Opinion | The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule


© 2019 Vernon Miles Kerr, vernonmileskerr.com

Most of the world’s negative aspects (except the ones Nature deals us) are caused by lack of morality. Organized religion shouldn’t have a monopoly on teaching morality;  none of the world’s religions can even agree on an acceptable definition anyway.  The world of academia is no help.  Academics either ridicule the concept of prescribed morality or expound their own religion of “The Individual”, the self-aggrandizing-pitted-aginst-the-rest-of-the-world-Individual (with a capital “I”).

Would the ten commandments of the Tanakh, the Quran and the New Testament work as a universal moral code?  Most humans on Earth might agree to them,  if we could throw out the first four commandments, the ones declaring monotheism, prohibiting idol worship and specifying one day as the official day of worship; but given what remained, we would have a criminal code of three thou-shalt-nots and some practical exhortations about not coveting and being sure to honor one’s parents. The three thou-shalt-nots (prohibitions on murder, theft and adultery) are indeed the basis for some of the felonies defined in the world’s criminal codes.  But criminal codes need enforcement and effective enforcement is only possible when the vast majority of citizens voluntarily acquiesce.  In today’s crime-filled world we obviously don’t have enough acquiescence.  Forcing people to be good doesn’t work; it never has.  What would be the basis of a moral code which enjoyed universal agreement?  As a start, such a code would only need one commandment:  The Golden Rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated; or inversely, don’t treat others the way you would hate to be treated.

Think of the degree of peace we would have on this Earth, if everyone voluntarily followed The Golden Rule, treating everyone else the way they-themselves want to be treated. The size of police forces could be reduced, politics would be more fair—more honest, executives of corporations would be just as concerned for the customer as the are for profits, the lust for war would diminish or even go away.

Perhaps having one rule that covers everything is simplistic, naive, or too religious.  But the Golden Rule article from Wikipedia shows reference to the concept, sometimes called  “the maxim of reciprocity,” in almost every religious, ethical and philosophical tradition as far back as the Code of Hammurabi and Egypt’s Middle Kingdom—and as widely disbursed as ancient Persia, India, China, Greece, Rome and Arabia. Even in recent years,  the Wikipedia article points out, “…143 leaders of the world’s major faiths endorsed the Golden Rule as part of the 1993 ‘Declaration Toward a Global Ethic'”.

So, given such age-long and widely-occurring agreement, why don’t we have that utopian world of peace? Is it a case of too much talking-the-talk and not enough walking-the-walk?  Is it the old parental, “Do as I say, not as I do”?  Or is it the stigma of The Golden Rule being perceived as an impractical religious platitude with no bite, no prod to assure compliance?

I believe that it’s simply a matter of accepting this simple maxim into the world’s educational systems. Why should anyone object? When one looks at its history, it is not a religious concept.  Although respected by the world’s religions, “do unto others..” is supremely secular and practical. Once the taint of religiosity has been removed from it, we can look forward for parents to begin teaching the concept by example, and not just by word.

In conclusion, does your heart ache for a “fair country”, a “fair world”?  If most people followed The Golden Rule, we would have that.  Do you try to follow it? Do you cheat, occasionally? Your cheating belies your complete commitment to Peace on Earth.

5 thoughts on “Opinion | The Golden Rule

  1. And, oh, how the world would benefit, Vernon!
    Re. the Golden Rule: I love the way Jesus took Rabbi Hillel’s famous negative maxim, “do not to do others what is hateful to you,” and turned into a positive “do” commandment. This is reminiscent of the way in which he commanded his followers to push beyond mercy to grace.


    1. This comment slipped by me, Mitch. Thanks so much again for all your comments these past years. Yes, Jesus was all about making Judaism (and God) human-friendly again. Of course those in power, Pharisees and Sadducees labeled him a rebel and a corrupter of youth (not unlike Socrates was labeled by the establishment) Their parallel persistence got them both executed. I’m especially fond of “…the Sabbath was made for Man not Man for the Sabbath,” and “You tithe of mint and cumin and anise, but you ignore the weightier matters of the law.” I’ve often though of writing a secular study of Jesus’s life and teachings for the unchurched, sort of like “The Cognitive Dissonance of Abortion Rights” was. Thanks again. VMK


  2. I would love to hear what some of the readers think would remain, if the thesis of this article actually came about. What about people who, for pathological or psychological reasons, cannot feel empathy or regard for others? Would they be motivated to “gift” other people with the treatment they enjoy? Would a narcissist fit into this category? How about an obsessive seeker of wealth and/or power? What other exceptions can you think of, and how would a “Golden Rule Dominant” society deal with those exceptional individuals?


  3. This IS truly interesting. Much as I want you to stay away from large subjects, this one is worth reading and rereading. I will certainly read it again.

    My Thanksgiving was indeed wonderful. I wrote an account of the day before the event, which made my friend Betsy laugh out loud. If you want to see it I’ll send it to you.


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    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Coach. I’m pleased you liked it. and I would definitely like to read your account. But you never answered my Thanksgiving question, light meat or dark meat, or “a little of both” like in 1950. I’m assuming y’all didn’t have ham. 😉


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