Why does the golden rule fail

When it comes to arguing for the sublime morality of Christianity, nothing beats the Golden Rule. Even if the ten commandments lose some of their shine thanks to God's questionable announcement of vengeance "up to the third and fourth generation",

Even if the Sermon on the Mount, thanks to Jesus' call to tear out your lustful eye, starts to rust, not even the worst heretics argue against the Golden Rule - probably because he is not "bad" enough.

Of Andreas Müller

The golden rule

In the Bible, the Golden Rule appears in two variants, an active and a passive: “Now whatever you want people to do to you, do it for them too!” (Matthew 7:12) and “What if you do not want to be done to you, do not do that to anyone else ”(Tobias 4:16).

The Golden Rule is not an exclusivity of Christianity, nor was it invented by Christianity. They already exist in Greek philosophy, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism and many other ancient worldviews. It is considered the one great, cultural unifying ethical wisdom on which all people can agree. It is also nonsensical and we should give it up.

They do that too!

Prior to his infamous mass murder on December 5, 2007 on Westroads Mall, in which 19-year-old Robert A. Hawkins was supposed to kill nine people, including himself, and injure four, he wrote a suicide note to his friends and mentioned his ethical justification for the following act : "I've been a piece of shit all my life [...] I just want to take some pieces of shit with me."

Robert A. Hawkins wanted to be killed and he killed other people. This is a consistent and inherently legitimate application of the Golden Rule. Fatally, one always assumes that people do not want to be harmed and that they therefore would not harm other people. But this is wrong.

Hawkins is by no means the only example of the horrific deeds that logic can lead to. Just think of suicide bombers. They want to be blown up and blow up others. From the perspective of the golden rule, this is impeccable behavior. What you want to be done to you (blown up), do that to others too. The Golden Rule is not just a possible legitimation for mass murder. If you want to, you can even understand it, like Robert Hawkins, as a call to mass murder.

Even more problems

Another difficulty: if a police officer is not supposed to do anything to other people that he does not want to be done to him, then he should not arrest criminals. Assuming he would become a criminal himself, then that policeman probably wouldn't want him to be arrested. What now? In any case, this dilemma cannot be solved with the golden rule.

Problem number three is when there is a conflict of interest. You're having a party and your neighbor doesn't want to hear your loud music. When he's giving a party, you don't want to hear his loud music. Nevertheless, in both cases it is justifiable to “add” the loud music to the other.

For all "normal people", insofar as they are not in an extreme situation, the golden rule is mostly still quite useful ... You would think. But let's take the example of the death penalty, which is mainly based on Christianity, and which is still practiced in the USA. It is perfectly compatible with the Golden Rule. Their supporters simply say, "As soon as I commit murder, I should also be executed". Voilà. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” does not contradict the Golden Rule!

Divine right

In certain cases the golden rule can certainly be applied. The main problem is that this ethical command is the result of an absolute morality. The rule always wants to be valid because it comes from God. And so do many Christians argue. If the commandments in Leviticus are of no use, as Paul already admitted in part, then we slavishly adhere to another divine command, no matter what.

As moderate as a Christian may be, he will at least have to present the Golden Rule as the golden calf of Christianity. Much more remains after the withdrawal of slavery (also self-enslavement under God's rule), anti-Semitism (Jews as "Christ murderers" and "host despairers"), oppression of women (responsible for original sin, was created for Adam), scapegoat morality (Jesus dies for “Our” sins), the joys of self-flagellation and the fear of eternal hellfire are no longer left of Christianity. At most a strange form of pacifism, according to which one can only hold people responsible for their deeds if one is completely free of mistakes ("He throws the first stone"). As US President Barack Obama noted, logic would have to abolish the Department of Defense. We might as well apply to be suicide bomber dummies with al Qaeda.

Human right

A more meaningful basis of ethics than divine commandments are human rights, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. In addition, one could include utilitarianism, which strives for the greatest possible happiness for the greatest possible number of people. Then one has to recognize that human rights are only valid to a limited extent for their opponents, as the Marquis de Condorcet already stated in 1790 in his work "On the Admission of Women to the Rights of Citizenship":

“Either no individual of humanity has true rights, or all have the same; and whoever votes against someone else's rights, whatever their religion, skin color or gender, has forfeited their own rights from that moment on. "

That is also the reason why criminals can be locked up, which in itself is a violation of their human rights - however, they themselves have violated the rights of their fellow human beings and therefore lose some of their own rights. And so the right of resistance is also legitimized, which allows citizens to dismiss a government that does not recognize human rights.

Origin of natural rights

All the better, thought Christian apologists, and without further ado declared human rights to be their own invention, which without God (without their God!) Cannot be justified and which would never have been enforced without Christian commitment. The golden rule alone is just not impressive enough.

It is quite difficult to find the one inventor of human rights. If you absolutely want to attach them to a person, then there is some evidence that it was actually a Christian, with the Calvinist Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), who invented natural law and thus human right. He was the first philosopher to call for general human rights for all “rational and social” people (including women, blacks and other minorities who were denied human rights until the 20th century). In addition, he also designed the basics of international law, introduced international waters and developed the concept of a “just war”. As we shall see, however, there is a good reason why it is far less popular and known among Christians than their martyrs and saints.

Because how did Hugo Grotius, as a follower of a divine morality, come across human rights? There was only one way to do it, and that was by himself Not related to God. For Grotius, a study of human nature was enough to establish human rights. And he was very consistent in doing so. The entry about Grotius in the philosophical lexicon reveals the following:

“For him the natural rights apply to all rational and social beings. It doesn't matter what they think or believe, if they are rational and socially acceptable, then they are bound by natural law. "

So these rights also apply to unbelievers and witches, which his contemporaries didn't like at all. For Grotius, human rights consisted of the right to life, the right to physical integrity, the right to individual self-determination and the right to “honor”, ​​which is known today as “dignity”. A vision that is remarkably progressive for its time.

Fight for human rights

Needless to say, this has only interested a few philosophers for centuries. It was not until the enlightenment of the 18th century, who referred to Grotius again (Thomas Reid called him the “immortal Hugo Grotius”, for Leibniz he was “incomparable”), and their followers, finally enforced human rights.

The fact that an absolute moral principle like the Golden Rule is still haunted in people's minds today is due, on the one hand, to the fact that it is a very “fit meme” - it sounds good and is memorable - and, on the other hand, to the unbroken influence of the counter-enlightenment. There is a reason why Christian apologists do not do the obvious and celebrate Grotius as one of their own, for example by replacing the embarrassing and ridiculous "Epiphany Day" with a "Grotius Day": They value divine morality higher than human morality, higher than the Human Rights. And as if all of this wasn't hair-raising enough: Hugo Grotius was the inventor of (Protestant) Christian apologetics. And today it is atheists who remember him reverently.

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