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David Paszkiewicz's letter in the Observer

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To the Publisher:

I’m writing to express my appreciation for your column last week “Taking God Out.” The ongoing battle to remove any reference to God from public life is not only tiresome it is downright foolish. In your reference to Michael Newdow’s latest attempt to remove God from the traditional inauguration ceremonies, you mentioned that he may be America’s least favorite atheist. Well, if he isn’t, he ought to be.

In his original attempt to have the Pledge of Allegiance banned from schools, he sued on behalf of his second grade daughter. Sadly, few knew that he wasn’t married to her mother and didn’t have custody of her. The little girl was actually a born-again, Bible believing Christian (along with her mother) and she was not at all uncomfortable reciting the pledge. The fact is Newdow had no standing in the case. He used his daughter in order to advance his own agenda.

Newdow’s thinking demonstrates a dangerous shift from the thinking of our Founding Fathers. They understood clearly that our rights come from God; we are born with them. The Declaration of Independence states: “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…” This is not a religious statement; it is a profound philosophical and political statement. It makes it clear that rights are not something that are granted by kings or political leaders; they are granted by God!

In addition, the Declaration makes it clear that the purpose of government is to protect our God-given rights. If the Michael Newdows of this world succeed in erasing God from public life, people will begin to reject the founding principle that this is “one nation under God.” It will then be assumed that our rights come from government.

The danger is this, if citizens believe government to be the giver of rights, they will then begin to believe government has the right to take them away. Those who think it is trendy to protest American traditions ought to consider this each time they attack our pledge.

David Paszkiewicz

Kearny

If Mr. Paszkiewicz was lying on the sidewalk with a broken leg and in pain I would help him. It doesn't matter where his rights come from. It only matters that he is suffering.

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Here's a response to Paszkiewicz's drivel from a fellow US History teacher in at Kearny High, published in today's Observer. Looks like one of his colleagues finally got fed up enough to say something.

To the Publisher:

Dave Paszkiewicz’s letter left this student and teacher of US history bewildered by its conception of America’s founding moment. Does Dave realize that the Revolution was riddled with a profound paradox, namely the coexistence of enslaved African bodies and the dispossession of indigenous lands with the supposed belief in human equality and liberty? I am not suggesting that the religious history of the US be ignored, nor am I suggesting that religion somehow be excluded from the story of the US told in high school classrooms.

Dave claims that the founders “understood clearly that our rights come from God; we are born with them.” In this paradigm, “our” liberties are assumed to be universal at that time. But in the historical context of the Revolutionary era, only those born “white,” male, and into property-owning families were privileged with the rights all citizens have access to and benefit from today.

If one views the founding moment through a nonwhite lens, Dave’s conception of what the historian W.E.B. Du Bois called the “new philosophy of ‘Freedom’” proves essentially problematic and deeply troublesome.

Moreover, and more importantly, how does one rationalize the presumed Christianity of the founders some of who, such as the author of the declaration Thomas Jefferson, were Deists as well as enslavers—with the ownership of human beings? This “master narrative” of American history not only teaches false lessons, but it also is, in fact, not worth telling at all because it is virtually ahistorical.

To not acknowledge the racial, gendered, and class dynamics of this country’s founding is tantamount to a perpetuation of the US narrative where historic white male privilege is invisible and thus naturalized—a product of “God” rather than human decisions and actions. The difference is that the former is an argument based on the imagination of the individual and the latter has been thoroughly documented for at least a century or more. Such a story obliterates the tougher memories that perhaps some would rather forget than learn from in an anxious defense of their own unfortunate agenda.

Brian Hohmann

Kearny

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Here's a response to Paszkiewicz's drivel from a fellow US History teacher in at Kearny High, published in today's Observer. Looks like one of his colleagues finally got fed up enough to say something.

To the Publisher:

Dave Paszkiewicz’s letter left this student and teacher of US history bewildered by its conception of America’s founding moment. Does Dave realize that the Revolution was riddled with a profound paradox, namely the coexistence of enslaved African bodies and the dispossession of indigenous lands with the supposed belief in human equality and liberty? I am not suggesting that the religious history of the US be ignored, nor am I suggesting that religion somehow be excluded from the story of the US told in high school classrooms.

Dave claims that the founders “understood clearly that our rights come from God; we are born with them.” In this paradigm, “our” liberties are assumed to be universal at that time. But in the historical context of the Revolutionary era, only those born “white,” male, and into property-owning families were privileged with the rights all citizens have access to and benefit from today.

