference’.

          If that is not good enough to answer your question, I don’t know what will.

          On the other hand, if you are asking instead what do I think are rights for citizens and how do I arrive at that it, I’d start with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. From there you’re going to need some laws and definitions. Looking at previous attempts I’d end up using the US constitution. Rights are not so much a guarantee. The constitution (and I agree) instead works to prevent others from impinging your rights unfairly. The US constitution is a well written document that defines the rights I agree with. Such documents are needed because petty people with conniving ways will work to deprive others of their rights. This is why governments are needed. A government that is not ideal should at least be fair. The US government is a fine example of the compromises that you have to make to keep order in a society even if it requires less than ideal situations. The A.Rand piece does a fair job of explaining Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It tries to explain where inalienable rights come from. I agree with it.

          If you have a specific question, I’m all for it but if you want to tell me that my support for the US constitution does not explain what rights are and which ought to be protected, Well, I’m starting to think you’re lacking in skills for effective communication and that consequently this discussion is not going to get very far.

          You asked the question, and I think ‘holy fuck, this is already written down’ and I point you to the US Constitution. Then you seem to be saying that this is not good enough, that I have to define them all over again. Nobody does that, and there is a good reason for it.

  2. Well, well, well, seems that your blog makes for a good discussion forum. That’s one thing I’ll never understand; why people seem to think that morality somehow equates to divine law and how we’d be lost for ways to live without it. It truly boggles my mind.

  3. It’s called indoctrination or brainwashing if you like. They get them young and teach them about heaven and hell and scare them stupid then tell them that morality comes from their book.

    Very few of them even know of the Nicene council and why it is important to them. They don’t know about any of the god myths that look exactly like the Jesus story is a rip off of them. They can’t explain the contradictions in their holy text, nor any of the odd ball parts like why a virgin birth or why sacrifice god’s first and only son.

    Most people don’t care to know. They don’t give a damn as long as the preacher and the law say they are right, they don’t have to give a damn about what is true.

    It should not be religion that boggles your mind, but the fact that we can call ourselves evolved when often it feels like we still sleep in trees.

    • Which god myth are exactly like the Jesus story? For example, please.


        • The common copycat theory has been <a href=""<debunked. When you look at what the actual myths pruport as opposed to what skeptical detractors assert, there are no myths which come close to the “Jesus Story”.


    I pointed the arrow the wrong way

  5. ‘Atheism cannot confer or infer rights of any kind’

    Thanks for your honesty. I think this is almost right. I would say that this is because under atheism, the assignment of human worth is arbitrary and so rights are a social construct borne out of convenience and the pursuit of pleasure, and perhaps the minimization of certain ill feelings. Humans are molecules in motion, worth about 160 dollars on the market. But hey even monetary worth of something is a construct too.

    I appreciate the link on rights. Very helpful stuff, all that stuff about a mans right to his own life. I assume that includes the right not to pay for other peoples abortions. Obamacare smacks of the same totalitarianism you see when people of religion imposes their beliefs on others.

    If morals are fluid according to personal preferences, why should rights be any different? Why are rights inalienable? On what basis do humans have worth, and how do you assess it? Would humans still have inherent worth even if no one believed they did?

    • I have specific problems with criticizing Obama’s health care plan in the way that you do. Trivializing a plan that would bring huge benefit to those in need at relatively trivial costs to others is repugnant to me. See my post from today, right to abortion and birth control are the best way to minimize the actual use of abortions and limit the number dead babies. The logic you use is rancid in view of the known facts.

      We as a society either take care of those among us who are in need or we do not. Choosing the latter is the way of anarchism… among other things. Compassion is one of our best assets. Wasting in preference to the trivialities of perceived fairness is how to destroy society’s basic structures and compacts. In such social contracts, we ideally benefit as much as we pay, though as a barter it may not be in direct like manners.

      Saying that Obama’s health care is totalitarian is myopic. Such a statement values those who would benefit most as valueless, and unnecessary to your society. Have you considered where you would be without them? What effects that would have on your life?

      Additionally, what you don’t seem to understand is that the entire insurance industry is based on the very same totalitarianism that you claim for Obama’s health care plan… health, car, house… all of it. Your complaints are vacuous in light of the fact that you gladly participate in many near identical schemes already.

