Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Golden Rule

One of the most pernicious aspects of religion is its claim to be the source of morality.  It is this false claim that is used to support its vicious bigotry and its specious claims to the right to power over others.  This claim is so baseless that it is a wonder anyone believes it.  Like religion itself, however, it survives by dint of repetition and childhood brainwashing.

Not too long ago, I came across a video of the religion writer, Karen Armstrong, asserting indignantly in a talk at a TED conference that religion is a force for good.

Ms. Armstrong, along with many others, tried to redeem religion by claiming that it is the source of the golden rule.  Yet, her presentation undermined her point by mentioning that Confucianism may have been the first tradition to express the golden rule.

Unfortunately for her argument, Confucianism is not a religion in the usual sense of the word.  It does not feature a belief in the supernatural or a supernatural entity.  It is a philosophy.  Confucius was not a religious leader in any sense.  He was merely a successful Chinese bureaucrat who became renowned for his wisdom and perspicacity. 

The fact that Confucius formulated the golden rule (500 years before Christ) without the help of divine inspiration or fear of divine retribution should make quite clear that it is a notion we can all understand and arrive at independently of any belief in the supernatural.

"Religion doesn't give us the golden rule.  The golden rule is just common sense and has been around longer than the religions that try to claim it as their own." 

What one sees with religions is that while they all spout the golden rule on occasion, they riddle it with exceptions--sometimes arbitrary, capricious, and cruel exceptions.  More damningly, religion creates an divide between the members of a religion and everyone else in the world, which causes the believers to see outsiders as bad and not entitled to the same treatment as those in their church. 

The history of religion shows rather clearly that this divide nullifies the golden rule with regard to those outside the believer's particular religion.  In fact, many religious doctrines and the preachments supporting them seem to be nothing more than thinly veiled ploys to demonize everyone outside that particular church.

"Religion gives people a way to get around the golden rule and still feel like they have done nothing wrong."

This aspect of religion is what makes it so useful to the psychopaths in the flock (often including the clergy).  By effectively nullifying the golden rule, religion turns the flock into a mob that can then be directed by its manipulative leaders to attack anyone the leaders choose.  Because they have been convinced that the golden rule doesn't really apply to whomever they are told to target, the members of the flock happily ignore it. 

In addition, usually the leaders of the flock will convince its members that morality requires that the "others" be punished.  This allows the members of the flock to attack with unrestrained fury.  The flock will often consist of bullies and others with emotional issues who are often only too happy to find a target for their repressed rage (more on this in a later post).

Thus, another potential response is to say:

"Religion allows religious and political leaders to manipulate others into committing atrocities and then console themselves afterward with the notion that it was necessary or that they have been forgiven."

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