Modern Americans — like most Westerners living in developed countries — are big talkers when it comes to human rights. These two words have become a meaningless slogan that resonates well with the average man and woman. It flows effortlessly from the chattering mouths of inane celebrities, obsequious politicians, and vacuous television news anchors. “Human rights!” they all cry. But what exactly does that mean?
According to Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and the other principal Founding Fathers, it had something to do with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” which, they affirmed all human beings “are endowed by their Creator with.” They spoke of these as “certain unalienable rights.”
Jesus Christ declared that the fundamental human right of all people is to be truly free to know and love God, who created them:
“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” –Jn 8:32
Atheism, on the other hand, can speak of human rights in only the narrowest of senses. Would human beings really possess rights in a naturalist universe? If so, on what basis would they have them? Where would such “rights” come from? On purely scientific grounds, how would a material cosmos have the capacity to endow randomly generated things with “rights”? What “rights” would rocks have? What “rights” would light waves have? On what basis would human beings, say, be entitled to more “rights” than cockroaches?
If God does not exist and there is nothing beyond the material universe, how could “rights” arise naturally from endless chemical interactions or from physical particles randomly jostling one another?
So, if it isn’t the material universe that bestows human rights, then who or what does? Is it our family or tribe? Does the society in which we live endow us with human rights? Does the State? Or does the individual man or woman establish his own set of “human rights” to which he lays claim by sheer force of his or her own will?
The problem with any of these possibilities, of course, is that any right granted by some person or group of persons is a right that can easily be taken away at the whim of the grantor.
Historically, kings could raise a man to riches and glory or send him off to be burned alive — in an instant, with the mere lifting of a finger. In officially atheist regimes, such as China, North Korea, and the former Soviet Union, it is the State that grants “rights” to the individual — and the State can remove any or all of them at will…
When we speak of “human rights,” we typically have in mind either those “rights” that are granted by a secular authority which can, rightfully, legally, revoke them… or rights that are intrinsic and, as the Founding Fathers described them, inalienable. These rights, such as the right to life, men and women possess by virtue of their nature as human beings.
These are Rights with a capital R. They are God-given, true, and valid, and they exist, regardless of whatever anyone may say and whether or not the state acknowledges them. These are rights no power on earth can rightfully take away because no power on earth can grant them. Only God can.
As the Declaration of Independence states:
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…
Only our Creator can endow us with rights that are unalienable — rights that cannot be taken away by any human power. Our Founding Fathers understood this truth. In a godless universe comprised of nothing but material substances, time, and chance, there is no one to bestow these kinds of rights.
Chapter Seven, “The ‘Do As I Say, Not As I Do’ Hypocrisy of Atheism”
The Godless Delusion: A Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism