The following is part of a five-part series discussing the inextricable link between God and Liberty in the context of challenges to religion on the fallacious notion that our Founding Fathers intended a secular nation. The consequences of a Godless society are considered and the historical precedence for religion in U.S. politics is explored.
Part I discusses the true origin of liberty and I don’t mean the liberty afforded by our government – I mean true liberty.
Part II compares government under religious and irreligious extremes to understand theimportance of God’s influence in establishing just governance.
Part III addresses the question of which religion can be used to form a logicallycoherent and objective basis for morality.
Part IV looks at the history of the infamous phrase, “a wall of separation between churchand state,” and examines the efficacy of its current interpretation.
Part V shows the direction we must go as a nation to preserve liberty and provides recommendations for achieving it.
Part I – The Origin of Liberty
The United States became a nation through a grand self-declaration of independence on July 4, 1776. The American colonialists-turned-revolutionaries fought a valiant and victorious battle against Great Britain to back up the audacious claim made in their Declaration of Independence. In 1788 the Constitution of the United States was ratified. A new nation was born that would stand as the bastion of liberty for centuries to come because of its religious influence.
Ironically, many citizens of this very same nation today writhe at the suggestion that religion is, or could be, responsible for the political innovation of the United States. Moreover, these same individuals consistently seek legal injunctions against those who make even a faint religious overture in connection with anything vaguely resembling a government institution. They do so presumably because their atheistic sensibilities feel threatened. More likely, it is their vile contempt for opposing views compounded by their inability to make coherent arguments against Christian apologists that has caused them to resort to their own religious censorship as a last resort. The irony is the liberty they claim to defend through religious persecution could not exist without the religion they are persecuting – the Judeo-Christian religion, specifically.
Perhaps my claim strikes you as bold, unfounded, or – if you’re a member of the ACLU’s Facebook fan page – blatantly uninformed. However, my proof would be insultingly obvious to any self-respecting American were it not swept under the rug of revisionist history and political correctness. I suspect there are very few American citizens that have read the Declaration of Independence, but this is my starting point; it’s no coincidence as this is also the starting point of our great nation.
Although the entire document is well worth a read, the most relevant sentence is from the second paragraph: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
At the time of its writing, the truths mentioned were self-evident as well known logical outcomes based upon the prevailing political and moral philosophy of the time. The concept of unalienable rights can be traced back to John Locke (although there is some dispute among historians, the National Archive still lists John Locke as one of the primary influences). He ascertained that there are certain rights based on natural law which are unalienable – meaning they could not be taken away. He further reasoned that these natural laws must be granted by our Creator, God, for the purpose of fulfilling His will in our lives.
Natural law is a philosophical construct predating Locke. In fact, the concept of natural law was not necessarily associated with or deemed to be God-granted by all philosophers. It is reasoned that natural laws are byproducts of nature – an outcome of our surroundings and environment. This would pave the way for an atheistic interpretation if it weren’t for one simple question: Why?
According to some philosophers, natural law is an outcome of consciousness. For example, my body can be enslaved, but my conscious is free to think as is pleases. Therefore, the nature of human consciousness dictates that liberty must be ubiquitous – a law of nature. While this explanation may seem sufficient for showing the existence of natural law in an atheistic universe, it doesn’t go far enough. Specifically, why do humans have a conscious in the first place? With no conscious there could be no absolute liberty.
Consider Locke’s first unalienable right: Life. We might observe our world and see that new life is fundamental. Yet concluding that the right to life is unalienable simply because the cycle of life occurs doesn’t go far enough. We must ask, “Why is there life?”
An atheistic world-view cannot answer the why questions. We can keep asking why until we must provide a reason for the beginning of the universe. I’ll save you some time and jump right to the question: why does the universe exist? The atheist can only answer that it was a random event without meaning or purpose; consequently, anything that follows from a random event must also be without meaning or purpose. For example, assume I pick a completely random number (note that even this example cannot be as random as the origin of the universe because it involves a logical human mind engaging in an activity, picking a random number, for a particular purpose). If I multiply, divide, add, subtract, square, invert, round, or do any other mathematical operation with that number the answer is equally useless and meaningless. Imagine presenting that number during a board meeting at the office:
You: “…and on this slide we have 1,463,288.”
CEO: “What does that mean?”
You: “Well that, sir, is a number.”
CEO: “Yes, I can see that, but for what purpose are you showing it to me?”
