Tag Archives: human rights

Religious moral relativism – another example

This example of religious moral relativism from the International Humanist and Ethical Union Another blow to Universal Human Rights.

The Saudi Gazette announced today (14 May 2009) that, exactly as they promised, the OIC is moving ahead with the creation of an “Islamic” Human Rights Commission. As IHEU warned in a written statement to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2008, this commission will have as its guiding document not the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but the Cairo Declaration of 1990 which refers to the Sharia as its “only source of reference” to human rights, ignoring completely the Universal Declaration and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to which almost all Islamic states are party. When IHEU tried to refer to this incompatibility in the plenary of the Human Rights Council we were silenced on a point of order when the Pakistani delegate claimed “it insulting to our faith to discuss the Sharia in this forum”. The president of the Council agreed, and ruled that it would no longer be permissible to discuss in detail any particular system of law. The effect of that ruling has been to place any human rights abuse carried out in the name of religion outside the scope of international law.

The intention in creating the Islamic commission is clear: International Human Rights norms will no longer apply to anyone living in an Islamic State, their rights will be defined exclusively in terms of the Sharia. And in the words of Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the OIC, “the preservation of the Islamic family values have been enshrined in the OIC charter”.

Roy W Brown

IHEU main repersentative, UN Geneva


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Human Morality III: Moral intuition

This is the third in a series of four posts on morality. They are aimed at countering the usual religious claims for a god-given morality with current scientific understanding of how the morality of our species arose. Also, they at tempt to justify a non-theist objective basis for much of the moral decisions we make. The first post (I: Religious confusion) discussed some of the problems religion has in its understanding of morality and the second (II: Objective morality) argues for a non-theist objective basis for morality. This third post discusses human moral instincts.

I think it’s clear that we have moral instincts. We take actions without thinking because our unconscious intuitions dictate that we do. Most of us will instinctively react to save a child in danger (eg., about to run out on to a busy road without looking).  And we will sometimes do this even though it threatens our own life.

Our evolution as an intelligent, social species has inevitably left us with intuitions which are unconscious, spontaneous, and usually inaccessible to our conscious minds. These have been necessary for our survival – both in to protect our own lives and those of our kin and in the many interactions we have with other intelligent members of our species.

The fight or flight response, oversensitive agency detection, sexual and hunger responses are obvious. But we also have intuitive feelings for our children, sexual partners and kin. Social intuitions of guilt, judgment, disgust, revulsion, suspicion, trust, fairness and detection of cheating are also present. Attitudes to members of in-groups and out-groups also appear intuitive. Who hasn’t noted how easily human groups develop “them vs us” attitudes.

So, even without applying reason, humans come to spontaneous moral decisions. We are a moral species.

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights

60yrsudhrlogoDecember 10 marks the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This is an historic and foundational document. It is secular but receives extremely wide support from different political, religious and non-religious trends. It arose in part as a reaction to the horrors and violence of the Second World war –  particularly the Holocaust. But it has also been an inspiration for moral and social progress throughout the world – intermittent and unreliable as that has been.

AC Grayling is currently blogging in the Guardian on the UDHR – one article a day until December 10 (see AC Graylings articles on the UDHR). As always, his comments are worth reading.

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