Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 May 2021
Historical accounts of human rights in the West readily acknowledge a deep indebtedness to the conceptions of human dignity found in religious traditions – particularly Christianity and Judaism. Modern conceptions of human rights, however, usually avoid religious justifications and implicitly or explicitly rely on a secular justification. For example, most scholars mark the beginning of modern human rights law with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the UDHR) in 1948. The UDHR sets forth an extensive list of rights including the “right to life, liberty and the security of person,” the “right to marry and to found a family,” the “right to own property,” and “freedom of thought, conscience and association.” While the Preamble of the UDHR maintains that “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,” the UDHR does not posit a justification for its claim of inherent human dignity or for its list of rights.