Friday, November 13, 2009

Religious Rules and Other Crap

Lots of religions have their version of the Golden Rule and I like it
-Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
-Do not do what you hate.
-Ascribe not to any soul that which you would not have ascribed to thee and say not that which thou doest not.
-A state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict it on another?
-Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and your neighbor's loss as your own loss.
-Love your neighbor as yourself.
-Love your enemies.
It's all the same rule.

You don't even have to be religious to figure out that if everyone lived according to that idea, life would be grand indeed. It's common sense.
That rule is Golden, because you really don't need any others. The Rule doesn't need any tweeking. It's the only religious rule I've found that is helpful in the least.

But we get it all twisted around and think the golden rule means "Stick it to them before they stick it to you."

We often live according to rules such as:
-Get all you can because everyone is out for themselves.
-If you're too nice to people, they'll treat you like dirt.
-Give them an inch and they'll take a mile.
These are certainly not golden rules. They are more like cracked formica than gold.

We have come up will all sorts of additional rules. Some of them are just amazing. Don't eat meat on Fridays. Cover your head. Face this direction when you pray. Kneal in front of this piece of wood. Get this piece of paper signed on this line before you live together. Cut off your infant son's foreskin. Don't say this word. Cut open this animal and burn it on a fire to please God. Go to church on Sundays. You may not marry if you're going to be a priest. Women can't be priests. Don't cut your hair, do cut your hair, grow a beard, don't grow a beard. It can get ding dang confusing and usually these are rules that are relatively easy to recognize as what they are - silliness.

There are other rules that are more ingrained, sort of poetical rules that are harder to recognize, but equally trash because they leave so much wiggle room for favorable interpretation.

"God helps those who helps themselves," can be interpreted as "I'm going to help myself to this law suit. After all, ____________ has deep pockets. Besides it's ____'s insurance company that will have to pay. Everybody does it. If you don't work the system, the system will work you. A lot of these rules are just excuses to behave badly, as if most of us need an excuse.

One of my most hated rules is "There but for the grace of God go I." What does that mean? That street person over there, with an obvious mental illness, freezing in the cold has less of my god's grace than I do. That is just so icky it makes me want to spit. It means that my god likes me more than he likes people whom I perceive as less fortunate than I am. What crap.

That rule is related to the rule that says god punishes people who tick him off. That tsumami wiped out those pagans. HIV is god's way of punishing people who break rules. Those people lost their crops/baby/lives/Waterford Crystal because they sinned.

It's really a variation of the "I am perfect, you are doomed," rule. It goes like sort of like this: My god is bigger and better than your god and he wants me to kill you because you might kill people that god likes. In fact, if I don't kill you, he's likely to smite me. He's only doing this for your own good. You'll see when you're burning in everlasting fire.

Anyone can apply this to nearly any religion and justify killing (or smiting) nearly anyone. It's very successful. Been used for millenia. But it flies right in the face of the Golden Rule. If we are supposed to love everyone and treat them the way we want to be treated (which means live cooperatively rather than competitively) we can't go around smiting people.

I think we need to be on our toes for these rules. Following rules that don't make sense doesn't make us good, obedient people. It makes us easily manipulated dolts who've abdicated our responsibility to think.

That Goldlen Rule? That very simple one that just about every religion agrees on, is the one that makes sense. If you want to do the silly things, wear a green hat on Tuesdays or flap your arms while you sing a certain song, hey go for it. But don't make it a rule that everyone is supposed to follow. Because we only need one. It's Golden.


  1. The list of rules that have come about, foreskin, meat, face this way, do this are funny :D

    My own take on the golden rule is "be nice" but this is also open to interpretation so I quantify it by saying 'well, if you don't know what nice is then we will ask a young child for clarification' as they more often than not have a clear and direct view of fair and unfair - unlike religions and politicians.

  2. Maybe it could be simplfied to "Love the Universe." That would include ourselves, each other, the planet, everything."

  3. Speaking only for Christianity, religion is (and always has been) about power and control. Period. The abominations committed during the last 20 centuries by "The Church" and in the name of "a loving God" is sickening. Worse than sickening.

    But in the tuned-in 21st, people still buy the hocus-pocus--they are still controlled by fear, rather than using their small brains for something other than hatracks.

    As for me, the only truism in the New Testament is the Golden Rule. And most of the time, it works. Simple acts--like opening a door for an elderly person or telling a mother her baby is beautiful--often elicit a smile in return.

    I could rant for three or four days, so I salute you for such a concise essay.

  4. Charlie, did you write that response or did I? I feel you, Man. (me using hip vocabulary - probably incorrectly.)