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An interesting gathering.

Thousands of atheists are expected to attend the Reason Rally next month in Washington, D.C., an event that organizers hope will unify a large part of the secular community. On March 24, the National Mall will be populated by those who sympathize with atheist perspectives, generally defined by an absence in belief of deities or other religious icons.

And what is their aim?

“Organizers aim to encourage participants to claim their identity as what they call “secular Americans,” to dispel stereotypes, and to rally for legislative equality.”

Ah, there’s the sting. “Legislative equality”. It sounds so reasonable, so modest, doesn’t it? But as we see here in the UK, it is often nothing less than a contrived facade for undermining any presence of Christian values in the public realm. In the name of equality, of course. What could be more  reasonable ?

It’s my view that people should be allowed to hold whatever views they want, that’s the hallmark of a pluralist society. If people choose not to believe in God, as I know is the case with some regular ATW readers, that is THEIR choice and it must be respected. However “In God we Trust” remains the motto of the United States and atheists should respect that.

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69 thoughts on “THE AGE OF UNREASON…

  1. In God we trust and all others pay cash. I prefer the older E Pluribus Unum (From Many, One) myself, but old Ike liked the In God We Trust motto. Odd with the render unto (or is it onto) Caesar thingy that you find the phrase on money. Anyhow, athesists have as much right to rally and protest and petition as any other group, thank God (or something else).

  2. I don’t disbute the atheists right to disbelieve and to express their disblief.

    However, it is intellectually dishonest to deny that there is a “war on religion” and that minority atheists through lawsuit, and culture and other means of bullying are attempting to force Christianity from the public square.

    I believe this is known as the “tyranny of a minority”

    Furthermore, a constitutional republic such as America cannot survive without a moral and educated people (that’s in the Federalist Papers, btw) and without Christianity, Big Government will fill the void and we become ruled by statist bureaucrats instead of our conscience.

  3. I am always a bit annoyed by the use of the word ‘conscience’. What exactly does it mean. It is a vague term that essentially is just a fancy way of saying – “What I think” . It’s use as a term is loaded with demands for respect but is it only to be respected when it is attached to a religous framework ? Is someone with strong beliefs in Socialism and the State not as guided by their conscience as the free market supporting Christian ? Is the individual with a strong sense of racial purity who opposes mixed marraiges or racial discrimination laws just as enttitled to respect for his conscience as the person of faith who opposes Gay rights ?

    Who decides what is an authentic manifestation of conscience and what isn’t ?

  4. “Conscience” implies free will – something that Socialism and Big Gov. Statism takes from the individual, putting control in the hands of few in order to benefit – supposedly – the many.

  5. Patty –

    Absolutely.

    We’ve seen over here how the mega-state subordinates conscience and free will, eventially eventually destroying them. ‘Good’ behaviour then becomes merely what is ordered by the law.

    Look at tax, for example. “I pay my taxes” is code for “I am a good person”. Millions demand everyone pays their taxes. It’s a universal demand for submission to coercion and violence, yet the massed drones are brainwashed into inverting morality and believing it is good to submit to such evil.

  6. From the linked article:

    “What’s more important: the Bible or the Constitution? Do they want theocracy? Do they want Christianity as the official religion, and if so, which version?” Silverman stated, adding that despite his Republican affiliation, he feels himself without a candidate that supports his beliefs. “Hopefully what we’ll do is get people talking about what … atheists and secularists think.”

    Exactly.

  7. the Constitution derives its moral authority from the Declaration of Independence: all men are created equal and are endowed by the their Creator certain inalienable rights, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    In other words, men have natural rights, rights given to them by God.

    The State does not give Men their rights. As we know, what the State gives, the State can also take away.

    But in America, only God can take away Man’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    We fought a war over this concept – and we won the war. Perhaps we will have to fight again but — for the moment, at least, the Constitution and the notion of God are linked in the most felicitous fashion and no amount of atheist Marxist clap trap is going to rewrite this history.

  8. The problem with predicating your system of rights on god is that if there is no god then you are screwed. Whereas if you build your system of rights on common humanity then that is not indisputable.

    No state grants rights to its citizens, it is the citizens that grant rights to the state. This is politics 101.

    only God can take away Man’s right to life
    Well clearly that is not true. Your state is right up there with China, Iran and Saudi Arabia in taking away the right to life to shedloads of its citizens.

