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United Religions Initiative: Promoting a Politically Correct Global Ethic

by Lee Penn


This article describes and criticizes the "global ethic" proposed by Hans Küng, and supported by the United Religions Initiative(URI). It criticizes the "Declaration of Human Responsibilities" - a document that the URI appears to endorse in its draft charter and also shows that the URI, its leaders, and its supporters favor population control methods that are unacceptable to Catholics and other orthodox Christians.

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False Dawn, Real Darkness

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Journal of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, May 1999

A New Religion calls for a New Ethic, and Bishop Swing sees Hans Küng's document, "Toward a Global Ethic," as a basis for a new ethic that will be sponsored by "all religions and spiritual movements." (791) The New Ethic will be defined after the United Religions is launched, because, as Bishop Swing says,

"If a universal Declaration of a Global Ethos is brought forth without the underpinnings of an enduring global institution, it will lack gravity and binding power. A Declaration is derivative. Its creation and its continuance must rest on an abiding, global institution and on global acceptance." (792)

"An abiding, global institution" and "global acceptance" --- in the future, there would be no escape from the New Religion and the New Ethic.

Küng's "Declaration Toward A Global Ethic" was signed by most of the delegates to the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions. (793) This ethic affirms that "an authentically human attitude" must be based on the Golden Rule --- stated positively as, "What you wish done to yourself, do to others!" (794) Much of this document is an extended discussion of themes taken from the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. However, there is also open-ended rhetoric that could easily be used to define politically correct, collectivist liberalism as the only "authentically human" alternative:

"Self-determination and self-realization are thoroughly legitimate -- so long as they are not separated from human self-responsibility and global-responsibility, from responsibility for fellow humans and nature. Every form of egoism, however, every self-seeking, whether individual or collective, whether in the form of class thinking, racism, nationalism, or sexism, is to be rejected. For these prevent humans from being authentically human." (795)

This denunciation of "every form of egoism" appears not to include those who claim that they can write a new, universal global ethic. Küng continues:

"No humans have the right to rob or dispossess -- in any manner -- other humans or the commonweal. Conversely, no humans have the right to use their possessions without concern for the needs of society." (796)

"There exist in the world today endless lies and deceit, swindling and hypocrisy, ideology and demagoguery: ... [including] ... representatives of religions who dismiss members of other religions as of little value and who preach fanaticism and intolerance instead of respect, understanding, and tolerance." (797)

"All over the world there are condemnable forms of patriarchy, of domination of one sex over another, of exploitation of women, of sexual misuse of children..." (798)

"We are convinced that the new global order will be a better one only in a socially-beneficial and pluralist, partner-sharing and peace-fostering, nature-friendly and ecumenical globe." (799)

With this type of language, the makers of the new ethic leave themselves much flexibility. They are not bound by any particular religion's scripture or tradition, nor are they bound by the legal precedents and protections which Americans (and other nations with a tradition of limited, constitutional government) have taken for granted.

The ambiguous language in the proposed "Global Ethic" leaves much room for radical social reformers to impose their agenda in the future. Based on the way that special interest groups and activist lawyers have interpreted similar legal language in the past, a wide array of questions arises. Does use of "possessions without concern for the needs of society" mean opposition to tax increases or resisting Government confiscation of private property? Who gets to define "racism"? Does this include opposition to policies of open immigration or racial quotas? Does racism include support for Zionism (which the UN General Assembly declared in 1975 to be "a form of racism")? Is patriotism, or the desire for national sovereignty, included under the ban on "nationalism"? Do the condemnations of "sexism" and "patriarchy" mean that traditional Christians must accept women priests? Who defines the "needs of society" regarding use of property and income -- the property owners or the rule-makers, the taxpayers or the tax gatherers?

Is Christian evangelism to be ended because it is an example of "fanaticism and intolerance"? Hans Küng, an author of the proposed "Declaration," has denounced John Paul II's call for the re-evangelization of Europe, and also has denounced traditional forms of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam as "regressive or repressive." (800) Therefore, if this proposed "Declaration" is interpreted in the light of the views of its author, then evangelism must indeed end.

