Religious Reciprocity & The Fool’s Golden Rule

Posted on August 26th, 2010 by James

In the coverage of the protest against the kind of a mosque but mostly a community center near but not at Ground Zero, I noticed a sign saying “religious reciprocity”. It’s a new term to me, and I wanted to see what the faceless sign holder meant.

Searching the web told me that basically, the phrase means, “Their religion doesn’t allow us to build a church in Muslim countries, so we shouldn’t let them build a mosque here.”

Boy does this hurt my head, even ignoring the idea that this is a Christian nation, or that the Founding Fathers would even recognize as Christianity the religion of people who argue this.

When I was about 6, I was playing with my younger next door neighbor, Jeremy. He bit me, so I bit him back, harder of course. He went crying to his mother. My defense? “Do to others as they have done to you.” I call it the Fool’s Golden Rule.

And that’s what people calling for religious reciprocity are doing- taking a pretty universally shared ethical standard, that of treating others how you’d like to be treated, perverting it, and using it as an excuse to treat others poorly.

A recurring argument is that Saudi Arabia doesn’t have any churches, so we don’t need to allow mosques.

Seriously? Your argument is, well, Saudi Arabia isn’t doing it, so we don’t have to. Talk about stooping to the lowest common denominator. This is the US, where freedom of religion is kind of a major thing. It’s in the 1st Amendment. And in the 14th Amendment (you know, that one that some of the same people are fighting to repeal).

I think the US gains a lot as a country because of freedom of religion. It provides a variety of ideas, communities, and support networks. It (ideally) creates an atmosphere of continuous growth, as people and their ideas interact.

But it’s not only the collective good that benefits from freedom of religion. The Christian church and Christians also benefit. I mean, seriously, what does the Christian church gain by demonizing Islam? Not much. I can think of one single plus- but it comes with a lot of downsides. But that’s a post for another day.

We need to remember to follow the Golden Rule, how it is expressed throughout not only the Bible, but also in Islam, Judaism, Confucianism, and most other religions. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard than the Fool’s Golden Rule – otherwise we’ll be stuck in a childish repeating loop of “But he bit me!”

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