I asked: <<<If we were to look in the Bible for a clear, explicit and fully developed theory of individual rights, which book(s) in the Bible do you think we should consult? >>>

Peter responded: "If you mean a philosophy of individual rights complete with all the detail that philosophers go into now, there is none."

Exactly. None. Zippo. Zilch. The most important doctrine in a society of free persons is nowhere developed in the Bible. I'm glad you recognize this.

Peter wrote: "However, if you are looking for the concepts involved, start with the Pentatuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)."

I looked there. I don't find the concept of individual rights in these books. I find all kinds of arbitrary restrictions on individual liberty.

I asked: <<<particularly in light of the fact that, when Christianity was the dominant philosophy in Europe since the Dark Ages, governments which identified and protected individual rights did not emerge? >>>

Peter wrote: "First of all, I disagree that Christianity was the dominant philosophy in Europe since the Dark Ages. It had a great influence, but it was not the sole influence."

While other philosophies may have had some marginal (i.e., insignificant) influence (and you might want to identify which ones you think those are), there is no question that Christianity was the single most dominant religion in Europe throughout the Dark Ages. It was spread by the Roman Empire after it Christianized the people under its rule. The same thing happened in Russia in 988 under the rule of Prince Vladimir I. Christian rule has always come by means of force.

Peter wrote: "Most people, especially in political power, were unconcerned with religion and instead did whatever they wanted to advance their political power (much like they do today)."

I couldn't disagree more. People seeking political power knew well enough to align themselves with powerful churches in order to advance their political gain. This is nothing new. It dates back to the Old Testament days. Wherever you find a successful thug in history, you don't have to look very far to find clerical accomplices.

Peter wrote: "Secondly, the Roman Catholic Church was the most influencial religious power--and it had declined from true Christiany since around 700AD. By the Dark Ages, the Catholic Church was mostly pagan (and still is to this day)."

Ah yes, the typical Protestant droning that Catholicism is not genuine Christianity, and therefore cultures dominated by Catholicism are not representative of what a society would be like under the rule of genuine Christians. Rather than recognize the fact that faith and force are always corollaries (when men reject reason, they have no alternative but to deal with each other by means of force), today's believers claim that the atrocities of Christianity past won't happen when their version comes to the fore. The injustices of the Catholic church, it is claimed, will not result from the application of some renovated version of Christianity. So, where should we look for an example of this renovated version of Christianity? How about Calvin's Geneva? Michael Servetus did not have the right to publish his views; he was burned at the stake for writing ideas which did not meet the approval of Calvin's Consistory. What about Luther's Germany? Luther had nothing but animosity for reason, and he made this explicitly and unmistakably clear in his writings. This hatred for reason eventually lead to the Third Reich's atrocities against individuals. The Puritans of the colony of Massachusetts, complete with witch hunts and associated cruelties? Connect the dots, and note what happens when bad ideas and false philosophy are put into practice. The bloody record of Christianity's history is self-evident. It is too gruesome to contemplate for long.

Peter wrote: "The thing you need to remember is that there are Christian In Name Only people out there."

Peter, you are aware, are you not, that there are people who call themselves Christians and who would say that you are "Christian In Name Only," just as you accuse others of this yourself here? The point is, more than one could play this game. Disassociating oneself from one's close mystic cousins does little for one's credibility.

Peter wrote: "To give you an example from our political realm so you can understand where I am coming from, I am assuming you are conservative since you are an Objectivist. I don't know if you would call yourself Republican, Libertarian, or something else."

I thought you were going to make an effort not to be so presumptuous, Peter. I do not consider myself either a liberal or a conservative, nor am I registered as a Republican or a Libertarian.

Peter wrote: "But consider John McCain, who is a RINO (Republican In Name Only). He claims to be Republican because it gets him elected in Arizona, yet his policies are most definitely Democrate (so much so that the National Review stated that McCain was the best hope the Democrates had for winning the White House in 2004). Just as there are politicans who claim to represent a political philosophy they do not agree with, so there are people who claim religions they do not practice or believe."

Oh, I certainly understand what you're saying here, Peter. But the differences between the Republicans and Democrats are not in terms of fundamentals, just as the differences between Catholics and Calvinists do not lie in fundamentals. Both Catholics and Calvinists hold that there is a god, that this god had a son named Jesus, that this son came to earth in order to be sacrificed, that this sacrifice made possible the remission of sins, and thus opened the door to salvation for men. The fundamentals are clearly shared by both versions of the same basic religion. Both hold that these "truths" are revelational. Both hold that faith is a virtue. Both make allowances for certain rituals and sacraments. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, there are some 33,800 different denominations, a large portion of which interpret these fundamentals different from each other. And I don't think the question of which interpretation or which denomination has it all "right" can be decided without a large dose of personal bias. For every argument Peter can give for his version of Calvinism and against Catholicism, a Catholic could do just as well in reverse, and with just as many citations from the Bible as Peter could give in defense of his position. These are Christianity's problems, and as time goes by, they're only getting worse.