    “Conscience” implies free will – something that Socialism and Big Gov. Statism takes from the individual,
    There is nothing, absolutely nothing, to compare to religion for taking away the whole concept of free will. If you have an omniscient and omnipotent god then logically every aspect of your life is known to god before you have even lived it. If he doesn’t know then he is not omniscient in which case what kind of a god is he? If he does know everything about your life, then your salvation, or otherwise, has been determined even before you are born. Your life has no meaning at all.

  9. Well said Geoff.

    But you are pitting logic against ignorant bigotry. Better to argue with the wall.

  10. Patty,

    “No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”. That is enshrined in the constitution of the United States. So clearly there is a way for the State to take away a person’s God given rights. They simply must do it in accordance with law (which the State writes).

    Geoff,

    If someone knows what choice you are going to make before you make it does it mean you haven’t really made a choice?

  11. Patty,

    “only God can take away Man’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    And isn’t he good at it.

  12. Free will and Christianity is a great topic but too much for this little comment block. Suffice to say, the concept of “sin” depends on the concept of free will.

    regarding your first statement: “The problem with predicating your system of rights on god is that if there is no god then you are screwed. Whereas if you build your system of rights on common humanity then that is not indisputable.”

    you have it backwards. building your system of rights on “common humanity” requires deciding what the “common good” entails…if this is decided by your fellow Man, than we have a situation where one Man decides the ultimate rights of another Man – and yet, Man are not capable of acting as God – Men are not Angels – if Men were Angels we would have no need for governance, would we? no one group of people have a better idea than anyone else what works best and no one group or individual should be entrusted – like a King or a Soviet Commissar -should be entrusted with deciding what’s good for everyone.

  13. Patty,

    Who decides what the God given rights are then? Cause last time I checked it was Thomas Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence, not God.

  14. “That is enshrined in the constitution of the United States. So clearly there is a way for the State to take away a person’s God given rights. They simply must do it in accordance with law (which the State writes).”

    yes, so true. The Constitution can be amended. Or, as Obama and others have done, simply ignored.

    we fought one war over this. perhaps we will fight another or just submit to the tyranny of the state. or we could win at the ballot box and over time go back to the individual as the sovereign – I dont really know.

  15. The point being is that the people who had just fought that war decided that it was acceptable for the State do ignore someone’s God given rights as long as the State followed due process. What gives Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, the right to ignore rights given by God?

  16. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were religious men. They also were interested first and foremost, breaking away from the tyranny of King George III. They did not think it fair that the King had sovereign power, and they did not.

    They knew that with the Declaration of Independence that they were committing treason against the King. And so they took great care to examine the moral grounds for the break from England. Men do not sign away their lives and the fortunes for trivial, immoral matters – at least these men didn’t. They sought to understand and express their moral ground for their break from England in the Decalration of Independence..

    “…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – the broadest of principles, and principles that they – and their ancestors – believe come from God.

    From a practical standpoint, if the State grants a right, the State can take away the right. And in other countries, this is exactly what has happened and is happening.

  17. “What gives Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, the right to ignore rights given by God?”

    what rights are you talking about?

  18. Patty,

    ” the concept of “sin” depends on the concept of free will.”

    Not according to the Bible:

    He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations

    Though of course it contradicts itself:

    The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself

    Yes, it’s small wonder that even most Christians ditch that bronze age balderdash, and that’s assuming they even read it.

    In law you can have the 1st amendment or the 1st commandment, you can’t have both.

  19. “But in America, only God can take away Man’s right to life”

    Patty, that comment is drowning in irony. The US is one of the few countries in the civilised world that claims for itself the right to “take away Man’s right to life”.

    Liberals – even atheist liberals – are more Christian than right-wing conservative Americans.

  20. If someone knows what choice you are going to make before you make it does it mean you haven’t really made a choice?

    Why not? If your choice was pre-determined then in it was always going to happen so you have no free will. If your god knows every choice you are going to make – even if he knows every potential choice – then your entire life is determined even before you have lived it — and that include whether or not you will achieve salvation. The concept of omniscience and free will are incompatible.

    building your system of rights on “common humanity” requires deciding what the “common good” entails
    Yes but that doesn’t mean you have bestow that function on a single individual. I am sure I read something about government of the people, by the people, for the people.

