Hans Küng, Religion, and a Global Ethic (2022)

Berkley Forum

By: David Hollenbach

April 23, 2021

(Video) Hans Küng on A Global Ethic

Hans Küng and the Global Ethic

In recent years, the place of religion in world affairs has become an increasingly important focus in reflection on international politics. Hans Küng has been a very important contributor to these recent discussions, particularly through his reflections on the contributions of religion to the development of a global ethic—a shared body of moral norms and virtues that should shape the interaction of nations and people around the world. If such a global ethic can be identified, it will increase our hope for peace and justice, while the lack of such an ethic could make it likely that we are headed for a clash of civilizations.

(Video) Hans Küng on Religious vs. Universal Law

Küng and the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, in which he played a major role, produced the Declaration Toward a Global Ethic. This declaration was signed by leaders from many of the world's religions. The declaration affirms that “a common set of core values is found in the teachings of all the religions, and that these form the basis of a global ethic.” Küng backed up this claim principally by noting that a version of the Golden Rule can be found in the teachings of all the world religions, including the Confucian (“What you yourself do not want, do not do to another person”), the Jewish (“Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you”), the Christian (“Whatever you want people to do to you, do also to them”), and the Islamic (“None of you is a believer as long as he does not wish his brother what he wishes himself”).

If such a global ethic can be identified, it will increase our hope for peace and justice, while the lack of such an ethic could make it likely that we are headed for a clash of civilizations.

On the basis of this appeal to the Golden Rule, the declaration then declares, “We must treat others as we wish others to treat us” and that this requires “a commitment to respect life and dignity, individuality and diversity, so that every person is treated humanely, without exception.” This approach was cited with approval by a report In Search of Global Ethical Standards prepared by a council of former heads of state chaired by Helmut Schmidt.

The Golden Rule in various forms is indeed found in most if not all of the world's major religious traditions. It stresses the reciprocity of moral obligation and one's reciprocal duties toward all other human beings.

It is also clear, however, that the religious traditions in which the Golden Rule appears contain teachings that sometimes limit its reciprocity to co-members of the community formed by that tradition. To know what reciprocal concern among neighbors means in practice, therefore, means one must answer the question put to Jesus regarding the commandment to love one's neighbor as one self, namely, “Who is my neighbor?”

The religious traditions in which the Golden Rule appears contain teachings that sometimes limit its reciprocity to co-members of the community formed by that tradition.

In Christianity, Jesus answered this question in the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which a Jew who had been robbed and left injured at the side of the road was aided by a non-Jew—a Samaritan who was an outsider and even seen as an adversary by members of the Jewish community (Luke 10:25–37). The parable thus interprets the Golden Rule in the universalist manner that Küng's global ethic calls for. At the same time, the New Testament also sometimes teaches preferential concern for fellow Christians. In Judaism, “Love your neighbor as yourself” meant “Love your fellow Israelite as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). But the Hebrew Scriptures declare that compassion and justice are due also to strangers outside the Jewish community. While the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” appears once in the Hebrew Bible, the command to “love the stranger” appears no fewer than 36 times (for example, in Exodus 23:9, Leviticus 19:33–34, and many other places). Similarly, the undoubted universalism of Islam has sometimes been taken by Muslims to call for the incorporation of all people into the Islamic ummah rather than as a call to universal tolerance for those who are different.

(Video) Dr. Hans Kung’s “Does God Exist?," 5ff.

The point here is not to reject Küng's effort to show that world religions can become part of a consensus on a universal global ethic. Rather, it is to point out that religious traditions are internally complex and can be interpreted in multiple ways. These interpretations can lead them to develop in diverse directions. I agree with Küng and the parliament in their efforts to help the world religions come to support an ethic that will address today’s global realities in positive ways. But showing why the traditions should be interpreted in a way that supports such an ethic requires more than showing that diverse traditions all contain versions of the Golden Rule. It requires theological exploration of how the distinctive and potentially divisive elements of each tradition relate to the proposed global ethic.