If one views the founding moment through a nonwhite lens, Dave’s conception of what the historian W.E.B. Du Bois called the “new philosophy of ‘Freedom’” proves essentially problematic and deeply troublesome.

Moreover, and more importantly, how does one rationalize the presumed Christianity of the founders some of who, such as the author of the declaration Thomas Jefferson, were Deists as well as enslavers—with the ownership of human beings? This “master narrative” of American history not only teaches false lessons, but it also is, in fact, not worth telling at all because it is virtually ahistorical.

To not acknowledge the racial, gendered, and class dynamics of this country’s founding is tantamount to a perpetuation of the US narrative where historic white male privilege is invisible and thus naturalized—a product of “God” rather than human decisions and actions. The difference is that the former is an argument based on the imagination of the individual and the latter has been thoroughly documented for at least a century or more. Such a story obliterates the tougher memories that perhaps some would rather forget than learn from in an anxious defense of their own unfortunate agenda.

Brian Hohmann

Kearny

So he's an atheist, what's the point?

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Here's a response to Paszkiewicz's drivel from a fellow US History teacher in at Kearny High, published in today's Observer. Looks like one of his colleagues finally got fed up enough to say something.

To the Publisher:

Dave Paszkiewicz’s letter left this student and teacher of US history bewildered by its conception of America’s founding moment. Does Dave realize that the Revolution was riddled with a profound paradox, namely the coexistence of enslaved African bodies and the dispossession of indigenous lands with the supposed belief in human equality and liberty? I am not suggesting that the religious history of the US be ignored, nor am I suggesting that religion somehow be excluded from the story of the US told in high school classrooms.

Dave claims that the founders “understood clearly that our rights come from God; we are born with them.” In this paradigm, “our” liberties are assumed to be universal at that time. But in the historical context of the Revolutionary era, only those born “white,” male, and into property-owning families were privileged with the rights all citizens have access to and benefit from today.

If one views the founding moment through a nonwhite lens, Dave’s conception of what the historian W.E.B. Du Bois called the “new philosophy of ‘Freedom’” proves essentially problematic and deeply troublesome.

Moreover, and more importantly, how does one rationalize the presumed Christianity of the founders some of who, such as the author of the declaration Thomas Jefferson, were Deists as well as enslavers—with the ownership of human beings? This “master narrative” of American history not only teaches false lessons, but it also is, in fact, not worth telling at all because it is virtually ahistorical.

To not acknowledge the racial, gendered, and class dynamics of this country’s founding is tantamount to a perpetuation of the US narrative where historic white male privilege is invisible and thus naturalized—a product of “God” rather than human decisions and actions. The difference is that the former is an argument based on the imagination of the individual and the latter has been thoroughly documented for at least a century or more. Such a story obliterates the tougher memories that perhaps some would rather forget than learn from in an anxious defense of their own unfortunate agenda.

Brian Hohmann

Kearny

Too bad the response is incoherent and doesn't deal with Paszkiewicz's point that the Government does not give us our rights.

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Here's a response to Paszkiewicz's drivel from a fellow US History teacher in at Kearny High, published in today's Observer. Looks like one of his colleagues finally got fed up enough to say something.

To the Publisher:

Dave Paszkiewicz’s letter left this student and teacher of US history bewildered by its conception of America’s founding moment. Does Dave realize that the Revolution was riddled with a profound paradox, namely the coexistence of enslaved African bodies and the dispossession of indigenous lands with the supposed belief in human equality and liberty? I am not suggesting that the religious history of the US be ignored, nor am I suggesting that religion somehow be excluded from the story of the US told in high school classrooms.

Dave claims that the founders “understood clearly that our rights come from God; we are born with them.” In this paradigm, “our” liberties are assumed to be universal at that time. But in the historical context of the Revolutionary era, only those born “white,” male, and into property-owning families were privileged with the rights all citizens have access to and benefit from today.

If one views the founding moment through a nonwhite lens, Dave’s conception of what the historian W.E.B. Du Bois called the “new philosophy of ‘Freedom’” proves essentially problematic and deeply troublesome.

Moreover, and more importantly, how does one rationalize the presumed Christianity of the founders some of who, such as the author of the declaration Thomas Jefferson, were Deists as well as enslavers—with the ownership of human beings? This “master narrative” of American history not only teaches false lessons, but it also is, in fact, not worth telling at all because it is virtually ahistorical.

To not acknowledge the racial, gendered, and class dynamics of this country’s founding is tantamount to a perpetuation of the US narrative where historic white male privilege is invisible and thus naturalized—a product of “God” rather than human decisions and actions. The difference is that the former is an argument based on the imagination of the individual and the latter has been thoroughly documented for at least a century or more. Such a story obliterates the tougher memories that perhaps some would rather forget than learn from in an anxious defense of their own unfortunate agenda.

