Karen Armstrong: Let’s revive the Golden Rule

Karen Armstrong: Let’s revive the Golden Rule


For years I’ve been feeling frustrated, because as a religious historian, I’ve become acutely aware of the centrality of compassion in all the major world faiths. Every single one of them has evolved their own version of what’s been called the Golden Rule. Sometimes it comes in a positive version — “Always treat all others as you’d like to be treated yourself.” And equally important is the negative version — “Don’t do to others what you would not like them to do to you.” Look into your own heart, discover what it is that gives you pain and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else. And people have emphasized the importance of compassion, not just because it sounds good, but because it works. People have found that when they have implemented the Golden Rule as Confucius said, “all day and every day,” not just a question of doing your good deed for the day and then returning to a life of greed and egotism, but to do it all day and every day, you dethrone yourself from the center of your world, put another there, and you transcend yourself. And it brings you into the presence of what’s been called God, Nirvana, Rama, Tao. Something that goes beyond what we know in our ego-bound existence. But you know you’d never know it a lot of the time, that this was so central to the religious life. Because with a few wonderful exceptions, very often when religious people come together, religious leaders come together, they’re arguing about abstruse doctrines or uttering a council of hatred or inveighing against homosexuality or something of that sort. Often people don’t really want to be compassionate. I sometimes see when I’m speaking to a congregation of religious people a sort of mutinous expression crossing their faces because people often want to be right instead. And that of course defeats the object of the exercise. Now why was I so grateful to TED? Because they took me very gently from my book-lined study and brought me into the 21st century, enabling me to speak to a much, much wider audience than I could have ever conceived. Because I feel an urgency about this. If we don’t manage to implement the Golden Rule globally, so that we treat all peoples, wherever and whoever they may be, as though they were as important as ourselves, I doubt that we’ll have a viable world to hand on to the next generation. The task of our time, one of the great tasks of our time, is to build a global society, as I said, where people can live together in peace. And the religions that should be making a major contribution are instead seen as part of the problem. And of course it’s not just religious people who believe in the Golden Rule. This is the source of all morality, this imaginative act of empathy, putting yourself in the place of another. And so we have a choice, it seems to me. We can either go on bringing out or emphasizing the dogmatic and intolerant aspects of our faith, or we can go back to the rabbis. Rabbi Hillel, the older contemporary of Jesus, who, when asked by a pagan to sum up the whole of Jewish teaching while he stood on one leg, said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the Torah and everything else is only commentary.” And the rabbis and the early fathers of the church who said that any interpretation of scripture that bred hatred and disdain was illegitimate. And we need to revive that spirit. And it’s not just going to happen because a spirit of love wafts us down. We have to make this happen, and we can do it with the modern communications that TED has introduced. Already I’ve been tremendously heartened at the response of all our partners. In Singapore, we have a group going to use the Charter to heal divisions recently that have sprung up in Singaporean society, and some members of the parliament want to implement it politically. In Malaysia, there is going to be an art exhibition in which leading artists are going to be taking people, young people, and showing them that compassion also lies at the root of all art. Throughout Europe, the Muslim communities are holding events and discussions, are discussing the centrality of compassion in Islam and in all faiths. But it can’t stop there. It can’t stop with the launch. Religious teaching, this is where we’ve gone so wrong, concentrating solely on believing abstruse doctrines. Religious teaching must always lead to action. And I intend to work on this till my dying day. And I want to continue with our partners to do two things — educate and stimulate compassionate thinking. Education because we’ve so dropped out of compassion. People often think it simply means feeling sorry for somebody. But of course you don’t understand compassion if you’re just going to think about it. You also have to do it. I want them to get the media involved because the media are crucial in helping to dissolve some of the stereotypical views we have of other people, which are dividing us from one another. The same applies to educators. I’d like youth to get a sense of the dynamism, the dynamic and challenge of a compassionate lifestyle. And also see that it demands acute intelligence, not just a gooey feeling. I’d like to call upon scholars to explore the compassionate theme in their own and in other people’s traditions. And perhaps above all, to encourage a sensitivity about uncompassionate speaking, so that because people have this Charter, whatever their beliefs or lack of them, they feel empowered to challenge uncompassionate speech, disdainful remarks from their religious leaders, their political leaders, from the captains of industry. Because we can change the world, we have the ability. I would never have thought of putting the Charter online. I was still stuck in the old world of a whole bunch of boffins sitting together in a room and issuing yet another arcane statement. And TED introduced me to a whole new way of thinking and presenting ideas. Because that is what is so wonderful about TED. In this room, all this expertise, if we joined it all together, we could change the world. And of course the problems sometimes seem insuperable. But I’d just like to quote, finish at the end with a reference to a British author, an Oxford author whom I don’t quote very often, C.S. Lewis. But he wrote one thing that stuck in my mind ever since I read it when I was a schoolgirl. It’s in his book “The Four Loves.” He said that he distinguished between erotic love, when two people gaze, spellbound, into each other’s eyes. And then he compared that to friendship, when two people stand side by side, as it were, shoulder to shoulder, with their eyes fixed on a common goal. We don’t have to fall in love with each other, but we can become friends. And I am convinced. I felt it very strongly during our little deliberations at Vevey, that when people of all different persuasions come together, working side by side for a common goal, differences melt away. And we learn amity. And we learn to live together and to get to know one another. Thank you very much. (Applause)

