By Keith DeHavelle, 6/19/2015
Reblogged from DeHavelle.com
From time to time, I mention in these writings that I am non-religious. This has always been true of me; I am not a “converted” or “lapsed” or “apostate” anything. But many of my fellow conservatives are indeed deeply religious, and sometimes express disbelief or even disdain that a non-theist could support American conservative beliefs.
I have written elsewhere about the separation of church and state; to me, this should not be a large bone of contention. The point that seems to come up frequently involves the phrase “inalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence and how it is to be understood.
A key element of the difference has to do with this famous line in the Declaration of Independence:
“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.”
To a non-theist, there is another passage nearby that helps clarify:
“… the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them …”
This line suggests that, at least to the writers (mostly Thomas Jefferson) and acceptably enough to the signers, “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” is blended together in a way that makes the resulting laws arguably a single body. This concept has been referred to by religious and non-religious alike as “Natural Law,” which addresses both moral and legal concepts.
The “scientific laws of nature,” those properties discoverable by scientific experimentation, are usually excluded from the rest and from “natural law” in this sort of discussion. But the founders were referring here to moral principles that undergird human interactions. In this case, they urged that natural law provided guidance even to nations, which are entitled to “separate and equal station” if they follow those just principles.
But what is natural law, exactly? How do you know what moral and legal laws are included in natural law and what is not? First, the concept has a presumption that the answer can be known, discovered, or reasoned out by thinking persons and keen observers, much like the scientific laws of nature. The theological approach through religion relies upon sacred revelations for clues, and the secular approach from observing man’s interactions and deducing what laws must be evidenced thereby. But these approaches often overlap, with secularists making reference to religious notions and theologists incorporating the enlightenment understandings and observations of secularists into their treatises on natural law.
The founders of the United States, and specifically the framers of the US Constitution, followed both methods. Most of them were religious, but they also had a keen and insightful understanding of the Enlightenment’s secular writings as well. It is clear that the founding of the United States was a triumph with roots in the Bible, the Enlightenment, and the thinking of classical Greek philosophers and Roman jurists. Natural law figured into this heavily….
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