Brian Hohmann

Kearny

Hohmann is entitled to his opinion but probably doesn't realize that there were influential founders who opposed slavery and sought its abolitition.

George Washington: "There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it."

(It's true Washington owned slaves but they belonged to his wife when they were married. They were freed in his will. Also, I have been in Washington's slave quarters, the accomodations were better than the average frontier family. They were brick with fireplaces)

John Adams: "Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total exterpation of slavery from the United States...I have, through my whole life, held the practice of slavery in abhorence."

Benjamin Franklin: "Slavery is ... an atrocious debasement of human nature."

Alexander Hamilton: The laws of certain states ... give an ownership in the service of Negroes as personal property ... But being men, by the laws of God and nature, they were capable of acquiring liberty --- and when the captor in war ... thought fit to give them liberty, the gift was not only valid, but irrevocable."

James Madison: "We have seen the mere distinction of color made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.

Remember, the colonies were deeply divided over the issue of slavery early on. In 1776 the primary order of business was defeating the British. If slavery were the primary issue in 1776, the Southern colonies might not have declared independence. They would view the Northern colonies as being more abusive of their rights than the British. As wrong as that view was, it was their view. If Independence was to be achieved, it could only be achieved through colonial unity.

Fortunately, the Declaration of independence formed the political basis for the abolition movement. Abolitionists pointed politically to the Declaration as the Nation's creed challenging American's to live up to it. Morally, they appealed the the Bible. For evidence, read Uncle Tom's Cabin. It is a polemic against slavery and is so full of Bible verses it reads like a sermon. The book was written in 1850 (11 years before the Civil War) and opened the eyes of Americans in the North to their Hypocrisy in allowing slavery in the South. President Lincoln called the author, Harriet Beecher Stowe, "The little woman who started a great big war." How did she do this? She did this by convincing Northerners that racial slavery was not Biblical and they had a moral responsibility to end it.

In closing, the sin of racial slavery was paid for in the blood of 600,000 white Americans, the vast majority of which were Christians. In fact, the Union Army marched into battle singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. The most powerful and explicitly Christian lines of the Hymn are below:

"In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in His bossom that transfigures you and me;

As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,

While God is marching on."

America certainly has dark stains on its past, however, it has always been the influence of those committed to Biblical truth who have righted its injustices.

For a more recent example, read Martin Luther King's speeches. They are rife with Scripture references. (Afterall, he was a Christian and a pastor)

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Too bad the response is incoherent and doesn't deal with Paszkiewicz's point that the Government does not give us our rights.

God doesn't give us our rights either, no matter how you look at it.

1. If God exists, then obviously he didn't give everyone rights. Some people have been denied rights. So obviously God didn't give them to everyone.

2. God can't give you anything if he doesn't exist.

Mr. Hohmann's point is that rights are products of human choices. Either we respect people or we don't. That's what determines whether people have rights.

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So he's an atheist, what's the point?

Mr. Hohmann is making several excellent points. One is that Paszkiewicz is distorting history to promote his own agenda. It's true. Paszkiewicz does it a lot. The more you try to defend him by labeling anyone who criticizes him, the more you prove that he shouldn't be teaching.

Another excellent point is that basing rights on ideas about God does not secure people's rights. Our own history proves that. Paszkiewicz seems to warn about thinking that rights come from governments instead of from God, but as Hohmann points out, thinking that rights come from God does not mean that rights are guaranteed. So even if you accept Paszkiewicz's argument that rights come from God, what does that mean and what good does it do people who are enslaved or annihilated under rule of law? It's a fundamental question; if you're going to take Paszkiewicz's side you have to deal with it.

In addition, thinking that rights "come from" government isn't the only alternative. That is simple-minded and wrong. People choose how to treat other people. That is what determines whether human rights are honored and respected. Arguing over where rights come from only distracts from the central point, which is that people and governments either respect human rights or they don't. In fact, arguing that rights come from God gives people an excuse for treating "other" people as though they don't have any rights. As an example, the American confederate states justified slavery on an interpretation of the Bible. "God wants us to have slaves." So now you have an excuse, and that's exactly what they did. They used their ideas about God as an excuse. It's done all the time. How do you deal with that problem?

You can argue that the confederate states misinterpreted the Bible, but you would be missing the point. The very fact that you're not looking at the people involved, but at your conception of God (which is nothing more than your opinion), means that you're not looking directly at what really matters, namely, human rights.

