Humanism Means Little without Its Biblical Foundations

Dec. 27 2022

Although the term “humanism” has been used in a variety of ways over the centuries, it is often paired with the adjective “secular” and suggests a sense of the inherent worth of humankind. The World Humanist Association’s 2002 Amsterdam Declaration, for instance, celebrated “the worth, dignity, and autonomy of the individual” and praised human freedom while condemning religion as “dogmatic” and inimical to these ideals. Yet, Tom Holland observes, the very notion of the sanctity of the individual cannot be found in modern science nor in ancient Greek thinkers like Protagoras, but is above all rooted in the second chapter of Genesis:

Gods in antiquity were not in the habit of endowing humanity with an inherent dignity. Quite the opposite. “I will make man, who shall inhabit the world, that the service of the gods may be established, and their shrines built.” So spoke Marduk, who according to the Babylonians created humanity out of a sticky compound of dust and blood to be the slaves of deities. Here was an understanding of man’s purpose, bleak and despairing, that it would have been very easy for the exiles brought to the banks of the Euphrates from sacked Jerusalem to accept: for it would certainly have corresponded to a sense of their puniness before the immensity of Babylon the Great.

But the exiles from Judah did not accept it. They clung instead to the conviction that it was their own God who had brought humanity into being, per Genesis. Man and woman, in the various stories told by the exiles, were endowed with a uniquely privileged status. They alone had been shaped in God’s image; they alone had been granted mastery over every living creature.

So it is, for instance, that the Amsterdam Declaration can airily dismiss the dogmas of religion, even as it simultaneously takes for granted the existence of “universal legal human rights.” Yet to believe in the existence of human rights requires no less of a leap of faith than does a belief in, say, angels, or the Trinity. The origins of the concept lie not in “the application of the methods of science” so prized by the Amsterdam Declaration but in medieval theology.

Read more at UnHerd

More about: Genesis, Hebrew Bible, Human Rights, Humanism, Judaism, Secularism


In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan