Where does "individual rights" rank in your most closely held beliefs?


rock jock
December 26, 2002, 10:59 PM
I don't want to start a catfight with this thread, but I am curious because of the wide range of life philosophies/religions represented on this board where the issue of individual rights/liberty ranks in your personal belief system. Is it more or less important than, say, family/interpersonal relationships, inner peace, religious beliefs, etc.? Please don't let this digress into a locked thread. I think it is a legitimate question and can be answered with mutual respect.

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Chris Rhines
December 26, 2002, 11:45 PM
On a scale of one to ten-thousand, individual rights and liberties rank a one. Nothing else gets above 9000.

Clear enough, eh?

- Chris

December 26, 2002, 11:47 PM
Without one, the other is drab and pointless...

December 26, 2002, 11:57 PM
That is a tough question. Rights seem to be more abstract than family/relationships. Religion is abstract as well. I know what should be first, but in reality I probably rank them in this order:


rock jock
December 27, 2002, 12:10 AM

That would be my top three also, but in a slightly different order.

December 27, 2002, 12:10 AM
A belief system has to spring from something. Christianity, for example, teaches that God has written His laws on your heart. At some point in life one will be confronted with or become aware of this knowledge and decisions will be made. Some of those decisions will evolve quietly and unobtrusively. Other decisions will be more overt. Some of us will pay close attention to what goes on around us. Others will be oblivious to much of what goes on. Individual rights and liberty are tenous principals and become more so when people are not grounded in some sort of a moral belief system, and they don't pay attention to what goes on around them. Without a moral grounding individual rights can quickly become narcissism or worse. Personal freedom at that point becomes a danger to everyone else. That is why a society of laws is much preferrable to one of men, and an historical perspective becomes important. Some say that a religious belief is not necessary for a moral standard. I cannot speak to that as that is not my belief system. I do find it hard to grasp that it is possible with large groups of people, however. I think not many would succeed at such self control with no center other than self.

The Western Judaeo/Christian heritage seems, to my observation anyway, to pay closer attention to fundamental personal rights and how they are held as they relate to the overall well being of the society in general and the acceptance of diverse points of view. In other words, over time, our Western culture has evolved into a rather polite society (though imperfect) that well receives the governance of people by laws rather than force of arms. Very noble and has worked well for over 200 years. Perhaps the Judeao/Christian ethic, which subjects us to a Higher Power that is Just, causes us to be less willing to be murderous and selfish and judgmental in our dealings with each other. At the same time we revel in self criticism and are willing to accomodate change, as well as revering our core principals: ie The Constitution and BoR. (Some of us do anyway)

Although I worry that the dumbing down of our society is leading to a rather nasty confrontation at some point in the future because we are not learning the importance and necessity of some common ground. Multiculturism, which is at its core, actually divisive, as it celebrates our differences rather than our commonality, is the beginning of this path to confrontationism. The Balkanization of America is underway, I fear. It will take a bit of time, but perhaps the evolution of communication, such as the internet and recent creation of conservative mass media outlets will serve to rekindle the importance of the American culture (regardless of from where it springs) and begin to re draw us together by teaching the new ones among us, and reminding the old ones, that it is better for us to be united and American rather than hyphenated and divided: That our American history is an important platform from which to learn and spring ahead, bolder and better.

So, perhaps a combination of a spiritual grounding along with a good historical perspective of what has worked and what has not will, in the end, bring forth a stronger and better America where our liberty and freedom is found alive and well.

End of Propundiation



December 27, 2002, 12:12 AM
Without personal rights and liberty nothing else is possible, not family, job, nothing! To live as a slave is to be already dead.


December 27, 2002, 12:18 AM
God's number 1. Being a systems guy at the core of my being, that this whole universe right down to the smallest imaginable part of it exists, works, and is sustained proves to me that an unbelievably powerful intelligence created it and sustains it. That's what I want on my side, so that's got to rank first. (And no, I don't pretend to understand God, but I'm trying....)

Second is my family, and not just those I'm related to by blood or law. Nearly anybody is eligible, and a friend is family.

My individual rights are inherently mine, and they're like property to use and enjoy. I'm obligated to protect them by the power and wisdom given to me by God for my benefit and the benefit of my family.

December 27, 2002, 12:34 AM
Hmmm, how odd.

I can't actually answer the question. It seems fairly straightforward, but upon analysis I find that the question itself presumes some things that I am not willing to stipulate.

My belief in the utter importance of respect for human rights, flows out of my religious beliefs. And yet, I cannot say that my religious beliefs are "more important than" my respect for human rights, for if they were, then I could trample on other people's rights in the name of my beliefs. That's utter nonsense, because my beliefs completely forbid that sort of thing (and not as an external thing either, but as part of the very structure and nature of my faith, of my self).