Mr. Hohmann can speak for himself about his religious views. The very fact that you label him proves that you're not listening, which explains why you don't understand what he said.

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Too bad the response is incoherent and doesn't deal with Paszkiewicz's point that the Government does not give us our rights.

Too bad you didn't understand it. It's an excellent and thoroughly coherent article, which addresses Paszkiewicz point head-on. Hohmann points out that Paszkiewicz's view is based on imagination, as contrasted with the checkered history of how people treat each other, which is an historical fact.

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Too bad the response is incoherent and doesn't deal with Paszkiewicz's point that the Government does not give us our rights.

He does deal with it. He points out that Paszkiewicz's point isn't based on history. It's based on imagination and Paszkiewicz's personal agenda.

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So he's an atheist, what's the point?

There are two major points.

1. Paszkiewicz's argument is ahistorical, which means that it's not based on history.

2. I don't know about you, but I'm interested in whether people's rights are respected. I am more interested in whether people are free and safe than in anyone's opinion about where these things "come from." Hohmann is pointing out that in the United States our ancestors declared a belief in a Creator but enslaved and killed entire races of people anyway. So what good did it do? He relies on historical facts to make his point.

If you defend Paszkiewicz, ask yourself a question. If people think rights come from God, how does make the world better than if people just respect people?

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Too bad the response is incoherent and doesn't deal with Paszkiewicz's point that the Government does not give us our rights.

Actually government does determine our rights. That is why we need to support a wise and just government by electing good officials.

The rights given by government at our countries founding were primarily for male whites with limited rights to female whites and none to the black slaves.

The rights given at our countries founding were then extended to all by the evolution of our legal system by the people through the officials we elected. The rights are enunciated and determined by our government under the people.

Sometimes the government gives and other times it takes. As was done to the Jews under the Nazis. Where was God when they were shoved into the ovens?

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Here's a response to Paszkiewicz's drivel from a fellow US History teacher in at Kearny High, published in today's Observer. Looks like one of his colleagues finally got fed up enough to say something.

To the Publisher:

Dave Paszkiewicz’s letter left this student and teacher of US history bewildered by its conception of America’s founding moment. Does Dave realize that the Revolution was riddled with a profound paradox, namely the coexistence of enslaved African bodies and the dispossession of indigenous lands with the supposed belief in human equality and liberty? I am not suggesting that the religious history of the US be ignored, nor am I suggesting that religion somehow be excluded from the story of the US told in high school classrooms.

Dave claims that the founders “understood clearly that our rights come from God; we are born with them.” In this paradigm, “our” liberties are assumed to be universal at that time. But in the historical context of the Revolutionary era, only those born “white,” male, and into property-owning families were privileged with the rights all citizens have access to and benefit from today.

If one views the founding moment through a nonwhite lens, Dave’s conception of what the historian W.E.B. Du Bois called the “new philosophy of ‘Freedom’” proves essentially problematic and deeply troublesome.

Moreover, and more importantly, how does one rationalize the presumed Christianity of the founders some of who, such as the author of the declaration Thomas Jefferson, were Deists as well as enslavers—with the ownership of human beings? This “master narrative” of American history not only teaches false lessons, but it also is, in fact, not worth telling at all because it is virtually ahistorical.

To not acknowledge the racial, gendered, and class dynamics of this country’s founding is tantamount to a perpetuation of the US narrative where historic white male privilege is invisible and thus naturalized—a product of “God” rather than human decisions and actions. The difference is that the former is an argument based on the imagination of the individual and the latter has been thoroughly documented for at least a century or more. Such a story obliterates the tougher memories that perhaps some would rather forget than learn from in an anxious defense of their own unfortunate agenda.

Brian Hohmann

Kearny

Avery Dulles on Jefferson;

"In summary, then, Jefferson was a deist because he believed in one God, in divine providence, in the divine moral law, and in rewards and punishments after death; but did not believe in supernatural revelation. He was a Christian deist because he saw Christianity as the highest expression of natural religion and Jesus as an incomparably great moral teacher. He was not an orthodox Christian because he rejected, among other things, the doctrines that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the incarnate Son of God. Jefferson's religion is fairly typical of the American form of deism in his day."

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Too bad the response is incoherent and doesn't deal with Paszkiewicz's point that the Government does not give us our rights.

When you think someone else is incoherent, the failing may be yours. Especially when the letter makes perfect sense and deals with the point perfectly.

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So he's an atheist, what's the point?

You tell us. What was the point of guessing that he's an atheist?

