Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

They booed Ron Paul for espousing the utilitarian "Golden Rule."

   Bob Dylan sang, "You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." The Weathermen, later changed to Weather Underground, named themselves after that lyric. The on-line forecast for tday shows: (1) a predicted high temperature of 56 degrees, (2) a current temperature of 57, (3) a seventy percent (70%) chance of rain, (4) current conditions include rain, and (5) I hear rain beating against the walls of the house.

   This disconnect (current popular word) was played out in the latest "debate" amongst Republican candidates for the office of President of the United States.

   First, let me say the panel sessions billed as debates are not debates. I debated in high school (State Finals, 1973), debated in college (DePauw, national ranking and places three times at nationals), and coached college debate (IUPUI, 1990-94). Debate involves a specific topic (or it can embrace more than one topic, but each phrased specifically, in advance, so the competitors know the topic and can be prepared), specific time limits for speaking, and (in some competitions) cross-examination of each other’s teams. The presidential panel sessions are gab-fests in which participants spew talking points and try to ambush whomever amongst them leads in the polls at any given time.

   Second, last night featured another highlight of this season’s events. We have had Rick Perry’s number of executions cheered (without his saying anything), Ron Paul cheered for suggesting an uninsured man in a hospital be allowed to die, and a gay serviceman overseas in Afghanistan booed. I would point out that I am an atheist. What has been called The Golden Rule, credited in the New Testament to Jesus Christ, is a utilitarian view of human interrelations. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The concept pre-dates Christianity. The rule makes sense. It also has been pointed out, by some, to be a cornerstone of the Christian religion.

   The Republican Party has seemed to want to corner the market on religiosity, since at least the 1980 presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan. So it was interesting that Ron Paul was booed last night for suggesting the United States should apply the Golden Rule to its foreign policy with other countries. To paraphrase Representative Paul, he said if we (the United States) bomb other people, do you think those people will turn around and like us?

   I agree with a lot of positions Paul has taken (legalization of all drugs, withdrawal of U.S. forces from other countries), and disagree with more (the role of government in solving society’s problems, taxation of the wealthy). But the audience of last night’s session was ballyhooed as largely evangelical. I believe that the utilitarian concept of reciprocity—do unto others as you would want them to do unto you—is a good model for behavior, both on a personal and on an international basis. I do not see how what appear to be warmongers (yes, they almost are a cheer block for a war against Iran) also can, with a straight face, act pious and espouse belief in the Golden Rule.

   It sill is raining outside. So I think the percentage chance should be increased to one hundred. And the high temperature predicted for the day was smashed, just like the Broncos defense last weekend. I think we know which way the wind blows.

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Comment by Mark Small on January 21, 2012 at 7:18am

Paul,

First, why do you use the phrase "self-avowed atheist"? I never hear anyone referred to as a "self-avowed Christian." Grammatically the statement is accurate, but the nuance is that others who are atheists either do not realize they are atheists, or keep their belief secret. The phrase implies that a person who declares himself or herself to be an atheist is somehow strange. However, one Gallup Poll puts the percentage of atheists in the United States at 15%.

Second, my glasses are not rose-colored. They are bifocals and probably need to be replaced. It is the age "thing." You say, though, that with "a secular viewpoint" I "should not be pointing out the religious hypocrisy of others..." If I were critical of the inner workings of a particular congregation—their budget for purchase of hymnals, for example—I would agree with you. There are forces in this society that want to place their religions into the political system. Amongst the most extreme of these is dominionism. Perhaps I am inaccurate in my assessment of the composition of the audience at the debate te other night, but given it was in South Carolina and the debate was amongst candidates of the Republican Party, I would think a majority of the audience were of some evangelical Christian belief. Therefore, they wish to place their beliefs at issue. Consequently, criticism of their hypocrisy is fair play.

Finally, I read the links you posted. None of them dissuades me from interpreting the Golden Rule—again, a utilitarian view of interaction with others that pre-dates the time when Jesus Christ supposedly lived—as a general statement of behavior. First, most of the biblical passages are from the Old Testament. That is a rather primitive book and portrays a rather primitive supreme deity. Second, none specifically states, "Oh yeah, and by the way, the do unto others thing only applies to interpersonal relations." Congressman Paul was correct to apply that rule or sentiment to nation states. I do not see an asterisk in that passage of Matthew, or a footnote saying something to the effect that it does not apply to relations between countries or somehow is limited to individual humans.

I learned my lesson yesterday and drafted this on WordPerfect. I appreciate your comments and the thought you put into the topic. I look forward to further dialogue.

Comment by Mark Small on January 20, 2012 at 7:27am

Paul, I spent 20 minutes writing a post in response to your very thoughtful contribution. Unfortunately, I hit the wrong button and what I had written vanished. I shall write more later.

Comment by paul wheeler on January 18, 2012 at 6:33pm

I was unaware you were a self avowed athiest.  One's belief system or worldview usually reflects every phase of how we look at ourselves, others, and the world at large.  This is particularly evident when politics, religion, philosophy is discussed through rose colored glasses.   With a secular viewpoint, I don't think you should be pointing out the religious hypocracy of others since all of us everyday would plead guilty. While there may be merits to your observations, the context was 'war'.  Ron Paul used a personal Biblical verse to apply erronously to 'nations'.  God give 'nations' (governments) the duty to carry out other duties He assigns to them.  I've found some info that may explain some of this.  http://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/transcripts/topical/bible_on_war.htm

I don't expect everyone to agree, but thought it might contribute to your discussion.

http://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/transcripts/topical/bible_on_war.htm

 

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