The Golden Rule has been adhered to for thousands of years, and has been adopted by many religions and philosophies, and became widespread amongst philosophers of Ancient Greece, but like most ideologies, it’s been hijacked by Abrahamic faiths, and they believe they have the monopoly on ethics and morality. It’s origin is said to go as far back as Middle Kingdom Egyptian scholars; some 2000 years BCE. The most common version known to modern society is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” , and is promoted by modern Christianity as words of Jesus, but it was used in the Far East hundreds of years prior by Buddha and Confucius. The Golden rule is all about the use of empathy, and knowing how you’d feel if someone wronged you, and if you wish to be treated with respect, then the respect should be reciprocated, and if you wish I’ll on others, then be prepared to have ill wished upon you.
“Do not do to others what angers you if done to you by others.” – Socrates
People of Abrahamic faiths constantly criticise pagan, or non-believers by claiming that without a god, they have no moral guidelines, and everything is unaccountable, as we have no higher authority, and because of this misconception, they are morally bankrupt. But if a theist, and an atheist, both adopt the golden rule, and treat others with dignity and respect, then how are their moral codes any different? Just because someone worships a god means they are going to be the Good Samaritan, and just because someone doesn’t worship a god doesn’t mean they’re incapable of being the Good Samaritan.
“In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.” – Mahavira
However, there is a flaw by adopting the golden rule, and it’s the assumption that another person wishes to be treated as you do, or someone treats you in a way they think is acceptable but you don’t. Do you feel obliged to ask every person that you encounter what their preferences are in relation to how they wish to be treated? Be it only a slight flaw, it’s a flaw nevertheless, but as long as you adopt the foundations of morality, which is empathy, then compassion, humility, understanding and respect become second nature. The golden rule has come under criticism as it doesn’t outline a code of conduct, but do we really need to have a list of requirements on how to behave ethically?
“In nearly every religion I am aware of, there is a variation of the golden rule. And even for the non-religious, it is a tenet of people who believe in humanistic principles.” – Hillary Clinton