This is an email I sent to the Atheist Experience (TV show). I decided to post it here to see what the Volconvo community thinks of it.
If you have the time, Iíd like to know what the members of the show have to say about the concept of rights. Before/if you respond, I should mention that Iím an agnostic atheist. As an agnostic atheist, Iím skeptical about god claims. Most people say that rights come from God. I canít say that I believe this, obviously, because I donít believe in any gods. However, many atheists also believe in rights, but they donít agree with theists about where rights come from. I donít understand why someone would be skeptical about god claims but not skeptical about the claim that people have rights. To me, both of these types of claims seem equally extraordinary and require equally extraordinary evidence.
Letís examine what a ďrightĒ is. Based on the way rights are often described, they seem to be nothing more than intense desires shared by a vast majority of people within a society. A right is something we want so badly, weíre willing to convince ourselves that weíre entitled to it (the right to life, free speech, etc). There is no reason to believe that anyone owes us something just for being alive or human. The assertion that we have a right to various things that we want very badly is extremely bold and requires rational justification. Iím not saying itís unreasonable to want things like free speech. Iím saying itís unreasonable to claim that weíre entitled to it, or that it is owed to us based on some divine, cosmic, or moral principle.
If we have rights, I'd like to see someone prove it. Iíd like someone to at least show me some evidence that we have rights. How can one know we have them? It's one thing to say that you'd like people to be treated a certain way. But it's an entirely different statement to say that we simply have rights and are inherently entitled to a certain type of treatment. How/why does this entitlement exist? What force or entity makes us entitled to certain things? Why are certain things simply owed to us?
When someone tells me, for example, that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, I ask them to tell me how they know this and to demonstrate that these rights exist. The simple reality is that there is no evidence for the existence of rights, and I donít see how a skeptic could believe in something as seemingly magical as the concept of rights.