The first sentence of the preamble to the US Declaration of Independence is well known. It reads, “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.”
It would have been unthinkable for the founding fathers to not acknowledge God as the source of human rights. Indeed, where else could they come from? But the secularisation of the West has come much further since 1776. While there is probably much more talk about human rights today, there is much less of a solid basis for them.
When God is banished from the scene, things such as human rights become much more precarious. John Warwick Montgomery once laid things out in this fashion:
– in the 18th century we sought to destroy God
– in the 19th century we sought to destroy Scripture
– in the 20th century we sought to destroy mankind
That is, around the time of the Enlightenment, God and his authority were demoted, and mankind was elevated in their place. Then destructive theological liberalism and higher criticism sought to destroy the authority of Scripture. Finally, with God and his Word being forced to exit, mankind was left to flounder. It is no surprise that the twentieth century – our bloodiest – was also our most secular century so far.
Mankind never fares very well when taken out of his rightful place as creature. When the creator is denied, the creature suffers. As David Wells succinctly put it in 2005, “The death of God is always followed by the death of the human being.” Or as Ravi Zacharias put it in 1996, “First the world was denuded of transcendence, then the Scriptures were rendered irrelevant, and finally humankind was made nothing more than matter.”
So today, as we have abandoned God and his Word, we are left floundering. We are all concerned about human rights, but have lost the platform or basis of what makes human rights possible and sensible. All we are left with is trendy social fads and fleeting human versions of events.
But the death of man, which follows so closely from the death of God, makes rights’ talk very slippery indeed. Things can go in any direction. And they have. Consider what the Spanish Parliament did just last month. It became the first nation in the world to extend certain legal rights to non-humans.
As one newspaper account puts it, “The parliament’s environmental committee approved a resolution that commits the country to the Declaration on Great Apes, which states that nonhuman apes are entitled to the rights of life, liberty, and protection from torture.” That means gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orang-utans will now be subject to various bits of human rights legislation.
For those familiar with the work of secular ethicist Peter Singer, the Great Apes Project will not be new. He and other academics started this project in 1993, demanding “the extension of the community of equals to include all great apes”.
The Spanish director of the Great Apes Project could hardly contain his glee at all this: “This is a historic moment in the struggle for animal rights. It will doubtless be remembered as a key moment in the defence of our evolutionary comrades.”
And this may be just the beginning. Some radicals want to go even further. Belgian chemist Dr. Jos Verhulst has asked why the Spanish Government does not grant the same rights to other intelligent and self-aware animals such as pigs, dolphins or jackdaws. He claims these animals are being “discriminated against” simply because they are biologically less related to humans.
Again, this is familiar territory for those acquainted with the animal rights activists. For example, back in 1994 Peter Singer wrote, “The evidence for personhood is at present most conclusive for the great apes, but whales, dolphins, elephants, monkeys, dogs, pigs and other animals may eventually also be shown to be aware of their own existence over time and capable of reasoning.”
Indeed, back in 1983 he wrote these alarming words: “Species membership in Homo-sapiens is not morally relevant. If we compare a dog or a pig to a severely defective infant, we often find the non-human to have superior capacities.”
This is all part of the drive to end human exceptionalism. Once the unique position of man as made in the image of God is jettisoned, then humans become just another type of animal. They become nothing special. So humans are levelled downwards, or animals are levelled upwards. There remains no clear line of demarcation between the two.
And of course with such sloppy views of anthropology, we end up with lousy views of morality. After all, if we are nothing more than animals, then why not act like one? And many of these animal liberationists have said as much.
Consider Peter Singer again. He is quite famous – or infamous – for a 2001 article in which he actually came out in defence of bestiality. He seriously argued that as long as it is a consensual sexual relationship between man and animal, why not?
Of course bear in mind that he thinks it is greater evil to eat animals than to abort babies. Thus in this case, the Singer worldview goes something like this: it is OK to have sex with animals, as long as you do not eat them afterwards.
As I said, when we seek to dethrone God from his rightful place, and seek to have mankind take over that vaunted position, it simply results in the death of man. G.K. Chesterton wisely warned about this very thing in 1908: “The secularists have not wrecked divine things; but the secularists have wrecked secular things, if that is any comfort to them. The Titans did not scale heaven; but they laid waste the world.”
Or as Catholic philosopher Vincent Miceli put it in his important 1971 volume, The Gods of Atheism: “Whoever strikes against God strikes down himself. The atheist denying God degrades himself. The atheist exalting himself above God sinks below the level of animate and inanimate beings. Liberation from God is enslavement in creatures. Absolute humanism is the sure road to absolute despotism. Denial of God as truth begets the imprisonment of man in the self-imposed darkness of his own myths.”
That is exactly what we are seeing today. Humanity is being destroyed in the name of humanity. For the moment we are putting ourselves on a par with the great apes. Tomorrow it may be with slugs and amoebas. Indeed, we may already be there. Asexual reproduction used to be reserved for creatures like amoebas. Now we want it for humans in the form of cloning.
As man seeks to exalt himself over against his creator God, he in fact only heads in one direction: downwards. Until God is allowed back on the throne in the Western world, this downward movement will only accelerate. And soon the extinction of man as man will be complete.