The ultimate difference between human rights and natural rights is found in their origins: human rights flow from governments but natural rights flow from our Creator. This means human rights are in flux while natural rights are fixed. And because of their different origins, human rights can be in conflict with natural rights.
This brings us to a dangerous scenario associated with human rights. Namely, the way governments can use them as a justification for reaching deeper and deeper into the daily lives of their citizens.
A great example of this can be seen in the way President Obama and his surrogates couched many of their arguments for the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare, in the language of human rights. According to them, health care is a human right which, in turn, justifies putting a system into place whereby every American has health care coverage. Of course, in the time since ObamaCare was passed by Congress in March 2010, we’ve realized that part and parcel to this health care for everyone is a new power for government to tax or otherwise financially penalize citizens who don’t go along with the program.
In simple terms, they pointed to a human right — health care — and then proceeded to use it as a justification for expanding their reach into, and power over, our lives. (This again goes back to the fact that human rights have their origin in government, wherefrom they are always available to become the focus of talking points and ad campaigns when pending legislation needs a boost.)
Moreover, because human rights are not grounded in our Creator like natural rights, they are not always morally congruent with the Judeo-Christian principles on which this nation was founded. Thus, whereas natural law is seen as complimentary to divine law (both having the same Author), human rights, being constructed at the whims of men, were actually viewed as atheistic by some of America’s Founding Fathers and earliest leaders.
For example, John Adams, the second president of the United States, saw a precursor to today’s human rights in the rights that resulted from the French Revolution. And like the situation today, where human rights often trample natural rights, so too during the French Revolution natural rights were absorbed by the government, refined (or refurbished), and then given back to the people in a manner of which government approved.
In this process, the French Revolution stripped the people of any real claim to God-given rights, and focused instead on the supposed equality that would result from the rights government had allowed the people to have.
So where others saw a grandiose revolution, Adams saw the outworking of a philosophy of “pure unadulterated atheism” wherein “liberty was a word without a meaning. There was no liberty in the universe; liberty was a word void of sense.”
This atheistic characteristic is a witness to the fact that human rights exist by the government and for the government, whereas natural rights exist by God and for the people.
Or to put it as Charles Kesler has:
“Entitlement rights” have “more in common with the notions of rights and alienation of rights promulgated by the French Declaration of the Rights of Man than with the Declaration of Independence. … A right to health care, a right to a job, a right to an education, a right to unemployment insurance — these things are not gifts of nature. They cannot be natural rights.”
Phrases like human rights, free health care, free internet, free contraceptives, etc., all sound good to people who are willing to live at the mercy of government. But they are anathema to freedom.