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Dec 19 2013

The Anti-Golden Rule

Possibly the best, most elegant summary of morality is the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It’s short, easy to understand, and easy to apply. And likewise, we can summarize immorality handily as the opposite of the Golden Rule: immorality is when you do harm to others who have done no harm to you.

Homophobia and discrimination against gays is exactly that. Homosexuality just means you fall in love differently than heterosexuals do. You have done no harm to heteros, but heteros seek to do harm to you. In fact, you’ve done no harm to any god, either. Those who seek to do you harm, when you have done none to them, are doing the exact opposite of the Golden Rule.

This is how we know that prejudice against gays is immoral, and is a discredit to any person, mortal or divine, who promotes it.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    voidhawk

    I would say that the anti-golden rule is: “Do unto others what you would not have done against yourself.”

    “Immorality is when you do harm to others who have done no harm to you.” implies that it is always ok to to harm to people who have done harm to you, a tit-for-tat morality which could be used to justify capital punishment and the death penalty.

    1. 1.1
      Deacon Duncan

      Fair enough. My anti-Golden Rule is an incomplete description of what’s wrong, and it fails to give a good definition of what’s right. I was focused mainly on pointing out how anti-gay prejudice is diametrically opposed to the Golden Rule, but you make a good point.

  2. 2
    sonofrojblake

    My problem with the Golden Rule is that it fails me every single day because it turns out that other people are not like me, and don’t like the same things I like.

    Example: if I screw up, even or indeed especially if it’s something trivial like a typo or a grammatical error, I like to be told about it asap so I can fix it and never do it again. It is my experience that many people violently object to having their mistakes pointed out, no matter how trivial the mistake or how polite the correction.

  3. 3
    Len

    I prefer to see it as “Don’t do anything to others that you wouldn’t want someone to do to you”. That means you’re on the receiving end and it puts you in the frame of mind to see others possibly being hurt by things, even if you don’t intend them to be hurt. In other words, think how the other person will feel before you do it.

  4. 4
    timberwoof

    It’s more complicated than that. Some relationships are inherently unequal or asymmetrical yet consentual. As examples, teacher and dominatrix. Both of these do unto clients things that they may not want their clients to do to them, yet these relationships are not necessarily harmful.

    But let’s not miss the central point here. Deacon has pointed out in an almost mind-blowingly simple way the fundamental immorality of homophobia.

  5. 5
    ludicrous

    Golden rule is problematic in that it is self centered. It presumes one’s self is the proper measure of what’s good for others. What’s good for me might not be good for you.

    Better, but not entirely satisfying, might be “Do unto others as they would have you do onto them”

    Still looking for a simple ethical rule.

    1. 5.1
      Deacon Duncan

      The trick is having enough empathy to know what other people would have you do unto them. Plus there are people who would have you do “give me all your money.”

      But you’re right, the Golden Rule is “more like a guideline” (to quote some pirate or other). I think it works reasonably well as a negative: don’t treat other people in a way that you would object to if you were on the receiving end of the same treatment. But it’s a broad principle with a fair swath of exceptions and mitigations.

      1. ludicrous

        DD @ 5.1

        Your reply reminds me of a question that often occurs to me. I don’t intend to be rude, just curious, is there a difference between, “But you’re right” and “I agree”? Or are they equivalent and I am just too aware of posture? I would find it difficult to use the former without an “IMO” of some sort. Secretly of course, I am more right than in mere agreement.

      2. Deacon Duncan

        I think every statement a person makes has the implicit caveat that the person is speaking from their own experience, understanding, and perspective, so in that sense “you’re right” and “I agree” are expressing the same thought.

      3. ludicrous

        Yes, empathy is good if one can do it cleanly without too much projection. But projection is a problem since by definition you don’t know when or to what extent you are doing it.

  6. 6
    jenny6833a

    Some people enjoy pain and/or humiliation. To them, the Golden Rule reads, “Beat the crap out of others as I would have others beat the crap out of me.” That’s not my idea of a useful rule.

    1. 6.1
      Deacon Duncan

      Right, it’s a generally useful guideline with a few additional guides, such as “First, do no harm.”

  7. 7
    corporal klinger

    There are many very good reasons and logic arguments against anti gay bigotry and homophobia, but this one I find impressive. Simple, elegant logic and empathy. Irrefutable, unless you refuse the golden rule entirely.

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