    If you go for predicating your rights on some magic pixie and his book of words then all you are doing is building your rights on an appeal to antiquity — argumentum ad antiquitatem — we do it this way because we have always done it this way. Well as we have seen throughout history things change.

    What you are suggesting is that there is some ossified code. Well as we have seen, what happens when one imaginary friend meets another one? Whose god decides? Funnily enough the god with the biggest army … doesn’t sound terribly religious to me.

  21. But that is the point. The State, even in American, even in post-Independence America, grants those rights, or at least chooses when to ignore them. Jefferson wrote it himself. We are endowed by our Creator the unalienable right to life. That means that we have the right to life regardless of anything or any circumstance. It is unalienable. How can the State, for example, execute people without ignoring their God given, unalienable right to life?

  22. I don’t think I understood your 10:10 – the Constitution – amended or otherwise – does not take away anyone’s God-given rights.

    the Constitution protects the individual’s God-given rights. It limits the scope and power of the government. That is the purpose of the Constitution.

  23. The State in America does not grant rights, Seamus.

    The Constitution protects the rights. The Constitution limits the power and reach of the govt. It is a document that puts a cage around Govt. – not a document that tells an individual what he/she can/cannot do.

  24. Geoff Watts –

    “No state grants rights to its citizens, it is the citizens that grant rights to the state.”

    In Anglo Saxon (common law) jurisdictions, yes. In Code Napoleon (dodgy foreigner) jurisditions, no.

  25. “That means that we have the right to life regardless of anything or any circumstance. It is unalienable. How can the State, for example, execute people without ignoring their God given, unalienable right to life?”

    this is just stupid. grow-up and read some f**ng history.

  26. That whole phrase is complete tosh. Your rights to life and liberty are not inalienable — America kills more of its own citizens than any other civilized country, and it locks up more of its citizens than any other civilized country. So clearly they are not inalienable.

    As for “the right to the pursuit of happiness” — I have no idea what that even means. If you lock me up you have denied me my right — I can’t pursue my happiness in jail.

    It is meaningless tosh.

    if the State grants a right, the State can take away the right.

    Straw man argument. Individuals grant rights to the State — not the other way round. It is through the common protection that the state (small “s”) provides that rights are enforceable (in what way am I a free person if I have to spend all my days protecting my own property least someone stronger steals it?)

  27. “The concept of omniscience and free will are incompatible.”

    I disagree. Just because God knows what you are going to do doesn’t mean that He is forcing you to do it. You still choose whether or not to do it. It is still your will that is being exercised, not His.

  28. “this is just stupid. grow-up and read some f**ng history”

    How about you answer the fucking question (if you are going to curse there isn’t really any point in putting in the asterisk)?

  29. In Code Napoleon (dodgy foreigner) jurisditions, no.

    I have seen you make this claim before, but it is simply not true. The 1791 declaration said ‘The exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits other than those that ensure to other members of society enjoyment of those same rights. These limits can be determined only by statute.’

    In other words it recognise the sovereignty of the individual as the source of rights, and seeks only to determine the implementation of those rights. It seeks to address the issue of competing rights — which as we all know is one of the fundamental problems of the theory of rights.

  30. The whole concept of “inalienable” rights is nonsense. There are absolutely no a-priory “rights” in human affairs. Rights are things that develop, are perceived, claimed, denied, fought for, ignored etc. through the dynamics of social change. It would be absurd, for example, to say that a stone-age man always had the same rights as a modern man. But that’s what the deist view of things in the 18th C believed, and there you are.

  31. I disagree. Just because God knows what you are going to do doesn’t mean that He is forcing you to do it. You still choose whether or not to do it. It is still your will that is being exercised, not His.

    If he does not know what you are going to do, then he isn’t omniscient.

  32. The whole concept of “inalienable” rights is nonsense.

    I think there are fundamental rights – and I think the Napoleonic Code does a good job in recognising both the fundamental nature of human rights, and their limitations. At its heart it simply says you have fundamental rights as far as they go until they interfere with my fundamental rights. Then we need to work out where the boundaries lie. This seems a wholly sensible and practical approach.

    Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is just so much cant.

  33. “Your rights to life and liberty are not inalienable ”

    according to you. not according to my ancestors who died winning a war against the King of England. And thank god they did win – I live a free (Wo)Man today because of them –

    Forget about murder and capital punishment and whatnot (too big a topic) and forget about sin and free will (also too big a topic) – for the moment, lets just consider the Socialist Atheist point of view that God does not exist and that there exists on earth an elite group of Very Smart Men/Women who know best how to run the world.

