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Eternal discussion of religion, Pt. Ankh

i read this off the the pof200 discussion list-- the anarcho-leninist debate on the state, a discussion hosted in a yahoo group and on a website run by 'ben seattle' : these folks are serious and humble activists... maybe its also a repost by them?
Re: [pof-200] Re: Religion
Here's my take on religion and revolution. -- John


Religion, The Golden Rule, and Revolution

by John Spritzler
April, 2004

[newdemocracyworld.org]

The great religions of the world appeal to their followers for laudable
reasons. Religions invest human life with meaning. They affirm the dignity
of all human beings and declare that there are eternal moral truths. They
(sometimes) inspire their followers to make a better world. Unfortunately
religious beliefs and passions have also led people into bloody wars,
justified horrible cruelties, and legitimized elite rule. If we look
carefully, though, at the implications of the Golden Rule in religion and
where it comes from, I think we can find the possibility of human beings
creating a world very different from today's -- a good, just and decent
world, reflecting the best of what the great religions have ever offered,
but based not on religion but on the source of religion and the Golden Rule.


Different religions understand God (or gods) and the supernatural
differently, but when it comes to human relations in the everyday world they
all agree on the Golden Rule. The Buddhist sacred literature says, "Hurt not
others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Islam teaches, "That
which you want for yourself, seek for mankind." Confucius said, "Do not
impose on others what you do not desire others to impose upon you." Jesus
preached, "All things therefore that you want people to do to you, do thus
to them." All of the world's major religions embrace some version of the
Golden Rule. [1]



Human dignity and eternal moral truths


The Golden Rule is based upon two fundamental convictions. First, that all
human beings have dignity. That is why one should take the feelings of
others into account. Second, that there is such a thing as right and wrong
based on eternal truths. That is what enables us to say that the Golden Rule
is Golden -- that it applies no matter what the particular situation may be,
and for all time. For the most part, people have relied on religious beliefs
about the supernatural to sanction these two convictions about human beings
and morality. If, for example, we are created by, and in the image of, an
all powerful and wise God, then we all have dignity. If the Ten Commandments
were handed to Moses by God, then they are eternally true.


Capitalism attacks these two convictions underlying the Golden Rule.
Capitalism is based on a morality of selfishness, and it legitimizes itself
by insisting that human beings are naturally selfish. The "invisible hand"
made famous by Adam Smith says that selfish behavior makes for the best
possible world. But if people are selfish, then where is their dignity? If
selfishness is all there is, then what is right today may be wrong tomorrow,
depending on what serves one's interests at the moment. Where are the
eternal moral truths? In the face of this onslaught by Capitalism's morality
of selfishness, many people value the old religions and their supernatural
beliefs as a way of refuting Capitalism's attacks on human dignity and its
contempt for any timeless notion of right and wrong.

Regardless of what one may or may not believe about the supernatural, there
are good reasons, having nothing to do with the supernatural, for believing
in both the dignity of human beings and the existence of eternal moral
truths.


Why is it that all of the world's great religions, though disagreeing
greatly about theology, nonetheless concur on the Golden Rule?


The explanation must be that there is something common to all human beings
that is captured by the Golden Rule and reflected in all of these religions.
And what is that? Human beings are a social species. We depend upon each
other. From the time we are infants dependent on our parents to the time we
are old and dependent on our children, we need each other to survive. When
we were hunters and gatherers we succeeded through teamwork. We lack bodies
designed for individual survival in a hostile environment -- we have no
thick fur or sharp claws. We rely instead on our ability to create a culture
that facilitates complex social labor which enables us to do what we cannot
do as individuals. Everything we rely on in our daily lives -- from material
things like the house that shelters us and the food we consume to the
emotional support we need to carry on -- is the product of many people's
collective efforts.[2] We have succeeded in making the world conducive to
our survival and comfort because we are able to form long term relationships
of mutual aid, cooperation and trust; and such relationships of solidarity
could never be maintained unless people had a natural inclination to behave
the way the Golden Rule says to behave. If some aspect of human nature did
not resonate with the Golden Rule, if on the contrary humans were simply
selfish creatures, then it would have been every man, woman and child out
for him or herself and we would have perished long ago.[3]


The potential to create a social culture that supported behavior in
accordance with what later came to be known as the Golden Rule was an early
survival mechanism of our species. It was hard wired into our human nature.
Religious leaders made the Rule explicit, but they did not invent it. No
religion, regardless of what it said about the supernatural, could ever have
taken root without making the Golden Rule its central morality for living
life on earth. To do so would have been as impossible, and as much in
violation of human nature, as to declare, "Thou Shalt Not Eat."


