A Better Golden Rule
Often times when I discuss the problems with biblical morality, more progressive religious believers attempt to ignore everything the Bible says on morality except for a handful of verses. I am told that the main moral tenant of Christianity, for example, is the Golden Rule.
First, it really shouldn’t need to be pointed out that the Golden Rule predates Christianity. Confucius had a version of it at least 500 years before Jesus. There are undoubtedly many others who have stated the general idea of the Golden Rule before Jesus also. Christianity can’t claim the credit for this rule.
While the Golden Rule is pretty good, it is not the best rule one could come up with. The Golden Rule states that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. The problem is that others may not wish to be treated the same way we wish to be treated. The Platinum Rule (as it is sometimes called) states just that: We should treat others as we think they would like to be treated.
Even though we might not know with certainty how someone else would like to be treated, we can have reasonable expectations about what their likes might be. We can refine those expectations with more information as that comes available. In every way, this rule is far better than the Golden Rule. It gets us thinking about others instead of merely thinking about ourselves and projecting our selfishness on to others.
There is of course a more Libertarian versions of the Platinum Rule too. Instead of guiding us on how we should treat others, this rule deal with how we should not treat others. It goes something like this: Don’t treat others in a way that they would not like to be treated.
This rule allows for people to be left alone, but guides our actions in order to avoid our mistreatment of them. There are pluses and minuses to this type of approach. The plus side is that we allow for people to just do their own thing without interference. But on the downside, it doesn’t allow us to reach out and help others. It focuses more on not harming others rather than actually helping them.
So while there is a certain appeal to the Libertarian Platinum Rule, I think the Platinum Rule is much better. The Platinum Rule is certainly better than the Golden Rule and yet so few people today actually invoke it. When I hear people talk about how great the Golden Rule is, I think about how much better the Platinum Rule is and how the only reason why people still invoke the Golden Rule is that it was written in an ancient holy book. Despite the fact that the Golden Rule wasn’t very original nor was it the best rule possible, yet it is still attributed to Jesus and held up as the best rule possible.
- ‘Scientific Method led me to Jesus Christ’ (www.skepticink.com)
- Getting To The 24th Century (www.skepticink.com)
- Interview: Katherine Stewart author of ‘The Good News Club’ (examiner.com)
- God & Guns (www.skepticink.com)
- The Truth About Mark Driscoll’s Tweet (www.skepticink.com)