    In this scenario, you have substituted the Wicked King of England for the Very Smart Elite – with very similar results – from Cuba to the Soviet Union to the EU Nanny State – in the name of the Common Good, the individual is enslaved.

  34. Patty,

    It is unalienable. How can the State, for example, execute people without ignoring their God given, unalienable right to life?”
    this is just stupid. grow-up and read some f**ng history.

    If you can’t answer his question just say so.

    He’s right – an inalienable right to life is very clear and if such a right existed, executions clearly violate it. Indeed they aren’t exactly compatible with the other two listed ‘rights’ either.

    Of course it’s equally obvious that NONE of those claimed ‘inalienable’ rights actually exist. Not only because the DOI doesn’t have any legal force at all, but because they’re made up nonsense with no objective meaning. That is easy to figure out, if the phrase ‘god given’ wasn’t clue enough.

  35. Patty –

    “The State in America does not grant rights, Seamus. The Constitution protects the rights.”

    Hallelujah.

    This is, for example, the problem with the 2nd Amendment. People talk of “2nd Amendment rights” as if it’s the constitution which is the source of those rights. The natural conclusion is that repeal of the 2nd Amendment would expunge such rights.

    This is drivel because the 2nd Amenment is merely a recognition of the natural liberty of all people to keep and bear arms. The constitution is not the source of any rights. Its purpose is to ringfence natural liberties and declare them off-limits to collective action.

  36. He does know. Just because He knows doesn’t mean that He is forcing you to do it.

    So if he knows what you are going to do, then you were always going to do it. it was determined before you actually did it. If the action was determined before you were going to do it, then in what sense did you exercise a choice?
    It isn’t a question of him forcing you to do something, it is that your actions were determined in advance of you doing them. In a sense you have no choice but to do the things that were predetermined.
    If god knows everything, then he knows exactly what I am going to write next. Fish. That word was chosen even before I was born. I had no choice but to write it. Buttercup. I am simply executing that which was always laid out for me.
    If he didn’t know — elephant– then he isn’t omniscient. Either you have omniscience, or you have free will, but I am not sure you can have both.

  37. “cant” Geoff? you see why I think it’s a stupid discussion? – you can’t be serious –

    “inalienable rights” is in the Declaration – men died for it – it provides the moral standing for the US Constitution that limits the role of govt. (which is not a laundry list of “rights,” btw) and all you guys can say is that it is “cant.”

    well, bravo for a nice vocabulary word, but it makes me think that you cant. think very well.

  38. I need to check my Bible. I’m pretty sure Revelations states that Frank saying I’m right about something is the start of the Apocalypse.

  39. In this scenario, you have substituted the Wicked King of England for the Very Smart Elite – with very similar results – from Cuba to the Soviet Union to the EU Nanny State – in the name of the Common Good, the individual is enslaved.

    Or how about this scenario. We substitue the Wicked King of England for an elected parliament and they decide?

  40. Of course it is cant. It has no meaning. Your state kills people and locks them up — in what way is that “inalienable”? As for pursuit of happiness? What does that even mean? What does a right to pursue happiness actually translate as? How do you exercise that right? What are the co-relative obligations that come with it?

    It is just words on a page. They have no meaning.

  41. Exactly, Pete. Thank you! thank you! thank you!

    for the rest of you nincompoops, in a nutshell:

    Declaration of Independence – moral authority for treason because God greater than King

    US Constitution – limits the power and reach of govt. because Founders recognized that some government is necessary but all men abuse power if they can.

  42. Geoff: “…an elected parliament and they decide?”

    and what if the elected parliament turn out to be even more Wicked than the Wicked King?

    oh, ooops! that’s already happened, hasn’t it…

  43. So they used God’s granting of inalienable rights for their moral reason to commit treason and then ignored God’s granting of inalienable rights?

  44. Noel,

    “The whole concept of “inalienable” rights is nonsense. ”

    Not entirely – only if there is no objective system to decide what they mean.

    The notion of human rights is based on the idea that there are certain rights which everyone has simply by virtue of being human. They are at least inalienable in the sense that no government can legally override them (constitutional amendment or majority vote or not).