      The one thing that stands between civilization and the worst feared anarchism is the respect of inalienable rights, and it is based on the law of reciprocity.

      Inherent worth is done on a barter system, not a scale of any kind. It is thus always subjective, even when speaking of other humans inherent worth. We often make such subjective judgements every day. Even the most devout of believers does. How often do you hear or say that someone is a waste of air or use similar language?

      Worth, being subjective, is viewed by both the human in question and those who are not that human. The human in question gives themselves an inherent worth divorced from that worth assigned by others. Yes, even if no other human assigned worth, a human has inherent worth.

  6. (Note: edited per Matthew)
    Hi again, i didn’t really want to address abortion in this thread as you have another post on it, but rather I was merely trying to highlight that despite your strong notion of freedom to choose and freedom to live free of other people’s beliefs and no favours for anyone, my suggesting that I should be free to not fund other people’s abortions is repugnant to you?

    (this could apply to anything) Someone has observed that penalizing religious institutions for not complying with obamacare is akin to making a law that kosher butcher to sell bacon and then fining him for not doing so (

    Following from my statement that I believe I should be free to not fund other people’s abortions, would you say that we have some kind of obligation to help other humans? Why would it be wrong to not help another human? Perhaps I just prefer not to. What if I just prefer not to help them? I see this is as green, you see it as red. What’s the difference?

    ‘The one thing that stands between civilization and the worst feared anarchism is the respect of inalienable rights, and it is based on the law of reciprocity. ‘

    I mostly agree with this but I think where we differ is that I would say that inalienable rights are based on the value of the human and does not depend on what people think or how people act towards others. You say that humans value is inherent but subjective. I think there might be something in that – i think that is what people think when they are doing harm to another person, they think that something is worth more than the human – say money or sex or some lie they are covering up. They assess their worth as higher than that of their victim, and so they act. I think that is how people operate. The next question is, is that the way we ought to operate? Are any of these value judgements+action combinations inherently good or evil or are they all red, green, blue, preferences etc, and why? Do humans have a fixed value regardless of how you or I assess it?

    • Society has laws. You are free to not participate, just understand that there are likely to be penalties for not participating. This is accepting or rejecting the social contract. Right now, whether religious institutions are paying for abortions or not is moot. The mechanisms underwriting their insurance DO fund abortions. They are not being asked to do anything that they do not already do. If that institution wishes to forgo public funding they are welcome to offer whatever insurance they wish. What you’re talking about is their desire to discriminate against their employees. This is a no-no. So the idea that an employer has a right to deny health care options based solely on religious preference IS discrimination. Obviously, any employee is able to see work elsewhere. What you are talking about is removing an option that exists today for already employed persons. It’s discrimination. Clearly the RCC’s Catholic Charities would much rather get out of the business than to offer services which go against their principles. So far, the replacement groups are quite happy to not have them around anymore. Business is regulated, get over it. If you don’t want to follow regulations – get out of business. It’s that simple.

      Again, you are ignoring the facts about this situation, and by insisting on going against the facts you will cause more need for abortions, and more bad abortions to be performed. Your way is lose-lose. Of course, religion in general has never been about helping the needy unless it was they themselves who felt needy. Is it really so difficult to see why people are leaving religion?

      The value of human life is subjective and so by your definition, inalienable rights are thus subjective, and we get things like the ability of one person/group to say that a zygote is more valuable to society than is the quality of life of the would be parent(s). If they are instead based on the law of reciprocity value remains subjective but you don’t get to tell anyone else what to do with their own body. It is not at all the same as asking/mandating people to pay into group insurance to minimize costs for everyone.

      It’s not about giving authority to the state. Insurance of any kind is inherently a socialist ideal. What you are arguing for is removing the right of a woman to control her own body. There is no deference for that. It is misogynistic from start to end. No matter that you think you are right because of your religion – that dusty old book does not mean you are right. Speaking of that book, time to read Numbers 5 again. That’s right, lots of magic ritual and god mumbo jumbo, but the god of Abraham DOES believe in abortion. Reason for it matters not, it is prescribed in the Christian holy text. Apparently the church is just jealous if the woman makes the decision instead of the man. Pure ontogeny.

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