Ethics of Reciprocity (a.k.a."Golden Rule")
Exceptions to the Golden Rule
Religious groups from Asatru to Zoroastrianism as
well as non-theistic ethical and philosophic systems, like Humanism
and Ethical Culture, differ greatly
in their concepts of deity,
other beliefs, and practices. However, all of the major world religions and
philosophic systems have an Ethic of Reciprocity. In
Christianity and Judaism, this is called "The Golden Rule." It is often expressed as "Do onto others as you
would wish them do onto you."
However, the Ethic of Reciprocity is not universal. In some cases it is
Religions with a very different version of an "Ethic of Reciprocity:"
We have found two very different, unrelated religions which have one common
feature: their rules of behavior are very different than the Ethics
of Reciprocity taught by major world religions. They do not teach that one
should treat others as one would wish to be treated.
When the Golden Rule does not necessarily apply:
Any rule must be applied carefully, and with full knowledge of the likely
consequences. Many of the "golden rules" imply that there is some absolute
and universal standard to what is beneficial and what is harmful. Consider a
comment by George Bernard Shaw in 1903:
"Do not do unto others as you
would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same."
Author and freethinker Ali Sina comments:
"A much more accurate definition of the Golden Rule is: Treat others with
the same consideration and respect that you wish to be treated. It does not
mean do to others exactly what you like to be done to you. For example, if
you like peanut butter, it does not mean you should feed it to someone who
is allergic to it, which can kill him. It does not mean you should take your
wife who likes concerts, to a basketball game because you like basketball or
invite your Hindu friend to a barbeque because you are a meat lover when you
know he is vegetarian." 4
A lot of harm has been done historically, in the name of helping other people. Some
||Many individuals involved in the torture and murder of Witches
during the late Middle
Ages and Renaissance felt that their mission was to help the Witches, and
to defend the rest of society. The
Witches were tortured until they gave the interrogators what they
wanted: a confession in which they renounced their beliefs. They were
then executed before they
recanted. The church felt that they might then attain Heaven. If they
retained their beliefs in Witchcraft, it was believed that they would
inevitably be sent to Hell for endless
torture. Thus, any amount of torture was justified. It only lasted a few
days and saved the Witch from an eternity of similar treatment in Hell.
In past centuries Christian missionaries, both Protestant and
Catholic, invested enormous effort to convert North America's Native
population to Christianity. The missionaries generally discounted Native
Spirituality as worthless. Many thought that unless a person accepts
their European version of Christianity, they would spend eternity in Hell. But
the results were not as anticipated. Some suicidologists believe that the extremely high suicide rate among native people in
North America is a direct result of the destruction of their aboriginal faith and other
aspects of their society by Christian groups.
Welfare and other social programs that were originally designed to help the poor, can sometimes backfire
and entrap the very people they intended to help into a lifetime of
dependency that extends to involve their children.
||Many states have passed laws that require teen age women to
their parents or obtain permission from their parents before they are
allowed to have an abortion. The legislators reasoned that when a young
woman is pregnant, that she needs all the support that her family can
give her. But many teens try to circumvent these laws. They may be
afraid of the family disturbance that the news might cause; they may
fear physical abuse; they may be concerned about the effect that the
news might have on a parent who is in fragile health. For whatever
reason, many seek illegal abortions. A few die from infection.
Before applying the Golden Rule, we should take care that we are really helping people,
and not harming them. This often requires more wisdom than is readily available.
Passages in Holy Books that violate the Ethic of Reciprocity:
Unfortunately, many religious texts contain other passages that
contradict their own Ethics of Reciprocity. Most often, these texts
expect believers to treat other believers with kindness and decency. But Holy Books do not necessarily extend this treatment to believers in other
The Christian Bible: It contains a few passages which discuss religious tolerance.
However, it contains many more sections that violate the Ethic of Reciprocity by promoting:
The Qura'n: Although it contains many passages which
teach Muslims to treat non-Muslims with dignity, it also has content that
instructs Muslims to kill non-Muslims under certain circumstances wherever they are found. Ali Sina is a
freethinker and author of an essay "The Golden
Rule and Islam. He concludes that the anti-Golden Rule passages outweigh
the positive ones in the Qur'an.
- A.S. LaVey, "The Nine Satanic Statements," in The Satanic Bible, Avon Books (1969), Page 25.
Anton Szandor LaVey, "The Nine Satanic Sins," 1987, at: http://www.churchofsatan.com
Rev. Matt Hale, "The World to Come," The Struggle, Issue XXVIII. Online at: http://www.creator.org
Ali Sina, "The Golden Rule and Islam," FaithFreedom.org, 2005-APR-28, at:
Copyright ©1995 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2015-JUN-09
Author: B.A. Robinson
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