Küng's proposed Global Ethic, like the URI draft Charter, professes respect for "all life":

"The dominance of humanity over nature and the cosmos is not to be propagated, but rather living in harmony with nature and the cosmos is to be cultivated. We speak for a respect for life, for all life." (801)

There is one exception to "respect for life"; as Küng said:

"Such a Declaration must be CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A CONSENSUS. Hence, statements must be avoided which a priori would be rejected by one of the great religions, and as a consequence disputed moral questions (like abortion or euthanasia) had to be excluded." (802)

In the "new civilization," the abortionists and the suicide doctors will continue their deadly trade unhindered.

With the Global Ethic would come the new Earth Charter. Its underlying philosophy is that "The protection of the Biosphere, as the Common Interest of Humanity, must not be subservient to the rules of state sovereignty, demands of the free market or individual rights." (803) Need we say more?

A Christian reply to attempts to create a "Global Ethic"

In Mit Brennender Sorge, his 1937 encyclical against Nazism, Pope Pius XI warned that a New Morality without a basis on Christian faith couldn't succeed:

"It is on faith in God, preserved pure and stainless, that man's morality is based. All efforts to remove from under morality and the moral order the granite foundation of faith and to substitute for it the shifting sands of human regulations, sooner or later lead these individuals or societies to moral degradation. The fool who has said in his heart 'there is no God' goes straight to moral corruption (Psalms xiii. 1), and the number of these fools who today are out to sever morality from religion, is legion. They either do not see or refuse to see that the banishment of confessional Christianity, i.e., the clear and precise notion of Christianity, from teaching and education, from the organization of social and political life, spells spiritual spoliation and degradation. No coercive power of the State, no purely human ideal, however noble and lofty it be, will ever be able to make shift of the supreme and decisive impulses generated by faith in God and Christ. If the man, who is called to the hard sacrifice of his own ego to the common good, loses the support of the eternal and the divine, that comforting and consoling faith in a God who rewards all good and punishes all evil, then the result of the majority will be, not the acceptance, but the refusal of their duty." (804)

The population control agenda

URI support for population control

The fourth problem is that URI leaders consider overpopulation to be a grave threat, and are willing to allow almost any means of population control. Bishop Swing sets the tone. During his global pilgrimage in 1996, he cited Pakistan as an example of overpopulation, saying, "Now the world is drowning in people. You can see it plainly. Pakistan is only the size of Texas, and yet it is the 8th most populated country in the world. ... All through the middle of the earth, we are drowning in people. Ironically, the water shortage will tell us when the flood has begun. The great miracle of birth is, by sheer magnitude of numbers, reversing the Noah story." (805) At the 1997 diocesan convention, Bishop Swing likened "the insane expansion of population" to exponential growth of algae in a lake. (806) In his 1998 book, Bishop Swing asks, "Will the population problems of this earth ever be solved without the best wisdom, strength, and actions of religions working together?" (807)

Prominent URI supporters agree with Bishop Swing's opposition to population growth. Robert Muller suggests a UN Marriage Certificate for the new millennium; one requirement would be that the couple agrees to have only one or two children. (808) Indeed, a world government should define how many people each nation can support, and set policies accordingly -- with special attention to "developing countries with a high rate of population growth":

"In developing countries with a high rate of population growth the United Nations, the rich countries and the local countries should give 'small number of children's allowances' which would be stopped after a given small number of children. The parents would be incited to look for or be given means of controlling the result of their lovemaking. The UN should also consider population policies according to countries and regions that would be based on bio-regional considerations, namely, what can each country or region take in numbers of population? A proper Earth government would certainly have to raise such questions." (809)

Barbara Marx Hubbard wrote, "The vast effort of humanity to 'be fruitful and multiply' would have to be curtailed in our generation. One more doubling of the world population will destroy our life support system. Our Mother will not support us if we continue to grow in numbers!" (810) In a 1997 speech before a UN forum, Bishop James Ottley, who was then the Anglican Observer at the UN, listed human population growth as the first of seven "very severe consequences" of "breach of the communion among human beings with God and all of creation." (811) (The other evils included such things as pollution of the oceans, extinction of species, and weapons of mass destruction.) Matthew Fox has said, "Obviously, excessive human population is a grave danger -- and an issue of morality and immorality in our time. Again, it's one of the reasons I joined the Episcopal church, because of its open-minded and pragmatic view of birth control." (812)

A grave danger, a disaster like the Flood, rampant lake algae, and a threat comparable to weapons of mass destruction -- what perverse and misanthropic ways to view the growth in numbers of humans, who are made in the image of God!

