“When it comes to the source of human rights, it would be smart for agnostics to at least pretend to believe in God.”
Chris Cuomo is the son of former New York governor Mario Cuomo, and brother to the current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He is also a CNN journalist, although the journalist label is being applied here in a very generous way.
Cuomo had an exchange on his CNN program with Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Moore came into the national spotlight in the 1990s over an ACLU lawsuit demanding he remove a wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments from his courtroom. This was followed by another lawsuit a few years later over a subsequent larger Ten Commandments stone monument outside the Alabama Supreme Court building.
The exchange between the two men started with a discussion on gay marriage but turned to the subject of the origin of our rights. That Moore, a religious man, used God as the origin of our rights is not all that remarkable.
What is troubling is Cuomo’s liberal position that our rights come from man, because if man is the source of our rights, then man can change those rights. The only condition is acquiring the political power and police authority to do so.
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It is looking through the prism of power and authority that one can understand where Cuomo and other liberals are coming from. America has become culturally, academically, politically, and legally a center-left nation. That means liberals are completely at ease with a man-given-rights theory because it is liberal men and women who have the power and authority to determine what those rights are; God only gets in the way.
What thinking person cannot immediately recognize the dangerous folly in this position? The inherent claim could be stated this way:
“Any evil can be morphed into any right that can be codified into any law to satisfy any whim of any person in power.”
Therefore, when it comes to the source of human rights, it would be smart for agnostics to at least pretend to believe in God. Think of this as a form of Pascal’s Wager.
Blaise Pascal was a 17th-century French child prodigy who later became a famous mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, and religious philosopher. Pascal’s Wager can be understood in terms of game theory, where a decision is made based on maximizing gains and minimizing losses. Since life on earth is temporary but the afterlife is infinite, Pascal argued that a belief in God maximizes gain and minimizes losses, whether God exists or not.
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Corvo’s Wager is Pascal’s Wager lite: a modified version of Pascal’s Wager with somewhat simpler goals. I don’t require all people to believe in God in any of the forms or all of the powers typically attributed to God, only to pragmatically accept the most basic concept of a God in order to establish and defend a foundational reference for human rights. This is exactly what Thomas Jefferson did in the Declaration of Independence with his statement:
“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.”
Once you establish God as the source of human rights, no man or legislative body can change them.
Many agnostics would argue that they would rather just deal with natural law. But with respect to human rights, I don’t know what that means. Lawyers may deal with the laws of man, but as a physicist, I have to deal with the laws of nature. I know nature does a pretty good job when it comes to caring about things like the conservation of energy, but nature doesn’t care if one man owns another. Nature doesn’t care if we wantonly murder each other. Nature doesn’t even care if we survive as a species. On these issues, nature is silent.
Mathematics is one of the best rational systems we have created, yet even in mathematics we start with “self-evident” axioms, postulates, and assumptions. That is exactly what Jefferson did and what Corvo’s Wager argues.
I won’t pretend that in approximately 900 words I have claimed to have solved the problems of human rights. I also acknowledge that Corvo’s Wager, like Pascal’s Wager, can be attacked with valid criticisms. But from that perspective, so can the majority of all rational arguments, because there is the real world and there is our imperfect attempt at understanding and explaining it.
Cuomo’s and Moore’s interchange provides a classic example of the irrationality of rational arguments. Cuomo argued that Moore was substituting his own value judgments over the ruling of the higher courts and is discriminatory. Moore countered that if we applied Cuomo’s logic we would have to accept the Dred Scott decision as a legal and moral one. The statements are contradictory but true.
If solutions to problems of the human condition could be achieved by pure reason, we would already have arrived at solutions for all human problems, given the amount of words that has been written and spoken since the beginning of recorded history. Nevertheless, I believe what I am trying to accomplish here is “self-evident.” Many may scoff at my arguments, but I’m gambling that to err on the side of Jefferson is a pretty safe bet.
Tony Corvo is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel with a Ph.D. in physics. He is active in local Beavercreek, Ohio politics and is the author of All Politics is Loco: Musings from the Conservative Next Door. He and his wife have two grown daughters. He writes extensively on local issues. Many of his recent articles can be found at taxbusters.wordpress.com/author/phdmc2.
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