Seeing the origin of the Golden Rule in human nature makes it possible to
assert the dignity of all human beings and the eternal nature of some moral
truths without having to rely on any claim about the supernatural. Human
beings have dignity because we are all members of the human race which, as a
result of our being an intelligent and social species, has produced a
culture of profoundly positive values summarized by the Golden Rule.
Furthermore the morality of the Golden Rule is eternal because it reflects
the unchanging social nature of the human species.


We can make a better world

A world based entirely upon the Golden Rule would bring us close to heaven
(or as some once called it, the Kingdom of God) on earth. Clearly however we
are not there. And why is that? Is it because of the devil? Original sin? Or
can something else provide an explanation? Again, it helps to look at human
nature.


Human nature is not simple. It includes, as we have seen, the potential to
create a Golden Rule culture of beliefs, values and behaviors that support
relationships of solidarity and trust. But it also includes the potential to
create a selfish culture supporting arrogant, exploitive and oppressive
behavior. Human society cannot survive if only the selfish culture prevails,
but it can survive if a minority culture of selfishness exists as a parasite
sucking its life from the majority. And that is what has prevailed for the
last several millennia. A culture of solidarity has developed among the
majority of people who do the useful work of society, and a parasitic
culture of selfishness and domination has developed among a minority class
of ruling elites. The conflict between a Golden Rule-based culture of
solidarity and a parasitical minority culture of selfishness has taken
different forms over the centuries, as a conflict between slaves and
masters, peasants and lords, and workers and capitalists. [4]


For thousands of years rulers have taken advantage of people's beliefs about
the supernatural by reinforcing versions of such beliefs particularly suited
for controlling people. Royalty claimed to be ordained by God to rule over
commoners. Priests claimed to know God's (or the gods') will better than
ordinary people. This was a world view designed to justify an elite's
privileges and power over people and to legitimize all kinds of oppression
and inequality. Rulers controlled people by turning them against each other
in terrible religious wars and religious persecutions.


Only relatively recently with the rise of capitalism did the elite class in
society change the way they justified their lordship over others. They
talked less about God and more about human nature. We are all creatures
driven by selfishness, and that is our human nature, proclaims Capitalism.
Those who get rich by looking out only for "number one" are just like
everybody else except more successful. Capitalism congratulates itself for
having organized society around this principle of selfishness, arguing that
it is the first social system to acknowledge the truth about human nature
and to figure out how to harness it to produce greater wealth for society.
This is the creed of Corporate America and it dominates our mass media. As
of this writing the latest TV "reality" show features billionaire Donald
Trump as a sort of role model and hero deciding which of the people
competing to be selected as his apprentice are, like him, sufficiently
unscrupulous, ambitious and determined to step on others to rise to the top.


While the mass media portray a world in which such selfishness is the norm,
the truth is very different. A society of only Donald Trumps could never
survive for long. Millions of people may watch the Trump show and be
entertained by it, but if they behaved that way in relationships with family
members, neighbors and fellow workers then life as we know it would come to
a grinding halt. Our children would die un-cared for, we would all be
robbing and stealing from each other, and factories and offices would
produce nothing useful because of rampant back-stabbing, mutual fear and
mistrust. But we do love and care for our children, we have neighborhoods
where people look out for each other, and we produce useful goods and
provide important services because people help each other and cooperate
every day without giving it a second thought. They routinely treat others as
equals, respect their dignity, and act out of consideration for their wants
and needs. And every time they do this, consciously or not, they are
resisting Capitalism's attack on their culture of solidarity -- on the
Golden Rule.


The fundamental conflict in societies all over the world is this conflict
between the great majority of people whose morality is based on the Golden
Rule versus the relatively small number who have contempt for it. On the one
hand are the billions of people who believe that relations between people
should be about caring for each other and treating other people as fellow
human beings deserving dignity and equal respect. On the other hand are the
elites -- of all nations and races and religions -- with the opposite
notions of right and wrong. They believe it is right to dominate and oppress
others, to treat people as mere objects to exploit for one's own selfish
aims, and to climb over others to get to the top. They believe that the only
incentive in life is to rise above others and that therefore it is morally
wrong to permit everyone to have an equal say in society and an equal share
in its benefits because then nobody would have an incentive to work and
society would go to hell in a handbasket. And they believe that life is a
cut-throat competition in which those who fall to the bottom do so because
they are inferior beings, less worthy of respect and dignity than
themselves. This anti-Golden Rule morality is the morality of Capitalism. It
attacks the very concept that most people hold about what it means to be a
human being.

