Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world and follows one primal commandment: "This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you."
The Buddha followed this golden rule by teaching his disciples to, "Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."
Jainism states this rule in even simpler terms: "One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated." And Jews, Christians, Muslims and Sikhs all profess in unison: "I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all."
Why then, if there is so much agreement between these various religions, is there so much killing and mayhem caused in the name of religion? I have my own ideas but I want to hear what you think. Let us know and we will publish your response.
Joseph Gardella (PhD student at Vanderbilt University)
Perhaps part of why the golden rule doesn't work is because of the asymmetry between our social organization and our physical and biological limitations of our senses, cognitions, and communication abilities.
For instance, we often can't see the implications of our consumption choices because we are limited by what we see, hear, smell, and feel in front of us. Consequently, the way we think and respond to a purchase is shaped by what we experience. If we aren't able to communicate effectively such that we learn what the implications of our consumption choices are... well, then it's difficult to live out the golden rule because we can't perceive the other person. Our globalized social organization increases the distance between our actions and the implications of our actions in a way we aren't quite built to handle.
However, promising internet-enabled technological tools may augment and extend our abilities. And, our will, dedication and commitment to learn about the implications of our actions also may overcome that distance between our actions and the implications of our actions.