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Hohmann is entitled to his opinion but probably doesn't realize that there were influential founders who opposed slavery and sought its abolitition.

George Washington: "There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it."

(It's true Washington owned slaves but they belonged to his wife when they were married. They were freed in his will. Also, I have been in Washington's slave quarters, the accomodations were better than the average frontier family. They were brick with fireplaces)

John Adams: "Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total exterpation of slavery from the United States...I have, through my whole life, held the practice of slavery in abhorence."

Benjamin Franklin: "Slavery is ... an atrocious debasement of human nature."

Alexander Hamilton: The laws of certain states ... give an ownership in the service of Negroes as personal property ... But being men, by the laws of God and nature, they were capable of acquiring liberty --- and when the captor in war ... thought fit to give them liberty, the gift was not only valid, but irrevocable."

James Madison: "We have seen the mere distinction of color made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.

Remember, the colonies were deeply divided over the issue of slavery early on. In 1776 the primary order of business was defeating the British. If slavery were the primary issue in 1776, the Southern colonies might not have declared independence. They would view the Northern colonies as being more abusive of their rights than the British. As wrong as that view was, it was their view. If Independence was to be achieved, it could only be achieved through colonial unity.

Fortunately, the Declaration of independence formed the political basis for the abolition movement. Abolitionists pointed politically to the Declaration as the Nation's creed challenging American's to live up to it. Morally, they appealed the the Bible. For evidence, read Uncle Tom's Cabin. It is a polemic against slavery and is so full of Bible verses it reads like a sermon. The book was written in 1850 (11 years before the Civil War) and opened the eyes of Americans in the North to their Hypocrisy in allowing slavery in the South. President Lincoln called the author, Harriet Beecher Stowe, "The little woman who started a great big war." How did she do this? She did this by convincing Northerners that racial slavery was not Biblical and they had a moral responsibility to end it.

In closing, the sin of racial slavery was paid for in the blood of 600,000 white Americans, the vast majority of which were Christians. In fact, the Union Army marched into battle singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. The most powerful and explicitly Christian lines of the Hymn are below:

"In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in His bossom that transfigures you and me;

As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,

While God is marching on."

America certainly has dark stains on its past, however, it has always been the influence of those committed to Biblical truth who have righted its injustices.

For a more recent example, read Martin Luther King's speeches. They are rife with Scripture references. (Afterall, he was a Christian and a pastor)

My God, people make stupid arguments. Hohmann obviously understands all of that. It's completely irrelevant. Sure there were people who understood that slavery was wrong, but that didn't stop them from adopting a Constitution and system of laws that allowed it. If the statement about inalienable rights had been taken seriously, it couldn't have happened with or without attribution to a Creator. Therefore, declaration of a belief in God isn't what matters; what matters is showing respect for other people by treating them equally. The fact that Christians later paid the price, and that some Christians helped the country work past the ugly parts of its history, are also completely irrelevant. Of course they did, they were the majority of the population.

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Hohmann is entitled to his opinion but probably doesn't realize that there were influential founders who opposed slavery and sought its abolitition.

George Washington: "There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it."

(It's true Washington owned slaves but they belonged to his wife when they were married. They were freed in his will. Also, I have been in Washington's slave quarters, the accomodations were better than the average frontier family. They were brick with fireplaces)

Choose and pick all you want. However, looking at Washington, I quickly found this:

Washington once told a visiting Englishman that slavery was neither a crime nor an absurdity, noting that the U.S. government did not assure liberty to madmen. "Until the mind of the slave has been educated to understand freedom, the gift of freedom would only assure its abuse," Washington explained.

http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/articles/hurrelbrinck.html

What was your point about the accommodations? Do nice accommodations justify slavery? Would you feel the same about the Arab white slave trade where women were put in the very comfortable Harems?

I can imagine some 18th century Arab sultan or emir telling the British, "Don't worry, no need to stop the slave trade. Our slaves have such nice accommodations." :wub:

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It's fascinating watching people argue about an abstraction. For example, Mr. Paszkiewicz writes in his letter: "If the Michael Newdows of this world succeed in erasing God from public life, people will begin to reject the founding principle that this is 'one nation under God.' It will then be assumed that our rights come from government. The danger is this, if citizens believe government to be the giver of rights, they will then begin to believe government has the right to take them away."

None of that makes any sense. In the first place, it's not truly a founding principle. If it was, slavery couldn't have been written into the Constitution and the United States government could not have sanctioned genocide against the Native American peoples. So the premise is just dead wrong.