100 Comments

  1. dross… ¿a dónde coño quieres llegar? ¿qué quieres hacer en tu vida? "Si tengo la oportunidad los mato, asi de simple" ¿¡¿¡Acaso quieres a alguien en tu vida!?!? "Yo le pego a mi madre…¿y QUÉE?" "10 Formas EFECTIVAS PARA JODER A UN PROFESOR HIJO DE PUTA" Yo entiendo, pero, si esto es un chiste, lo único que tengo para decirte es que eres un bufón. Así es, leíste bien, y otra cosa, hay gente que lastimás con tus insultos.

  2. "Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, … … if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty."
    Storms of My Grandchildren
    fuck compassion.
    We need war to end fossil fuel use.

  3. @CleverAssessment Let's highlight the words 'entices you secretly to serve other gods'. Really shows why idiot Americans and other Christians are aimed at by the Muslims. Basically mind your own goddamn business! US/NATO/UN…GET OUT OF THE MIDDLE EAST

  4. I think I follow the golden rule as long as nobody is hurting me, it didn't work for me so far! for this rule to work, at least 70% of the people on this planet need to perish

  5. science was originally part of the philosophical & theological teachings! all the original scientists had profound religious or spiritual backgrounds! the world may have many sciences, philosophys and religions but nature has only one truth about what it is and laws which make it what it is! as science says everything is energy then that energy has to have abstract qualities of intelligence, emotion, concioussness! because we are made of that energy & are intelligent, emotional & concious! THINK

  6. Pure science DOES explain the entirety of the human experience. Science is just what we know of reality, and the act to try to understand it, constantly in change. As Reality is all there is, and the human experience, part of reality, science can explain it to some extent today to a bigger extent tomorrow. Science as such can't be "dogmatic" because as said, is in constant change (the understandings, and the reality). Religion, on the other hand, would fill Einstein's description you quoted.

  7. I think this is exactly the message that needs to be spread, Not the message of hell and damnation. In the Bible Jesus said to his followers "Go into all the world and preach the Good News'. He didn't say, confine yourself within your churches and condemn people by telling them they're going to hell for not following you're religion. He also said, "Give hope to the hopeless". Not, tell people who aren't Christians that their life is worthless and meaningless.

  8. I don't consider myself to be a Christian, but do agree strongly with many of the things Jesus had to say, as well as some other wise people such as Confucius. I think any religion or group of people that spread a message of love and compassion, being above all other things, are focused on the right thing.

  9. This has nothing to do with Religion guys. I'm not here to judge. If anyone passes by a Bookstore, go inside and look for the book The Secret: The Power or The Secret: The Magic. Golden Rule to do the world, is all about Gratitude. Once you finish reading the book then you'll understand. 🙂 Godbless and Godspeed to all! 😀

  10. Because you DON´T want to treat people the way you would like them to treat you – Their tastes might be different

  11. Because atheists see "The Golden Rule" and automatically dislike it. Pure bias. How about trying to see things from everyone's perspective and not just you're own for once? Keep an open mind, and that goes for both religious and atheist people alike.

  12. Or maybe it is also conservative, literalist Christians, who do not want to look at their holy book as being "just commentary" who dislike this video. How do you know its just atheists? Who is biased here?

  13. Seriously doubt Christians would dislike this based on what you said. Ask yourself, honestly, what kind of people would dislike this video by prejudging it? Look at the top comment, he's an atheist and he hit it spot on. Don't think just because you don't believe in a God you aren't biased. There's plenty of bias to go around. Like I said, keep an open mind, and that goes for both religious and atheist people.

  14. There is absolutely no doubt that a bible literalist, hell believing Christian would dislike this video. Even more so than any Atheist.
    Also, open minded is good. But it doesn't mean that one has to ponder the possibility that any and claims might be true. As they say, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, than what is it? If everything points to something being a fiction than what should we assume it is?
    Anyway, she has the right idea, religion needs to be more moderate and benign.

  15. In an atheist and kinda agree… ^_^ Personally I'm more into "do unto others as they do unto you, but treat them well automatically at first".

  16. If your idea of an open mind is immediately assuming that atheists would dislike this video because it says 'the golden rule' then I'm not sure I want one. But at least you got one thing right, that is pure bias.

  17. I asked myself, honestly, what kind of people would dislike this video by prejudging it. My answer: Assholes who don't want to think. Religion has nothing to do with it. Regardless of your beliefs, prejudging is something that only an asshole does.

  18. Well, as a fellow atheist I can tell you that it looks like and sounds like it's impossible to determine if God is real or imaginary. While there is little evidence to support the claims in religious texts, the idea of a God itself was best said as the following "That you cannot prove God’s nonexistence is accepted and trivial, if only in the sense that we can never absolutely prove the nonexistence of anything" – Richard Dawkins

  19. God is conveniently defined so that he can't be disproven. If something looks like a fiction from every angle you look at it, than what should we assume it is? Why does god only ever do things that could have happened anyway? Why do these religions look so much like fabrication? Would you eat the yellow snow on the off chance that it could be beer?

