No God: No Justice
Listened to another excellent teaching by rabbi Israel Chait. That man just has a great way of explaining concepts, differentiating between the action-based legal stuff (halakhah), philosophy and ideas, and psychology. It’s a real educational experience.
Look, if you want to listen to the series I’ve been slowly going through, just go to http://www.mesora.org. Go into the “Audio” section there, and under “Noachide Philosophy” you’ll see a 32-part audio series called “The Seven Noachide Laws.” There’s little point in me keeping the good stuff to myself. It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with what he says, it is a learning experience.
Now I’ve said previously that it is possible for people who don’t know of the seven commandments or even of God to avoid the acts prohibited in the core seven commandments. It is possible for a person to not worship idols or curse God or murder, steal, have sex with those certain forbidden partners and be used to killing their meat before eating it. And to a certain extent, they can avoid injustice in some of the more obvious ways, like being a false witness.
But there is a deeper level to these commandments, an important framework within which these commandments operate optimally. Let me share my thinking with you.
The law of theft, today it is observed by many in the form of what is known as a “social contract”. That term “social contract” is in fact a misnomer since no part of the essential parts of a contract has anything to do with what is implied by the term. Essentially it is just the unstated agreement between people that “you don’t hurt me and I won’t hurt you” or “don’t infringe on my ‘rights’ and I won’t infringe on yours.” It’s something quite self-serving, more about self-preservation that helps a community to exist in peace. It’s the notion that I’m not going to take your stuff because I would want my stuff to be safe. Or, sometimes it can be in a person’s heart that one just doesn’t want to hurt others. But this isn’t a contract. There is nothing binding about it.
But from the unravelling of the prohibition against theft from Bereshis 2:16 in the Talmud, rabbi Israel Chait brought down a different way of looking at the Divinely given injunction against thievery. The fact that the command is understood from God’s forbidding the first man to eat from the tree gives a basis of the command. The basis is that God sets the limits. He says what a person can have, take and use and what that person cannot have, take and use. God is the one who gives the “rights” or more properly the permission. And with the prohibition against theft God is setting the limits to say that a person can use what is in their rightful possession but not what is someone else’s, in the same way that He restricted man from eating from the special tree and permitted the rest for man’s use.
You see, when God, the Creator who owns and has rights to everything, sets the limits, there is a just and adequate authority to bestow the rights, limits and privileges. When it is purely man that is the giver or even the one who declares or deduces those “rights” (which still makes human intellect the source of these “rights”) even if they are claimed to be “natural rights”, then you have what amounts to a line drawn in the sand, a line that can be dusted over and buried with more sand and moved as a man wishes. It doesn’t matter if it’s written in a constitution or said as some “declaration of human rights,” they have no innate authority. Reminds me of the title of a book I enjoyed reading by Lysander Spooner, “The Constitution of No Authority.” Great book!
Is it any wonder then that in so many lands the ruling class and those “citizens” that put their faith in it find reasons to shift the lines regarding these “rights”? “Oh yes, you’ve got freedom of speech [LOL!] but you just can’t say that!” “Oh yes, you can take photos in public places but what about 9/11 or pedophiles?” “Of course the right to bear arms can’t be infringed on, but the government says you can’t have these ones.” (In fact in some countries, your only right to self-defense involves picking up a phone and calling the police, who at least should be able to investigate your murder.) When man decides your rights, then you don’t have rights but man-granted privileges that can be altered by any other man.
So then we come to how people are treated fairly when lines of rights and protections can be moved so easily. A lawyer just has to make the right arguments, and your man-granted “rights” are gone. A judge just has to have an off-day, and your privileges are revoked. Did you think you had a “right” to travel unmolested? I don’t think the officer who is coercing you into stopping and then placing handcuffs on you agrees with you. The so-called “democratic system” can be used just as well to vote in immorality and injustice. In fact, that’s essentially what it does now.
And again the argument will still come, “but even if God sets the limits and standards, man will still change them!” But the difference here is that when man tries to change God’s standard, it should be noted that those standards are not his to change. Moving those lines only makes him guilty of moving them, whereas with a human sourced limitation or right, there is absolutely no recourse, no defense when a man finds a convincing enough argument to change the lines and limits. Therefore there is no real justice, no dependable structure without an objective standard. No God? Then no justice! At least not the reliable sort.
So although, as I’ve said, it is possible for a Godless person, an atheist, or some other person ignorant of God’s commandments to avoid doing those things forbidden by the Seven; and it is possible for such people to at least be considered innocent of breaking the seven commandments, without that divine foundation, without God to be the anchor and reinforcement of such a behavioural framework, then that person’s innocence is only as steady as the reasoning or conditioning that built it.
This is not to say that doing an act forbidden by the Seven Commandments is inevitable for that person. This is not to say that such a person cannot make good and fair decisions. It’s good to accept the good any person does. But it’s important to see things for what they are, good or bad.