“Endowed by Their Creator”

“The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”  John F. Kennedy

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Today most of us take for granted that each human being is born with civil rights, but when Thomas Jefferson put these words in the Declaration of Independence he was expressing a philosophy that was still quite controversial.

Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers largely borrowed the concept of God-given human rights from seventeenth century philosopher John Locke, who got the idea from the Bible; but don’t expect to hear that in a typical university history class. The standard treatment in college history textbooks is that society had to move beyond a childish belief in the Bible before people could have widely recognized human rights.

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