For thousands of years up to the present time, most people have been trying
their best to live their lives by the Golden Rule, even in the face of
attacks from elites. What the world needs is for the morality of the Golden
Rule to triumph over its most powerful enemy in the modern age --
Capitalism. The world needs a popular and democratic movement to succeed on
such a large scale that ordinary people finally are able to shape all of
society by their morality instead of letting people with the opposite
morality call the shots. Such a triumph of democracy would constitute the
revolutionary overthrow of Capitalism.


Why didn't this happen long ago? One reason is that ordinary people lack
confidence in themselves as the source of what is good in the world; hearing
themselves described instead as selfish, or as less godly than their rulers,
has taken its toll on their assurance that they ought to be in charge of
society. This problem has plagued people for millennia. The other reason --
a relative newcomer only 150 years old -- has also wreaked havoc on people's
efforts to make a better world. It is the theory and reality of Communism.


The Communists talked about "revolution against Capitalism" and about
creating a different society based on equality. But they were never about
democracy. In fact they opposed democracy. They opposed it because, like the
capitalists, they believed that ordinary people are motivated by selfishness
and are brainwashed by Capitalist values. It would be crazy to let such
people have real power! Communists hoped to re-mold people to be "better" in
the distant future, but first (according to Marxism) it was necessary to
coerce them into increasing economic production, since people could not be
expected to care about each other and share things as long as there was
still any material scarcity.


Anti-democratic Communist regimes have nothing to do with the revolutionary
expansion of democracy that is needed to overthrow Capitalism. This is why,
far from overthrowing Capitalism, "Communist" nations re-created capitalist
relations of inequality and exploitation by another name. The Communists are
wrong about people. We need more democracy, not less.


To overthrow Capitalism we need a democratic movement of billions of people
confident in the rightness of their Golden Rule morality and the wrongness
of capitalist morality; confident that trust and caring for one another --
not economic productivity or profit -- should be the standard by which to
judge all human relations and activities; and confident that nobody -- not
capitalists, communists, priests nor mullahs -- have any right to exploit
people for selfish gain or deprive them of their dignity and an equal say in
society.


Such a democratic and revolutionary movement would embody what is best about
human spirituality, despite its having nothing to do with beliefs about the
supernatural. Like all great religions it would aim to inspire everybody to
join in a great effort to make a better world for all. Like all great
religions it would express a moral vision in which the dignity of every
human being matters more than material wealth.


FOOTNOTES

1. For evidence of this see "The Golden Rule" and Christian Apologetics by
Edward T. Babinski

2. For more discussion of this see We CAN Change The World, by David G.
Stratman, New Democracy Books, Boston, p. 250.

3. See Peter Kropotkin's Mutual Aid: A factor in Evolution for a discussion
of this in the context of the entire animal kingdom.

4. This is discussed in greater depth in my article, Worshiping A Strange
God

****

Back to "World of Revolution"

www.newdemocracyworld.org

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_-_-_-_-_-
Variations 26.Oct.2004 12:52

Golden Rule

Baha'i
"Lay not on any soul a load which ye would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things ye would not desire for yourselves. This is My best counsel unto you, did ye but observe it."
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p202)

Buddhism
"Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."
...Udana-Varga,5:18...

Christianity
"All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
...Matthew7:12...

Confucianism
"Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you"
...Analects 15:23...

Hinduism
"This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you."
...Mahabharata 5:1517...

Islam
"No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself".
...Sunnah...

Jainism
"In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self"
...Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara...

Judaism
"What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the law: all the rest is commentary"
...Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Native American
"Respect for all life is the foundation."

Sikhism
Don't create enmity with anyone as God is within everyone."
...Guru Arjan Devji 259, Guru Granth Sahib...

Zoroastrianism
"That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self."
...Dadistan-i-Dinik, 94:5...

"O children of men! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory."

Golden Rule 26.Oct.2004 20:15

Progressively unfolding

Baha'i
"Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself."
...Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah,71...

Buddhism
"Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."
...Udana-Varga,5:18...

Christianity
"All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
...Matthew7:12...

Confucianism
"Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you"
...Analects 15:23...

Hinduism
"This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you."
...Mahabharata 5:1517...

Islam
"No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself".
...Sunnah...

Jainism
"In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self"
...Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara...

Judaism
"What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the law: all the rest is commentary"
...Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Native American
"Respect for all life is the foundation."

Sikhism
Don't create enmity with anyone as God is within everyone."
...Guru Arjan Devji 259, Guru Granth Sahib...

Zoroastrianism
"That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self."
...Dadistan-i-Dinik, 94:5...


"O children of men! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory."