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What is the Golden Rule?

The Golden Rule is thought to have orginated in the Bible.
The Golden Rule has been found in ancient Middle Eastern texts.
A statue of Confucius, who is credited with the saying "Do not do to others that which we do not want them to do to us.".
Homer's "Odyssey" includes a type of Golden Rule.
Many religions have some form of the Golden Rule.
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  • Originally Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Revised By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2014
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The Golden Rule is the idea that people should treat others in the same way that they themselves would like to be treated. It is often expressed as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," which is one translation of a Biblical verse, Luke 6:31. Also called the ethic of reciprocity, variations of this concept can found in many religions and throughout history. Some versions urge people to love other people or to avoid doing harm to others. In each case, the underlying theme is that one should treat other people with kindness and respect.

History

It is not clear when the Golden Rule was first expressed or by whom. The Old Testament book of Leviticus, which was written in about 1400 B.C., says in verse 18, chapter 19: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Chinese philosopher Confucius, who lived from 551–479 B.C., is said to have written, "Do not do to others that which we do not want them to do to us." A Hindu text written in about the same time period, the Mahabharata, includes the phrase, “Do not unto others which would cause pain if done to you.” Similar concepts are expressed in Taoism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and many other religions and philosophies.

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In Literature

The Golden Rule also has been found in ancient texts from Greece, Egypt, Babylon, Persia, India and other countries. Not all of these texts are expressly religious or philosophical. For example, in Homer's Odyssey, which is believed to have been written sometime in 600-800 B.C., one character states, “I will be as careful for you as I should be for myself in the same need.”

Interpretations

Despite this concept's stated goal of treating others as equals, people throughout history have applied other interpretations to the Golden Rule. For example, some people and cultures have not considered certain other people as worthy of being treated according to the Golden Rule, such as their enemies, members of other cultures or people who have committed offenses or wrongdoings. In other cases, people have interpreted this concept as simply an admonishment to avoid hurting others rather than an appeal to do something good for them.

Reciprocation and Reward

In general, the intent of the Golden Rule is to promote empathy. By considering how kindly one might like to be treated, he or she can then be empathetic in the treatment of others. No matter how someone treats others, however, there is no guarantee that the same behavior will be reciprocated, or given back. As such, those who follow this rule often do so in the hope that, someday, each person will treat everyone else with kindness and will receive kindness from others. Others might do so in the hope that their treatment of others will bring about good karma or blessings, even if their empathy is not reciprocated by everyone with whom they associate.

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anon344607
Post 23

Islam and its holy book are very different from Judaism and Christianity. The book is not a compilation of history by a variety of authors, but regarded as the ultimate and unchangeable word of the Islamic deity. What Mohammed did and said and revealed must be understood in the context that he is proclaimed as the 'seal of prophets'; I.e. the last and final one.

Mohammed's development from inventor and preacher of a new religion, a concoction of Arab paganism, Christianity and Judaism, which he found in his day in Mecca, to that of a successful warlord and godfather of a clan of marauding slavers and robbers, is well reflected when you read the Koran in chronological sequence, not as it is presented from longest to shortest sura.

It is little wonder that Islam spreads like a wildfire amongst the prison population, as it has a highly developed dualistic morality. Islam sanctifies violence, robbery, theft, rape and murder, as long as it happens to unbelievers, or those who failed in the eyes of the many self-appointed judges.

So don't try looking for a Golden Rule in what Mohammed said, because there is none. The key lies in his deeds.

anon299213
Post 22

I can say it where it's understood in simplicity. It's not genetic, it's not science; it is merely a reflection of the people in your life that you learned your behavior from. If you didn't learn it in kindergarten, your parents probably didn't, and your future children won't either. Pretty simple, and those people needing to challenge this probably played alone on the playground!

anon284340
Post 21

That post 20 takes a whole lot of faith to believe. No disrespect but that makes no sense at all. If it were genetic, then the will would not come into it. If it is genetic, why do we find so much selfishness in this world?

The golden rule is a clear act of one's will and emotions, and there is nothing scientific about it.

anon236925
Post 20

I agree with 19753. "I think it's part of our animal instinct".

Yes, it is genetic. Evolution and its tool "genetics" doesn't give a hoot about values. It only cares about survival and growth of the gene pool. So, in our primitive past, some genes learned that two survived better than one and 100 better than two. It was adaptive through mutations a long time ago.

Societies grew because of the "cooperation wins" mutations long long before capitalism. Capitalism would never have got off the ground without collective effort.

