Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Golden Rule vs The 2nd Greatest Commandment

My son hates to use the pooper scooper. He says it makes him gag. Under the golden rule, since I wouldn't want someone to make me do a chore that makes me gag, I should find another way to get this done. Under the "Kit" variation of the golden rule, do unto others as you believe they would have you do unto them (I hope I got that right), it would be real obvious that I should not have him pick up the poop.

Under the 2nd greatest commandment, love others as you love yourself, I will take into consideration the need to teach my son to be disciplined (as explained elsewhere in the Bible), and to handle adversity and to not be anxious about it. He would not have any issue with doing the chore, because he would know that he is to obey me out of love and respect.

I bring all of this up, because some who comment here and elsewhere from the non-believer point of view believe that the golden rule covers it all, and that since this concept is found in other religions that predate Christianity, then the Bible isn't special. The 2nd greatest commandment is not the same, by a longshot, as the golden rule.


Anonymous said...

"it would be real obvious that I should not have him pick up the poop."


No, it's not at all obvious that you would do that; that's certainly not what I would do in that situation.

I didn't say, "don't make others do what you don't want to do"; I said, "treat other people the way they would like to be treated". That's significantly different than the example you displayed in your post.

You should absolutely have your son use the pooper scooper, but you treat him the way you would like to be treated, if your dad was to make you use a pooper scooper. Does that make sense now?

Of course you can find a crazy example that would change my version of the "golden rule", such as:

My son wants me to beat him. So by "Kit's" golden rule, I should.

Or even:

My son wants me to buy him everything. So by "Kit's" golden rule, I should.

So, if you feel it's necessary, I'll put "unless it's an insane or obnoxious or unreasonable or unhealthy or dangerous way to be treated".

Does that cover your bases now?

General ways to live your life and how to treat people are not meant to be followed as dogma; for every rule you can always come up with an exception. I can't particularly take it seriously when people use those exceptions in an argument.

You said, about your son:

"He would not have any issue with doing the chore"

Heh. Riiiiight.


Anonymous said...


Here's an example of my version of the golden rule, put to practical use.

I like crude humor. Whether the crude jokes are about me or about my friends, as long as the intention is to make the other people laugh, you can say the rudest and crudest things both about me and around me.

I'm sure that everyone knows quite a few people who do not like crude humor, to the point where some of them will get offended.

So, if I'm around someone who I know doesn't like crude humor, I won't use crude humor when I'm around them.

That's the difference between treating others as I want to be treated (ie, telling crude jokes is funny) and treating others as they want to be treated (not telling crude jokes).

Regarding your comment of "love others as you love yourself", which I view as part and parcel of secular humanism, I see that as the motive behind treating others as they wish to be treated, so I don't see one concept as more important than the other, and I certainly don't see them as being mutually exclusive; the two concepts work together.

"the non-believer point of view believe that the golden rule covers it all"

That's absolutely a straw-man, because I don't remember Bernardo or myself saying anything of the sort.

This was the first of your posts to actually offend me, "Randy". To imply that I wouldn't teach my son to be disciplined was insulting. I don't think it was necessarily intentional, but I again see a problem with your translation of my points of view.


Randy Kirk said...

Kit, certainly no intention to offend in any way. There was -0- personal intended. It was just a humorous example to play out the various ideas. Sorry.

You seem to be pretty traditionalist on most things. Would you concede that at least many of those traditional feelings come from the strong undercurrent of Judeo-Christian culture in the West?

For instance, fact that the golden rule shows up in other relgions doesn't change the fact that most in this culture would learn that idea in a religious setting. I truly have never heard that the concept of love your neighbor as yourself was "stolen" from other traditions, but to the extent that it is an underpinning of humanism (can you document that?) I would still propose that it is because of the Western tradition out of which humanism grew.

I can see love one another as a being a good motivation of using the GR, but I can also imagine self interest, bargaining, or the social contract as being enough to motivate its use. Jesus intended the second commandment to be the standard around which one's entire life was built, without any inclination or hope of gain.

PS. My son loves Jesus, does his chores when asked, gives me a few moments of lip about poop. Yep! You're right on that one.

bernardo said...

Carl Sagan has a really nice article about how the Golden Rule is incomplete, and what different people (religious people, humanists) have done to supplement it. I'll have to find it and link to it. It was probably in "Billions and Billions" but might have been in "The Demon-Haunted World". Let me go to my bookshelf...

bernardo said...