On this issue -- as on so many others -- liberal Episcopalians are following a path broken 50 years ago by Theosophists. Alice Bailey, the Theosophist whose ideas have influenced Robert Muller, Neale Donald Walsch, and Barbara Marx Hubbard, wrote in the 1940s about the perils of overpopulation and the coming use of eugenics and birth control:

"One of the tasks of the educator of the future will be to teach the meaning of the Law of Rebirth, and thus bring about such a profound change in the racial attitude to life and sex, to birth and parenthood, that sex rhythm, cyclic experience, psychological preparation and directed, controlled body-building may go forward and supersede the present methods, which are based upon an uncontrolled response to the sex urge and desire, and the unthinking procreation of children. The vast population of the world today is the result of an animal response to these [sexual] urges and of the general promiscuity, which is perhaps the outstanding factor, esoterically speaking and from the standpoint of the Hierarchy, of the present world distress, economic difficulties, and national aggressions." (813)

1. "The emphasis in the future will shift from the urge to produce large families to that of producing quality and intelligence in the offspring. This will include that science of which eugenics is the distorted and exoteric indication. ... 2. The need of an increasing birthrate will be eventually be regarded as erroneous, and this for three reasons which it would profit you to study: a) Many souls are rapidly achieving perfection and passing away altogether from our planetary life. This process will be intensified during the coming Aquarian Age. ... b) The economic situation will make it necessary that certain physical restrictions should be imposed, because it is now evident that beyond a certain point the planet cannot support humanity. ... As the intelligence of the race is developed (and that is going on apace), as the Laws of Rhythm and Approach are grasped, it will then be found that there are certain innate reactions which will negate conception, and that then the mechanical means will no longer be required. ... c) The widespread promiscuity of the sexes, and the rule in many countries which entitles a man to possess many wives (which is an insult to the woman) will eventually and inevitably cease. ... War has consequently been the inevitable result of this undue and unlimited propagation of the human species. This lack of sexual control has brought into the world thousands of unwanted children whose appearance is solely the result of accidental and uncontrolled sexual relations, and in no way indicates the planned intention of the parents -- planned because intended to offer experience to incarnating souls ... 3. The science of eugenics and of sex hygiene and the development of mentally controlled relationships will steadily grow. ... The real change in human consciousness which is needed will appear only as the race itself is brought under a rhythmic law -- under which, for instance, the animal lives function, or the seasonal law under which forms in the vegetable kingdom operate -- thus transferring the whole concept on to a higher turn of the evolutionary spiral." (814)

Bailey wrote these statements about overpopulation before her death in 1949, a time when the world population was far lower than it is now.

When asked about the URI approach to population issues, URI staff member Paul Andrews said in 1997 that, "The fact of human population growth is one of the great problems that we confront;" the URI does not take a position on abortion, artificial contraception, or on China's "one-child" policy. (815) The URI Charter avows solidarity with "all living beings" and opposes violence against children; plainly, this concern does not include the least among us, babies in the wombs of their mothers.

Population control: a popular cause among the rich

In promoting population control, the URI has elite company. The Packard Foundation recently announced a $333 million gift to "international projects in support of contraceptives, abortion clinics, 'safe sex' campaigns, and other efforts to reduce family sizes around the world." (816) This year, Bill Gates announced a $1.7 million grant to the U. N. Population Fund (UNFPA); in 1998, he gave $2.25 million to found an institute for training family planners. (817) Other major donors for the UNFPA include the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Bank. (818) At the February 1999 meeting of the UNFPA at The Hague, Hillary Clinton expressed the hope that "by the year 2015, access to reproductive health and family planning services and information will be available to all." (819) At this same meeting, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration boasted that since 1994, U.S. foundations "have more than doubled their contributions" to "reproductive health and population programmes" (820)

The Pope's reply to "the powerful of the earth"

The Bishop of Rome has made a definitive reply to the Bishop of California, the URI, and wealthy proponents of population control. In his encyclical letter The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II says,

"The Pharaoh of old, haunted by the presence and increase of the children of Israel, submitted them to every kind of oppression and ordered that every male child born of the Hebrew women was to be killed (cf. Ex. 1:7-22). Today not a few of the powerful of the earth act in the same way. They too are haunted by the current demographic growth, and fear that the most prolific and poorest peoples represent a threat for the well-being and peace of their own countries. Consequently, rather than wishing to face and solve these serious problems with respect for the dignity of individuals and families and for every person's inviolable right to life, they prefer to promote and impose by whatever means a massive programme of birth control. Even the economic help which they would be ready to give is unjustly made conditional on the acceptance of an anti-birth policy." (821)

