7 votes

The Myth of "Rights"

This is my first post here and I don't even have a clue how this will go, but I keep ruminating on this same subject in my mind.

It is my belief, that while I am aware (a little) of the origins of "Natural Law" and a bit about John Locke, I can not for the life of me work out in any scenario a universe where "rights" actually exist. While I enjoy the rights the Founders set forth as natural to us as per the Constitution and the Declaration, I can not logically come to any conclusion that tells me that rights, necessarily, objectively, exist.

While it is my opinion that IF God exists, then, concepts such as rights may possibly exist, I can in no wise see clearly from the Scriptures which I believe in, any absolute declaration of anything, any human is "deserved". In a universe where A God, or some sort of Higher consciousness does not exist, a purely naturalistic framework, it seems utterly obvious and virtually absolute (if such things as absolutes could exist in regard to morals and concepts in naturalism) that rights could NOT exist.

I would just like to hear your thoughts on this, my community of fellow liberty believers. Thanks so much for any input you may supply.

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Denise B's picture

Could you be a little more

specific? Where are written mandates against murder and theft seen that are confirmed to be dated prior to the O.T., specifically Genesis and Exodus?

Off the top of my head,

Off the top of my head, Buddhism and Hinduism? Taoism as well, if I am not mistaken.

Ancient Roman Law? Ancient Greek law? Code of Ur-Nammu? Law of Hammurabi?

Plan for eliminating the national debt in 10-20 years:

Overview: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/my-plan-for-reducin...

Specific cuts; defense spending: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/more-detailed-look-a

Denise B's picture

I believe that

I think you may want to check your dates...early O/T scripture predates all of those....Roman and Greek cultures did not even exist in the days of Abraham...

The LAw of hammurabi predates

The LAw of hammurabi predates the old testament by about 1000 years? Book of Un-Nammu aroudn 2500 BCE?

Plan for eliminating the national debt in 10-20 years:

Overview: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/my-plan-for-reducin...

Specific cuts; defense spending: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/more-detailed-look-a

Denise B's picture

The dates you provide

have not definitively been proven and are in fact in dispute...see here
for evidence that the Law of Hammurabi does not predate the Torah (Jewish portion of the O/T). The issue with alot of the dating provided by current day archeologists is that many of them are looking at their findings through an "atheist lens" which skews their interpretations in that direction. The information I have come across for the Book of Ur Nammu is closer to 2060 b.c., much later than you claim, and even that date is still debatable.

The Torah was written aroudn

The Torah was written aroudn 600BCE?

Plan for eliminating the national debt in 10-20 years:

Overview: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/my-plan-for-reducin...

Specific cuts; defense spending: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/more-detailed-look-a


It's debatable whether any of those predate the Jewish religion. But why would any of that matter? Not provoking, just asking.

What I am saying is that we

What I am saying is that we do not need religion or God to create a society where certain rights are respected/appreciated/protected.

Plan for eliminating the national debt in 10-20 years:

Overview: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/my-plan-for-reducin...

Specific cuts; defense spending: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/more-detailed-look-a

if you want a secular

if you want a secular explanation for the justification of natural right then try reading some Hans Hermann Hoppe. Here I'll link a few relevant pages:



It does discuss Locke but goes further than that. Basically it boils down to the principle of original appropriation.

"My theories explain, but cannot slow the decline of a great civilization. I set out to be a reformer, but only became the historian of decline."
- Ludwig Von Mises

I see

If this is really the basis some people use it's indeed interesting and ultimately dismal. Why not just kill the person that has the property you want? Why not simply destroy the other person's property just because. I'll continue reading to see if he ever gives a "why" and "ought" but this is NOT a case for any sort of real "rights". Thanks for the link, I look forward to reading more of it.

Locke himself gave no other basis...

for natural rights other than the human mind can perceive them through observation of man in society.

~wobbles but doesn't fall down~


But he clearly said that they must work in union, be upheld by the revealed truth of scripture and that any observation that didn't line up, was to be discarded. Using the Bible as an anchor of truth.

Check out a book by Ayn Rand called

Capitalism the Unknown Ideal

At the back are two treatises, one of which directly addresses your question.

As far as I know it is one of her few if not only, non-fiction works.

It's also a great introduction to Objectivist philosophy.

But Rand's treatise is only one explanation for a basis for rights.

I've posted another one here on DP. As soon as I can find the original, I'll link it here.


I don't have time to read a book by Ms. Rand, perhaps you could summarize?

It's really short. Less than 200 pages I think. But I don't

have it handy at the moment, and I read it about 20 years ago.

I'll see if I can dig it up for you.

