The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Human rights

Humanists and humanist groups tend to be strong advocates of human rights, because they recognise, based on empathy, that all people have the same core needs in order to be happy, healthy, safe, and secure.

After World War II and all the lives that were lost to it, many people realised that a society not built on empathy and concern for other human beings simply wasn’t going to work. Lots of countries got together and signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. To this day it remains one of the most important documents in international politics. It has been adopted by the vast majority of UN member states, and outlines the inalienable rights that apply to all human beings.

It guarantees, among other essential freedoms, freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief. Humanists consider these freedoms essential to human happiness and flourishing. They allow the open questioning of different ideas, including religious ones, and permit individuals to decide for themselves how they view the world.

The UDHR aims to protect individuals from oppression and encourages co-operation between member states of the United Nations, but it is not safe from threats. A coalition of Islamic states has made repeated attempts to change the declaration so that it limits criticism of religion and the right to change one’s beliefs. Humanists have been at the forefront of those pointing out that this undermines the purpose of the UDHR, which is meant to protect the fundamental rights of individuals, not religious ideas.