Angels vs. Demons

James Chastek, at Just Thomism, discusses one critique of "rights." Here is another:

In America, since at least the Civil War, the fiction of "rights" has been popularly used as a justification for violence, both physical and verbal, against whoever is perceived to be against the "rights" in question. Instead of speaking about justice, morality, virtue, the health of the community or the common good, we only hear of ever expanding rights that only an inhuman or, worse, subhuman creature could possibly oppose.

Once you limit the debate to the categories of those who are in favor of expanding "rights" and those who would deny this expansion, you have created a morality play in which "rights" proponents are angels whose cause is justified no matter the content. The popular arguments over homosexual "marriage" play out in just this way. A practice that makes absolutely no sense from any normal human metric of individual morality or the common good not only becomes acceptable, it becomes the default morally superior position. How can the pendulum swing so hard and fast? This is only possible when the discussion is framed in terms of "rights." Those who stand against such behaviors and actions can, in principle, have no justifiable reason for their opposition. They are demons, and demons do not have to be treated like human beings.


  1. So, would you limit the word "rights" or replace it with another word? Would it be 'rights that enhance the common good'? 'Rights in tune with the metric of individual morality'?

  2. If rights were understood according to some sort of natural law, then they might be tolerable. The right to life, liberty, and property correspond somewhat to what human animals require in order to live well. We have, however, moved beyond such negative and cautious conceptions. Now a woman has a right to murder her own child, people everywhere, whether they want it or not, have the right to American-style liberal democracy, children have a right to a free education, husbands and wives have a right to abandon each other and their children, etc.

    And all of this ignores the simple fact that there are no rights except legal or political rights. Rights in the abstract do not exist, nor can anyone prove that they exist. The theory is a piece of political theology that should be thrown out altogether.