    Of course there is no human rights field in the universe and no lab experiment you can do to settle a difference in opinion, so it is still necessary to have courts to interpret that and balance the rights when they conflict. Whether or not they have the power to enforce anything is another matter.

  45. Geoff Watts –

    “The 1791 declaration said …”

    Are you joking or what?

    How much of the Declaration of Rights and Man lasted five minutes? How many French republics have there been since>

    The basic division is clear and stark: under the common law we may do anything which is not specifically and explicitly outlawed. under the Frech system it is the stated law which announces that which is allowed.

  46. Declaration of Independence – moral authority for treason because God greater than King
    US Constitution – limits the power and reach of govt. because Founders recognized that some government is necessary but all men abuse power if they can.

    Apart from the “God greater than King” bit this is fine.

    But when you look at the constitution itself, you haven’t explained how you square this concept of inalienable rights with the very clear evidence that your state denies those rights extremely frequently. It is clear that these rights are not inalienable. So this god of which you talk didn’t do a very good job, did he? He bestowed “inalienable” rights on people, and they just ignore him. Doesn’t sound like a very good source of rights to me.

  47. The problem is that human rights are granted by the state which is why they are different from state to state. A human right in the UK is different from a human right in the US, from France, Germany etc. An unalienable right is only unalienable if everyone agrees that they are unalienable. An the fact is that you can’t even get most countries to agree over the colour of shite never mind human rights.

  48. and what if the elected parliament turn out to be even more Wicked than the Wicked King?
    oh, ooops! that’s already happened, hasn’t it…

    And will keep doing so for all time.

    You get rid of them and start again. Such is the nature of political life.

    The basic division is clear and stark: under the common law we may do anything which is not specifically and explicitly outlawed. under the Frech system it is the stated law which announces that which is allowed.
    So you assert, and as the declaration shows, so you are wrong. The Napoleonic Code talks about the limits, not the origin, of rights.

  49. The problem is that human rights are granted by the state

    No they are not. Human rights are granted by common humanity. They are the natural rights of each and every person. Where the boundaries of those rights lie is something that is constantly being interpreted and reinterpreted. This is to argue about the limits, not the source, of rights.

  50. We have no rights granted by common humanity. I have the same humanity as the other 7 billion people on this planet. Do all 7 billion of have any rights that are in common among all of us?

  51. Seamus –

    “The problem is that human rights are granted by the state which is why they are different from state to state.”

    This makes sense of if you are a Statist. There is a distinction between “rights” and “liberties”.

    “Rights” is a French concept, deriving from “droits”. It from this that the rights in human rights come. They are given by the State and can be revoked by the State.

    “Liberties” are a wholly seperate concept and derive from our superior Anglo Saxon ways. They are superior to and above the State and, therefore, cannot be touched or revoked by the State.

  52. Do all 7 billion of have any rights that are in common among all of us?

    Yes we do. That is a moral fact. Some of those right have been codified, some have not. That codification may turn out to be not completely correct and may need to be changed.
    The simplest common right is that of universality.

  53. The problem is that human rights are granted by the state which is why they are different from state to state.

    No, the problem is that the god-botherers will always resort to a “higher authority” when they are losing the argument. “God-given rights” trumps every rational argument, and it’s a total waste of time arguing with these religious nuts. I suggested this in my comment at 9.51pm and I respectfully suggest that I’ve been proved right by the moronic drivel posted by them since then, and no doubt more of the same to come.

  54. ““Liberties” are a wholly seperate concept and derive from our superior Anglo Saxon ways. They are superior to and above the State and, therefore, cannot be touched or revoked by the State.”

    “Yes we do. That is a moral fact. Some of those right have been codified, some have not. That codification may turn out to be not completely correct and may need to be changed.”

    Such as?

  55. They are given by the State and can be revoked by the State.

    There are only so many times you can keep saying the same thing, and keep having the same thing shot down.

    “Liberties” are a wholly seperate concept and derive from our superior Anglo Saxon ways. They are superior to and above the State and, therefore, cannot be touched or revoked by the State.
    And this is pretty much what the code napoleon says. It seeks only to arbitrate in the areas where conflicting claims are made. It says nothing of the origins of those claims.

  56. Such as?

    The UN Declaration of Human RIghts was an attempt — not altogether satisfactory — to codify them. It is not perfect, but it is a start.

  57. “The simplest common right is that of universality”

    Geoff, like Wilde’s truth, that right is neither simple nor plain.