Survival of the fittest is impossible without survival of the gene pool, which constantly gives rise to new genius mutations completely at random.

That is why the so called "1 percent" cannot survive.

The Golden Rule is not an "emotional" idea. It is an expression of evolution.

anon192322
Post 16

Where does the Golden Rule appear in the Koran?

Nowhere in the Koran is there an expression of the Golden Rule. Therefore, it is of no importance in Islam and Muslims have no reason to observe it. Since Islam's most important message to humanity (the Noble Koran) does not contain the Golden Rule, it is logical that it was unimportant to Allah. This explains why he entirely omitted it from the Koran. The Golden Rule is held to be central by all religions except Islam. Muslims are surprised to learn their faith does not teach it, but rather, teaches the opposite: to hate infidels 'for the sake of Allah'. That doctrine (of actual hatred towards non-Muslims) is the second most most important doctrine in Islam and is called 'Al-Walaa wal-Baraa' (allegiance to Muslims and disassociation from infidels).

There is, however, a very restricted version of the principle of reciprocity found in the Hadiths. The Hadiths are a subsidiary collection of sayings and acts of Mohammed and his companions. They have much less authority than the Koran, but contain a version of the Golden Rule which applies only among "brother" Muslims. This Islamic "brotherhood rule" is not universal and does not apply to non-Muslims.

Islamic reciprocity is restricted to interactions between Muslim "brothers". (An infidel is not to be addressed as "brother" by a Muslim.)

The Hadith quotes Mohammed as saying: "None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." (Number 13 of Imam al-Nawawi's "Forty Hadiths.)

Other Hadiths clarify the limitation of reciprocity to relations between Muslim brothers:

Bukhari 9,85,83 Mohammed said: "A Muslim is a brother to other Muslims. He should never oppress them nor should he facilitate their oppression." (Note: but he may oppress infidels.)

Bukhari 8,73,70 Mohammed said: "Harming a Muslim is an evil act; killing a Muslim means rejecting Allah." (Note: but harming or killing an infidel is a mere misdemeanor.)

Finally, the Koran itself makes it clear that brotherhood applies only towards other Muslims: (Koran 48:29) : "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah; and those who are with him are harsh against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other."

Such a standard is no higher than that of the mafia or another similar "crime family.” Islam does teach this, and there is the proof of it.

Islam divides the entire world into Islam and the Kafirs (unbelievers) and has two separate sets of ethics for each sphere.

The basis of the Golden Rule is the universal equality of all humankind, regardless of their religion, race or origin. It does not say: “Do unto some persons as you would have them do unto you,” but “Do unto all persons as you would have them do unto you.”

Islam denies the universality of the Golden Rule because Islam starts with the division of all humanity into two different groups: Islamic and non-Islamic. Every aspect of Islamic ethics is based upon this separation, thus Islam has two different ethical codes. Said another way, Islam has dualistic ethics. Thus, in Islam, "Good" is whatever advances Islam; "Evil" is whatever resists Islam.

In the Koran, the main concern is that of forcing the peoples of the earth to submit to Islam and then keeping them in it, as if in a mental prison. Thus, Allah did not forget to include 164 Koranic verses commanding Muslims to go on jihaad (holy wars of conquest) and many verses commanding Muslims to murder renegades from Islam. Such verses are opposed to and irreconcilable with the Golden Rule. If such angry verses were removed, 61 percent of the Koran, 75 percent of the Sira and 20 percent of the Hadiths would disappear.

Finally, the Koranic concepts of 'kafir' (an impure, subhuman non-Muslim) and 'jihad' (sacred warfare to remove the human rights and civil liberties of kafirs and ethnically cleanse them) entirely preclude the Golden Rule by stating kafirs are unequal to Muslims. The Golden Rule affirms that all people are inherently equal, unlike Islam. A kafir may never be treated equally to a Muslim, nor offered genuine friendship or love.

This is perhaps, the strongest argument that Islam is an exclusive, supremacist cult: The Golden Rule is entirely missing from the Koran, both from the letter as well as the spirit of Islam’s original texts.

anon180365
Post 15

I always thought the golden rule was he who has the gold makes the rules.

anon173145
Post 14

2:267

O you who have attained to faith! Spend on others out of the good things which you may have acquired, and out of that which We bring forth for you from the earth; and choose not for your spending the bad things which you yourselves would not accept without averting your eyes in disdain. And know that God is self-sufficient, ever to be praised.

3:92

Never shall you attain to true piety unless you spend on others out of what you like for yourselves; and whatever you spend - verily, God has full knowledge thereof.

The general expression of the Golden Rule is passive, reactive and defensive. In Islam, it is more active, proactive and aggressive.

God taught us, through the Quran, whom we should spend for: whoever is hungry we are to feed him. God told us only to remain cautious against those who plot and move for our destruction. He nowhere asked us to cease to love them and to be aggressive. --Monem

anon146912
Post 13

Why must people have rules?

Do you ever think how rules came to originate? I think order is something that is with us at birth, something that is within us before language is even encrypted into our cerebellum.

But to my conclusion it seems that we have condemned ourselves with our own creations, making our own vision of a perfect world, neglecting the fact that we were brought into this world with it already being perfect in every way. We have created imbalance, and for that there's a price to pay.

"He who owns the most gold makes the rules."

The sad part is that we are the ones who gave and allowed that scrap of metal to have the value it holds.

Like a child easily hypnotized and amused by its splendor, it's hard to deny the valued story of this obviously worthless metal. The only valuable thing behind this was the effort it took to obtain it. But then again, the grand majority of us let a piece of paper dictate the trajectory we are to walk. So it seems like the sadness is still growing without boundaries. Go beyond words.

anon121126
Post 12

He who owns the most gold, makes the rules.

anon118682
Post 11

As a Muslim, I have always followed the Golden Rule, in the good way.

When I was young, I attended many funerals of different religions. A neighbor is a neighbor regardless of their belief and practice and we have always lived in tolerance of our neighbors, even when they would do mean things to us. We turned the other cheek and had faith in God.

In the lamentations of the grieving, I would hear the same "Had I known you would die, I would..." and all the best of wishes.

While we are alive, we should make the most of being good to each other, as we are brothers and sisters in humanity.

I personally greet people with a smile, and warm thoughts. But because of my being a Muslim, I am oftentimes glared at instead. I still believe in kindness and charity for all, as this is what my Holy Book teaches me, and the example of the last of the Ishmaelite Prophets, Muhammad peace be on him, descendant of Ishmael and Abraham, peace be on them both.

There have been too many misunderstandings of the past history, and too much deception and deliberate maligning of the current. The righteous servants of God have been through similar persecutions and will have their reward with God. He sees and hears all of his creations.

I call on people to read and understand the 10 Commandments. Change starts within the self. We spend so much time cleaning our homes,and clothing, and outer bodies, but our hearts are festering with evil thoughts of people -- envy and jealousy, anger and hatred -- very destructive emotions. The heart is the seat of knowledge and feelings, and a diseased one causes the entire body to suffer. God is best to guide.

anon100694
Post 10

The rule is self serving, people seem to choose to interpret to their advantage (as with laws). It's not about this or that action, but about the end result of an action.

You may like to pick fights but you may not like someone to do something against your will, either. Simply put, if you think your actions might be perceived as negative by others, then don't do it because you wouldn't want someone doing something to you that you perceived as negative.

We cannot limit the rule to certain actions because the list will go on forever and inevitably exclude something. That's what laws are for; they only talk about actions, so the wise/bad people can circumvent them.

anon94823
Post 9

Quote "It is an accepted assumption among theologians and religious historians that Jesus Christ was influenced by Socrates and Plato. He was obviously familiar with both of these philosophers as were all of the learned thinkers of his day."

I dispute this. There is no proof, no evidence, and given the background to the bible, no logic either.

anon86997
Post 8

My father loved to cause others pain, and he loved to have pain inflicted on him as well, whether fist fights, arguing, and all manner of things like this. The golden rule would suggest he go out and start fist fights, which he did do fairly often. He believed strongly in the golden rule.

I think the golden rule has some serious flaws when it basically says you should treat others the way you want to be treated. What if the person is a masochist?

anon74774
Post 7

'Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you' is in the context of Mohammed's constant jihads and his fratricidal followers who soon after his death set about murdering one another (still going on).

You need to know a lot about Islam's duplicitous rulings before you get the double talk of verses like this. Islam has dual ethics, meaning one set is for dealing with 'brother' Muslims and the other set is for dealing with 'despised and rejected' kafirs whom Muslims are supposed to hate 'for the sake of Allah'.

The rule of reciprocity does in no way apply to inferiors -- all kafirs.

anon66287
Post 6

Islam has a 'fraternity rule' (be nice to Muslims), but no Golden Rule (be nice to 'others'). This is self-serving in the extreme, as you point out.

The Koran 28:86 says, "Therefore lend not thou support in any way to those who reject Allah's Message."

Muslims may not observe the code of reciprocity with outsiders, who are to be 1) slain, 2) enslaved or 3) pay protection money for the privilege of living as conquered peoples in a permanent state of subjugation and persecution. (Koran 9.29)

anon40419
Post 5

The Golden Rule actually goes back to Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, who discussed The Ideal and the Universal; timeless truths. Socrates was the teacher of Plato who continued to expound on Socratic concepts and who wrote down and preserved the teachings of Socrates for posterity. Much of Christian ethical and religious teaching is found in Socratic and Platonic concepts. It is an accepted assumption among theologians and religious historians that Jesus Christ was influenced by Socrates and Plato. He was obviously familiar with both of these philosophers as were all of the learned thinkers of his day.

anon19753
Post 4

anon19279 - Judaism also applies different rules to Jews and non-Jews. Having different ethical standards, or different religious laws, for different groups doesn't necessarily go against the concept of the Golden Rule. In the strictest sense, perhaps. But in the looser sense of being good to your neighbor, as I argue the Golden Rule at its core is meant to do, having different ethical codes does not necessarily mean one cannot also promote the concept of the Golden Rule. I also don't think this is a debate solely left to religion. Isn't it part of human nature to protect one's own? Whether you define one's own in terms of religion, race, nationality, gender? I think it's part of our animal instinct.

anon19279
Post 3

Nowhere in the Koran is there an expression of the Golden Rule, therefore, it is of no importance in Islam and Muslims have no reason to observe it. Since Islam's most important message to humanity (the Noble Koran) does not contain the Golden Rule, it is logical that it was unimportant to Allah. This explains why he entirely omitted it from the Koran. The Golden Rule is held to be central by all religions except Islam. Muslims are surprised to learn their faith does not teach it.

There is however, a very restricted version of the principle of reciprocity found in the Hadiths. The Hadiths are a non-binding collection of sayings and acts of Mohammed and his companions. They have much less authority than the Koran, but contain a version of the Golden Rule which applies only among "brother" Muslims. This Islamic "brotherhood rule" is not universal and does not apply to non-Muslims.

Islamic reciprocity is restricted to interactions between Muslim "brothers". (An non-Muslim is not to be addressed as "brother" by a Muslim.)

The Hadith quotes Mohammed as saying: "None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." (Number 13 of Imam al-Nawawi's "Forty Hadiths.)

Other Hadiths clarify the limitation of reciprocity to relations between Muslim brothers:

Bukhari 9,85,83 Mohammed said: "A Muslim is a brother to other Muslims. He should never oppress them nor should he facilitate their oppression."

Bukhari 8,73,70 Mohammed said: "Harming a Muslim is an evil act; killing a Muslim means rejecting Allah."

Finally, the Koran itself makes it clear that brotherhood applies only towards other Muslims: (Koran 48:29) : "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah; and those who are with him are harsh against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other."

Islam divides the entire world into Islam and the Kafirs (unbelievers) and has two separate sets of ethics for each sphere.

The basis of the Golden Rule is the universal equality of all humankind, regardless of their religion, race or origin. It does not say: Do unto some persons, as you would have them do unto you, but do unto all persons as you would have them do unto you.

Islam denies the universality of the Golden Rule because Islam starts with the division of all humanity, into two different groups: Islamic and non-Islamic. Every aspect of Islamic ethics is based upon this separation, thus Islam has two different ethical codes.

This is perhaps the strongest argument against Islam: The Golden Rule is missing from the Koran.

WGwriter
Post 2

Hi Laurie,

I wrote this article so let me take your question. I gave the quote, but I don't think that the Islamic interpretation of the Golden rule would be considered any more self serving than any other version. Truly do unto others as you'd have them do unto you seems very similar to me as Hurt no one so no one hurts you. Yes, there may be a slight emphasis on self, but there are plenty of places in Islamic teachings and text that stress a peaceful and cooperative existence with one's neighbors. That is not to say that either version can't be interpreted in a self-serving way, or that anyone from any religious background may interpret certain religious texts in a way that most others in a religion would condemn.

I would not characterize my POV on this article as agreeing with an interpretation that preferences the Islamic or Christian version as superior or somehow more self-involved. If you're interested in Islam, wiseGEEK has a number of articles on the site. What is Islam?, and What are the Five Pillars of Islam? are great places to start.

Laurie
Post 1

i am trying to draw a clear comparison with the Golden Rule in Christianity and your reference in Islam. It would seem the Islamic interpretation is self-serving as opposed to all other religions - so you see it that way?

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