Thomas Straus: Golden rule is the key to it all
February 2, 2018
In a well-written Other Voices column on Jan. 10, Eric Cristen concludes that the protestant reformation resulted in a successfully happy society while the godless communist revolution ended in disaster because of a lack of a personal religion.
I would suggest that other factors such as science and democracy may have played a role. In fact, it is not only the murderous split between Shia and Sunni in today's world, but also countless other wars because of religious differences — or even relatively minor persecution — such as the Pilgrims, felt when deciding to make their perilous journey to America, that has been the cause of a great deal of unhappiness.
There is, however, a principle on which our society can hopefully agree, namely, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."
With the aid of recent DNA based evidence, as well as long since undertaken excavations of sites which existed in prehistoric times, I would suggest that not only Darwin, but science as a whole has shown that for millions of years, long before the emergence of Homo Sapiens, both plant and animal life has existed in a world based on "the survival of the fittest."
The key is “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
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Is then religion the only justification for espousing the first of the two foregoing phrases in quotation marks? I would strongly suggest no! Purely rational considerations, involving absolutely no God at all, could lead to that choice. I, for one, have concluded that a society based on that principle, despite the difficulty of how it might be applied by individuals in a myriad of different situations, is much to be preferred to the alternative that pure nature would dictate.
Due to the advances in communication and transportation, the world we all live in now appears much smaller than it was previously. At the same time there are many new problems affecting all nations. Advances in health care and food supply based on increased knowledge have resulted in a human population approaching 10,000,000,000 in this century (Earth's population is 7.6 billion).
What a huge increase of the polluting energy sources we have previously relied upon has occurred in a single lifetime. Moreover our more affluent societies have resulted in vast amounts of waste products, the proper disposal becoming an ever-increasing crisis. Although we have very fortunately avoided the usage of nuclear weapons since 1945, the world-wide stockpiles are more than enough, if used, to make our planet uninhabitable.
Unfortunately, war between nations, as well as civil wars, has occurred despite the destructive potential of military weapons so recently demonstrated in the Middle East. The deluge of refugees that resulted is as well another serious problem.
As with personal relationships, I believe that win-win solutions to such problems between nations will be the best way forward, however difficult. The key is "do unto others as you would have others do unto you."
Thomas Straus lives in Nevada City.