The development of a global ethic is indeed possible. But careful reflection on the relation between the religiously distinctive elements of the major traditions and the proposed global ethic is needed.

For example, how does the Jewish conviction that God made a special covenant with the people of Israel relate to the universality of a proposed global ethic? Or what does the Christian belief that Jesus Christ is Lord of the universe imply about Christian attitudes to non-Christians? Or what does the Muslim belief that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s final and definitive prophet imply about those who have not proclaimed the Shahada and given testimony to their surrender to Allah?

In my view, the development of a global ethic is indeed possible. But careful reflection on the relation between the religiously distinctive elements of the major traditions and the proposed global ethic is needed. This is a properly theological task. That Küng recognized this is evident from the fact that after proposing a global ethic based on the Golden Rule, he undertook book-length studies of Judaism, of Islam, and of the relation of Christianity to other world religions. These books make a start on the kind of theological analysis we need. But if we are to move forward, we need a lot more study of these theological issues and much more reflection on how to pursue a global ethic in practical ways.

About the Author

Hans Küng, Religion, and a Global Ethic (1)

(Video) Global Ethic in 2 minutes

David Hollenbach

Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J., is the Pedro Arrupe Distinguished Research Professor in the Walsh School of Foreign Service, a senior fellow at the Berkley Center, and an affiliated professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Georgetown University. His teaching and research deal with human rights, religious and ethical responses to humanitarian crises, and religion in political life from the standpoint of Catholic social thought, theology, and the social sciences. His books include Humanity in Crisis: Ethical and Religious Response to Refugees (2019), Driven from Home: Protecting the Rights of Forced Migrants (2010) The Global Face of Public Faith: Politics, Human Rights, and Christian Ethics (2003), and The Common Good and Christian Ethics (2002). He has taught often at Hekima University College in Nairobi, Kenya, and he collaborates with Jesuit Refugee Service. From 2020 to 2022 he is a distinguished research associate with the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Hollenbach is also a research associate with the Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection in Zambia.

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FAQs

What is the global ethic? ›

The term GLOBAL ETHIC refers to a set of common moral values and ethical standards which are shared by the different faiths and cultures on Earth. These common moral values and ethical standards constitute a humane ethic, or, the ethic of humanity.

What are the values of global ethics? ›

The Manifesto for a Global Economic Ethic is based on four such values, shared by the major world religions: these are commitments to non-violence and reverence for life; to fairness and a just economic order; to truthfulness and tolerance; and to partnership and equal rights for men and women.

What does globalization of religion imply? ›

In this context, the globalization of religion can be understood as a process of realignment in this global religious situation, a process which involves the following three facets: First, it implies the inevitable transformation of individual religious organizations; second, it can be expected that new characteristics ...

What are the global ethics issues? ›

Issues addressed in global ethics include the “war on terror”, rogue states, child labour, torture, scarce resources, trafficking, migration, climate change, global trade, medical tourism, global pandemics, humanitarian intervention and so on; the list goes on and on.

Is Global Ethics possible? ›

Although science and technology have defined theories for humankind, science is not likely to create consensus on global ethics. Instead, modern science offers greater and greater economic and technological problems, com- bined with increasingly complex political and moral challenges.

Which of the following is true of the concept of global ethics? ›

Which of the following is true of the concept of global ethics? The correct answer is: It is a highly complex subject. How can an organization move its ethical commitment to a global scale successfully? The correct answer is: By creating an ethical standard that respects the local customs of the other countries.

What is the connection between culture and ethics? ›

Generally, culture describes a shared way of doing things. Culture also reflects the moral and ethical standards of how people should interact with each other. While ethics characterizes moral principles that guide individuals in determining right and wrong.

What are the eight global values? ›

  • Consistency with values. ...
  • Integration with strategy. ...
  • Customization to key risks. ...
  • Connection to citizenship. ...
  • Global and local relevance. ...
  • Educational. ...
  • Feedback friendly. ...
  • Subject to continual improvement.

