Religious and Humanist Perspectives on Human Rights

Part of the Religion and Human Rights book series (REHU, volume 2)


The United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the best known comprehensive statement on human rights. The foundations of these human rights, however, can be manifold. There are several approaches to founding principles of human rights. This paper considers some of these perspectives: (1) a Roman Catholic natural law perspective; (2) a Protestant covenant approach; (3) a Muslim “umma” point of view; (4) an Orthodox understanding; and (5) a “humanist-humanitarian activist” approach. While discussing the various perspectives on “first generation” civil and political human rights, this paper makes some comparisons in regard to foundations, group versus individual approaches, relationship and influence on/from the State, and current developments. It is argued that each of these voices is needed in the ongoing development of the human rights discussion and implementation.


Foundation of Human Rights Religion Roman-Catholicism Protestantism Christian Orthodoxy Islam Humanism 


  1. Allen, J. L. (1988, October). Catholic and protestant theories of human rights. Religious Studies Review, 14 (4), 347–353.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, J. L. (2009). The future church: How ten trends are revolutionizing the Catholic Church. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  3. Easterly, W. (2013). The tyranny of experts: Economists, dictators, and the forgotten rights of the poor. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  4. Farmer, P. (2005). Pathologies of power: Health, human rights, and the new war on the poor. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Hollenbach, D. S. J. (2003). The global face of public faith: Politics, human rights, and Christian ethics. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Hollenbach, D. S. J. (2005, October 31). Human rights in Catholic thought: A new synthesis. America, 193(13), 16–18.Google Scholar
  7. Hollenbach, D. S. J. (2011, March). Human rights in a pluralist, unequal globe: Contributions of Jesuit universities. Catholic Education, 338–345.Google Scholar
  8. Horn, Nico. (2007). The influence of state ideology on Pentecostal thinking after world war ii, with special reference to white Pentecostals in South Africa.
  9. Ignatieff, M. (2001). Human rights as politics and idolatry. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  10. John XXIII. (1963). Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). Chicago: Claretian Publications.Google Scholar
  11. Kraynak, R. P. (2014, November 13). Thomas Hobbes: From classical natural law to modern natural rights.
  12. Maritain, J. (1949). Introduction. In: UNESCO (Ed.), Human rights: Comments and interpretations (pp. 9–17). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Maritain, J. (1951). Man and the state. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  14. McElroy, R. (2014, November 13). Market assumptions. America, 211(13), 14–18. Accessed 21 Dec 2014.
  15. Munro, B. R. (2003). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Maritain, and the Universality of Human Rights. In W. Sweet (Ed.), Philosophical theory and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (pp. 109–126). Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.Google Scholar
  16. Naletova, I. (2012). Human rights – The Russian Orthodox Churches’ Teaching and survey data. In A. Brunig & E. van der Zweerde (Eds.), Orthodox Christianity and human rights (pp. 214–235). Leuven: Peeters.Google Scholar
  17. Nelson, J. R. (1982). Human rights in creation and redemption: A Protestant view. In A. Swidler (Ed.), Human rights in religious traditions (1982) Journal of Ecumenical studies (pp. 1–13). New York: Pilgrim Press.Google Scholar
  18. Nichols, J. A. (2009). Evangelicals and human rights: The continuing Ambivalence of Evangelical Christians’ support of human rights. Journal of Law and Religion, 7, 629–662. University of St, Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09–02. Accessed 18 Mar 2015.
  19. Oh, I. (2007). The rights of god: Islam, human rights, and comparative ethics. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. (2004). Compendium of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana [Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing].Google Scholar
  21. Preda, R. (2012). Human rights and their reception in Orthodoxy – A Romanian perspective. In A. Brunig & E. van der Zweerde (Eds.), Orthodox Christianity and human rights (pp. 293–313). Peeters: Leuven.Google Scholar
  22. Russian Orthodox Church, Department for External Church Relations. (2008). The Russian Orthodox Church’s basic teaching on human society, freedom and rights. Accessed 17 Mar 2015.
  23. Sachedina, A. (2009). Islam and the challenge of human rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Scott, B. C. (2008). The crossroads of religion and development: The Ixil region, Evangelical religion, and Rios Montt. Monograph. Athens: University of Georgia.
  25. Sen, A. (1999). Development as freedom. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  26. Sen, A. (2009). The idea of justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Siskova, A. (2008). Russian Orthodox church sets tone on human rights. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Accessed 17 Mar 2015.
  28. Soroush, A. (2000). Reason, freedom, and democracy: Essential writings of Abdolkarim Soroush. (Ed., intro. Mahmoud Sadri, Ahmad Sadri, Trans.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Stoeckl, K. (2014). The Russian Orthodox Church and human rights. Oxford: Routledge.Google Scholar
  30. Vatican Council II. (1965). Gaudium et Spes: Pastoral constitution on the Church in the Modern World.Google Scholar
  31. Valente, G. (2013, June 13). The war between the Liberation Theology movement and Rome is over. Vatican Insider, La Stampa. Accessed 20 Mar 2015.
  32. Witte, J. Jr. (1998, Fall). Law, religion, and human rights. Journal of Religious Ethics, 26(2), 257–262.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Saint Mary of the LakeMundeleinUSA

Personalised recommendations