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Do Unto Others? A Look at The Golden Rule

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“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” said Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. The Jewish Talmud, in Shabbat 31a, says, “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man.” Muslim Prophet Muhammad said, “That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind.” Siddartha Gautama (Buddha) was recorded in the Udana-Varga as saying, “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Is this starting to sound a bit redundant?

Every major religious tradition (and most minor ones) has its own version of the Ethic of Reciprocity, or Golden Rule. Hinduism, Taoism, Sufism, Sikhism, pagan traditions, even Scientology share this universal rule. Of course, the Golden Rule is not strictly religious. Humanism echoes the rule in the Humanist Manifesto, as do philosophers Kant, Plato, and Socrates.

If ever there were a universal law that applies to people of every nation, religion, creed, and persuasion, The Golden Rule would have to be it. But is it really universal? No, of course not. Like any rule, there are always exceptions. There are always flaws. There are always multiple interpretations. The Golden Rule, as commonly accepted as it is, has two main problems:

1. What the “other” actually means is not explicit.
2. It simply does not always apply.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” But who exactly are the “others?” This is the first flaw of the Golden Rule. Does it apply only to family and friends? Some apply it that way. Does it only apply to those who share the same religious beliefs, ethnic heritage, racial background, or social status? Many apply it this way. Apparently it’s extremely difficult for people to extend the “others” beyond people similar to themselves. Pick up a newspaper and it becomes pretty apparent. Or better yet, pick up your favorite holy book.

In the Bible you’ll find accounts of entire tribes being wiped out, the killing of people of pagan religions, and executions of homosexuals. You’ll also find slavery and inequality applied to women. The Qur’an promotes equal treatment of non-Muslims in some sections, but in others it promotes killing non-Muslims.

The second problem with the Golden Rule is that it does not always apply. People are different. What is beneficial to one may not be beneficial to others. Think of a person preparing his favorite steak recipe for a vegetarian, a Christian imposing her views on a devout Muslim, or a nation imposing its way of life on another nation.

Many people follow the Golden Rule to a certain extent, but usually live their lives by another rule: “Do unto others as they do unto you.” If someone is kind to you, you are kind in return. If they treat you with disrespect, you disrespect them. What is interesting about this other rule is that it just happens to be one of the main teachings of Church of Satan founder, Anton LaVey. This reactionary version of the Golden Rule is perhaps more realistic than the traditional version, but obviously not ideal.

A much more accurate version of the Golden Rule might be something like, “Do the right thing.” Bam! Plain and simple. If it’s good enough for Spike Lee, it’s good enough for humankind.

It’s not as if we need a new Golden Rule. Simply adopting a new universal Golden Rule would not bring about worldwide utopia. But seriously, it should be considered. “Do the right thing” doesn’t impose one’s tastes or views on another like the traditional rule does. There is no ambiguous “other” to have to interpret.

Of course, there is that pesky phrase: “right thing.” What is the right thing? What is right for one isn’t necessarily right for the other. Bah! Scratch that.

“Respect.” There it is. That’s the new Golden Rule. It’s all about respect.

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About Todd Hebert

  • bob dobbs

    Nope, L Ron Hubbard said,
    [quote]ENEMY SP Order. Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by
    any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the
    Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.

    Copyright (c) 1967 Founder
    by L. Ron Hubbard

    An “enemy” is anyone who dares criticize Scientology, does’nt sound like the golden rule to me.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Well,I’m not for any particular religion nor am I religious but Scientology is just a fucked up cult.
    I’m pretty sure their teachings recently killed a child…

  • bliffle

    Scientology? Does anyone still believe that stuff?

    It’s a parody of religion invented by a science-fiction writer. A bad science-fiction writer.

  • Max

    The Platinum Rule is:

    Treat others the way they WANT to be treated.

  • The Platinum rule is flawed too. What if the way they WANT to be treated is unfair or harmful to others.

  • Max

    Can you give an example of that?

    Also, there is a rule after Platinum, where you treat people the way they didn’t know they wanted, but this requires some assumption on the part of the 1st person, so it is flawed as well…

  • Today, certain critics of a certain religion were angered to learn their protests are forbidden by law. More specifically, when protesting, they are not allowed to stand on the protestee’s property. In the lastest twist of fate, they can not even block egress to it by blocking the public sidewalk it sits on! The media, of course, hoping to create yet more anger, publicized the “50 foot rule”.

  • bob dobbs

    Terryeo, as a Scientologist, can’t refute what I’ve said so he brings up an irrelevancy. This is not a personal attack, Scientologists are trained
    to “always attack,never defend” in the words of
    L Ron Hubbard. I could find more cited quotations
    form Hubbard to prove my point.