I asked: <<<Peter, where does the Bible define this as a matter of individual rights? >>>

Peter responded: "If you are looking for the specific words 'individual rights' they are not in there, no."

Exactly. The concept of individual rights has been lifted from secular philosophy and fitted retroactively into modern interpretations of the Bible.

But Peter also believes that this concept is still buried in the biblical story somewhere, and he seems to think he can show us where it is. Let's examine what he says.

Peter wrote: "1) The law (in this case the law against murder) is applied to each individual. No person is allowed to murder anyone, murder being the unjustified taking of another person's life (the Hebrew does use a different word between killing and murder, just as we do). As a result, every individual person knows that no one else can legally murder them, and the impliciation is that every individual person knows they have the right to life."

Where does it define this as a matter of individual rights? I do not see it. Peter says that it is an implication. However, if we borrow the idea of individual rights from secular philosophy and invest an interpretation of this law with the understanding that individuals have rights to begin with, then one could try to pull this off. But that's all it is - an interpretation which depends heavily on ideas external to the Bible in an effort to extract the most sympathetic viewpoint possible. And Peter's whole analysis here focuses only on one law, namely the prohibition against killing (which the early Jews no doubt adopted from other cultures, and then attributed it as a commandment from their god). He does not show how all the laws are compatible with individual rights, which is what he would have to do if he wanted to put forth a plausible case for his claim that rights are "god-given."

For instance, in the 10 commandments alone (cf. Exodus chap. 20; Deut. chap. 5), there are "laws" which cannot be integrated with a rational view of individual rights. The first commandment is "thou shalt have no other gods before me." In other words, according to this commandment, the individual does not have a right to freedom of religious belief. Because of someone's jealousy, the individual does not have the right to hold religious views other than the accepted form of Judeo-Christian religion which is approved by a government (or whichever organ is charged with protecting individual rights, assuming there are any). So right off, away with religious freedoms.

In fact, we read in Deuteronomy 13:6-10 that a man is to kill one's family members if they try to convert him to worshipping other gods. All this bloodlust because of jealousy. If only biblegod would live by his own rules.

The second commandment is "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." Thus, as a further restriction against the individual's freedom of religion, one's right to do as he chooses with his own property is hereby capped. It basically means that one cannot use his property in a manner which the authorities do not approve, even if it harms no one. I've met Christians who interpret this commandment to constitute a prohibition against photographs and paintings, since each is a "likeness of anything that is… in the earth…" So much for individual rights.

The third commandment is "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain." This is incompatible with the freedom of speech, which is a natural right.

The fourth commandment is "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates." Thus, one's right to work on the days of his choice is arbitrarily restricted. This is not compatible with a rational view of individual rights. Let's hope you don't need a paramedic on the sabbath!

The fifth commandment is "Honour thy father and thy mother." The moral character of those who are to be honored is not a concern here: one is expected to honor someone regardless of the quality of their moral character (i.e., "honor" without moral judgment, which is a stolen concept). One's father and mother might be child-beaters, bank robbers, terrorists, cheaters, etc., and yet the offspring are commanded to honor them just the same. This is to make moral judgment a thought-crime (and Jesus reasserts this in Matt. 7:1 as well). It is not compatible with man's right to exist for his own sake, who by corollary of this right has the right to use his mind as he sees fit. According to the Bible, we can all kiss that right goodbye.

The seventh commandment is "Thou shalt not commit adultery." And indeed, many states have (and perhaps still do) have anti-adultery laws on the books. But this is a restriction of a person's right to engage in consensual sexual relations with whom he chooses. Again, it's another control on the individual's choices and conduct which is incompatible with a rational understanding of individual rights.

Take a look at the tenth commandment: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's." This is another sanction against man's use of his own mind. Thus, man does not have the right to use his mind in any way that is not approved by the government (or whatever organ is set up to enforce the law). Where would America be today without the entrepreneurs who looked at something someone else had and said, "I want the same thing he's got!" What is the purpose of advertising anyway? It's to invoke desire in a person to purchase a product. Advertising must be doubly sinful since it typically entails a likeness of things on earth (such as an automobile, a coke can, or a pizza, etc.) which violates the second commandment, and it encourages coveting, thus violating the seventh commandment. Essentially, the seventh commandment amounts to a prohibition against desire as such. It is not compatible with a rational view of individual rights.

The remaining three commandments, "thou shalt not kill," "thou shalt not steal," and "thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor," while compatible with a rational view of individual rights, are given without rational support. Rather, they are given as projections of supernatural whim, not on the basis of reason. This is in keeping with all the commandments one finds recorded in the Bible. Indeed, if one could establish a principle of conduct on the basis of reason (as secular philosophies do), then there's no need for a god-belief to begin with.

Look at other commandments, such as the commandment that boys must be circumcised (Gen. 17:10), whether or not the parents approve of this action. And in Gen. 17:14, a man whose parents did not have circumcised is to be banished. In Numbers 31:18, virginal women are to be kept as war spoils. They obviously have no rights. According to Deuteronomy 17:12, the "man who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God must be put to death." So, one does not have the right to show anger or contempt. Again, freedom of speech is not to be taken for granted! Some people don't want you to have this right.

According to Exodus 22:18 (cf. also Deut. 18:10), a witch or sorcerer is supposed to be put to death. Obviously, he cannot enjoy his right to exist for his own sake. According to Exodus 22:29, a firstborn son is to be sacrificed to god, so he will never enjoy the right to exist for his sake, either. According to Lev. 3:17, an individual is not to eat either blood or fat (I have a hard time accepting that believers follow this rule), so obviously under biblical law we would not have the freedom to eat as we choose, either. Nor are men free to eat pork according to Lev. 11:17-18. And according to Lev. 19:19, one is not free to wear garments made of two different kinds of fabric. Under these laws, one is not free to shave his beard (Lev. 19:27), wear tattoos (Lev. 19:28), or consult with mediums and wizards (Lev. 19:31). And of course, no one is free to engage in homosexual relations (Lev. 20:13).

And let's not forget the way women are to be treated according to the Bible. According Exodus 21:7-11, a man may sell his daughter into slavery, so long as he observes certain conditions. Any system which claims to stand for individual rights but at the same time condones slave trading, is a pretense and a sham. This is not the only instance in which women seem to have fewer rights and freedoms than men. According to Paul, I Cor. 14:34-35, women do not have the right to speak in church (I've only seen a few churches these days honor this primitive, misogynous injunction). The primitives also seemed to view menstruation with superstition, for in Lev. 15:19, a menstruating woman is considered unclean for seven days (so women can count on being "unclean" every month of their life from puberty to menopause), and anyone who touches her during this time is also unclean. And if the daughter of a priest becomes a prostitute, "she shall be burnt with fire" (Lev. 21:9). According to Deuteronomy 22:28-29, a virgin who is raped must become his wife (if they are discovered). We can't call this the right to pursue one's happiness, at least with respect to the virgin. And while the prohibition against adultery in the seventh commandment amounts to a prohibition against consensual relations between adults, the author of Ephesians (often attributed to Paul) tells women "submit yourselves unto your own husbands" (Eph. 5:22), which means sex within the marriage need not be consensual. Go figure.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Are these laws assembled together under the banner of individual rights? Indeed they are not! They are completely incompatible with the view that man has the right to his life, his liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They are incompatible with the view that man has the right to exist for his own sake.

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