Religion and Science: A Beautiful Friendship? HTML version
What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.
We should behave to our friends, as we would wish our friends to behave to us.
Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should
become a universal law
– Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative
Neminem laedere (15)
– Legal codification of the golden rule, which translates as "general rule of care," or "hurt
As in physics, a deviation from symmetry signals the existence of a force that breaks it. Among humans,
asymmetries take the form of inequitable or preferential treatment of persons or groups and, as in the
physical world, these deviations from the equal-handedness implicit in the golden rule reveal the
existence of coercion. For example, slavery requires force or the threat of force.
If the most famous formula in physics is E = mc(squared), then the golden rule, as a formula for
reciprocal dignity, is perhaps its religious counterpart, a jewel in the crown of religious insight.
If the idea of god, as signifying comprehensibility, were not enough to warrant a tip of the hat to religion,
the god idea also contains the seeds of the egalitarian notion of universal dignity.
Notwithstanding the fact that religion has often impugned the dignity of adherents to other faiths, it has
usually defended the dignity of its own followers. Theistic religions go further and procla im the existence
of a personal, caring god, a father figure who loves all who share the faith, according them equal dignity
regardless of status, rank, or role.
The universal equality of dignity is among re ligion's most revolutionary ideas. It's not a description of life
as we know it, but rather a prescription for life as it could be. Once formulated, the ideal of "dignity for
all" exerts a pull that's felt in every human interaction. In the concluding chapter, I'll make the case that,
despite appearances to the contrary, human behavior is slowly coming into alignment with that prophetic,
aspirational, religious model (16).
The need for dignity runs so deep that when our fellow man seems determined to deny it to us, even non-
believers may suspend their disbelief. Arthur Hugh Clough gives this insight a comical twist:
And almost every one when age,
Disease, or sorrows strike him,
Inclines to think there is a God,
Or something very like Him (17).