Glass has stated on This American Life that he is a committed atheist. “It’s not like I don’t feel like I’m a Jew. I feel like I don’t have a choice about being a Jew. Your cultural heritage isn’t like a suitcase you can lose at the airport. I have no choice about it. It is who I am. I can’t choose that. It’s a fact of me … But even when I was 14 or 15, it didn’t make that much sense to me that there was this Big Daddy who created the world and would act so crazy in the Old Testament. That we made up these stories to make ourselves feel good and explain the world seems like a much more reasonable explanation. I’ve tried to believe in God, but I simply don’t.”
Atheism notwithstanding, “some years I have a nostalgic feeling to go into a shul and I’ll go in for a High Holiday service,” discloses Glass, who has fond memories of his childhood rabbi’s beguiling discourses. “Rabbi Seymour Esrog was really funny, a great storyteller. He was so good that even the kids would stay and watch him. He’d tell a funny anecdote, something really moving, and go for a big finish. That’s what the show is,” he competes, recognizing the rabbi’s effect.
In this interview with religious anthropologist Jim Henderson, Glass says he thinks Christians get a genuinely bad rap in the media. The NPR star said the way Christians are often represented in pop-culture is totally different from the way the Christians he knows personally actually are in real life. “The Christians in my life were all incredibly wonderful and thoughtful and had very ambiguous, complicated feelings in their beliefs. And seemed to be totally generous-hearted, and totally open to a lot of different kinds of people in their lives.”
The Golden Rule or the ethic of reciprocity is the definitive, all-encompassing principle for ethical behavior. In essence, this maxim states, “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself” in the positive form and “One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated” in the negative form, the latter called the Silver Rule. The utility of the Golden Rule is primarily in developing a framework of personal ethics, in forming a psychological outlook toward others, and not necessarily in directing behavior.
We find the Golden Rule in all the great cultures and the great religions of the world:
Golden Rule in Baha’i Faith: “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.” [Source: Baha’u’llah, Gleanings]
Golden Rule in Buddhism: “Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” [Source: Udana-Varga 5.18]
Golden Rule in Christianity: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” [Source: The Bible, Matthew 7:12]
Golden Rule in Confucianism: “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.” [Source: Confucius, Analects 15.23]
Golden Rule in Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” [Source: Mahabharata 5:1517]
Golden Rule in Hinduism: “Why does a man inflict upon other creatures those sufferings, which he has found by experience are sufferings to himself?” [Source: Tiruvalluvar, Tirukkural Verse 318]
Golden Rule in Islam: “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.” [Source: The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith]
Golden Rule in Jainism: “One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.” [Source: Sutrakritanga 1.11.33]
Golden Rule in Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.” [Source: Hillel, Talmud, Shabbath 31a]
Golden Rule in Native Spirituality: “We are as much alive as we keep the earth alive.” [Source: Chief Dan George]
Golden Rule in Sikhism: “I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all.” [Source: Guru Granth Sahib, p.1299]
Golden Rule in Taoism: “Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss.” [Source: Laozi, T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien, 213-218]
Golden Rule in Unitarianism: “We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” [Source: Unitarian principle]
Golden Rule in Zoroastrianism: “Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself.” [Source: Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29]
Notes: Poster compiled by Paul McKenna for “Guidelines for Golden Rule” Workshop, published by Scarboro Missions, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
The Golden Rule describes a guide to a fundamental behavior and is taught in most major religious and moral traditions.
The Golden Rule has been articulated either positively as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12); or negatively, counseling that you not do to others what you would not wish them to do to you, as in the teachings of Confucius (“Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.”) or Hillel (“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour”).
The Golden Rule’s all-inclusive simplicity has invited innumerable belittling counter-examples. For example, should masochists impose their favorite annoyances on unsuspicious acquaintances? Nonetheless, such counter-examples and critiques the point of the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule was never proposed as a guide to practical choice unaided of all other principles of moral conduct and behavior. In fact, the Golden Rule alludes to nothing about particular moral and ethical considerations, nor does it validate specific moral principles, qualities, and ideals.
To be more precise, the Golden Rule has to do with a perspective philosophy that is indispensable to the exercise of even the most rudimentary morality: one of seeking to situate oneself in the position of those affected by one’s actions, in an attempt to counteract the natural tendency to ignore moral considerations and ethical short-sightedness.