    Do/did cannibals have it, Nazi’s, or anyone who believed they were doing right when killing scores of people (and there are many people here who agree with them).
    It wasn’t so universal that many people over the centuries have ignored it.
    Empathy (if that’s what you mean) is a great source of rights and of good, but it is a fuzzy concept, again a product of our social development, and some define it much more narrowly than others, such that there is little universality about it at all.

  58. Pete,

    ““Rights” is a French concept, deriving from “droits”. It from this that the rights in human rights come. They are given by the State and can be revoked by the State.”

    Wrong. Human rights are limits on the power of the state.

    The reason that many conservatives object to them is that they do, in fact, get in the way of their authoritarian wish to exercise power over others.

    Geoff,

    “That is a moral fact”

    It’s not obvious that there is any such thing as moral facts, and even if there are nobody can agree as to what they are (just look around here).

    But human rights are at least legal facts (or legal fictions if you prefer, it doesn’t make any practical difference – the point is that there is an objective system to decide what they mean, i.e legal frameworks and courts, and this is the best we can do).

  59. Though not all countries are in the United Nations and so are not subject to the UDHR. It is also non-binding so it isn’t even worth the paper it is printed on. What specific right does all humanity share by virtue of their common humanity?

  60. Peter, you do realise that I am one of those “god-botherers”?

    Seamus

    Oh yes. But you seem to be on the side of reason in this debate and I salute you for it.

  61. I would say there are such things as moral facts, even if we don’t know what they are, but this is getting into areas of ontology and epistemology, (do they exist, and if we do, can we know them) and probably isn’t the right place for this.

    Noel – Universality simply says that the simplest human right is the right to be treated equally – in other words a recognition of commonality. Clearly murdering nazis are not observing that right, which is why, later, they were held to for account for it.

    Seamus
    Actually it is binding – and there is enough treaty law that has shown that to be the case, and even in countries that are not signatories to it, they are bound by it. That is pretty well established.

    No one says this is perfect, nor that it is fixed in time. We can only do what we can do. What ever derivation of rights you have there will always be people to contest it. If you claim that your christian god is the source of rights, then what of allah? Or the buddah? Who gets to decide in those cases?

    I think the one thing that most here have agreed is that the US constitutional talk of these inalienable rights is nonsense. It sounds good — perhaps it was the country’s first sound bit — but even the most cursory of glances shows that it is meaningless and ignored.

    Perhaps the other thing we have agreed is that whatever source of rights you claim, the hard part is where conflicting rights exist. Even if you think god is the source of your rights, it is man who has to arbitrate in those disputes. That seems to be the core of the Napoleonic Code which only sought to establish the limits, not the source, of rights. It seems they sensibly ignored that bit. That was, I would suggest, wise.

  62. “Actually it is binding – and there is enough treaty law that has shown that to be the case, and even in countries that are not signatories to it, they are bound by it. That is pretty well established.”

    No, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is a binding treaty. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is a binding treaty. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is simply that, a declaration by the General Assembly. But they are only binding on those who have ratified them (160 and 167 respectively). That means that there aren’t binding on large sections of the world’s population (the ICESCR isn’t ratified in the US and ICCPR isn’t ratified in China).

  63. Oh, ok. I am no international lawyer — so I was wrong on that, but I stand by the principle. The concept of holding people to account for their actions is well established in the international arena.

    But — and I accept that this is a weakness in the argument — there is a difference between whether a right exists, and whether a right can be exercised. Sometimes human rights can’t be exercised even if they exist. Now I fully accept that in what way can a right that cannot be exercised be said to exist? Well I would say I think it can — but that it may be delayed.

    There is no simple answer to this stuff. It is about as complicated a question of rights as you can get, and like all human constructs, it is imperfect — but it is getting better.

    And now I must go to bed. Thank you for a very interesting conversation.

  64. as regards the death penalty and an individual’s inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…

    in the case of the death penalty (or imprisonment) which is a civil action against a person — the person does not lose his/her inalienable rights but he does lose his ability to exercise his rights.

    in the case to the death penalty, a person loses his ability to exercise his right to life, permanently.

    (unlike the case of imprisonment where a person’s inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is restored when that person is released from jail.)

    is it unjust to imprison or to enforce the death penalty, to prevent one from exercising their natural rights? that is the question.

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