Thursday, June 04, 2009

do unto others...

I saw Obama's speech from Cairo today. It was absolutely brilliant. Obama is genius and deserves our loyalty and gratitude. (And it was fun to see him say Assalamu Alaikum if for no other reason than because no other American President has probably ever said those words. Send me a link if I'm wrong about that.)

But I do want to quibble with one point. Late in the speech Obama said:

There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples -- a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today. [Full text of the speech here.]

It's a great point. It's true. I'm glad he said it.

But "do unto others" doesn't come from religion. It comes from biology. We see rudimentary forms of "do unto others" and other cooperative behavior in the animal kingdom (see for example, The Evolution of Morality by Richard Joyce or The Moral Animal by Robert Wright). I don't see why Christianity or Judaism or Islam always gets credit for the genius of "do unto others" when in fact, "do unto others" came pre-loaded with the operating systems we are all born with. The craziest thing about religion is that, in fact, religious zealots often exhibit precisely the sort of behavior that VIOLATES the principle of "do unto others" (think for example about suicide bombers or the Catholic Church moving pedophile priests from one church to another) -- and they often take these sociopathic actions in the name of their religion. Don't get me wrong, I love "do unto others" and indeed I DO think it is the foundation of morality and ethics across all cultures. But we gotta give credit to Mother Nature -- not Jesus, Abraham, Mohamed, Buddha, or Krishna.

[And another time I imagine we can debate whether the phrase is actually "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" or rather "do NOT do unto others as you would have them not do unto you" (I've heard it both ways but the meaning between the two is slightly different if you think about it).]


Ema Nymton said...

I had a chance to read one of your comments on another blog and, wow, you're a fucking moron.

RFK Action Front said...

Hmmm, trying to remember where I commented recently. I commented on the Discover blog (I'm #68). But my point in the comment wasn't even all that controversial. I was just saying, 'enough already with the slut shaming of Jenny McCarthy. Let's include all the evidence -- not just the evidence that suits your particular argument.'

And this post here isn't all that controversial either. You're pissed off that evolution taught us the principle of "do unto others" before Jesus did?

BTW, I'm pretty sure your side spells it "moran". Good times.

RFK Action Front said...

Oh wait, I also commented on those young conservative douchebags on YouTube! Was that what got your undies in a bunch?