Peter wrote: "2) The law is based on the fact that mankind is created in the image of God (and as the passage from Genesis 1 shows, this applies to male and female). The law is not dependent upon any government, king, priest, or any other individual to grant--it is dependent on the fact that mankind is in the image of God."
On this view, any "rights" which believers suppose they can infer from the Bible are based on someone's whim, nothing more. The notion of "the image of god" is not an idea based on an objective view of reality (indeed, Peter himself acknowledges that there is no clarity on exactly what this notion refers to; see upcoming post), and supposing this to be the basis of rights divorces the concept of rights from the objective nature of man. It is an attempt to hijack a rational idea (individual rights) which is incompatible with the entire ethos of the Bible (see above for just a few examples of this), and credit it to a mystic philosophy. In the process, it can only destroy the concept of individual rights.
Peter wrote: "Therefore, it transcends human institutions and is definitionally a "right" that all men everywhere have."
Yes, we all have the "right" to obey an invisible god who is too ashamed to show his face to the people who are expected to love and worship him. Everything else is subordinated to this "right."
Peter wrote: "The conclusion is that the fact that humans are created in the image of God and have the right to life is a universal right because it applies to all individuals regardless of location in life."
Nice try. I'll go with reason instead of faith on this matter.
I asked: <<<Why didn't Jesus speak of individual rights, such as the right not to be enslaved? >>>
Peter responded: "Jesus' purpose on earth wasn't to end slavery or to create political reform. This is the point of the Gospels."
This is simply a cop-out on this matter. Jesus spoke about many moral issues, and gave a whole hodge-podge of commandments and injunctions. He had plenty of opportunity to educate his audiences about the evils of slavery (assuming Jesus considered it evil - and from what we read, this of course cannot be assumed as a certainty). We read nothing in Jesus' speeches which even hints at a doctrinal position against slavery and slave trade. I think that's because either Jesus or those who invented the Jesus legend were primitives who had no rational conception of individual rights. And if they were working off the Old Testament, that's no surprise.
The fact of the matter is, the early Christians thought that Jesus was returning very, very shortly. Throughout the New Testament, we read that "the kingdom of God is at hand" and the belief that the end of the world was rapidly approaching. This is why Paul discourages young people to marry, and why political reform only later became a concern for Christians as they realized that Jesus ain't comin' back. But even then, since their philosophy had only animosity for the individual, the concept of individual rights took some 1700 years to become a political reality. Individual rights did not come as a result of Christianity as today's conservatives so uncritically think, but in spite of Christianity.
Peter wrote: "Christ may have talked about these things, but the overall issue is much more important--salvation is vastly more important that the issue of living in slavery."
Hmmm…. Then why did Jesus speak on marriage, taxation, money-changing, and other practical matters? Apparently these issues were more important to Jesus than the plight of slaves. We don't even see any of Jesus' disciples asking about the morality of slavery.
I wrote: <<<Jesus nowhere speaks against the practice of owning slaves, but it seems that this would be an issue of top priority on Jesus' list of moral issues if he were an advocate of individual rights. >>>
Peter responded: "Jesus didn't come to demonstrate individual rights to the Roman government…"
So, essentially, Peter agrees: Jesus did not teach a code of individual rights. Jesus also taught that his followers were to hate themselves (John 12:25), and this is completely antithetical not only to the commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself" but also to the principle that man has the right to pursue his own happiness. Neither love nor happiness is not possible to those who hate themselves.
George Walsh got it right when he wrote, "[Jesus] did not preach a republic of God with a bill of rights, but a Kingdom of God with a bill of duties. The Messiah was to rule absolutely over the whole earth. Needless to say, there would be no separation of church and state." (The Role of Religion in History, p. 156.)
The endorsement of a "kingdom of God" is the endorsement of a monarchical dictatorship. And under a dictatorship, the only one who has any de facto rights is the dictator himself. Any other "rights" are simply tokens which can be revoked at the drop of a hat, simply because the dictator got pissed off one day. The God of Genesis got pissed off, and killed all but a statistically insignificant number of human beings when he washed them all way in a big flood. There's no honoring of an individual's right to exist under such a program as this. Absolute power, corrupts absolutely.
Peter wrote: "--He came to die for the sins of a fallen people."
That's right: the purpose of an ideal man, according to Christianity, is to die. According to such a code death is the standard of value, and benefiting from someone else's suffering is its chief virtue.
Peter wrote: "Those people could then institute reform…"
Even though the code which they are expected to adopt not only fails to identify a code of individual rights and the rational foundations on which such a code should be based, that code actually serves to undermine any hope for establishing a society based on man's right to exist for his own sake by endorsing the ethics of self-sacrifice. Keep in mind: those who advocate that you sacrifice yourself usually intend to benefit from your sacrifice.
Peter wrote: "--but as we know, reform does take time, especially when evil people take advantage of situations."
Yes, it does, especially if those who seek to secure their rights and freedoms are suppressed by religious zealots who claim that man has a bill of duties, not a bill of rights. The primitives made an uphill fight all the more treacherous.
Peter wrote: "Furthermore, we do not know that Christ never spoke about this issue. Simply because nothing is recorded in Scripture about it does not mean He never addressed it--we simply don't know whether He did or not."
On the basis of the Bible, one cannot say that Jesus did speak on something which is not recorded therein. Furthermore, if what Jesus did teach is incompatible with a rational view of individual rights, this is enough to determine the overall nature of his message.