By Jerry Thomas
On August 2020, Armin Navabi, an atheist who runs Atheist Republic channel, ate the pages from the Holy Bible and the Quran. While several Christians were deeply hurt, they didn’t abuse or threaten him or his family members. However, Muslims issued grave threats and hurled abominable abuses against his family members for desecrating Quran. On September 2020, Armin Navabi mocked at the Hindu goddess Kali. Hindus who were cheering Armin earlier, turned abusive and threatened Armin Navabi and poured vulgar abuses against his family members as well. In this article, Jerry Thomas provides reasons for the abusive behavior of Hindus and Muslims in contrast to the matured response of Christians. Hindu and Islamic worldview does not have any space for inalienable individual human rights or religious liberty but the Biblical Christian worldview provides solid foundation for both human rights and religious liberty. It also explains why Armin Navabi is under delusion if he thinks that his atheism can give him equal freedom which Christian nurtured cultures have given him.
You can see the video here:
On August 20, 2020, Armin Navabi, an atheist who runs Atheist Republic channel, ate the Holy Bible and the Quran. While several Christians were deeply hurt, they didn’t abuse or threaten him or his family members. However, Muslims threatened and abused him for desecrating Quran. On September 4 (IST), Armin Navabi mocked at the Hindu goddess Kali. Hindus too abused and threatened Armin Navabi and poured abuses on his family members as well. There are at least two important reasons for the matured response of Christians in contrast to the abusive response by Muslims and Hindus. Those are:
- Robust Biblical Understanding of Humans Vs Deficient Vedic and Quranic Understanding of Humans
- Corollary to the first, solid Biblical foundation for individual human rights vs. Vedic and Quranic Denial of Individual Rights in favor of group rights
- It must be also noted that atheism which has no positive view to offer on humans survives as a zombie worldview
Christian Understanding of Humans
God of the Holy Bible is eternal, all-powerful, all knowing, all loving, Holy God. He created everything in the Universe from matter to time to all living beings (Genesis 1: 1-31, John 1:3). That God, who is so distinct from nature gods or other imagined gods, created human beings (both as male and female) in His own image (Genesis 1:26-28). The impact of such statement startled theologians and thinkers across centuries. We, human beings, bear the image of God who is eternal, all-powerful, all knowing, all loving, Holy God. If so, the human dignity, rights and religious liberty flows naturally from bearing the image of God and is not a gift of any community or government.
The Holy Bible itself points out that right to life from the very fact that human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 9:6).
In the second century, Church Father Tertullian (AD 155-220) coined the word “Human Rights” and “Religious Liberty” to express the idea of humans being created in the image of God. He may not have understood the full impact of those words or concepts he proposed, but it was for the first time in history that someone ever thought of humans having rights inherent to their nature.
In To Scapula, Chapter 2, Church Father Tertullian wrote: “We are worshippers of one God, of whose existence and character Nature teaches all men; at whose lightning and thunders you tremble, whose benefits minister to your happiness. You think that others, too, are gods, whom we know to be devils. However, it is a fundamental human right, a privilege of nature, which every man should worship according to his own convictions: one man’s religion neither harms nor helps another man. It is assuredly no part of religion to compel religion—to which free-will and not force should lead us—the sacrificial victims even being required of a willing mind.”
In fact, if human beings are made in the image of God, then it follows that they have the freedom to choose. Those choices can be good or bad but without that freedom, it is not even possible to hold someone accountable. In fact, as church fathers understood, it is not even possible to worship without that choice.
In Apology, Chapter 24, he again wrote: “Let one man worship God, another Jupiter; let one lift suppliant hands to the heavens, another to the altar of Fides; let one—if you choose to take this view of it—count in prayer the clouds, and another the ceiling panels; let one consecrate his own life to his God, and another that of a goat. For see that you do not give a further ground for the charge of irreligion, by taking away religious liberty, and forbidding free choice of deity, so that I may no longer worship according to my inclination, but am compelled to worship against it.”
The word “Fundamental Human Right” and “Religious Liberty” were coined and used for the first time in human history. This was a beginning of new revolution. In the Holy Bible, it is provided in a narrative form while the Church father provided it in a doctrinal form. Rémi Brague, French historian of philosophy, specializing in the Arabic, Jewish, and Christian thought of the middle Ages, rightly notes:
“We should not expect to find anything resembling a philosophical concept of freedom in the writings of the Old Testament. First, because there are no concepts in the Hebrew Bible: Deep thinking is present in plenty, but ideas are in the guise of narratives.”
Christianity and Freedom: Volume 1, Historical Perspectives (Law and Christianity) (p. 392). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition
It is those narratives of the Holy Bible that gave rise to new concepts not heard anywhere in ancient societies. Until then, ancient societies never imagined an individual can have inherent fundamental right. Each individual, depending on the social group that he or she belongs, had rights of those social groups which were granted to those groups by Society, Government or Religion. It was neither inherent nor granted based on any individuality, it was granted based on the social group.
