The Church of Human Rights
A non-prophet organisation

Richard Parncutt

24 August 2017


chr

The Church of Human Rights creates and adapts religious rituals to promote human rights universally. It does so with humour and lightness, inspired by the Sunday Assembly. Ritual elements are inspired by diverse global religious cultures and spiritual traditions.

Like other churches,  the Church of Human Rights is founded on beliefs -- statements of faith that cannot be proven (
like normative ethics in philosophy). Our faith focuses on real, down-to-earth concepts like truth, love, charity, and mutual respect. We also uphold the ideals of the French revolution: liberty, equality, solidarity. We avoid reference to the supernatural, the utopic, the magic, or the miraculous, and instead acknowledge the importance of creativity, fantasy, and fun.

The Church of Human Rights recognizes that humans are social animals. We need to belong to and identify with groups, and we need to be proud of the aims and achievements of the group to which we belong. The challenge is to encourage that without rejecting other groups -- especially those with similarly positive goals.

Beliefs

The work of the Church of Human Rights is based on three core beliefs.

1. People created god/s. Therefore, no gods or supernatural beings are included among our beliefs. Instead, we believe that we are alone responsible for our actions and their consequences. The church nevertheless respects theists and theism. In fact, theists are our soulmates. The emotions that theists feel in religious rituals exist and are important, and we feel the same emotions. Like us, theists have same right to freely pursue their religious practices, provided they do not infringe upon the rights of others.


2. Every conscious human being has inalienable rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in its current or future form as determined by the United Nations or an equivalent successor organization). We all have the same fundamental inherent value, and the value of a human being is the most important kind of value for us. By "conscious" we mean "able to reflect on experience". Of course, unconscious human beings also have rights. We encourage an open, caring, informed,
ongoing discussion of this and other controversial issues. 

3. Belief alone is not enough. We must act to ensure that human rights are universally and sustainably respected. 
Our most important task as humans is to sustainably reduce human suffering on a global basis, and our moral obligation increases with wealth and/or privilege. While everyday acts of kindness are undeniably important, if we are serious about approaching universal human equality, we also need clear thinking, cooperation, and diligence. To succeed in the long term, we must first identify the biggest global problems and then address their causes to achieve sustainable progress. Today's biggest global problems include poverty, hunger, disease, climate change, and violence.

These beliefs or principles are constantly being challenged in church discussions, and opinions among church members are diverse. There is nevertheless a common agreement that basic shared assumptions of this kind are necessary to give the church a clear direction.

Scriptures

Like other churches, the Church of Human Rights involves ritual, music, and prayer, but it has no holy scriptures.
We acknowledge the historical and psychological importance of fantastic narratives with a moral message, and respect the beauty and profundity of the scriptures of traditional churches, but we do not seriously entertain stories that have a magical element. We regard honesty, sincerity, and integrity as even more important than magic, and see no clear dividing line between religious belief and superstition.

Our "scripture" is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Like the scriptures of great religions, this document is written by humans, and like humans it is imperfect. One of our goals is to contribute to improvement of this text in the future. Meanwhile, we devote our time and energy to interpreting and implementing it.

Our written sources also include the writings of great thinkers and researchers in humanities and sciences. If widely accepted findings or positions in relevant academic disciplines contradict the teachings of the church, those teachings must be questioned.

On this basis, we think for ourselves and take responsibility for our thoughts and ideas. Our members inspire each other, explaining how they would like to contribute to a fairer world or how they are actually doing so. They discuss in detail about what love and altruism mean for them and for others. Laughter is common and jokes are respectful -- but not at the expense of others. Meetings are open to all.

The role of consciousness

Consciousness is what separates humans from other animals. It plays an important role in the Church of Human Rights.

There may not be a conscious life after death, but unless we die in some kind of armageddon, the world will  continue after we die. The wonderful things that we have experienced in our lifetimes, for which we are grateful, imply an obligation to make a positive contribution to the future as well as the present. If we love our children, we have no other choice.

There may not be a conscious life before birth, but if there is, its protection is the mother's responsibility. Any discussion of this issue must respect the human rights of women.

We cannot be sure about non-human consciousness and must therefore also promote animal rights. But as long as millions of people are dying every year from preventable hunger disease and violence, human rights are even more important than non-human animal rights. Confronted with a dying human and a dying non-human animal, our first instinct is to save the human. The church pleads guilty to speciesism in this sense, but we also believe in a future in which the rights of all animals including humans are equally respected. We reject any doctrine that puts humans at the pinnacle of creation/evolution or regards non-humans as mere resources for human use.

Anti-groupism and interfaith dialog

It is ok to identify with a group of people who are similar to each other in some way (appearance, language, gender, religion, profession and so on). It is not ok to believe that one's group is inherently superior to another group. This universal human tendency is called groupism and it includes racism, sexism, and homophobia. The Church of Human Rights is opposed to all forms of groupism and works to replace them with universal respect.

Churches are themselves groups. The Church of Human Rights is not fundamentally superior to any other church; on the contrary, we are inspired by world religions such as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Christianity, although we also criticize them.
We regret that many beautiful architectural structures of other churches have fallen into disuse and aim to fill them again with life, in friendly cooperation with other churches.

The Church of Human Rights works together with similar movements such as humanism and effective altruism. We support the promotion of human rights within existing churches (more). 

Democracy and independence

The Church of Human Rights is and will always remain independent of any other organisation, whether public, private, political, national, global, economic, profit oriented, not for profit, academic, religious, cultural, or social.

The church is democratic.
All members have equal rights. Members' diverse contributions are appropriately recognized. Any document of aims, mission, rules, and procedures, including this introductory mission statement, can be changed by democratic procedures.

The church strives for a maximum of transparency in financial management. It is financed by anonymous donations and fund-raising events only. Finances may be used to maintain buildings or pay administrators; as far as possible, costs of this kind are avoided or minimized. Founders and leaders have no special status and receive no direct or indirect payments of any kind for any service. Travel and accommodation expenses are never reimbursed.

What next?

So far, the Church of Human Rights
is only an idea. You can help it to happen by contacting the author. Please suggest how this document could be improved and the idea could be implemented.

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