Essay: The Golden Rule, part 1
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Essay: The Golden Rule, part 1
(August 2, 2009)

Last week, I asked: How do we build a just society, in which people don’t justify abuse on such features as gender, ethnicity, or species? History shows well that simply confessing Christ is not sufficient – some of the greatest crimes of history have been done in Christ’s name, including the Inquisition, the Crusades, the burning of witches, pogroms against Russian Jews, the Africa-to-America slave trade, and a wide arrange of animal abuses. Of course, many of history’s great liberators have also been inspired by their Christian faith, including the early abolitionists, the early animal protectionists, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
As I see it, the Bible contains stories in which God seems to endorse violence and injustice, as well as stories in which the Bible encourages love, compassion, and mercy. Some people try to resolve the apparent contradictions by emphasizing certain passages over others, or by claiming (without compelling evidence) that certain stories are historically accurate and others are not, or by arguing (again without compelling evidence) that some stories were meant as metaphor and others were not. The metaphor argument is particularly problematic, because different people can suggest widely different meanings to the metaphors. Many religions resolve this paradox by appealing to religious authorities for the “correct” interpretation of metaphors, but this opens up the problem discussed last week – people in positions of power often abuse that power.
As nicely discussed in Katherine Wills Perlo’s book Kinship and Killing, nearly all religions abide by the “golden rule,” that we should do to others what we would want them to do to us. Jesus articulated this as well: “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (Mt 7:12). Many people agree in principle that the golden rule applies to people, but they deny that it should apply to animals. Next week, I’ll discuss why I think animals should be among the “others” who deserve such moral consideration.

Go on to: Essay: The Golden Rule, part 2
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