As I go about my daily life, I see many faces. They belong to people of different races, of all levels of intelligence and education, widely varying religious and economic backgrounds. And yet, I only ever hear two opinions.
There are more than 311 million people living in the United States, encompassing countless ways of life among a population comprised from that of every nation on the globe. And yet, I only ever hear two opinions.
I watch television news and commentary, read it in the newspaper, seek out new thought from every outlet imaginable. And yet, I only ever hear two opinions.
I know for a fact that there are more than two opinions in the world. There are at least three: the "right," the "left," and me. So why am I wasting my time putting these thoughts down here? Because it's my goddammned god-given right to do it, and that's all the reason I need.
Actually, that's a good place to start right there, with our "god-given rights." Let's, just for one moment, forget discussions of higher powers and the limitations such beliefs expose in their believers. Does anyone in the United States of America remember how we received our "god-given rights?" I do. Not personally, of course, but we spent quite a deal of our public school education discussing the matter, and, if memory serves, there were a lot of guns, a lot of deaths, and one pissed off but embarrassed monarch.
You see, there was no god who gave us anything. No deity set forth a set of rights on two stone tablets. If he had, then we wouldn't have to fight for them. There's this popular slogan. It goes, "Freedom isn't free." (Ok, ok, it really goes, "Freedom ain't free," because it's spouted by uneducated rednecks.) Well, guess what. Freedom's not free. If it was god-given, it should be, but it's not.
And now you're going to try to bring up the founding fathers. You are, of course, going to conveniently overlook the fact that they worked so fucking hard to keep theology out of the official national documents, ending it with only a reference to a vague creator (even if that creator is natural selection), but we'll play this game. Here's the line that matters:
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.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident." "Endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights." If these lines from the US Declaration of Independence are evidence of the self-evident rights endowed by a creator, why did anyone feel the need to write them down? Honestly, has anyone found a god yet that was self-evident ever? Buddha made vagary an art form. Some native American tribes believed the earth rode the back of a monstrous turtle. The Indians believe the highest reward for a human is to be turned into a cow (which may be why hamburgers are so fucking tasty). The Christian god is the Jewish God only nicer, at least until you get to the end of the Bible, and then he's Super Smiter, the condemner of the defenseless.
I get religion. It makes people feel connected to a larger purpose, to a community, to their history, to the earth, all kinds of things. I know people who would be raging, abusive alcoholics (or, possibly as likely, dead alcoholics) if they had never accepted the accountability inherent in faith. I don't mind that. But why do our rights have to be god-given?
Here's my suggestion (and I kind of like the idea of ending each column with a suggestion, so get used to it): Can we please forget the idea of god-given, self-evident, or unalienable rights, forget the notion that these rights are ours no matter what else happens? Can we instead remember what our rights cost us, remember that we can only choose any idiotic religion we want because we fought for them, and focus instead on making sure no one takes them away?
I like this idea. I think this could even be, god forbid, a popular idea. Don't worry, I'm just warming up.