What is the relationship of religion and globalization? ›

In short, globalization allows for religions previously isolated from one another to now have regular and unavoidable contact. As a result, globalization brings to the light the fact that since religions have similar values, not one of them is “correct” and, therefore, can be changed.

What are the effects of globalization in religion? ›

The basic tenets of globalisation stand against religious parochialism. By diminishing the barriers between different cultures, globalisation lands religion in a quagmire of conflicts which reinforce social identities as some do not accept the new realities and turn to religion to rediscover their own identity.

What is the relationship between religion and global conflict? ›

Religious communities also directly oppose repression and promote peace and reconciliation. Religious leaders and institutions can mediate in conflict situations, serve as a communication link between opposing sides, and provide training in peacemaking methodologies.

What is the role of religion in ethics? ›

The relationship between religion and ethics is about the relationship between revelation and reason. Religion is based in some measure on the idea that God (or some deity) reveals insights about life and its true meaning. These insights are collected in texts (the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, etc.)

What is the biggest ethical issue in the world today? ›

Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace

Harassment and discrimination are arguably the largest ethical issues that impact business owners today. Should harassment or discrimination take place in the workplace, the result could be catastrophic for your organization both financially and reputationally.

What are the moral challenges of globalization in ethics? ›

The moral challenge of globalization demands a fundamental change in values, focusing on human security, democracy, and economic justice. By thinking globally and acting collectively, each of us must contribute to building a more compassionate, humane, and peaceful world.

What are the two approaches of ethics? ›

The common good approach suggests that ethical actions are those that benefit all members of the community. The virtue approach describes an assumption that there are higher orders of goodness to which man should aspire, and that only moral actions will help us achieve that higher level.

What are the two level approach to globalized ethics? ›

Let us consider this in regard to two approaches to global ethics: first, the acceptance of some first order normative theory, second, the idea of a set of norms and values widely accepted from a variety of theoretical sources.

Is there a global standard basis of morality? ›

The same action may be morally right in one society but be morally wrong in another. For the ethical relativist, there are no universal moral standards -- standards that can be universally applied to all peoples at all times. The only moral standards against which a society's practices can be judged are its own.

What are the 3 types of ethics? ›

Ethics is traditionally subdivided into normative ethics, metaethics, and applied ethics.

Why is ethics so important? ›

Ethics is what guides us to tell the truth, keep our promises, or help someone in need. There is a framework of ethics underlying our lives on a daily basis, helping us make decisions that create positive impacts and steering us away from unjust outcomes.

What is ethics in simple words? ›

At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles. They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives. Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society and is also described as moral philosophy.

Why is ethics important in culture? ›

The culture of a company influences the moral judgment of employees and stakeholders. Companies that work to create a strong ethical culture motivate everyone to speak and act with honesty and integrity. Companies that portray strong ethics attract customers to their products and services.

What is difference between culture and ethics? ›

Ethics is the intent to observe the spirit of the law. Compliance in the context of governance refers to obeying the law, while culture refers to the religious practises followed by an enterprise complying with the law.

Can ethics be independent of culture? ›

development of individuals' perceptions of ethics cannot be considered independently of the culture to which they belong.

Why are global values important? ›

Values are part of the social capital of a nation. They play a pivotal role in shaping the decisions and behaviors of citizens and hence are a key determinant of social cohesion and the ability of a society to advance its socio-economic development inclusively.

What is meant by global values? ›

Global values are used to compute various summary statistics for specified fields. These summary values can be accessed anywhere within the stream. Global values are similar to stream parameters in that they are accessed by name through the stream.

What value is the in being a global citizen? ›

Global citizens try to understand other people and have empathy for them. Global citizens act fairly in their choices, their decisions, and their words. Global citizens believe that they are just as important as everyone else. Global citizens believe that all people are equal.

