Humanism and Human Rights

Realizing that there is no hierarchical body of Humanists that can and would speak for the society of Humanists, let me ask each individual reader:  As a Humanist, what are your views on Human Rights?  Specifically, what are your beliefs in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was presented largely through the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt through the new United Nations in 1948.

 Just as most “religionists” who insist on posting the 10 Commandments don’t know that most of the Commandments deal with man’s actions with a god rather than other men, most Americans, and I would venture to say even most Humanists, do not know specifically what is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  (UDHR at Wikipedia)  The Declaration, as a declaration of the fundamental and inalienable rights of all members of the human family, was approved by the UN General Assembly.  The UN Commission was also tasked with drafting a legally binding international treaty on human rights and with creating effective means for implementing these. 

 For political reasons, the 30 Articles were set up as two Covenants:  The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and The Covenant on Economical, Social, and Cultural Rights.  The Soviet Union ratified the Economical/Social/Cultural Covenant but refused to ratify the Civil/Political Covenant.  The United States ratified the Civil/Political Rights but has not yet ratified the Economical/Social/Cultural Covenant.  Jimmy Carter finally signed this Covenant, but Congress has yet to ratify it.

 What does the Economical/Social/Cultural part contain that’s Americans are afraid of?  Here are some examples:

 Article 22:  Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

 Article 23: Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

 Article 24:  Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

 Article 25:  Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

 Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection

 Based on these specific Articles, as a Humanist, what do you think the social rights should and should not be as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

David Kimball


8 Responses to “Humanism and Human Rights”

  1. January 13, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Social security for everyone? Universal healthcare? Equal pay for equal work? Trade unions? Special care and assistance for children? Equality between children born in and out of wedlock?

    Why, that’s un-American, I say!

    As a corollary to the “motherhood and childhood” covenant, I would add that everyone has the right to plan their families.

    Also, I don’t see anything in the list about “the right to hold hands with your partner in a public space without getting hit with broken bottles.”

    Everyone has the right to choose their own spouse, and to enter into a marriage contract strictly without compulsion.

  2. 2 David Kimball
    January 13, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks Alysonmiers.

    Actuall, Article 16 does include the rights of marriage:

    Article 16.
    (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
    (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
    (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State

    As you can see, it doesn’t expressly promote gay marriage, but it definitely doesn’t prohibit it either.

  3. 3 Ian
    January 13, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    I support the entire Declaration for ALL human beings on Earth. Poverty robs humans of their dignity which runs contrary to the humanist ideals of raising and promoting all human dignity.

  4. 4 David Kimball
    January 13, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Thanks Ian. I too feel there is a strong connection of the Humanist ideals and dignity – dignity in others as well as ourselves.

  5. January 15, 2010 at 11:49 am

    I feel, and have felt for a long time, that the principles espoused by the UDHR are not only compatible with Humanism, but actually broadly humanist in tone, scope and character. I’m a huge supporter.

    • 6 David Kimball
      January 15, 2010 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks James.

      Wouldn’t it be nice if someone brought up the UDHR with respect to the current embroglio on our nation’s health care system. This would allow an external standard of acceptance rather than be considered the musings of a particular political party.

  6. 7 KeithM
    January 21, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Being a Libertarian Atheist I default to freedom, liberty and self-reliance so to me most of this declaration goes under “liberal drivel”.

  7. July 10, 2013 at 5:32 am

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