Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Human Rights are Established Through Secular Legal Rights

"The people who once walked in darkness are no longer
prepared to do so"
                                            - James Baldwin

Nobel Peace Prize Medal
Justice comes from within a society through its laws which acknowledge that all citizens are free, equal and are allowed to live peaceably.  Freedom here is defined as having an achieved or ascribed will to do, think, read, create and act in ways which support the health of the individual and the culture, bring prosperity to oneself or one's family and to live without fear of reprisal or retribution.  Equality means that all people have the same basic and advanced human and civil rights, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, ability or disability, economic status, ethnic or religious, or non-religious affiliation.  To live in peace means that one is free to explore, know and make their way in the world unencumbered by physical, emotional or other harm caused by others, groups or the state, that impede one's ability to act for oneself or on the behalf of others to create an even more just and moral society.

This is why secular, rather than canon law is so important to understand, explain to others and support for the sake of our collective humanity. Secular laws are those that are created by individuals through a legal system which works outside of and requires no input or regulation from any theistic principle or set of mores. A fine example of secular law would be the U.S. Constitution and its changes through legally added amendments which create a better and more just society. Canon law or other religious laws regulate justice and social behavior through religious based-principles taken from an organized religion. Canon law is founded on biblical scripture and combines both the social system with the legal justice system for the sake of a theistic system of governance.  Examples here include Church law, Sharia law and other theism which promotes the mores and values of a specific religion.

The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Winners
It should come as no surprise that the three individuals who won the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts on behalf of women's rights do all do their work, that is struggle against Theist law or tribal behavior, to promote fair and decent government and societies in nations where secular laws are mostly absent or frequently ignored. These same nations support religious law over secular society. The winners of the 2011 peace price are from Liberia and include Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirlead and Leymeah Gbowee and from Yemen, the award went to journalist Tawakkol Karmann.

According to the New York Times, Nobel Committee Chairman Thirbjorn Jagland, noted, "The promising Arab Spring will become a new winter if women are again left out."  Indeed, the Nobel Committee noted they selected these women precisely because of their efforts to promote both the rule of law and democracy within their societies.  Liberia has seen decades of inter-religious tribal warfare over land and other resources; while Yemen continues to spiral out of control because of religious conflict between warring Muslim factions interwoven with indigenous ethic cleansing and destruction of culture and human life based on radical and fanatical belief in Sharia law.  Ms. Karmann, in her acceptance speech urged the world to support uprisings in the region, she noted:

The democratic world, which has told us a lot about the virtues of democracy and good government, should not be indifferent to what is happening in Yemen and Syria, and happened before that in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and happened in every Arab and non-Arab country aspiring for freedom.

The Arab spring has brought incredible positive political change to several nations formally under dictatorship, military, family and clan rule.  Parts of which were once separate and interchangeable but in some cases still hold sway over the body politic today. These countries are now faced with developing democratic institutions and laws which support human rights. 

However, the danger to self-determination and democracy in these fledgling nations is that the will of the people in the short term, especially, if they are uneducated or uninformed, may wind up promoting leaders who commit the same or similar atrocities as their former leaders. But these leaders will do so under the guise of free elections and a titled democracy, which is not actually democracy but theocracy in sheep's clothing.

We are seeing attempts to introduce or adopt levels of strict religious law all over the Arab world and certainly in countries which fomented and overthrew their repressive governments. This is a danger to secularism and secular nations and perpetuates a real and philosophical war of culture between people who as one species should be sharing the planet without threat or reprisal. As noted by Phil Zuckerman in his ethnographic research regarding healthy societies based on internationally accepted human rights standards, it is nations who promote secular values which are the most peaceful, just, moral, educated and physically healthy. 

Since these are facts based on rational and known cultures and not theories or mere philosophies, it really is time that we politically emulate the three brave female Noble laureates. In turn, we will make for a kinder and more socially just world, something that spirituality and organized religion has attempted to do but has failed at dismally over tens of thousands of years. Peace through rationality and secularism, now that is something I and so many others envision for our collective future.

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