Readings in Nonviolence’ features extracts from our favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence and related areas, or reviews of important works in the field (suggestions and contributions welcome)
Introduced by Rob Fairmichael
There is a great Wizard of Id cartoon where ‘the Golden Rule’ is mentioned; the question is asked what it is, and the answer comes – “Whoever has the gold makes the rules”! This is certainly a pithy judgement on the ways of the world but there is what is commonly spoken of as ‘the Golden Rule’ in religion, not perhaps in every religion but in most, about doing to others as you’d like them to do to you. It also features strongly in humanistic thinking. It may take different forms in different religious and secular ideologies but it is common enough to be thought of as an almost universal principle.
A fascinating illustration of the commonality of values in different religions came through the practice of Tom Ekin who became Lord Mayor of Belfast in 2004. It had been previously been decreed in Belfast City Council that there should be a ‘scripture reading’ before Council meetings, it being the responsibility of the Lord Mayor to provide the reading. Tom Ekin adhered to this practice. But what only came out, through his own admission, a couple of years after his tenure was up as Lord Mayor was that he had indeed provided scripture readings before each Council meeting – but they had come from a variety of world religions. And, even in Belfast, no one had noticed..... Now obviously he had chosen passages that could not be immediately identified as coming from a particular religious tradition, but it just shows the commonality in different world religions.
For those of a nonviolent persuasion the Golden Rule is a rather minimalist doctrine, nonviolence goes much further than this but it also in a way forms part of nonviolent thinking; not inflicting the evil that we want to overcome on others, trying to treat even our ‘enemies’, or perceived enemies, in a way which does not harm them but allows them the possibility of growth and change. The Quaker expression about ‘that of God in everyone’ comes to mind. But true nonviolence backs this up with action to show that we are strong and determined in our case and cause.
In INNATE we have a policy or statement about respect for those who have either religious or secular beliefs (click here). It is important that the basis of people’s belief is respected where these do not go contrary to human rights, though we perhaps need to take account of Albert Beale’s comment (NN 205) about distinguishing between people and their beliefs – “a rational approach to nonviolence actually require us to be prepared to show our honest disrespect of people’s ideas if they are indeed ideas that do not command our respect”, while respecting their right to hold such beliefs.
The text below features in one of INNATE’s forthcoming set of mini-posters which will be available for download.
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The Golden Rule
Religions in general have as a principle what is commonly known as The Golden Rule - treat others as you would like treated. If this was followed then violence against others would be unknown. It may be much more honoured in the breach than in the observance but it is a principle common to the religions of the world—and humanistic philosophies too.
Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself. - Baha’u'llah, Gleanings, Bahá’í Faith
Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. - The Buddha, Udana - Varga 5.18, Buddhism
In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.- Jesus, Matthew 7:12, Christianity
One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct. . .loving kindness. Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself. - Confucius, Analects 15.23, Confucianism
This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. - Mahabharata 5:1517, Hinduism
Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself. - The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Hadith, Islam
One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated. - Mahavira, Sutrakritanga, Jainism
What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. - Hillel, Talmud, Shabbath 31a, Judaism
I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all. - Guru Granth Sahib, pg. 1299, Sikhism
Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss. - T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien, 213-218, Taoism