What is more acknowledged, more unquestioned, than the idea that all men (people) are created equal? And what can be more untrue! Of all living species, none are more unequally created than Man. Of course in a purely physical sense, people show less disparity between each other than, say, dogs (with their St Bernards and their Chihuahuas), but in mental capacity and discipline, the difference between an Albert Einstein and a beggar on the street (or a straitjacketed loony) is the difference between Mount Everest and your local hill. The existence of God is easier to believe than the equality of Man.
But wait… Perhaps the two ideas – equality of Man, existence of God – are linked. In the Western world at least, the idea that you and I are equal – that being human, we are both special – can be traced to the rise of Christianity, more specifically to the idea that a piece of God, a Holy Spirit, exists within us and that being created in the image of God, we are all equally holy.
What a crazy idea! It is difficult for us to imagine what a revolution, what a break from the past, such an idea represented to the people of an ancient time. The Greeks and the Romans produced some of the most inquiring and courageous minds that have ever existed, but never once did a Plato, a Socrates, or a Cicero imagine that the slaves in their midst were somehow equal to them in value. It isn’t that they rebelled or rejected the idea; the idea simply never occurred to them! Remember that Athens, which some consider the only “perfect” democracy, was 90% slave…
It is always amusing when I see atheists deny the existence of God – on the basis of rationality, no less – and yet unquestionably accept ideas as bombastic as “all people are created equal”, “all lives are of equal value” or, get this, “everyone deserves life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”!
All of these ideas exist in the realm of values. And what are values? Simply put, they are ideas which rely on faith, not reason, for their existence. I have no problem with people believing in these faith-based ideas, so long as they are ready to acknowledge that they come from faith, that is to say, from their heart. This doesn’t make them wrong or illegitimate in any way. If anything, it makes them powerful. Unreasonable, yes, but powerful. Reason can never drive the human mind like faith. The brain may think, but it is the heart that moves. If it is unreasonable to believe in the equality of Man, it is even more unreasonable to deny that such an idea has rare and amazing power.