Second, rejecting the idea that rights come from God does not lead to the conclusion that rights come from government. Mr. Hohmann is saying what I have been saying, namely, that "rights" describes a choice we make about how to treat people. You can argue, as Mr. Paszkiewicz does, that there's a universal law somewhere (like gravity?) that grants people "rights," but it just ain't so.

Third, rights don't "come from" anywhere. The way Mr. Paszkiewicz puts it, they don't exist. "Rights" describes a relationship, essentially a relationship of forbearance. It's more a verb than a noun. Mr. Paszkiewicz is treating it as a noun. Saying that rights "come from" somewhere is like saying that my marriage "comes from" somewhere. That's sheer nonsense, an example of undisciplined, uncritical mythical thinking. My marriage is a product of choices made by my wife and me and sanctioned by law.

That's not to say that rights aren't important. Of course they are, but they describe a relationship, not a thing. So the appropriate question is under what conditions will they flourish; under what conditions will the relationship of forbearance be maintained? Under some forms of government, rights flourish. Under other forms, rights flourish but only for some. Under some forms, rights are scarce. It doesn't matter where they "come from," even if you want to engage in that kind of magical thinking. What matters is under what conditions do they flourish.

If people don't believe in a god, that doesn't mean that they don't believe in and champion rights. That's a horrible thing to say, and it's just not true. Many non-theists are more deeply committed to universal human rights than the average theist. Some of the strongest advocates of universal human rights are Humanists. So are some Christians, some Jews, some Muslims, some Hindus, some Buddhists, some Wiccans, etc. There's simply no connection between Mr. Paszkiewicz's premise and his conclusion.

And you're not well-advised to take the Bible as your guide. There are horrible things in the Bible, in which God supposedly commands people to violate basic human rights. Those passages are not consistent with Mr. Paszkiewicz's argument. You can't claim to believe in a collection of writings that has God denying human rights, and then also claim that God grants everyone inalienable rights.

Let any of Mr. Paszkiewicz's defenders say what "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" means. Exactly what is it describing, and in particular what are the practical effects of this supposed rule of the universe? Be specific. (I'll bet you dinner you can't do it.)

Better yet, let Mr. Paszkiewicz come here and explain it. If he is so interested in making this case, let him make it in a marketplace of ideas. KOTW isn't a perfect forum, but it is a vehicle for open discussion. If he truly wants to make his case, let him make it in a forum where he has to be responsible for what he says, and where he has to defend his beliefs. I've subjected myself to this forum for exactly that reason. You want at me, go ahead, here I am. Let him do the same. It's an invitation, not a command.

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Here's a response to Paszkiewicz's drivel from a fellow US History teacher in at Kearny High, published in today's Observer. Looks like one of his colleagues finally got fed up enough to say something.

To the Publisher:

Dave Paszkiewicz’s letter left this student and teacher of US history bewildered by its conception of America’s founding moment. Does Dave realize that the Revolution was riddled with a profound paradox, namely the coexistence of enslaved African bodies and the dispossession of indigenous lands with the supposed belief in human equality and liberty? I am not suggesting that the religious history of the US be ignored, nor am I suggesting that religion somehow be excluded from the story of the US told in high school classrooms.

Dave claims that the founders “understood clearly that our rights come from God; we are born with them.” In this paradigm, “our” liberties are assumed to be universal at that time. But in the historical context of the Revolutionary era, only those born “white,” male, and into property-owning families were privileged with the rights all citizens have access to and benefit from today.

If one views the founding moment through a nonwhite lens, Dave’s conception of what the historian W.E.B. Du Bois called the “new philosophy of ‘Freedom’” proves essentially problematic and deeply troublesome.

Moreover, and more importantly, how does one rationalize the presumed Christianity of the founders some of who, such as the author of the declaration Thomas Jefferson, were Deists as well as enslavers—with the ownership of human beings? This “master narrative” of American history not only teaches false lessons, but it also is, in fact, not worth telling at all because it is virtually ahistorical.

To not acknowledge the racial, gendered, and class dynamics of this country’s founding is tantamount to a perpetuation of the US narrative where historic white male privilege is invisible and thus naturalized—a product of “God” rather than human decisions and actions. The difference is that the former is an argument based on the imagination of the individual and the latter has been thoroughly documented for at least a century or more. Such a story obliterates the tougher memories that perhaps some would rather forget than learn from in an anxious defense of their own unfortunate agenda.

Brian Hohmann

Kearny

To Paszkiewicz's defenders:

Do you understand what Hohmann means by "the US narrative where historic white male privilege is invisible and thus naturalized - a product of 'God'"?

Lincoln Logger, Patriot and guests-for-Paszkiewicz, how about an answer to this. You've ignored everything else. How about answering just this one question?

