Beliefs of both religious groups and
non-theistic ethical systems, like Humanism,
differ greatly in their concepts of deity,
other beliefs and practices. But one principle is accepted by almost everyone.
It is the Ethic
of Reciprocity: the concept that we should treat others as we would wish them to
treat us. One expression of this Ethic is the Christianity's Golden
A logical development of the Ethic is the principle that
each individual is of equal worth, simply because they are human. People may come
in three main genders (female, intersexual, and male), all sizes and shapes, many races, three sexual
orientations (bisexual, heterosexual, and homosexual), and with a range of
talents and abilities. But, there is a growing belief that
every human should be considered of equal value.
Secular documents which promote equality:
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is one
example of this developing consensus:1,2
Preamble of the UDHR:
It starts by referring to the rights of all humans: "Whereas
recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and
inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the
foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world..."
It ends by stating that the UDHR is "a common standard
of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that
every individual and every organ of society, keeping this
Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and
education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms."
Article 1: "All human beings are born free and equal
in dignity and rights."
Article 2: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights
and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any
kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or
other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other
Article 7: "All are equal before the law and are
entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
Religious texts which favor equality:
Almost all religious and ethical groups have passages in their holy texts, or writings of
their leaders, which promote the belief that all humans are of equal worth.
Bahá'í Faith: "No difference or preference
has been made by God for its human inhabitants; but man has laid the
foundation of prejudice, hatred and discord with his fellowman by
considering nationalities separate in importance and races different in
rights and privileges." Promulgation of Universal Peace, Page 232
Buddhism: "So what of all these titles, names, and races? They are mere
worldly conventions." Sutta Nipata 648
Christianity: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is
neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all
one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3.28
Confucianism: "By nature men are pretty much alike; it
is learning and practice that set them apart." Analects 17.2
Hinduism: "I look upon all creatures equally; none are less dear to me and
none more dear." Bhagavad Gita 9.29
Islam: "For the white to lord it over the black, the Arab over the
non-Arab, the rich over the poor, the strong over the weak or men over women is
out of place and wrong." Hadith of Ibn Majah
Jainism: "The Law is that which leads to welfare and salvation. It forms
conduct and character distinguished by the sense of equality among all beings."
Judaism: "...a single man was created for the sake of peace among
mankind, that none should say to his fellow, 'My father was greater than
your father.' Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4.5
Native American Spirituality: *
Sikhism: "Don't create enmity with anyone as God is within
everyone." Guru Arjan Devji 259
* We are searching for suitable quotations. Any help would
Laws, practices and traditions which oppose equality:
Slaves are considered property to
be bought, sold and exploited. Slavery is
generally outlawed throughout the world. However, it is still
practiced in some countries. Indentured servitude and child
exploitation is even more common.
Women have low status in many areas of the world. In North
America, the two remaining major career areas that are not open to
women are certain combat assignments in the Armed Forces, and
positions of power within some conservative denominations and
religions. The two largest Christian denominations, the Roman Catholic
church and the Southern Baptist Convention do not allow women to be
considered for ordination. Other
denominations excluding women as clergy include those affiliated with
the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC).
Church exclusion from positions of power are often based upon the low
status of women in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament),
where they were often looked upon as property. Certain epistles of the
Christian Scriptures (New Testament), which conservative Christians
attribute to Paul and liberal Christians believe were written in the
second century CE also relegated
them to submissive status.
Gays and lesbians are not a protected class. That is, a
person who is discriminated against in employment, accommodation, etc.
because of their gender, race, nationality, age, degree of ability,
etc are protected against discrimination in most jurisdictions of
North America. But homosexuals can be freely fired from their jobs or
refused accommodation without any recourse in law. Heterosexuals have
access to over 1,000 special benefits as a result of marrying.
Homosexuals are not permitted to marry and thus are denied these
privileges. The state of Vermont will allow gays and lesbians to enter
into civil unions, starting 2000-JUL-1. These unions do grant all of
the state-mandated privileges previously reserved to married couples.
However, it is doubtful that Vermont civil unions will be recognized
in other states without a legal battle. Also, no federal benefits will
be given to gays and lesbians who enter into civil unions.
Religious persecution is rampant throughout the world. Major civil
disturbances and civil wars are fueled by religious intolerance.
Followers of minority religions are often considered as sub-human and
oppressed, raped and murdered almost at will. Even countries with
excellent human rights records, like France and Germany oppress
certain religions. Greece, the cradle of democracy, does not allow
believers to proselytize.
Although the caste system has been outlawed in India, old
traditions die hard. "Untouchables" and people from
other lower castes are still heavily discriminated against.
Bigots still consider certain groups of people to be
sub-human on the basis of their race, nationality, country of origin,
degree of ability, etc.