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Z 12 makes what seems to me a key point. They can be motivated by an idea of justice or an idea of History capital H intentional , to name only a couple of possibilities. The French, Chinese, and Russian revolutions, e.

You might have to believe in God to take the Declaration of Independence seriously

People also obviously can be motivated to make sacrifices by nationalism, patriotism, and a range of other ideologies. Brandon Bruce Webb Well all this seems to ignore the distinction made in the text between God as creator of rights and the People as the originators of the powers of government. God here is explicitly a witness and not the authority.

In each case the Deity is at one remove from the Authority. UserGoogol At least not this law. Once again it is the People who are entitled and whom in the next section provide the authority, it is from the People that just powers are derived. God is once again at some remove. While this is certainly contested and I have little knowledge and marginally less interest in the debates it would seem that a model federalism existed in at least some form close at hand.

Anarcissie Harold Obviously, the priesthood of all believers, the theory that every person can interpret the Scriptures for her- or himself, is the foundation or parent of the ideas of universal equal rights and democracy. As far as I know, this concept was unknown in the ancient world, although there is some radically egalitarian talk in the New Testament. And communism, as well. It would be interesting to know how it arose in its context. However, I believe that in the Declaration of Independence, the most reasonable explanation of the ringing-in of God was to make a claim about objective truth, not to summon the Ancient of Days to particularly underwrite the project.

They are not; they are rather putting their political beliefs on the same level as, say, the motions of the planets. Anyone can observe them. English Common Law would possibly have origins in or influences from different laws. In Australia I think case law can be cited from other jurisdictions, so that may have been the case in England too in the Middle Ages when the law was being formed laws before that are laws from time immemorial.

The public trust doctrine entered English and American law from Roman law, and the doctrine holds there are things like air and water which are owned by no one and are to be used by all so the Crown, or in the U. Intellectually, the Enlightenment project has been dead a long time. Its death is what Nietzsche, Sartre, and in a different way Lovecraft were carrying on about. Life came about by evolution, and evolution programmed us to breed.

Like every other organism on the planet, we reliably overpopulate our environment unless culled and suffer the resulting catastrophes. But the protestant concept of personal exegesis of biblical texts, when it came into being in the 16th and 17th century, was far from being any precursor for human rights. Personal exegesis was fine as long as you believed in the basic tenets handed down by protestant churches. They killed non-believers in public, remember. They were also, generally speaking, rabidly anti-Semitic, and often violently so.

Gross misogyny was the norm. They had slaves, etc. The ancient Greeks were the main fount of democracy, not the Christian religion or its adherents. And Greek philosophers had been calling for personal questioning of all authority and all hand me down knowledge at least from the time of Socrates, a good years prior to the protestants.

Its texts were clearly anti-democratic, with few exceptions. John Quiggin That seems bizarre. But otherwise we are in the Rawlsian overlapping consensus model, where there are non-theistic routes to the conclusion reached, in the Declaration, by theistic means.

What is it? Peter T The appeal is to God as the source and guarantor of law — the divine judge. This is one of the most ancient foundations of civilisation, whether as Sumerian city-god whose servant the ruler was along, of course, with all the others in the city , or Ahura-Mazda who gave rule to the Persian Great King so long as he kept to the Right, or Zeus the Giver of Law, or the Mandate of Heaven. By establishing rule as service, it enabled everyone to get on board. Which is why the first cities everywhere begin as ritual centres, and the first complex societies always start by hauling large rocks to some sacred site.

Whatever their differences in belief, the founders knew enough to know that an appeal to self-interest or even to personal altruism was not enough to make a new nation. Or, as another way that I might put this, if you accept that racism is the organizing principle of American society from its founding, then you have to confront the fact that all of the effective anti-racist movements have been religious.

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Acilius 4, whose comment I think had been in moderation so some may not have seen it, is interesting. Rich P. Though there may be a connection somewhere. As far as all this being a new idea — not so much. In his famous funeral oration Pericles is made to say of Athenian law:.

Its administration favors the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy. If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if no social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way, if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition.

Roman law held that a Roman citizen could not be subject to torture though this was increasingly honored only in the breech, apparently.

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The Stoics extended the principle of universalism even to slaves. All that you see, both divine and human, is one. We are parts of the same great body. Nature created us from the same source and to the same end. She imbued us with mutual affection and sociability, she taught us to be fair and just, to suffer injury rather than to inflict it.

She bid us extend or hands to all in need of help. Let that well-known line [by playwright Terrence BC] be in our heart and on our lips: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto [I am a man and I think nothing human alien to me]. As far as your second statement about axioms and their being self-evident, this sounds very plausible to me. God was often depicted as a geometer in this period. I have the feeling that if one looked into it, the language both of the Declaration and the Constitution probably echoes well-know law books of the day.

Chris Bertram It was a pretty standard view up until quite recently that atheists, not fearing divine sanction, could not be trusted to act morally. Locke thought so, as did Rousseau. However it is a pretty silly view to hold given the evidence about how theists and atheists actually behave, and Bayle iirc, among others, pointed this out. The view of the OP that, absent religiously-based reasons, agents only have prudential reasons for acting morally is simply dogmatic assertion.

People care about other things than their own good, and, for other than psychopaths, those things include the good of others. The Declaration of Independence was the justification for rebellion.

It must therefore stand opposed to the divine right of kings, because under the divine right of kings there is no justification for rebellion. Therefore rights must proceed from some other source.

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Interesting that it was Franklin that put it in. The development of the British constitution is a long series of various monarchs agreeing to give up bits of their absolute power, starting with King John and the Magna Carta that just had its th anniversary.

Until that time the divine right of kings was theoretically absolute except maybe for the Pope. But behind that is a memory that under old Germanic law going back to pagan times, freeborn men had certain rights that the ruler could not take away. I believe that, under Roman law, citizens had certain rights, and the same in classical Athens. But I think the Declaration is one of the first places where it gets prominently advanced as a legal point. This is a different argument than has existed before.

Theology from a wandering priest

This is an attempt to claim that a rebellion is legally justified. I suppose one of the purposes is to get the King of France on board. Of course once the principle had been established, the King of France turned out to be the next one in line. Then next comes Napoleon just had the th anniversary of Waterloo as well. Once the rebellion succeeded, the Declaration had served its purpose and essentially became a historical document, although the Constitution certainly shows its influence, particularly the Bill of Rights. In furthering this discussion, I think a couple of additional topics would be interesting.

Also, did the constitution of the Confederacy which owed more to the Articles of Confederation do so? Divine right meant different things at different times, but it never included an absolute right to rule as one wished. Almost all kings took an oath to rule by the laws and customs, do right by their subjects and take counsel.

The Declaration of Independence echoes, for instance, the Declaration of Arbroath in its appeals to both God and the rights of the community and the wrongs inflicted by their opponent :. How can the people legitimize the state unless their authority is itself independent of that state? The only way to guarantee that independence is to guarantee the separation of church and state.

And that, I suggest, may be why religion has been so important in American society. To understand this, however, we need to push beyond political doctrine, which is mere abstract theory, perhaps not even that.