Ancient Societies Never Had Human Rights but Only Social Rights
Benjamin Constant (AD 1767 to AD 1830), Swiss French Philosopher and Political Activist, in The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns (1819), noted that there was no concept individual freedom or religious liberty in ancient societies. He wrote:
Now compare this liberty with that of the ancients. The latter consisted in exercising collectively, but directly, several parts of the complete sovereignty; in deliberating, in the public square, over war and peace; in forming alliances with foreign governments; in voting laws, in pronouncing judgments; in examining the accounts, the acts, the stewardship of the magistrates; in calling them to appear in front of the assembled people, in accusing, condemning or absolving them. But if this was what the ancients called liberty, they admitted as compatible with this collective freedom the complete subjection of the individual to the authority of the community.
You find among them almost none of the enjoyments which we have just seen form part of the liberty of the moderns. All private actions were submitted to a severe surveillance. No importance was given to individual independence, neither in relation to opinions, nor to labor, nor, above all, to religion. The right to choose one’s own religious affiliation, a right which we regard as one of the most precious, would have seemed to the ancients a crime and a sacrilege.
French Historian Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges (AD 1830 -1889) added that those rights counted as nothing against the state. In our words, he or she can be counted as anti-national whenever the state wants.
The Ancient City, a Study on the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome, Chapter XVII: The Omnipotence of the State. The Ancients Knew Nothing of Individual Liberty.
…The ancients, therefore, knew neither liberty in private life liberty in education, nor religious liberty. The human person counted for very little against that holy and almost divine authority which was called country or the state. The state had not only, as we have in our modern societies, a right to administer justice to the citizens; it could strike when one was not guilty, and simply for its own interest…
We have already seen that the city, especially among the Greeks, had unlimited power, that liberty was unknown, and that individual rights were nothing when opposed to the will of the state. It followed that a majority of votes might decree the confiscation of the property of the rich, and that the Greeks saw neither illegality nor injustice in this. What the state had declared was right. This absence of individual liberty was for Greece a cause of misfortunes and disorders. Rome, which had a little more respect for the rights of man, suffered less.
Deficient Vedic View of Humans; Resultant Denial of Human Rights but Only Group Rights
This is true of Hindu or Islamic societies. Dr. D.P.Verma and Dr. Ramesh Chandra Chhajta, in their paper “Human Rights of Arrested Person in Ancient India: An Appraisal” writes this:
“The great drawback of the State in Ancient India was that the rights of man as man were not fully recognized. Individuals had rights and duties not as component parts of the body politic but as members of estates or classes in society; and consequently, the rights and obligations varied according to the class to which the individuals belonged.”
Source: IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science (IOSR-JHSS) Volume 19, Issue 12, Ver. I (Dec. 2014), PP 85-91, Dr. D.P.Verma (Associate Professor Law HPU Regional Centre Dharamshala), Dr. Ramesh Chandra Chhajta (HPS) Superintendent of Police. Solan, HP.
In other words, your rights depend upon the social group that you belonged. If you are a Brahmin, then you have some rights, and if you are a chandala, then almost no rights.
We know that even for a fundamental right like “right to life”, this varied. Brahmin life mattered more than Dalits then. Killing a Brahmin is a mortal sin, but a killing a shudra can be recompensed. Right to life depended upon the social group that you belonged.
Manusmriti 11: 55. Killing a Brahmana, drinking (the spirituous liquor called) Sura, stealing (the gold of a Brahmana), adultery with a Guru’s wife, and associating with such (offenders), they declare (to be) mortal sins (mahapataka)
Manusmriti 11: 90. This expiation has been prescribed for unintentionally killing a Brahmana; but for intentionally slaying a Brahmana no atonement is ordained.
Manusmriti 11: 128. But if a Brahmana unintentionally kills a Kshatriya, he shall give, in order to purify himself, one thousand cows and a bull;
- Or he may perform the penance prescribed for the murderer of a Brahmana during three years, controlling himself, wearing his hair in braids, staying far away from the village, and dwelling at the root of a tree.
- A Brahmana who has slain a virtuous Vaisya, shall perform the same penance during one year, or he may give one hundred cows and one (bull).
- He who has slain a Sudra, shall perform that whole penance during six months, or he may also give ten white cows and one bull to a Brahmana.
Deficient Quranic View of Humans; Resultant Denial of Human Rights But Only Group Rights
In Islamic theology, human beings are essentially slaves.
Surah 2:207 And of mankind is he who would sell himself, seeking the Pleasure of Allah. And Allah is full of Kindness to (His) slaves.
Surah 3:15 – Say: “Shall I inform you of things far better than those? For Al-Muttaqun (the pious – See V.2:2) there are Gardens (Paradise) with their Lord, underneath which rivers flow. Therein (is their) eternal (home) and Azwajun Mutahharatun (purified mates or wives). And Allah will be pleased with them. And Allah is All-Seer of the (His) slaves”
In other words, you don’t possess much rights except to submit. If you are a rebellious slave (Christian or Hindu), then the obedient slaves can subjugate disobedient slaves. If you are a run away slave (an apostate), then like in almost all ancient societies, you can be killed as well.