As for the spreading of good moral teachings by Judeo-Christian culture... Sure, I'll admit that Judeo-Christian religions had a positive effect teaching a mostly-coherent set of morals, empowering people to pursue knowledge and justice, and setting expectations for systems of law and government. Modern western civilization probably would have come along eventually without religion, but it came along as quickly and successfully as it did in part because of religion. However, this does not mean that religion morals are perfect, that they do not have room for improvement... or that the governments of western countries should officially support Christianity (or even just monotheism) as being more correct, preferable, or more positive than humanism.

Randy Kirk said...

Thanks for that, Bernardo. I have been mentioning to Kit for some time that many of the unbelievers I speak with share that basic opinion.

Just a couple of thoughts. Religions do not have perfect morality, because they are run by humans. The Bible has perfect morality, because it is God breathed. I know that there are questions regarding interpretation, and that this can create confusion, and as I think Kit or Tom said, even result in factional friction or fights. I won't suggest I fully understand God's intent in this, but it will be among my first questions when I meet Him. I consider it a minor issue against the broader benefits.

I don't in anyway think that any government should support any religion. However, I think that every government should acknowledge God, and his place in the scheme of things. I'm perfectly ok with those who don't believe being allowed to stand down in circumstances where they are not in agreement. This is a small price to pay, and we all pay this kind of price in various circumstances.

bernardo said...

"Thanks for that, Bernardo. I have been mentioning to Kit for some time that many of the unbelievers I speak with share that basic opinion."

Don't thank me too quickly.

The other day I was driving around, thinking about some of the discussions on this blog, and the following analogy occurred to me:

What if the Nazis had won the Second World War? Say they unified Europe under their rule (and that of their allies), eliminated the Jewish population of Europe, etc. Some years/decades later, people might say that if it weren't for the Nazis, we would not have such-and-such technological advancements (the stuff the Nazis figured out about aviation was not reached by the US/UK/USSR for many many years), society would not be as organized or as efficient, there would be lots of small groups engaged in mini-wars rather than one big unified Europe, the US and USSR would be the only superpowers, communism would spread to all kinds of places, etc etc. In other words, had the Nazis won, they might have shaped Europe into a place that in some ways is "better" than what followed WW2. They would do this at the cost of much bloodshed and of non-democratic governments, but there would be some advantages. Does that mean that it would have been a good thing overall? No! We're all very glad we stopped the Nazis. (By "we" I mean "the society of which I am currently a part", since I was not alive at the time).

Similarly, just because religion brought some order and civilization and unity and peace to the world, and arguably even some aspects of scientific inquiry, this does not mean that this was, overall, a good thing.

bernardo said...

And in case you haven't read this... I apologize for making it come true here. It was only a matter of time...

bernardo said...

Oh yeah, and I found that Carl Sagan essay about the Golden Rule. It's called "The Rules Of The Game". To be honest it's not as great as I remembered; It basically suggests that Game Theory is a good approach to trying to understand and optimize justice in settings where entities may compete or cooperate. It shows that always turning the other cheek is not optimal, that always being ruthlessly selfish is not optimal either, and that the near-optimal strategy is to be nice to your fellow player until he is not nice to you, at which point you may retaliate against him, but that once he starts being nice you should be nice again (i.e. forgiveness).

I was surprised that, when I think about utilitarianism and ethical/philosophical theories of justice, I never think of Game Theory as having relevant points to consider. I guess that's because I usually think of Game Theory as being fairly selfish, which it is, but the thing is it can pretty much prove mathematically that, in certain circumstances or when faced with opponents who have certain interests and strategies, you're actually better off being nice. So that's kinda neat.

You can read the article here, here or here. (They all have some minor errors in the text - I suspect they were OCR'ed - but those are not too distracting).

Randy Kirk said...

I guess I would have used something other than Nazism for comparison. Nazism doesn't really offer a cohesive system for life or even political life. It was born out of a reaction to conditions on the ground and could only have existed under the rule of a charismatic and despotic leader. I think there are no examples of governments of this type in the modern era that have survived the despot.

Communism might have offered a better comparison, had it ever produced anything good.

Note that both communism and Nazism have been pointed to as particularly devoid of cultural advancement (art, literature, music.) This has given me grist for a future post on another advantage of belief.