Did some spelunking after visiting Don't Stop the ACLU tonight and came across this impressively short-sighted essay on rights. I wouldn't expect someone caught in the jaws of Godelusion to write anything different, but it's still fun to kick to shitsville and back.

Highboy in this essay is questioning the concept of "universal rights," spurred on by the article he links to that opens with the unsupported claim that "The growing consensus in the West is that human rights are universal." This aspect I don't care so much about as there's clearly no such thing except in la-la land -- you're always going to find societies in which practices which appear to be atrocities to you are perfectly acceptable within the society in question. What's concerning is Highboy's idea that an absence of a universal code of conduct somehow implies that rights are God-given. Highboy begins with this:

"I could never figure out the idea that people think any human has a right to anything apart from God."

This bit of perniciousness I don't doubt, and it's clearly gotten in the way of his ability to think. I don't have a right to be free of torture, rape, murder? Just a right to "God" itself?

The syllogism appears to be:

1. If humans create universal rights, everyone has those rights.
2. Not everyone has the same rights.
3. Therefore, God creates universal rights.

This schema has a few obvious problems and I'm glad this dumb motherfucker's not running the show. This is why we have laws, and why other nations have laws of their own. I can't think of a single country in which murder or stealing are expressly legal, so obviously there are some concepts which, while not guaranteed or punished equally, are regarded as critical for the maintenance of a workable culture.

As I wrote in a comment that I was surprised to see approved, it's always cute when people attribute concepts developed by people to celestial cops in order to imbue them with added importance and compel people outside a given culture to recognize them. If I write up a set of rules to live by and you choose other rules, I have no real basis for insisting you play my way. But if I pretend that some invisible and silent yet all-powerful overlord invented the rules, I can be as rabid as I like about the need for everyone to play my way. With this fucked-up ethos firmly in hand, not only can I assault your gender, sexual orientation, or other personal traits, but I can justify imposing my nation's will, culture and religions on you (hello, IEire!) and even slaughtering you. Yes, appointing gods as legislators, ethicists and probation officers has been a real boost to humankind.

Highboy writes:

Universal rights, defined by man, is a great argument for one world government, one world economy, etc.

There's no move afoot that I'm aware of to create a global constitution-style document, but even if there were, this is a leap devoid of all logic. Declaring that people the world overhave certain rights would hardly be an argument for a single central government or economy. If we could convince Middle Eastern nations to quit treating their women like desert sand, how would this imply a compulsion to merge resources?

From the acme of his cluelessness, Highboy asks:

"What authority does man have to decide what is a "right"? If we recognize no god, and give the power to determine human rights to fellow, corruptible, and fallible man, we really have no rights that cannot be removed later, at the whim of the same corruptible and fallible men. As biological accidents of science, not created by God, we have no rights, privelages, there is nothing natural or unnatural, there just is."

What authority? How 'bout his own? What kind of crippled-to-fuck mentality does it take to sugest that humankind should abdicate authority over its own actions? That's Christianity for you, though. A powerful shedding of responsibility masked as devotion to a necessary cause.

The fact that we can in fact be regarded as biological accidents -- no being or force consciously "wants" us to be here -- does not diminish our importance. It doesn't matter how we got here, or that there's no cosmic purpose underlying our existence; it is still incumbent upon us to do right by one another, whatever that means.

And yes, humans are fallible. That can't be helped and is cause for neither giving up on ourselves or pointing toward the fucking sky with one hand and covering our eyes with the other as a means of absolving ourselves of the reality of the human condition. It is also not a justification for deciding, ad hoc, that there must be a better determinant of "rights" out there somewhere. This is readily expanded to encompass the whole of goofyfuck religious thought: This place is pretty fucked up and so's my life, so there's got to be a skilled mechanic at the end of the line if only I wish hard enough for it, that wish being expressed by prayer, "accepting Christ," and other senseless displays of piety.

Declares Highboy:

"The very reason the founding fathers of the U.S. talked of our natural rights given to us by God is because those rights cannot be taken away when supplied by our Creator."

There we go again, with the "man-creates-something-gives-it-to-God-and-pretends-he-never-saw-it" idea. Name one "right," folks, that has never successfully been wrested from someone. Know anyone who's immune to imprisonment? Murder? Theft? Labeling a right "God-given" in an effort to guarantee its ability to shepherd the rightholder safely along in the journey of life is an incredibly transparent example of wishful thinking.

The very fact that different societies have vastly different ideas of "right" and "wrong" (witness the treatment of women in the Muslim world vs. in the West) is clear evidence that rights don't come from God; they're derived by and from within human societies, with a predictably broad range in terms of what constitutes a "right."

It should be clear that any agglomeration of human beings has to develop codes of ethics in order to survive as a unit and as individuals. Because of this absolute necessity, it is superfluous to layer the "God" idea over it. Not necessarily harmful, but clearly not necessary.

It is stupefying that some people have terrible trouble figuring out that the tools we use are of our own creation. The same people who readily accept the fact that we have developed technology, language, and other systems just can't accept the fact that more abstract entities just as surely are of human creation.

For further examples of this guy's briliance, read here about his contention - made in the face of a mountain range of contrary evidence -- that Anne Coulter, known plagiarist, is no "plagerist." How people like Highboy even manage to breathe without being reminded I have no fucking idea.


Anonymous nicole said...

Hey, you may know me from Dispatches from the Culture Wars. I've been enjoying these posts a bunch. Other people seem unimpressed with the profanity but as far as I'm concerned it provides vicarious release. And, somewhat OT:

Wow, so, I've seen Highboy's blog before, don't remember why, but I checked out the entry denying Ann Coulter's plagiarism you linked to. One of his little buddies appears to be none other than Amy Proctor. I used to read her blog, but my boyfriend banned it from the house because it was making me so crazy. I'm sure you'd enjoy it too. Anyway, it was just a wild blast from the past and I had to share.

3:48 PM  

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