What are global ethics in business? ›

Global business ethics has both empirical and normative aspects. From an empirical point of view it is an investigation of the actual ethical practices of profit oriented businesses engaged in buying and selling goods and services in the world economy. The normative point of view has two subdivisions.

What is Global Ethics Upsc? ›

Global ethics concerns ethical questions and dilemmas, whether for individuals or societies, that arise in view of economic, technological, legal, political, social, and cultural globalization.

Which of the following is true of the concept of global ethics? ›

Which of the following is true of the concept of global ethics? The correct answer is: It is a highly complex subject. How can an organization move its ethical commitment to a global scale successfully? The correct answer is: By creating an ethical standard that respects the local customs of the other countries.

Why is ethics important in global business? ›

Business ethics enhances the law by outlining acceptable behaviors beyond government control. Corporations establish business ethics to promote integrity among their employees and gain trust from key stakeholders, such as investors and consumers.

Does culture makes a great impact on global business ethics? ›

Culture impacts how local values influence the concept of global business ethics. Each professional is influenced by the values, social programming, and experiences he or she has absorbed since childhood. These collective factors impact how a person perceives an issue and the related correct or incorrect behavior.

What are the 5 most important ethical issues in international business? ›

International Business Ethics: Changes and Challenges

The rise of globalization since World War II has created moral dilemmas for businesses in five specific areas: labor standards, environmental standards, human rights, cultural diversity, and corruption.

What are the 7 business ethics? ›

There are seven principles of business ethics including accountability, care and respect, honesty, healthy competition, loyalty, transparency, and respect for the rule of law.

What are the eight global values? ›

  • Consistency with values. ...
  • Integration with strategy. ...
  • Customization to key risks. ...
  • Connection to citizenship. ...
  • Global and local relevance. ...
  • Educational. ...
  • Feedback friendly. ...
  • Subject to continual improvement.

What is the connection between culture and ethics? ›

Generally, culture describes a shared way of doing things. Culture also reflects the moral and ethical standards of how people should interact with each other. While ethics characterizes moral principles that guide individuals in determining right and wrong.

Why is ethics important in international relations? ›

The common ethical approach of any kind of nation, regardless of their beliefs and history, will be to deal with true evil when they see it. Thus, the most important role ethics may play in foreign affairs is for leaders to come together and put differences aside when lives are at stake.

What are the 3 types of ethics? ›

Ethics is traditionally subdivided into normative ethics, metaethics, and applied ethics.

Why is ethics so important? ›

Ethics is what guides us to tell the truth, keep our promises, or help someone in need. There is a framework of ethics underlying our lives on a daily basis, helping us make decisions that create positive impacts and steering us away from unjust outcomes.

What is ethics in simple words? ›

At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles. They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives. Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society and is also described as moral philosophy.

How can businesses improve global ethics? ›

To help you address differences in international business ethics, here are six things each business owner needs to know for doing business in a global economy:
  1. Know the laws. ...
  2. Pledge to follow international business guidelines. ...
  3. Develop a unified strategy. ...
  4. Communicate clearly and understand the differences.
30 Oct 2012

What is the role of culture in ethics? ›

The most generally accepted concept is that culture is a key determinant of an individual's ethical ideology, which affects an individual's inclination to behave ethically. In other words, culture acts as a guideline in determining whether certain practices are appropriate and acceptable.

Is globalization ethically good? ›

Therefore, globalization is good for individuals as it empowers them economically but bad for humanity, based on ethical considerations and corporate social responsibility.

Videos

1. Hans Kung’s Efforts Toward a World Religion
(EndtimeInc)
2. Seminary of the Third Age 2022 - 5 May - Mario Trinidad - Hans Kung and the Global Ethics Movement
(Effective Living Centre)
3. Hans Küng
(Wiki4All)
4. Dr. Hans Kung's "The Catholic Church: A Short History," 1ff.
(Donald Veitch)
5. Hans Kung
(Eureka Street)
6. The Fifth Directive: Commitment to a Culture of Sustainability and Care for the Earth
(Parliament of the World's Religions)

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