The Golden Rule Is Still Not Much of a Moral Principle

Charter for Compassion is yet another group of people who for some reason think the Golden Rule (“do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or similar nonsense) should be made the basis for some sort of global morality,

By recognizing that the Golden Rule is fundamental to all world religions, the Charter for Compassion can inspire people to think differently about religion. This Charter is being created in a collaborative project by people from all over the world. It will be completed in 2009. Use this site to offer language you’d like to see included. Or inspire others by sharing your own story of compassion.

Give me a break.

As I’ve said before, the problem with the Golden Rule is that it is simply a check against hypocrisy. Beyond that, however, it is entirely compatible with a long laundry list of immoral acts. There is nothing in the Golden Rule, for example, that would render the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks wrong.

It doesn’t even seem like the organizers of this effort have really thought about the Golden Rule beyond some sort of wishy washy feel good nonsense,

. . . the Golden Rule is our prime duty and cannot be limited to our own political, religious or ethnic group.

Huh? Clearly those religious traditions that the Charter for Compassion cites saw nothing wrong with limiting the Golden Rule to apply only to a relatively circumscribed group of people (i.e., “those who agree with us”). One could adhere to the Golden Rule while slaughtering the non-believers down the street with nary a contradiction.

Consider a call to action such as, “Infidels should be murdered.” All the Golden Rule really ends up saying is that I should only agree with this statement if I too am willing to be murdered if it turns out I am an infidel. Since most religious people generally operate on the principle that someone else is an infidel, there’s not contradiction there at all.

What the Charter for Compassion folks are really doing is outlining a broader moral vision and trying to pass it off as some sort of universal view by repeating “Golden Rule” like some sort of mantra that will smooth things over.

I can’t wait to see how they handle genuine debates such as that surrounding abortion. Should I oppose abortion since clearly I would not have wanted to have been aborted as a fetus, or should I favor abortion because I would not want other people telling me what to do with my body.

That’s a real moral dilemma — and one the Golden Rule pretty much  does nothing to help solve.

As George Bernard Shaw put it,

Do not do unto others as you expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.

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