Call it a chicken-and-egg sort of dilemma.


A chicken and an egg checked into a cheap hotel. Fifteen minutes later, the chicken was leaning back against the pillows, smoking a cigarette and looking contented. "Well!" said the egg sardonically. "I guess that answers that question."

December 27, 2002, 12:40 AM
I'll second Blackhawk's post. That's how I feel.

Mark Benningfield
December 27, 2002, 01:14 AM
Hello All.

Rock Jock:

I voted for "not the most important" because I have to put faith in God number one. But, after that, I with the good old dead guys who pledged their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor." As for whether my rights are more important than my family, I pray that I never have to make that call, because I think I would go along with Socrates in Plato's "Apology".

December 27, 2002, 01:17 AM
Well said, Blackhawk!

rock jock
December 27, 2002, 01:23 AM

I understand what you mean. Maybe this question will help clarify the issue: can you envision voluntarily surrendering your liberty in response to your devotion to any other thing (be it God, family, whatever)? If you can, then that particular thing is more important. For me, personally, I look at the example of Christ. Certainly he could have responded to persecution by saying "Hey, no way am I going to put up these false accusations. Peter, give me your sword so I can defend myself." But, he didn't. Now, I don't believe for one second that Christ would preach that people have no right to self-defense. But He gave up that right voluntarily because His other beliefs were of greater import. Now, someone else can use another example completely unrelated to any religious figure (and BTW, please don't comment on the authenticity of the Bible or of this story because it is not really germane to this issue at hand - it is simply my own personal illustration), but the point remains the same - is there anything in your life which you value more highly than your own liberty?

December 27, 2002, 02:12 AM
Rock jock,

Good clarifying question. The answer is yes, I can easily envisage situations wherein I would voluntarily lay down my liberty, in service to Christ. (Did you ever read Uncle Tom's Cabin? Uncle Tom was the only character in the whole book that was truly FREE -- and few people have ever really understood that point in the book, especially those who are not Christians. 'Uncle Tom' becomes synonymous with 'sucking up' to the power groups, synonymous with trampled humanity, but so few people ever really see the triumph and the ultimate freedom in the choices that he made.) In any case, yes, I can see surrendering my liberty voluntarily, in the name of Christ.

However, it gets sticky when we talk about laying down a 'right' to liberty. Without getting too far into that other thread (where'd the rights come from?) -- I have to say that rights, by their very definition, are inalienable. The right itself simply cannot be laid down, because (if it is truly a right), it is intrinsic to being human and cannot be separated from what it means to be human. Btw, that's what 'inalienable' means -- that the thing in question cannot be made alien to your nature, that it is a part of your nature. So to say that you have laid down your right to freedom, is as nonsensical as saying that you have decided not to be human anymore.

Of course, you can always voluntarily choose not to exercise a right. But, because it is part of your very nature as a human being, you still have the right, regardless of whether you choose to exercise it.

All that aside, let me point out (for the Christians here -- you pagans and atheists and wiccans and Jews are on your own!) that Christ will never require of us, that which is evil. You may find, one day, that He calls you to lay down your life or your freedom. But you will never find that He calls you to surrender the life or freedom of another. That choice is not yours to make, and that life and that freedom is not yours to give.


When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. -- Dietrich Bonhoffer

December 27, 2002, 08:10 AM
God created it all, and everything good that exists flows from Him. All the rights, all the freedom, everything...we owe it all to Him.

If He had not wanted us to be creatures of free will and choice, He would have made us differently.

I see defending rights and liberty as defending God's choice for us. To me, belief in God and belief in rights and liberty are inseperable.

December 27, 2002, 09:00 AM

Are individual rights/liberty “… more or less important than, say, family/interpersonal relationships, inner peace, religious beliefs, etc.?”

If I ask you, “Which is more important to you, water or air?” The answer probably would be air because of its more immediate need. However, you will die a horrible death in a short time without water. If given both (but only) air and water you will die a horrible death in weeks without food or even sooner from exposure or other causes.

Liberty (Natural Rights) and the responsibilities which come with Liberty are so intermingled with values of all kinds (including relationships among family, friends, our state and other states) as to be inseparable.

Dr. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/maslow.html) has been both debunked and supported by others, but there is much food for thought there. Obviously one must survive to address other needs. And physiological needs (e.g. air, food, water, shelter, etc.) must be addressed before being concerned what strangers in other counties (or parishes) think of our politics, etc.

But one glimmer of hope is that more and more people are learning that our Rights can be addressed individually, but our Rights exist only because we ensure those Rights for all—not a select few. Therefore, we must ensure we extend Natural Rights to the members of our families and to others with whom we interact or there can be NO “inner peace.” Interestingly, most religious beliefs express this concept in their version of what we call “The Golden Rule.” Moral atheists typically consider the same concept valid for other reasons.

