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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Religion and Human Rights

Yehudah Mirsky is a former US State Department official. He teaches Judaic and Israel Studies at Brandeis University.  At Tablet, he notes that  1948 saw the creation of Israel; the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention; the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade; the Berlin Airlift and the desegregation of the US military.  In the 70 years since, we overlooked some realities.  Here is just one item from his perceptive article:
[W]e underestimated the role of religion not only in people’s lives but in human rights and liberalism’s own foundations. Religion is about the search for the absolute and how that ultimate truth shapes what it means fully to be human. Liberalism and human rights are understood by many people in different ways, but there is no denying they make serious claims about the ultimacy of human dignity, so ultimate that there are certain things that no state, or collective body of any kind, can do to harm human dignity. (Samuel Moyn, perhaps today’s preeminent historian of human rights, has shown just how much of our human rights concepts were rooted in mid-20th century Catholicism.) And not only among Catholics, as the connections between religion and liberalism were plain to see in the work of Martin Luther King, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Abraham Joshua Heschel.