Denise B's picture

Interesting choice of name

for someone who seems uncertain that there is a God. The very idea of natural rights come from a belief in a higher power (i.e. endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...) and it is very difficult to assert a basis for natural rights without a belief in a higher power who first granted them. If rights are not granted from God, where then do they come from? Just as the other poster elluded to, the 10 Commandments themselves are the precurser to natural rights in mandating the idea that one person does not have the right to harm or take from another (do not kill, do not steal, do not covet, do not bear false witness) without consequence. You can directly derive a right to life and property (and a host of other things like due process, etc.) from God's laws. I believe that this is one of the reasons that TPTB have tried so hard for the past century to push evolution and ban God from the public square, because without Him, the idea of unalienable rights falls apart.


I am an actual professing Christian myself and I know what you mean, I simply tried my hardest to keep the post secular because I would like to hear from a wide audience on the matter. I see what you're saying, but perhaps you could read my response to GeneLouis and see the nuance of my question. I see your point about the extrapolation of rights from divine commands, but I still feel like there is room to escape that in a way. Ha. I don't really want to escape it, but I want to be sure of what I believe in a fully formed rational manner. Thanks so much Denise!

Denise B's picture

I just read your

response and I guess I get where your questions come from. Whether or not we deserve these rights is a little different question than whether or not they are granted to us. From a Christian perspective, one would not say that we deserve anything from our Creator but wrath, but isn't it awesome that God doesn't give us what we deserve due to His unimaginable grace! So deserving or not, God does grant us these rights which are a gift from Him and no man has the authority to take them away (that is not to say that they do not unlawfully seek to do so through force, which is why our founders were so careful to spell them out as clearly as possible). God reserves the right to remove these rights strictly for Himself and the only other people who are granted this ability are those who take others rights away strictly as enforcement of His laws (ie. for murder, theft, etc. - in which case you have forfeited your rights by commiting a crime).

Not sure

I'm not sure I'd say God would ever take the "rights" away. I mean when he pronounces judgement on us, what we get is what our deeds deserve or what his mercy has granted. I guess I feel like the commands of God are rules we should follow, ways we should act. But my question is how is that tied to "rights"? Is there a clear "due" that we all should have from one another? God tells us to treat others as we would like to be treated, but never seems to say, "do it because it is their due!" It's simply the best way to act. The "most excellent way". Know what I'm saying?

And I'm soooo with you that I'm grateful each day that I will never receive justice from God, but only his mercy in Christ! Yeahoo a thousand times.

Ohhhh wow!!

I just got a breakthrough, I was hoping this would happen! Thanks to all the contributors!! God, must have rights! He has the "right" to judge, destroy, love, act as he chooses because it naturally flows from his holiness, righteousness!! So perhaps RIGHTS EXIST!! BUT, do we have rights? As fallen, unholy mongrels?? I think not! But God tells us to treat each other as if we did have rights, as if we were dealing with HIM as we are his image bearers! OH MAN THIS IS EXCITING!!! Thanks so much to all of you! I'm going to study this until my brain breaks!!!

Denise B's picture

Glad you had a breakthrough!

We are, after all, made in His image (albeit in a fallen state at the present time). I guess another way at looking at it is life, property, everything we have are gifts from God, so what man has the right to take away what God has given, unless it is as punishment for violating God's own laws?


Solid bit of nuance there, thanks!

Yet another instance of the

Yet another instance of the misuse of the word "myth".


How so?

While a myth is often equated

While a myth is often erroneously equated to a untruth in common usage (and even in dictionaries), a more accurate definition is that it is an allegory or a fable, that is a metaphorical story or simile, usually with a moral. I would therefore prefer the term not be used in this context.


I see what you're saying. Thanks! It's like how people are constantly misusing ironic and coincidental! Thanks, but I still feel like there is a possibility in this case that we're talking about a story we've all read in a way, where people have rights, but it's a fiction.

If the word myth applies,

If the word myth applies, then the metaphor in the story should be easy to spot and point out. In this case, I can't. Can you?

Moto is on a crusade to discourage anyone else from using the

term but him/her self.

Pay no mind.

We Do Have Natural Rights

Your rights come from God. If no God, then no natural rights.

The basis of the Ten commandments is to love God and God's creation. The "Greatest Commandment" that Jesus spoke about requires that we respect the natural rights of fellow humans. You do not get to share eternity with God if you do not commit yourself to God's will, which includes respecting the natural rights that God wants for his creation.

I will expand this by saying that most politicians do not respect natural rights. The majority of voters do not vote for candidates that respect natural rights. And most participants in this sin do not even realize it.

"Thou shalt not steal unless the government does it for you".

Gene Louis
Supporting a Needed Tool for Government Feedback:
A Citizen-Operated Legal System.

The problem with that is this explaination only works for people

who believe in God as you do.

There are ways to explain it without even bringing God into the picture.

Note, that doesn't mean you don't need God to have rights, but rather that you don't need to assume the existence of God to explain them.