Declarations of natural rights in the eighteenth century referred to men and their rights as ‘sacred’. Contemporary human rights make no reference to a religious foundation. Abdulaziz Sachedina, quoted above, is amongst those who wonder whence derives the moral authority for the special status of human beings if we subscribe to a secular account of human rights. Other critics are sceptical of the capacity of purportedly secular human rights to command the allegiance of religious believers in a deeply diverse world. The UDHR protects both the right to freedom of conscience and the right to freedom of religion in the same article (18). The right to freedom of conscience protects the right to hold beliefs consistent with atheism or agnosticism. The right to freedom of religion as detailed in the UDHR also includes the right to change one’s religion. Freedom of conscience, then, implies the right to hold any religious beliefs or none. This appears to be incompatible with religious traditions, such as Islam, that prohibit apostasy.
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