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John Locke argued that all men are born equal with christian belief. how can liberal atheists prove men are born equal?

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  • Given his ideals, it is remarkable is it not that he argued to justify slavery, & that while his views on women were progressive for his times (died 1704) he did not think they should have fully equal rights. I would argue Locke is not asserting a fact to be verified, but a choice, as all moralities must be about how & who we want to be (see Hume's 'Is vs Ought').
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Aug 18, 2023 at 23:05
  • I argue our moral reasoning is grounded in intersubjectivity, which is also the basis for learning & language. Discussed in relation to the example case of motives for choosing gender equality here: 'Studies exploring the rationale of gender equality' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/90227/… TLDR: By engaging with others as morally equal, we derive substantial social benefits which have allowed societies that choose that to thrive more than those which don't
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Aug 18, 2023 at 23:05

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In "John Locke on Equality, Toleration, and the Atheist Exception" Adalei Broers points out that,

Locke describes the state of nature as one “of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creature of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection” (Locke, Treatise, 8).

In that sense, Locke's concept of natural equality doesn't really require God. It is based on assumptions about a State of Nature where there is no accumulated wealth or power. He posits that civil society should maintain this equality because it is a natural fact.

Locke further thought that in order for civil society to protect that natural equality, there needs to be morality. Many atheists would agree. But Locke assumed atheists by definition could have no morality. Here, most atheists would disagree. For examples of such arguments see "Ethics Without Gods" by Frank Zindler and "Atheist ethics" by Julian Baggini. Explicit arguments for morality indepent of theological beliefs are commonplace today but were non-existent in Locke's day.

In sum, if you are inclined to accept Locke's general conception of equality on its other merits (personally there are bigger problems with Locke in my view, but you're not asking about those) I think it is fairly easy to remove God from the equation.

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