Occasionally around the city you run into those people standing at stop light intersections who wear pinnies, carry a clipboard and are often trying to get you to sign up or donate to their cause. To be totally honest I'm usually trying to get from point A to point B and (as politely as I can), smile, say "no thank you" and keep walking. Recently however, I was walking home and standing at the corner was a young woman with a pink "Because I am a Girl" t-shirt holding a clipboard. She asked me if I had a minute, and to be totally honest, I did.
Her cause was very noble: making people more aware of the social, economic, and educational plight of young woman globally. I agreed with virtually everything she said, we should in fact bring the injustice of all humans more to the forefront. The conversation took a turn however, when I switched the narrative on her.
"If you are burdened for better living conditions for girls, than you would be burdened for all girls everywhere right?" I asked. "Oh yes of course," she answered, "women everywhere deserve a better life, no matter where or who they are!" "Than you are pro-life I assume? Caring and standing-up for the lives of pre-born girls?" This sentiment made her visibly uncomfortable, and for a few minutes she tried to argue the usual talking points of the pro-choice movement. It didn't take all that long however, to point out the fatal flaw in holding such a high standard for girls living post-womb but not for those pre-womb. Nonetheless, I didn't push it too much, I had clearly put a proverbial stone in her shoe and so I changed the narrative slightly again.
"Would you say that you are religious?" I asked. "No" she said, "not particularly, I'd say that I'm an atheist. That religion stuff just never really made sense to me," she replied. "I'm curious," I responded, "why does it really matter that girls around the world deserve better lives?" This seemed to surprise her a little, and her following responses all went to the tune of, "because it's right," or "because it would be wrong to not." "OK," I said, "but where does that idea come from? Because you have already identified yourself as non-religious. As such, why does it matter that girls, boys, woman, or anyone receive fair treatment?" "Well because I believe we have self worth as people," she said. BINGO! I thought to myself. "But if you are an atheist, I'm curious, where does that come from?" I asked. "Well from... from... I guess I don't really know," she finally resolved, "where do you think it comes from?" she asked.
That was exactly the response I was looking for. You see, as an atheist she had nowhere to ground her ideas of human worth. In fact, the whole concept is an inherently Christian idea. People are created in the Image of God, and because they are created in the Image of God they have intrinsic value. But if you take God (the God of the Bible specifically and not just any god) out of the picture, you are forced to plant your feet firmly in mid-air. The young woman I was talking to, and anyone else who tries to deny the existence of God, was simply left floundering for moral footing. If they want to posit innate value and worth to individuals they have to steal from Christianity in order to do it; atheism just does not allow for that kind of inherent worth. If your perspective states that you are a product of time + matter + chance (to use the phrasing of the late Christopher Hitchens), just cosmic stardust dancing to your own DNA (as Richard Dawkins states), than the social, economic, or moral situation of anyone else is irrelevant. In the grand scheme of things they are no better or worse than anyone, or anything, else. We are all simply bags of DNA, and as Richard Dawkins states in River out of Eden, "DNA neither knows, nor cares."
However, deep down we all know that cannot be true. We can give lip service to it, but when the existential rubber hits the practical road, injustice does bother us. Why? Because we are fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator who loves and cares for us - from the begging of life to the end of it. Part of that love comes with being created in His Image, for, through, and by Him. Yes, Girl's rights are human rights, and human rights flow from intrinsic worth, but that intrinsic worth flows from an all-loving Creator.