Mitt Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, said recently that he believes the answer is God (for the record, I think Romney agrees). But James Kirk Wall, writing on the blog Chicago Now, doesn’t think that makes any sense:

Our rights do not come from god as no one has ever had the authority to speak for god any more than anyone else. We can’t even get people who follow the same book to agree on the interpretations and meanings. We don’t even know what god is or even if god exists at all. Someone stating, or even taking the impressive effort of writing down that they speak for god doesn’t make it true. Thomas Jefferson in mentioning a creator in the Declaration of Independence was no more a divine prophet with the authority to speak the will of god than Thomas Paine who heavily criticized religion. In reality, our rights come from mankind.

So, where do human rights come from? Humans, naturally. 

In reality, our rights come from mankind. … If you are caught and convicted of driving under the influence on multiple occasions, you will face jail time. Your liberty and pursuits of happiness will be taken away. A U.S citizen was executed for supporting terrorist activities. His life was taken away. Ask someone who’s in jail for smoking pot where their rights come from. Arguing that their rights come from god doesn’t remove the bars. Smoking or possessing marijuana is against the law. This law was created by mankind; not god. The laws are made by people in government and the laws are enforced by people in government. The laws of our society dictate our rights.

In the United States, alcohol used to be illegal. It was legal, illegal and then legal again. This was not due to an indecisive god. Slavery used to be legal and now it is not. Human progress is dependent on the greatest moral reasoning of mankind, not god. Laws can be improved to better a society. Laws can oppress rather than protect if a societies’ leadership morally degenerates. There are good laws and bad laws. This is regardless of any claim that a god commands or doesn’t command that a particular law has divine authority. This is that way it has always been, the way it is, and the way it always will be.

So, clearly there is room for error when humans are responsible for creating and protecting rights. But there is also much room for improvement. For example, slavery is gone. And it’s not like God, even if he or she could help, has a better track record. Remember: in the Bible, God condones slavery — which is definitely not moral.