It is "morally unacceptable to encourage, let alone impose, the use of methods such as contraception, sterilization and abortion in order to regulate births." (822)


The Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities

The "Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities" is a proposed UN resolution (1025) that restates and summarizes Hans Küng's "Global Ethic" statement.(1026) The Declaration's Preamble says:

"Whereas the aspirations for progress and improvement of the human race on planet earth cannot be safeguarded without a minimal fundamental consensus concerning binding values, irrevocable standards, and fundamental ethical attitudes which apply to all human beings and institutions ... Consciousness of these responsibilities of individuals and institutions are to be founded [sic] by education and teaching as well as strengthened and promoted by progressive measures, national and international." (1027)

The substantive clauses of the Declaration combine clear re-affirmation of traditional morals, human dignity, and human rights with Orwellian loopholes:

"All human beings should oppose all forms of inhumanity, especially fanaticism, hate, and social exclusion, and work for greater humaneness. ... Do good and avoid evil. ... Every human being is always to be treated as an end, never as a mere means. ... No one, except in the case of self-defense, has the right to injure or to kill. ... No one has the right to rob or dispossess in any way any person, group of persons, or the commonweal. ... Wherever rulers oppress the ruled, institutions threaten persons, or might oppresses right, human beings have not only the right but also the responsibility to resist -- whenever possible nonviolently. No one should speak lies. ... Religious persons, and especially religious leaders, whose religious freedom is guaranteed, ought to avoid prejudice, fanaticism, and hatred towards those of different belief ... As a life-affirming shaper of community, sexuality can be effective only when partners accept the responsibility of caring for one another's happiness." (1028)

The definitions are the issue: is religious orthodoxy or evangelism "fanaticism"? Is opposition to socialist laws a form of robbing the "commonweal"? The statement that "partners" must "accept the responsibility of caring for one another's happiness" for sexuality to "be effective" is not the same as what Jews and Christians have traditionally said about the linkage between sex and marriage. Then, there's the kicker, the final clause of the Declaration, a loophole big enough to drive a UN or NATO tank through:

"Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any state, group, or person the right to engage in any activity aimed at the destruction of any of the rights, freedoms or responsibilities set forth in the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights or subsequent UN documents." (1029)

Thus, as an example, if "subsequent UN documents" uphold "reproductive rights" -- a legal right to abortion and use of artificial contraception -- it would be a violation of the "Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities" to advocate the teachings of the Catholic Church, which opposes these practices.

Does mankind need such new ethics? Not according to Mikhail Gorbachev. In an interview with an environmentalist magazine, Gorbachev said, "I don't think that we need any new values. The most important thing is to try to revive the universally known values from which we have retreated." (1030)


NOTE: Internet document citations are based on research done between September 1997 and August 1999. Web citations are accurate as of the time the Web page was printed, but some documents may have been moved to a different Web site since then, or they may have been removed entirely from the Web.

791 Bishop William Swing, The Coming United Religions, United Religions Initiative and CoNexus Press, 1998, ISBN 0-9637897-5-9; p. 27

792 Bishop William Swing, The Coming United Religions, United Religions Initiative and CoNexus Press, 1998, ISBN 0-9637897-5-9; p. 44

793 Hans Küng, "Explanatory Remarks Concerning a 'Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic'," Internet document,, p. 2

794 Hans Küng, "Explanatory Remarks Concerning a 'Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic'," Internet document,, p. 5

795 Hans Küng, "Explanatory Remarks Concerning a 'Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic'," Internet document,, p. 5

796 Hans Küng, "Explanatory Remarks Concerning a 'Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic'," Internet document,, p. 6

797 Hans Küng, "Explanatory Remarks Concerning a 'Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic'," Internet document,, p. 7

798 Hans Küng, "Explanatory Remarks Concerning a 'Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic'," Internet document,, p. 8

799 Hans Küng, "Explanatory Remarks Concerning a 'Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic'," Internet document,, p. 8

800 Hans Küng, Global Responsibility: In Search of a New World Ethic, Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, 1991; ISBN 0-8245-1102-6; p. 23

