Yes, I know, lots of this stuff lately. Sue me.
> Human rights refer to the “basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled.”
> 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.
For an atheist like myself, to believe that human beings are ultimately “entitled” to something, nor that any truths are “self-evident”. It is actually obvious, if you look at the world, that general human rights are far from self-evident to members of the human race, and that we are inherently entitled to exactly nothing. If these truths were indeed self-evident, simple, and obvious, we would have been spared from a lot of atrocities and suffering in our history.
The most important words of sentence of the US Declaration of Independence above are not “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” — they are “we hold”. We hold these truths to be self-evident: we believe in this, we will make it so, we choose these principles to be the basis of our government. (Never mind for now that the States just like everyone else at the time sort of failed in that mission what with all the racial stuff that came later, this point is more general.)
The most important words in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not so much the exact listings of the rights. The most important stuff is in the Preamble, where they give the reasoning for formulating these rights:
> 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,
> Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
>Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.
This document, which might very well be the most important document in existence regarding our current civilization, even when it speaks of “inherent” dignity, is in an end an agreement. A contract. A sacred pledge between people and peoples. It is not written because you are entitled to something, because you are born with rights bestowed upon you by Gods or Nature, because the universe is benevolent and made it so. No, it is written exactly because of the opposite. God does not exist and Nature is totally indifferent to your dignity. People are products of their upbringing and whims and some very minimal effect of learning and independence on that.
This is serious stuff now, so pay attention. Human rights exist because we choose to believe in them. Emphasis on we, and emphasis on choose. We choose it because we believe it is necessary, or the right thing, or for whatever other reason, but in the end, it is we who choose. You cannot just expect these rights to exist, because they are not, not really, “self-evident”, or “inalienable”, or “inherent”, or “universal”. They need your belief in them, and your work against everyone who tries to take them away from anyone, to exist.
> If you do not believe in freedom of speech for those you despise, then you do not believe in it at all.
> (Noam Chomsky)