Peter wrote: "Just because a majority claims to be Christian does not make it so."

So, when someone tells me he is a Christian, we have to consult you first to find out whether or nt he really is one? Seems like it's his word against yours.

I wrote: <<<Indeed, a rights-based government did not emerge until religion was on the retreat from the advent of science and the Age of Reason (an age when "faith" was exposed to be the fraud that it is).>>>

Peter responded: "Which is why the Declaration of Independence states:

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When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

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And:

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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.

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Peter then commented: "See, the Founding Fathers agreed with my position that the reason there are rights is because we have been endowed by our Creator with them--I simply gave the explicit reason why life is a right: we are created in the image of God."

Peter, the "creator" which the Founding Fathers had in mind certainly was not the Christian god. The founders were principally deists, not Christians. Deism is generally the belief that a god created the universe, "wound it up" so to say, and then walked away to leave it to its own course (thus the emphasis on the Laws of Nature, not on the 10 commandments or other biblical reference). While a minority of deists may have believed that this being occasionally intervenes in human affairs, most held to the "absentee landlord" view of their deity, and explicitly rejected the idea that this god delivered revelation, assigned a particular race of people as his "chosen ones," or that this god fathered a son (thus, they reject the trinity, which put Michael Servetus on the pyre in Calvin's Geneva).

During the Enlightenment, or Age of Reason, god-belief was a vestigial belief, a superstition which clung on to some people's minds like an afterthought. Deism, the prevailing belief among the Founders, "cannot, properly speaking, be classified as a religion. It is a stage in the atrophy of religion; it is the step between Christianity and outright atheism" (L. Peikoff, "Religion Versus America," 1986). A complaint voiced by the Rev. Peter Clark of Salem, Mass., in 1739, informs us of the general intellectual climate in the years before the American Revolution:

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The former Strictness in Religion, thatů Zeal for the Order and Ordinances of the Gospel, which was so much the Glory of our Fathers, is very much abated, yea disrelished by too many: and a Spirit of Licentiousness, and Neutrality in Religionů so opposite to the Way's of God's People, do exceedingly prevail in the midst of us. (A Sermon Preach'dů May 30th, 1739, (Boston: 1739), p. 40.)

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Clark was not alone in this complaint. Many Christian clergymen were distraught at the dwindling church attendance and the diminishing scope of influence and control of the church in the decades leading up to the American Revolution. Essentially, men had to discard Christianity in order to muster up the nerve to question the authority of the King of England, indeed, to question the very idea of a kingdom to begin with, an idea which is central to New Testament locution.

Where earlier Peter wanted to dismiss any association of the Dark Ages with Christianity because the prevailing version of Christianity at the time was a version which he rejects (namely Catholicism), here he now wants to claim credit to his religion for what was in large part made possible by people who rejected almost all of Christianity's chief fundamentals (namely deists). This is perverse. Certainly what the Catholics affirm in their beliefs resembles Peter's Christianity much more than do the beliefs of the deists who were the nation's founders, yet he seems to want to piggyback on their accomplishment.

Regardless, the idea that the rights of man were bestowed upon him by a supernatural being is preposterous. It makes no difference who makes this claim, Christian, deist or otherwise. I think the founders were wrong on this point just as I think Peter is wrong on this point. But at least the deists made some effort to bring the doctrine of individual rights down to earth and make it relevant to man's life, which cannot be said for Christianity. And the deists certainly did not have the Christian god in mind when they claimed that rights were given by a creator. They imagined a natural god where Christians imagine a supernatural god. And where in Christianity would anyone ever interpret an endorsement for the individual's right to pursue his own happiness??? The first of the 10 commandments would make happiness impossible for me, as I would be absolutely miserable trying to carry on the pretenses and self-deceptions necessitated by god-belief, Christian or otherwise. A nation built on Christian laws would make me a law-breaker simply by not affirming a belief. That would not be a nation which is built on man's fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Not in the least!!!

I wrote: <<<Apologists will say that 'God has creator's rights, and thus has the right to take away someone's rights.' >>>

Peter responded: "I wouldn't state it quite that way. All laws are dependent upon God."

Then their source is nothing more than someone's whim if that's the case.

CertainVerdict