The Golden Rule directs one to treat others with the compassionate considerations that one wishes to contend with (in the positive form,) and, in particular, not to perpetrate misfortunes on others that one would abhor to have inflicted on oneself.
The Golden Rule has long been thought fundamental. Therefore many moral philosophers have compared it to their own principles concerning moral choice and conduct.
In “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals”, German philosopher Immanuel Kant dismissed the Golden Rule as inconsequential and too limited to be a universal law: “Let it not be thought that the trivial quod tibi non vis fieri, etc. [what you do not will to be done to you, etc.] can here serve as a standard or principle. For it is merely derived from our principle, although with several limitations. It cannot be a universal law, for it contains the ground neither of duties to oneself nor of duties of love toward others (for many a man would gladly consent that others should not benefit him, if only he might be excused from benefiting them). Nor, finally, does it contain the ground of strict duties toward others, for the criminal would on this ground be able to dispute with the judges who punish him; and so on.”
In “Utilitarianism”, English philosopher John Stuart Mill claimed that, “In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility. To do as you would be done by, and to love your neighbour as yourself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality.”
British philosopher and Nobel Prize winnerBertrand Russell argued very persuasively through his writings and speeches that religion was merely a fallacy and, notwithstanding any positive effects that religion might have on a person’s emotional or psychological well-being, the concept of religion is for the most part detrimental to people. Bertrand Russell resolutely believed that religion and a religious point of view serve to hinder knowledge and cultivate a fear of anxiety, fear, and dependency.
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes … . A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.
Bertrand Russell on Belief and the Value of Religion
TV Interviewer: Why are you not a Christian? Bertrand Russell: Because I see no evidence whatever in any of the Christian dogmas. I have examined all the stock arguments in favor of the existence of God and none of them seem to me to be logically valid.
TV Interviewer: Do you think there is a practical reason for having a religious belief for many people? Bertrand Russell: There can’t be a practical reason for believing what isn’t true. I rule it out. It is impossible. Either a thing is true or it isn’t. If it is true, you should believe in it. If it isn’t, you shouldn’t. And if you can’t find out whether it is true or it isn’t, you should suspend judgment. It seems to me fundamental dishonesty and fundamental treachery to intellectual integrity to hold a belief because you think it is useful and not because you think it is true.
TV Interviewer: I was thinking of those people who find that some kind of religious code helps them to live their lives — it gives them a very strict set of rules — the right and the wrongs. Bertrand Russell: People are generally quite mistaken. Great many of them do more harm than good and they would probably be able to find rational morality that they could live by if they drop this irrational traditional taboo morality that comes down from savage ages.
TV Interviewer: But are we, perhaps, the ordinary person, perhaps, is not strong enough to find his own personal ethic. They have to have something imposed upon them from outside. Bertrand Russell: I don’t think that is true. What is imposed on you from outside is of no value whatever. Doesn’t count.
TV Interviewer: You were brought up, of course, as a Christian. When did you first decide that you did not want to remain a believer in the Christian faith? Bertrand Russell: I never decided that I did not want to remain a believer. Between the ages of 15 and 18, I spent almost all my spare time thinking about Christian dogmas and trying to find out whether there was any reason to believe them. By the time I was 18 I had discarded the last of them.
TV Interviewer: Do you think that that gave you an extra strength in your life? Bertrand Russell: No, I don’t know. No I shouldn’t have said so. Neither it’s a strength nor the opposite. I was just engaged in the pursuit of knowledge.
TV Interviewer: As you approach the end of life, do you have any fear of some kind of afterlife? Bertrand Russell: No, that is nonsense.
TV Interviewer: There is no afterlife? Bertrand Russell: None whatsoever.
TV Interviewer: Do you have any fear of something that is common among atheists and agnostics who have been atheists or agnostics all entire lives, who are converted just before they die to a form of religion. Bertrand Russell: Well, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as religious people think it does. Because, religious people, most of them, think that it is a virtuous act to tell lies of the deathbeds of agnostics and such. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t happen very often.
Bertrand Russell’s Books on Religion, God, and Atheism
The Conquest of Happiness: Bertrand Russell uses analytic empiricism to discuss the psychological issues of ennui, enthusiasm, envy, sin, indulgence, persecution, populism and public opinion, zest, and other topics.