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Emails to the editor

From Eric Hayman

In your 'Editor's welcome' last month, you wrote 'Human rights are a core element in humanist thinking, stemming from the Enlightenment era and inspiring the French and American Revolutions with clarion calls to liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness'. What we call 'the Enlightenment' may have seen the start of the drift away from the likes of Galileo being pilloried for saying the Earth is not the centre of the universe. But to write of 'clarion calls to liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness' inspiring both the French and the American revolutions callously ignores the bloodshed in both. As for 'liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness' having any place in what became the United States, this ignores the fact that the USA came about only by the continent-wide removal of the aborigines from their own land, from their incarceration in what were effectively concentration camps, and decades long wars on them when they had the temerity to defend their own land from the European invaders. The similarities with Putin's invasion of Ukraine are there for all to see.

As you know, there was no 'liberty, equality' and little 'happiness' for the non-Europeans in the USA from before the traitorous war against the British government's control of the initial thirteen colonies right up to very recently. Even today, 'equality' is barely present in many aspects of life in the USA.

Regarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it was written in the immediate aftermath of World War II, and reflects a very Eurocentric view on those so-called 'Human Rights'. Had it been written from the viewpoint of non-Europeans, I'm sure it would have been quite different. Curiously, it gets quoted just as the holy books of religions get quoted; to justify all manner of acts by 'the peculiar race of hominins we call homo sapiens'. Strange that it should be seen as humanist in outlook.

You wrote about various forms of 'liberation' as if they are universally desired or accepted. Again, they are largely European-inspired. And nowhere do you write about 'Human Duties'. I would very much like to see Humanism's Declaration of Human Duties.

Editor's note

Paul Ewans in his article last month ('Arguments against the universality of human rights') wrote that 'the final drafting committee of the UDHR included representatives from China, India, Pakistan, Burma, the Philippines and Siam together with delegates from nine Islamic nations, six communist countries, many South American countries and four African countries'. This indicates that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not reflect a 'very Eurocentric view'. As for a Declaration of Human Duties you may like to take a look at the Amsterdam Declaration.

From Philip Silk

Coming from the USA, perhaps I am more comfortable calling myself a 'Religious Humanist'. To me, we in Britain undervalue the value of wonder and of worship (celebrating things of worth). We seek enriched lives. Another value is community. It is fine being a humanist by yourself but people need personal contacts. We used to have a group in the Stoke area, which I valued. However, there was a shortage of leadership and commitment, so now we have none. (But the Hurds are wonderfully involved in the Uganda Humanist Schools.) I do have the Newcastle-under-Lyme Unitarians, some of whom are humanists. Humanists UK is impressive in its wide-ranging public programmes.

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