I took my family to our local Six Flags amusement park last night. I did so because A) we have a season pass and we need to get our money’s worth out of it and B) they were going to have a fireworks show.
So we spent the afternoon there, having a good time together on the rides, enjoying the good weather. When it came time for the fireworks, we discovered there was more to the show than just the visual part. There was an audio part as well. As the fireworks blasted across the sky, music blared out of the park’s outdoor speakers. I can’t remember all the musical bits I heard, but I caught Ray Charles’ “America The Beautiful” and the Marine fight song and “God Bless America” (which I appreciated for obvious reasons). There were some speeches mixed in there as well: Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech was one of them (and for those who accuse Christians of being racist or harboring racist tendencies, let me tell you that there were tears in my eyes as I stood there in the dark watching the fireworks surrounded by the many different nationalities and cultures we have in the Bay Area), and something from Ronald Reagan.
And then there was this:
That’s our Declaration of Independence. I don’t think it was this version I heard (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t, but I couldn’t find the one I heard and I really like Max McLean, so there you go). And I love that Declaration of Independence. For me, it is second in truth only to the Bible. Besides God’s word, there is nothing as logical, factual, wise, and profitable for guidance than this Declaration.
That is particular true of this line:
One thing I know about this line is that there are some variations. One version of the Declaration read inalienable. I think you can still find some people quoting it that way. Another, more important thing I know about this line, though, is that it is not only “self-evidently true”, as Thomas Jefferson (or perhaps Benjamin Franklin, who may have suggested this phrase in place of “sacred and undeniable”) says it is, but it is also quite theistic. It presupposes not only a God but a creator God. It states not only that all men are equal but that this equality stems from God.
And I think that is the important thing for us to see here. Not just that all men (re: all people) are equal, nor that all men are endowed with the basic rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but that all men are so equal and endowed because they are created by and thus indelibly connected to a creator God. Indeed, the truth of equality and the further truth of rights can only be due to such a connection to a creator God. It cannot come from an evolutionary understanding of the origin of man. Equality and rights cannot be derived from a materialistic view of the universe (a view of the universe which eliminates the spiritual, which accepts the existence only of the material). There is no equality in evolution, no basis for equality in materialism. In fact, is evolution/materialism is true, if this is the correct origin and understand of man and the universe, then all men are certainly not equal. What, after all, is the basis of evolution? Survival of the fittest. And what is survival of the fittest? Superiority. One organism being superior to another. Greater than. Better.
Now maybe you’d like to limit this superiority to merely physical attributes, not personal ones. I can understand why you might want to do that. To begin to look at some individuals as superior to another is going to result in one way or another to “social Darwinism” (a phrase I first heard from my best friend in high school; he spit it out as if it were the most detestable thing he had ever heard of, taking me completely by surprise) and all the “evils” which follow in its way. Nonetheless, I’m not sure what basis you have for limiting the concept in this way. I’m sure none of us like social Darwinism (I’ve never personally met anyone who does, though I know there are people who promote related ideas). But I’ve never had any non-theist explain why none of us dislike it so much, why it is wrong. Looking at the “facts” of a materialistic/evolutionary understanding of origin and existence, I can’t imagine what basis they have for disliking it or resisting it. I can’t imagine what basis they have for continuing to hold to this idea of equality which so obviously does not fit the mechanism of evolution. I’m glad they do. Really glad. I just don’t understand why or even how.
As for me, though, I know the why and the how. It is because of God who made us and put equal value on all of us. I not only know that, but I love that. I love equality. I plan on celebrating it along with all the other wonderful aspects of the American value system tomorrow (and, yes, America has committed a lot of sins and has a lot of flaws, but its value system is indeed worth celebrating). I’m sure you will as well. As you do, though, understand why you are celebrating it (that’s why both practically and philosophically). Understand that this equality can in no way come from “nature red in tooth and claw” but can only come and self-evidently does come from a Creator.