You: “Ahh, yes. A good question. I’m showing it here because I multiplied 731,644 by 2.”
CEO: “And what is 731,644?!”
You: “A number.”
CEO: “I KNOW IT’S A NUMBER, WHAT DOES IT MEAN??!!!”
No amount of number crunching could add any meaning to the random number. Likewise, no subsequent events can add any meaning to a universe that occurs via some spontaneous, random event. Under this regime, the existence of life is likewise meaningless: an outcome of randomness. If meaningless, then how could there ever be a right to life? We can try to assign meaning, just as I can try to say that 731,644 is the company’s gross revenue, but it doesn’t make it true. More grotesquely, assume all life is obliterated. So what? If it was a random accident in the first place, then who cares? If there is no purpose to original life, then there is no purpose to a subsequent life, then there can be no purpose to the last life; therefore, there is no reason to protect life so why not just nuke all life?
Now consider the alternative. Assume 731,644 is your company’s gross revenue. Now multiplying it by 2 has meaning – it’s twice the gross revenue. It might be that’s how much money you need to make next year to pay all your current liabilities. Likewise, if the universe and the life within it is the outcome of a creative act by a loving God, then it has meaning. Even the most abstract work of art has meaning. An artist might claim it is a meaningless painting, but even something done intentionally without meaning was meant to be meaningless – it has purpose. Under this scenario, life is meaningful. There’s a reason you and I exist – to fulfill God’s purpose. Because we are all extensions of God’s purposeful creation then each of us must likewise be equally valuable to that purpose. Consequently, none of us have more purpose than another.
Think about the ramifications for a moment. If Adam and Eve are part of a meaningful, purpose-filled event, then anything or anyone derived from them must be of equal meaning. If God intended for the children of Adam and Eve to have no purpose He would not have created them with the ability to reproduce because there would be no reason to. (Not to mention that He literally commanded them to “Be fruitful and multiply.”) Because we are all descendents of Adam and Eve, we must likewise be of equal meaning. As such, there are no humans that are accidents; none of us are without purpose. It follows logically that we must all therefore be here to fulfill a purpose. The only way to fulfill that purpose is to live; thus, we all have a right to life.
Our right to life is unalienable for two reasons: 1) we are all of equal purpose, so no one’s life is dominant over another; thus, I cannot rightfully take away your right to life. 2) We are all subservient to God; thus, He alone can decide if we are worthy to live and because we are living we must be deemed worthwhile.
Consider further the right to liberty. If our lives are purposeful, then we must be allowed to fulfill that purpose. If we are constrained for reasons beyond our own actions – e.g. slavery – then we are unable to fulfill our purpose. Therefore, the right to liberty is unalienable, revocable only by God. Yet it is God who established the greatest example of liberty: free will. God gave Adam and Eve, and all their descendents, the freedom to choose God’s purpose or our own purpose.
Our conscious is a necessity for cognition – a prerequisite to understanding and therefore fulfilling our purpose. A universe derived from pure randomness has no use for consciousness because there is no purpose. Life existing in such a circumstance continues to exist only to the extent it is able to survive competing forms of life. In the vernacular of atheists, this form of existence is driven solely by survival of the fittest. An organism’s “fitness” can only be attributable to its physical characteristics, but conscious is independent of anything physical. Conscious is not a genetic trait; thus, its existence cannot be explained by an atheistic worldview. Consequently, liberty cannot be an unalienable right in an atheist’s universe because a person’s physical body can be limited by another and with no conscious there is nothing that retains its liberty.
Finally, we have Locke’s third unalienable right: the right to property. Locke reasoned that we must have a right to property in order to fulfill our purpose. If we cannot be assured the uninterrupted possession of the implements of our purpose, then we cannot fulfill our purpose. Assuming we have made the choice to live according to our purpose, then we cannot be denied our right to property. Moreover, in order to acquire property we must trade our life for it. We trade time, moments of our life, to work for the money we use to purchase property (more than just real estate). Now allowing someone to retain his property is equivalent to taking away his life; because we all have a right to life we must also have the right to property paid for with our life.
Without God there are no unalienable rights: no life, no liberty, no property. Without God, there wouldn’t have been any consciousness to recognize the tyranny of the King of England; consequently, there would never have been a United States of America. Yet the God that grants us these rights is being forced out of our government by legal challenges posed by predominantly atheistic organizations. In future posts on this topic I will explore the consequences of such actions and explore how we can effectively combat further erosion.