The Ethic of Reciprocity: a common factor in most moral codes:
differ greatly in their concepts of deity, morality, and in other beliefs and practices.
So do followers of non-theistic ethical and philosophic systems. But there has been a near
unanimity of opinion that each person has a responsibility to treat others as
she or he would wish to be treated. Almost all religious and ethical groups have
passages in their holy texts, or writings of their leaders, which promote
this Ethic of Reciprocity. The most commonly known version in North
America is the Golden Rule of Judeo-Christianity.
One result of the Ethic is the concept that every person shares certain
inherent human rights, simply because of their membership in the human race.
People are individually very different; they come in two main genders, all
sizes and shapes, many races, many levels of ability, and three sexual
orientations. They follow many religious and economic systems. But there is
a growing consensus that all humans should be considered equally important,
simply because they are human.
All should enjoy basic human rights. Some have included the access to potable water, food, health care, etc. as rights.
The United Nations Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is one manifestation of this growing
worldwide respect for human rights. 1,2
Religions that teach the existence of one or more Gods or Goddesses generally attribute their Ethic of
Reciprocity to their deity or deities, or to the accumulated tradition of
their faith group. Non-theistic religions and ethical systems generally base
their Ethic of Reciprocity on the teachings of their founder, or
derive them from rational
A sampling of reciprocity passages from religious texts or the writings of
| Christianity |
||"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Matthew 7:12
||"...and don't do what you hate...", Gospel of Thomas 6
The Gospel of Thomas is one of about 40 gospels that were widely
accepted among early Christians, but which never made it into the
Christian Scriptures (New Testament).
||"Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what
he loves for himself" Fourth Hadith of an-Nawawi 13
||"...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.", Leviticus
||What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the
law: all the rest is commentary." Talmud, Shabbat 31a
||A'in [i.e. as long as] it harm no one, do what thou wilt." The Wiccan Rede. 3
|Socrates: (Greek philosopher from the 5th century BCE) |
||"Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it
|Seneca: (Roman philosopher from the 1st century BCE) |
||"Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your superiors,"
|Humanism: Humanist Manifesto II,
Ethics section. (1973) |
||"...critical intelligence, infused by a sense of human caring, is
the best method that humanity has for resolving problems. Reason should
be balanced with compassion and empathy and the whole person fulfilled." 4
However, diversity exists even with the Ethic of Reciprocity. At least
believe that one should not extend kindness to all people. It should be given
only to those who deserve it, or only to
|Church of Satan: A.S. LaVey, founder of The Church of
Satan, The Nine Satanic Statements. |
||"4. Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of
love wasted on ingrates!"
||"5. Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other
| Creativity Movement,
formerly called the World Church of the
||"What is good for the
White Race is the highest virtue; what is bad for the White Race is the
So, there is no universal agreement on even the most fundamental aspect
of morality: how one should treat others.
More information and examples from many additional religions and philosophies are shown elsewhere on this website.
Related essays on this web site:
Copyright © 2001 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2001-SEP-9
Latest update: 2010-OCT-03
Author: B.A. Robinson
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