Also, on a continuum which has Liberty (Natural Rights) at the right extreme and total slavery (people are treated as livestock to be bred, used, abused and killed in accordance with some “authority’s” perceived value system) at the left extreme are two points of interest:
1) Near the right extreme is a point of recognized but slight inconvenience.
2) Nearer the left extreme is the flashpoint where people are willing to fight and die to restore lost Natural Rights.

Those two points are of great import to rulers—including those in Washington—as they continually struggle to move both those points to the left.

But that’s for other discussions.

December 27, 2002, 09:58 AM
What Blackhawk said..........

December 27, 2002, 10:01 AM
1. God & Jesus
2. Family
3. Liberty & Rights
4. Loyalty to my country
5. Everything else...

rock jock
December 27, 2002, 10:34 AM

OK, some good points. But, I would differ on the idea of whether one can actually lay down their rights. For example, in Biblical times and even until very recently in history, it was not uncommon to find bondservents. Now, we see this term used in the Bible, but from a historical persepctive, what does it mean? It means that a person voluntarily offered themselves in servitude to another. The period of servitude was typically for life and the only person that could release the bondservent from their servitude was their master. So, the bondservent was essentially laying aside their right to freedom and liberty in order to serve another. Now, they may have done this for any number of reasons. Perhaps they did so they could gain freedom or financial security for their family, or perhaps they loved their master so much they did it as a sign of devotion. But, I don't think you could say that they were simply choosing not to exercise their right to freedom since this implies that they could take it back up when in fact they could not. The distinction is perhaps one of commitment. It also reveals the priorities of a person. I think most of us, or hopefully all of us, on this board would find in general the idea of giving up their liberty so repugnant that they would rather die. However, I can envision certain scenarios when I would do just that. Those scenarios are very limited and involve one of my higher priorities. Some people do not recognize any higher priority than their liberty, some do.

December 27, 2002, 12:16 PM
Well said, Dennis!

The circle of needs cannot be broken.

December 27, 2002, 12:26 PM
Inherent rights and responsibilities, and liberty; haggard and torn and bloodsoaked though that reality must remain.

I am a pagan, from the oral tradfition of my people (I am a Karelian Finn, first generation American - Mongolian ancestry, to those interested). I hold little affection to patriarchial religion that embraced the slaughter of millions of women - even entire villages - to create their authority.

(wincing as the burning brand delves into the hornet's nest deeper....)

Yes, I recognise that our Republic was founded on a Judeao-Christian concept - but we celebrate diversity within these shores. Did we not, we would be implicitly agreeing with the Taliban!

I celebrate the diversity I see here with my eternal and renewed spirit!

This reality of courtesy and dignity is the essence and the bedrock of what makes us all, absolutely American!

For I will lay down my life defending each and any of you should calamity threaten one or all within my sphere of influence, albeit directly or immediately without hesitation, top the utter ruination of any and all evil that may commit efforts to prevail.

(smiling warmly)

That's why I love sharing time at the range with others who only see joy and honesty in my eyes: we share a belief in our mutual inherent rights first!



rock jock
December 27, 2002, 12:37 PM

While that was certainly some colorful prose, I could not tell what your answer to the question was.

December 27, 2002, 12:53 PM

(If I may be so bold, Trisha) I believe she is saying we do not have to hold identical beliefs toward a diety to share devout belief in Liberty and its inherent obligations to protect Liberty--even for those with whom we disagree.

And that, dear friends, is the essence of Liberty. ;)

Trisha, may I assume then that to categorize Liberty above one's other beliefs does not diminish the importance of those other beliefs?

(I would believe it is so. :) )

December 27, 2002, 01:24 PM
Yes, Dennis:

If we arise from inherent strength and self-actualization, what we are and who we are coalesces into the reality of being Americans.

I see no disparity or degree of separation, even for the athiest who bases absolute existence on science - for then only the light of their life stands against the fathomless dark of the cosmos.



December 27, 2002, 01:32 PM
While individual rights are one of my core beliefs, and one that I will vigorously defend, there are circumstances were I would surrender them if I had no discernible choice to do otherwise. If I needed to protect my family, I would not hesitate. I would also give them up if I had to in order to defend my faith and my country. But in so doing, I am making a choice, and in making my choice, I am still free.

December 27, 2002, 01:53 PM
My relationship with God is most important, even if I don't always act that way. My duty to my family is second. Both God and my family expect me to act in an honorable fashion, which means lending my support to the cause of true and just freedom. So, there's a nice interplay between my relationships and my rights, as well as the rights of others.

December 27, 2002, 01:58 PM

Send flames to who_asked_you@microsoft.com.


December 27, 2002, 02:44 PM
Without liberty.... you have nothing.


December 27, 2002, 03:23 PM
Trisha et al,

I suspect you all thought that I was saying that if you don't come to your respect for others' Rights from the same perspective I do, that you somehow don't have the same Rights.

Not so.

From my perspective, God gave you certain Rights which are yours regardless of where you got them. (Is your eye color less yours, because you got it from your mom?)

From your perspective, I'm probably nuts. :) And that's okay; because we have a mutual respect for each others' Rights, we can enjoy a mutually beneficial association. We're going to be walking the same road for a long while, yet.


It rankles me when somebody tries to force somebody to do something. – John Wayne

Calamity Jane
December 27, 2002, 03:50 PM
Such a thoughtful, insightful thread!

As others have said, I cannot separate my belief in Natural Rights from my spirituality or from my devotion to my family and friends. I see my entire set of beliefs as an outgrowth of my core adherence to the principles of Liberty.

In other words, for me, Liberty is the foundation for all else. Spirituality, how/whether one perceives and/or relates to the Divine, is a road which one chooses, and the means by which one chooses is inalienable to our nature as human beings: Free Will.

We choose to treat others well, family and friends and our fellow humans; and there again, inherent in the very fabric of our lives, are the threads of Free Will.

And Free Will is inseparable from Liberty.

Trisha, your posts are absolutely lovely. :)

December 27, 2002, 04:26 PM
This question can only be answered with another question, by me at least.:(
What good is anything else if you arn't free to practice what you believe?:confused:

rock jock
December 27, 2002, 05:29 PM
And Free Will is inseparable from Liberty.
Perhaps I should have put some more thought into the original question. I would say that with regard to your statement, CJ, that free will is the intangible quality of one following their belief system in the choices they make. This is, of course, unalienable. Liberty, OTOH, is the tangible limits of the choices we allowed to make, within which we can exercise our free will. IOW, we can always exercise our free will even if we are slaves because we still have ability to conduct ourselves in keeping with our belief system. However, if we are slaves our liberty is impeded and we are restricted in what we can actually do. So, in summary, free will determines who we are, liberty determines what we can do (at least IMO). In that light, the question should be, are you willing to give up essential liberty (but not free will) for anything?

Calamity Jane
December 27, 2002, 07:10 PM
Originally posted by rock jock
Perhaps I should have put some more thought into the original question. I would say that with regard to your statement, CJ, that free will is the intangible quality of one following their belief system in the choices they make. This is, of course, unalienable. Liberty, OTOH, is the tangible limits of the choices we allowed to make, within which we can exercise our free will. IOW, we can always exercise our free will even if we are slaves because we still have ability to conduct ourselves in keeping with our belief system. However, if we are slaves our liberty is impeded and we are restricted in what we can actually do. So, in summary, free will determines who we are, liberty determines what we can do (at least IMO). In that light, the question should be, are you willing to give up essential liberty (but not free will) for anything?

Okay, I see the distinction you're making. :) I will say, along these lines, that I don't think free will is in any way meaningful without essential liberty. Choices a slave makes out of his "free will" would be hollow, at best.

To my view, essential liberty and the responsibilities thereof are inseparable from my spirituality and my membership in the human family; so I'd have to answer the question thusly: no, I would not be willing to give up essential liberty for anything, because if I do give that up, I give everything else up, too.

The concept of freedom is simple: give as much freedom to others as you would have for yourself. If freedom, and the choices and decisions it requires, frightens you ("you" meant rhetorically! :) ), then you will forever be trying to take away freedom from others.

And that's part and parcel of so many of our problems today -"leaders" who are threatened by the prospect of citizens having freedom, and "citizens" who are frightened of the responsibilities of freedom and the exercise of that freedom by their fellow citizens.

Adding: I just read this post to my hubby, and he said, "my philosophy, in a nutshell, is this: don't mess with me, and I won't mess with you."

Well, he actually used a more colorful word than "mess." ;)

December 27, 2002, 07:50 PM
Speaking only for myself, individual rights and liberties have to come first, since w/o those I am naught but chattel to the wishes and whims of another.

December 30, 2002, 11:09 AM
Here's a question for those for whom liberty/individual rights are absolute. Say you have a child, niece, nephew, etc., who is dying. Another person owns the cure/antidote/etc. and is holding it in front of you. This person has an absolute property interest in the item, and is in no way responsible for the illness/affliction/what have you. You can take the item without any violence and then return it.

The question is, would you violate the property right of that innocent person (as well as commit an battery) in order to save the life of another innocent person? Or are property rights more important than life?

December 30, 2002, 11:25 AM
Without rights and liberty, family, religion, etc. would not exist. Liberty goes hand-in-hand with everything that I hold dear in my life.

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