Sahih al-Bukhari » Fighting for the Cause of Allah (Jihaad) : Vol. 4, Book 52, Hadith 283
Narrated Abu Juhaifa: I asked Ali, “Do you have the knowledge of any Divine Inspiration besides what is in Allah’s Book?” ‘Ali replied, “No, by Him Who splits the grain of corn and creates the soul. I don’t think we have such knowledge, but we have the ability of understanding which Allah may endow a person with, so that he may understand the Qur’an, and we have what is written in this paper as well.” I asked, “What is written in this paper?” He replied, “(The regulations of) blood-money, the freeing of captives, and the judgment that no Muslim should be killed for killing an infidel.”
In Sunan Abi Dawud » Book of Types of Blood-Wit (Kitab Al-Diyat) » Hadith, Book 40, Hadith 4491
Narrated ‘Amr b. Shu’aib: On his father’s authority said that his grandfather reported the Prophet said: A believer will not be killed for an infidel. If anyone kills a man deliberately, he is to be handed over to the relatives of the one who has been killed. If they wish, they may kill, but if they wish, they may accept blood-wit.
You again see that even the most basic fundamental right, right to life, depends on the social group that you belong too. In fact, one can produce several quotes from Quran and Hadiths on such discrimination in many aspect of life.
If we summarize the evidence until now, we can see that:
- Christianity recognizes fundamental human right as it is derivative concept of human beings created in the image of God. It is individual and it is inherent to human beings.
- Islam and Hinduism don’t recognize any inherent rights to human beings as a whole. It depends and varies from the social group that you belong even when it comes to the most basic of all human rights – right to life. If so, why would they recognize Armin Navabi’s right to express himself in whichever he wants? Why shouldn’t they threaten him?
Application of the Concept in American Declaration of Independence
In fact, one can see the remarkable application of the Biblical concept in American Declaration of Independence where the government is merely protector of the inalienable human rights and not its giver.
Declaration of Independence – United States of America (July 4, 1776): …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 pursuit of Happiness – that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – that whenever any form of government, becomes any destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness…
One should carefully read the American Declaration of Independence. The unalienable rights flow from human beings created equal. Government is for the people and not people for the Government. Critiquing the Government is our right; calling someone as antinational for criticizing demonstrates the poverty of their worldview.
Again, writing in his Notes on the State of Virginia (query VII) in about 1782, Thomas Jefferson noted: “Our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted; we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God.”
Christianity and Freedom: Volume 1, Historical Perspectives (Law and Christianity) (p. 56). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.
Now, let us look at the ironical part of it. Does Armin Navabi’s atheism recognize his right to life or right to freedom of expression? You only need to visit China or North Korea, two of the official atheistic countries to learn about it. Before you dismiss or find excuses for the totalitarian and inhuman behavior of these countries, let me give you some scholarly insights.
Atheists Admit that it is the Holy Bible that Grants Human Rights
Joseph-Arthur de Gobineau (AD 1816 to 1882) who tried to develop a scientific understanding of humans based on evolution wrote “Essay on the Inequality of the Races”, in which he argued for the superiority of white race.
In fact, often forgotten fact is that Charles Darwin’s complete title for Origin of Species is “On the Origin of Species by Natural Means of Selection or Preservation of Favored Race in the Struggle for Life” where by favored race, he meant white race!!!
In fact, one tends to fall into group rights sooner or later if they don’t have a solid foundation for human rights. We can see those degradation in social right movements. In order to correct the historical denial of rights to in social group paradigms, people reverse the order instead of breaking that paradigm itself. As an illustration, if in the past, Manu Dharmashastra emphasized social rights of Brahmins, a dalit activist would emphasize on dalit life matters. It is not brahmin rights or dalit rights, but it is human rights that matter.
Marcello Pera, Atheist, Italian philosopher and politician, former President of the Italian Senate from 2001 to 2006, understood this. In fact, he wrote a book called Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians. In his book “Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians: The Religious Roots of Free Societies” he wrote:
“But there is one point I need to clarify from the very beginning: by “Christian” I mean “Judeo-Christian.” The core idea is that from the viewpoint of both Judaism and Christianity man is created in God’s image and likeness. In my opinion, this is the religious source of the concepts of personhood and human dignity, the foundation of the liberal view that man has primacy over society and the state, and the basis for the doctrine of natural, fundamental, individual rights.”
Source: Pera, Marcello. Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians: The Religious Roots of Free Societies (p. 8). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.
Marcello Pera is on the mark. There is no other foundation for inherent human rights even if one assumes that they can collectively develop human rights – that will be still not inherent but created.
This is where Armin Navabi is under illusion. His atheism cannot provide the freedom that he enjoys now. It is founded in the Holy Bible and sustained only by the Holy Bible.