801 Hans Küng, "Explanatory Remarks Concerning a 'Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic'," Internet document,, p. 6

802 Hans Küng, "Explanatory Remarks Concerning a 'Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic'," Internet document,, p. 1

803 The Earth Charter Campaign, "The Earth Charter: The Green Cross Philosophy," Internet document,, p. 5

804 Pope Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge, (Encyclical on the Church and the German Reich), March 14, 1937, section 29

805 Bishop William Swing, "Journeying where the soul of this world was born," Pacific Church News, April/May 1996, p. 31

806 Bishop William Swing, "Excerpts: Bishop's Address [to the 1997 Diocesan convention]," Pacific Church News, December 1997/January 1998, p. 34

807 Bishop William Swing, The Coming United Religions, United Religions Initiative and CoNexus Press, 1998, ISBN 0-9637897-5-9; p. 71

808 Robert Muller, "2000 Ideas And Dreams for a Better World" - Idea 976, March 13, 1997, Internet document,

809 Robert Muller, "2000 Ideas And Dreams for a Better World" - Idea 1732, Internet document,

810 Barbara Marx Hubbard, The Revelation: A Message of Hope for the New Millennium, Nataraj Publishing, Novato, CA, 1995, ISBN 1-882591-21-6, p. 45

811 Bishop James Ottley, "Redeeming Creation," June 27, 1997; Internet document,, p. 1

812 Virginia Lee, "Science and Spirit: Conversations with Matthew Fox, Ph.D. & Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D.", Common Ground, Summer 1997, Internet version;, pp. 6-7

813 Alice A. Bailey, Education in the New Age, 1954, Lucis Publishing Company, New York, ISBN 0-85330-105-0, p. 138

814 Alice A. Bailey, Education in the New Age, 1954, Lucis Publishing Company, New York, ISBN 0-85330-105-0, pp. 133-136

815 Interviews by Lee Penn of Paul Andrews, URI staff member, October 7 and December 11, 1997

816 "The Coffee Bars Must Be Getting Crowded In Palo Alto & Seattle," Scan section, The American Enterprise, January-February 1999, Vol. 10, No. 1, p. 15

817 "The Coffee Bars Must Be Getting Crowded In Palo Alto & Seattle," Scan section, The American Enterprise, January-February 1999, Vol. 10, No. 1, p. 16

818 United Nations Population Fund, "Progress Report on UNFPA Support to Partners in Population and Development: Report of the Executive Director," July 10 , 1998, Internet document,, p. 2

819 United Nations Population Fund, "The ICPD + 5 Process: Hillary Clinton Affirms Support for International Reproductive Health Programs," February 9, 1999, Internet document,, p. 2

820 United Nations Population Fund, "Private Foundations Have Increased Support for Reproductive Health Programmes, Hague Forum Hears," Internet document (press release),, p. 1

821 Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, Times Books/Random House, 1995, ISBN 0-8129-2671-4; pp. 28-29

822 Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, Times Books/Random House, 1995, ISBN 0-8129-2671-4; p. 162


1025 "A UNESCO Plan for a Universal Declaration," draft "Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities," Internet document,

1026 Hans Küng, "Explanatory Remarks Concerning a 'Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic'," Internet document,

1027 "A UNESCO Plan for a Universal Declaration," draft "Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities," Internet document,, p. 2

1028 A UNESCO Plan for a Universal Declaration," draft "Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities," excerpts from Articles 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 12, 13, 16, and 18; Internet document,, pp. 3 - 5

1029 A UNESCO Plan for a Universal Declaration," draft "Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities," Article 22; Internet document,, p. 5

1030 Fred Matser, "Nature Is My God," an interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, Resurgence 184, Internet document,, p. 1

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This story is an extract from a book-length manuscript by Lee Penn titled False Dawn, Real Darkness: the Millennial Delusions of the United Religions and the New Age Movement. You may re-distribute this story by hard copy or electronically, and you may abridge or quote from this story - IF you give credit to Lee Penn as the author, and IF you include -- in the body or as a footnote -- the following statement:

"Excerpted from "The United Religions Initiative: Foundations for a World Religion" (Part 1), published in May 1999 by the Journal of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project. You may order the complete story from the Journal, or subscribe to the Journal, by calling (510) 540-0300, or by writing to the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, Post Office Box 4308, Berkeley, CA 94704, or by visiting the SCP web site,"

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