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Guest Guest

What does “inalienable rights” mean? Many say it means that governments cannot take them away. Sometimes it is expressed as broadly as “no one” can take them away. [http://books.google.com/books?id=tvJRAtsFXJsC&pg=PA12&lpg=PA12&dq=%22inalienable+rights+meaning&source=web&ots=jqsGHeG98M&sig=ZOGmv5_hEz0m0fwaRgF-GnBuzn4&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=8&ct=result

http://www.socialstudies.com/pdf/ZP375EX.pdf]

OK, but what does that mean? Governments can take rights away. They do it all the time. Sometimes government even takes a person’s life. Other times, government requires people to serve in the military and put their lives at risk. This is at the very least a deprivation of freedom, albeit a necessary one at times.

Similarly, individuals and groups can take rights away. That happens too. People are murdered. Property is stolen. People are kidnapped or enslaved.

Well then, maybe it means that no one should take rights away. But clearly there are exceptions, such as when a person is justly imprisoned for committing a heinous crime, or when people are conscripted into military service or when a person is killed in self-defense.

So what are the criteria for the exceptions? In the case of imprisonment or justified killing, we say that a person has forfeited rights by wrongful conduct, but a draftee into military service has done nothing wrong in most cases. Military conscription is just a matter of necessity: “we need you to risk your life so we’re going to force you under penalty of law to do it.” Or consider the dilemma of the crowded lifeboat: no one on board has done anything wrong, but unless someone is thrown overboard everyone will die.

So then, are these supposedly inalienable rights contingent? Well then, they’re not inalienable. Governments and even individuals can take them away, justly in some instances.

Just where does this idea of “inalienable rights” get us? Well, maybe phrasing it like that makes it sound absolute, so that people are less likely to carve out exceptions. Maybe it’s useful fiction – but if so, it’s still a fiction.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, contains this statement in its preamble: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. . .” Article 1 of the same document consists of the following statement: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” [http://un.org/Overview/rights.html] The reader may notice the absence of any attribution to a Creator or god.

Of course, neither this document nor the United Nations has ended deprivations of human rights, but that is because power still resides in sovereign nations, not in the United Nations charter. However, even if the United Nations gained more power, that would not guarantee universal respect for human rights. Nothing can guarantee that powerful nations will never exert their power to deny rights to the powerless.

Slice it any way you like, it always comes back to the same thing. People choose how to treat each other and how to act in the world. They do so whether they believe in a god, or a Creator, or not.

Declarations – statements of principles – are important, but we should never delude ourselves into thinking that how we treat our brothers and sisters isn’t our choice and our responsibility. Dress them up any way you like, our choices are what shape the world.

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Guest Paul
What does “inalienable rights” mean? Many say it means that governments cannot take them away. Sometimes it is expressed as broadly as “no one” can take them away. [http://books.google.com/books?id=tvJRAtsFXJsC&pg=PA12&lpg=PA12&dq=%22inalienable+rights+meaning&source=web&ots=jqsGHeG98M&sig=ZOGmv5_hEz0m0fwaRgF-GnBuzn4&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=8&ct=result

http://www.socialstudies.com/pdf/ZP375EX.pdf]

OK, but what does that mean? Governments can take rights away. They do it all the time. Sometimes government even takes a person’s life. Other times, government requires people to serve in the military and put their lives at risk. This is at the very least a deprivation of freedom, albeit a necessary one at times.

Similarly, individuals and groups can take rights away. That happens too. People are murdered. Property is stolen. People are kidnapped or enslaved.

Well then, maybe it means that no one should take rights away. But clearly there are exceptions, such as when a person is justly imprisoned for committing a heinous crime, or when people are conscripted into military service or when a person is killed in self-defense.

So what are the criteria for the exceptions? In the case of imprisonment or justified killing, we say that a person has forfeited rights by wrongful conduct, but a draftee into military service has done nothing wrong in most cases. Military conscription is just a matter of necessity: “we need you to risk your life so we’re going to force you under penalty of law to do it.” Or consider the dilemma of the crowded lifeboat: no one on board has done anything wrong, but unless someone is thrown overboard everyone will die.

So then, are these supposedly inalienable rights contingent? Well then, they’re not inalienable. Governments and even individuals can take them away, justly in some instances.

Just where does this idea of “inalienable rights” get us? Well, maybe phrasing it like that makes it sound absolute, so that people are less likely to carve out exceptions. Maybe it’s useful fiction – but if so, it’s still a fiction.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, contains this statement in its preamble: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. . .” Article 1 of the same document consists of the following statement: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” [http://un.org/Overview/rights.html] The reader may notice the absence of any attribution to a Creator or god.

