I ran across this article in Psychology Today about the influence of religion on society. Actually, it is the seventh article in an ongoing series.
In this 7th part of the series, we take a look at some religious proverbs that have become woven into the fabric of civilization: the golden rule, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” “turn the other cheek,” and the idea of universal dignity.
About halfway through the article the concept of the Golden Rule comes up. Here the article tries to make a comparison between the major religions and their versions of the Golden Rule.
A variant of the golden rule can be found in virtually every religion, ethical code, or moral philosophy.
Do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.
Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.
What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.
We should behave to our friends, as we would wish our friends to behave to us.
Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
– Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative
– Legal codification of the golden rule, which translates as “general rule of care,” or “hurt no one.”
I have a couple of issues with this list. The minor one is that I don't agree that the one chosen to represent Judaism is the best one. I would think ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ would be more appropriate.
The main issue I have is that the majority of these ‘rules’ aren’t actually what are known as ‘Golden Rules’; they are sometimes called ‘Silver Rules’ and are akin to the Hippocratic Oath, or Harm Principle. What this means is that these ethical rules of reciprocity confine action to restraining from negative activities that would cause others harm. Under this ethic, the emphasis then is only on prohibiting wrong; in other words, it favors the legalistic.
The Golden Rule, however, emphasizes positive action meant to benefit others; in other words, it is a motivation for proactive action--to friends, family, strangers on the street; across classes and castes; locally, nationally, globally. This is a hallmark of early Christianity.