Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction
Barnett, Barbra, Journal of Church and State
Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction. Edited by John Witte Jr. and M. Christian Green. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. 416pp. $29.95.
A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the challenges of introducing human rights into tin undergraduate humanities curriculum. According to that piece, the difficulties begin to emerge from the start, such as seeking to define the terms "human" and "rights" in consistent and coherent ways, and the challenges quickly multiply, tribble-like from there. This new edited volume, which focuses on the intersections of human rights and religion, admirably illustrates these challenges, conveying the breadth and complexities of the issues at stake. The volume consists of twenty-two separately authored essays, which span a remarkable range of approaches to gaining purchase on the subject. Each essay, averaging only about sixteen pages, introduces tin expansive analysis of its topic, and each is accompanied by a useful list of further resources.
The volume is divided into two sections. Part 1 is comprised of eight essays, each dealing with the relationship between human rights and a particular religious tradition. Here a leading scholar of each tradition has crafted an essay that examines the relationship between that tradition and the field of human rights. Part 1 seems intended to be comprehensive, dedicating a separate chapter to virtually every major world religion. These contributions include voices from leading Western and Eastern faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; and Hinduism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, respectively) but also include the important, but less frequently included, perspectives of indigenous religious traditions and secularism. Each essay is distinct in its approach to analyzing how to describe the relationship between the religious tradition and human rights. Yet certain common issues and questions recur. Here we see not only the difficulties of defining the categorical terms "human" and "rights" but also questions about who is authorized to speak for a given tradition, whether rights necessarily correlate with responsibilities, and whether nonhuman entities, such as God, can claim human rights. The issues of definition are particularly striking in the chapter on indigenous religions, which explores how the emergence of rights talk opened up the opportunity for indigenous religions to define themselves as communities that could claim rights.
Part 2 is comprised of fourteen essays, each introducing a different contemporary human rights concern that emerges at the intersection of religion and human rights. Here, even more challenges proliferate. The range of different topics is so broad that it is difficult to summarize or categorize the issues presented. For example, Part 2 contains chapters dedicated to concerns relating to personal religious conviction: …
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Publication information: Article title: Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction. Contributors: Barnett, Barbra - Author. Journal title: Journal of Church and State. Volume: 55. Issue: 3 Publication date: Summer 2013. Page number: 553+. © 1999 J.M. Dawson Studies in Church and State. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.