Of course, neither this document nor the United Nations has ended deprivations of human rights, but that is because power still resides in sovereign nations, not in the United Nations charter. However, even if the United Nations gained more power, that would not guarantee universal respect for human rights. Nothing can guarantee that powerful nations will never exert their power to deny rights to the powerless.

Slice it any way you like, it always comes back to the same thing. People choose how to treat each other and how to act in the world. They do so whether they believe in a god, or a Creator, or not.

Declarations – statements of principles – are important, but we should never delude ourselves into thinking that how we treat our brothers and sisters isn’t our choice and our responsibility. Dress them up any way you like, our choices are what shape the world.

Fascinating that the most common response whenever someone penetrates the myths and superstitions is dead silence.

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Guest Patriot
Fascinating that the most common response whenever someone penetrates the myths and superstitions is dead silence.

Non-believers have no credibility. Anyone that believes we were all hatched in pond scum cannot think clearly.

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Guest Guest
Non-believers have no credibility. Anyone that believes we were all hatched in pond scum cannot think clearly.

You have no credibility. If you want credibility, address the content of the argument instead of attacking the person posting it.

You can't so you don't. Then you pretend it's for another reason.

Here, I'll post it for you again.

What does “inalienable rights” mean? Many say it means that governments cannot take them away. Sometimes it is expressed as broadly as “no one” can take them away. [http://books.google.com/books?id=tvJRAtsFXJsC&pg=PA12&lpg=PA12&dq=%22inalienable+rights+meaning&source=web&ots=jqsGHeG98M&sig=ZOGmv5_hEz0m0fwaRgF-GnBuzn4&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=8&ct=result

http://www.socialstudies.com/pdf/ZP375EX.pdf]

OK, but what does that mean? Governments can take rights away. They do it all the time. Sometimes government even takes a person’s life. Other times, government requires people to serve in the military and put their lives at risk. This is at the very least a deprivation of freedom, albeit a necessary one at times.

Similarly, individuals and groups can take rights away. That happens too. People are murdered. Property is stolen. People are kidnapped or enslaved.

Well then, maybe it means that no one should take rights away. But clearly there are exceptions, such as when a person is justly imprisoned for committing a heinous crime, or when people are conscripted into military service or when a person is killed in self-defense.

So what are the criteria for the exceptions? In the case of imprisonment or justified killing, we say that a person has forfeited rights by wrongful conduct, but a draftee into military service has done nothing wrong in most cases. Military conscription is just a matter of necessity: “we need you to risk your life so we’re going to force you under penalty of law to do it.” Or consider the dilemma of the crowded lifeboat: no one on board has done anything wrong, but unless someone is thrown overboard everyone will die.

So then, are these supposedly inalienable rights contingent? Well then, they’re not inalienable. Governments and even individuals can take them away, justly in some instances.

Just where does this idea of “inalienable rights” get us? Well, maybe phrasing it like that makes it sound absolute, so that people are less likely to carve out exceptions. Maybe it’s useful fiction – but if so, it’s still a fiction.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, contains this statement in its preamble: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. . .” Article 1 of the same document consists of the following statement: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” [http://un.org/Overview/rights.html] The reader may notice the absence of any attribution to a Creator or god.

Of course, neither this document nor the United Nations has ended deprivations of human rights, but that is because power still resides in sovereign nations, not in the United Nations charter. However, even if the United Nations gained more power, that would not guarantee universal respect for human rights. Nothing can guarantee that powerful nations will never exert their power to deny rights to the powerless.

Slice it any way you like, it always comes back to the same thing. People choose how to treat each other and how to act in the world. They do so whether they believe in a god, or a Creator, or not.

Declarations – statements of principles – are important, but we should never delude ourselves into thinking that how we treat our brothers and sisters isn’t our choice and our responsibility. Dress them up any way you like, our choices are what shape the world.

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Non-believers have no credibility. Anyone that believes we were all hatched in pond scum cannot think clearly.

Anyone who makes ignorant remarks like that is - well - ignorant.

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Guest Keith
Non-believers have no credibility. Anyone that believes we were all hatched in pond scum cannot think clearly.

And what is that most credible of descriptions in the bible that explains how we came to be. Please tell us here, spefically how the bible tells the story.

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And what is that most credible of descriptions in the bible that explains how we came to be. Please tell us here, spefically how the bible tells the story.

Which of the bible's several inconsistent and fantastic stories would you like repeated?

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