Not too long ago I was working on a project with an imaging company out of Belgium for my job. One of the engineers from Belgium handed me his business card and I noticed this on the back…
It’s the complete Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the United Nations printed in ultra-fine type, strategically placed there in order to show-off their dry toner electrophotography technology. The U.S. based employees had the entire U.S. Constitution printed on the back of their business cards.
The opening line of the preamble in the UN declaration says, “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…”
I was reminded of how people all over the world will universally accept certain immaterial or spiritual realities just like a “religion”. The UN declaration is certainly compatible with Catholic teaching about the dignity of the human person, but does it not also act as a secular “dogma” for many materialist, atheists and agnostics? Declaring an inherent dignity with equal and inalienable rights for all people is an extraordinary claim, and shouldn’t extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?
Another word for inalienable is unchallengeable and another word for inherent is in-born or in-built, but I think I can indeed challenge these claims. Should all people really be treated with equal dignity and with inalienable rights or is this just delusional thinking? What would make these rights "inherent" and what would make them "inalienable"? How can we prove things from a materialist point of view? We need empirical evidence, right? We need the Scientific Method. What if I can show empirically how some humans are superior to others in all the ways science can measure? Would this not be clear objective evidence that some people are superior to others, which in turn proves the UN declaration to be wrong?
If your neighbor is stronger and faster than you in every measurable way, has a higher IQ in every kind of IQ test, has more assets, more friends, more people who say they love and respect him or her, how could anyone possibly say he or she is not a superior human being? What evidence would you have to prove otherwise? So if we can prove empirically that we are not equal, what is the rational basis for saying all people should be treated equally with inalienable rights if not grounded in some other, immaterial or spiritual reality?
For example, the presidential election season has been gearing up for a while now. If your neighbor makes more money, pays more taxes and has a higher IQ than you, shouldn’t that persons vote in an election count more than your vote does? Does this not make perfect sense based on the empirical evidence? If not, what evidence would you show to prove differently? Think about it...
It seems, deep down, we know that spiritual realities like inalienable rights exist outside of human opinion or empirical data, but many have trouble admitting it because it points to so much more. We also sense that we need to live harmoniously with these spiritual realities in order to be happy, so it is vital that we all strive to know what they really are and where they really come from.
One of my all-time favorite quotes is in order…
"I believe in God as I believe the sun had risen, not because I can see it, but because by way of it, I can see everything else."
– C.S. Lewis