  20. A oversimplified ideal of morality. For example would business work in this framework? Religious teaching? How about moral or compassion teaching?

  21. Do unto others as you would have them. If I was incorrect or going down a wrong path, I wouldn't want others to be kind and accepting of it. I'd want them to correct me and put me back on course.

  22. "Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same" George Bernard Shaw (Maxims for Revolutionists; 1903)

  23. Yea folks watch the whole vid, but right about 4:03 is where she starts sounding more "religious neutral". Its not a bad talk.

  24. Yea, as soon as you admit you are religious, some people will immediately label as a moron and dislike anything you do.

  25. I think you have misinterpreted the Golden Rule. For example, if you are a rabid aggressive capitalist who can only respect those who play as ruthlessly as you do, you can Golden Rule rationalize being fairly ruthless towards others, since this is how you wish for them to treat you in return. Of course, suggesting that you have the right to be a prick without accepting the return of that behavior would be both hypocritical and weak, and NOT the Golden Rule. Wow, I am fairly diabolical, ain't I?

  26. you think that is how we got here? the nice cavenmen were killed before they could reproduce . You are the product of a murderer who likely ate the face and intestine of the nice guy. The worst liars are the ones that say theyre nice, when you know they WILL stab you in the back when they get the chance

  27. We don't behave like that now, our recent ancestors didn't behave like that, the other great apes don't behave like that, other mammals don't behave like that. The only ones who come close are a handful of seriously ill people.

  28. I grew up in a parochial school and church which emphasized the Golden Rule. I was surprised many years later to find individuals who were unfamiliar with the Golden Rule, and even some who misinterpreted verbal references to it.

  29. i love karen armstrong.. she open my eyes so much ever since i watch her in BBC documentary – life of Muhammad. I need more people like her to look up in life, Amin

  30. Thank you very much for your clarification and huge efforts in studying religions. Hope someday everyone gets your point to not attack one another based on different beliefs.

  31. Miss Karen Armstrong: Are you Vegan? If not, why not? And when you speak of "others"…acknowledging that humans are biologically classified as mammal primate animals, why do you exclude non-human animals from the word "others"?

  32. When everyone awakens to the Truth of Oneness they will realize that whatever they do to another they are doing it to themself. When you love another, when you treat another with kindness, compassion and love you are giving love, kindness and compassion to yourself.

  33. I live between Muslims, Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Iranians, Greeks, Italians, Syrians, English, French, Atheists, Christians, Iglesia ni Christo's and no one really love one another. If we ever talk it is "hi' or maybe a "thank you" if I hold open the door. Really Karen, your job is enormous but hopeless. Humans are like animals, once the pack gets to large and tight, someone must go!

  34. So…the GR has been around since at least Confucius…and uhm…still hasn't taken hold. Why? What could hamper such a noble idea and the amazing transcendence of enacting it? This is doomed to failure like the creature whose skeletal remains haunt the background of the stage.

  35. I would call Karen Armstrong a Religious Humanist with her wonderful inclusiveness and all embracing love for all faiths.

  36. Гарні думки з деякими погоджуюсь, а деякі виглядають утопічно. Співчуття, або емпатія присутня в люській природі, тобто це закладено в нас від народження. Інше питання – як ми його глушимо через жорстокість. Інша думка була, що релігії які мішаюсь МИРУ. Тут, на мою думку, знайшли цапа відбувайла – релігії. Що мішає миру? Дуже просто АМБІЦІЇ І ВЛАДОЛЮБСТВО. Тепер далі, щодо ЄДНОСТІ, в Новому Завіті є цікавий уривок : "…немає ні грека, ні юдея, ні обрізання, ні необрізання, ні скіфа, ні варвара, ні вільного, але й у всьому – Христос…Кол 3, 11.
    І на останок, відкинувши старі доктрини, ми створюємо нову, з іншим акцентом…

  37. i admire Karen Armstrong she is the pinnacle of religions role in the 21st century. she opened my eyes to the golden rule. i respect Karen, so much so that i have made a shrine of miss Armstrong and every night before i slumber and every morning when i awake i spend my time sharing my feelings with my life size cut out of karen. she calms me down and whenever i start to doubt myself i fall back onto her and she quides me in the right direction. thank you karen i love you xx

  38. Sim, sem introjetarmos em nossos corações essa noção de amor e misericórdia, é impossível sonharmos com um mundo melhor.

  39. I totally agree with her, the truthful way to value and love the other is to love for him what we love for ourselves, love the other as ourselves, equaling them as us, because logically you won't like something bad for yourself and if you do something to the other you don't like it for yourself, there is no love in there.

  40. Religion is One, spiritual teachings are the the same but social teaching differ according to the age… "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." ~ Baha'i Faith

  41. The Golden Rule?
    It is Moses's stone tablets! Noah's ark! David's Sling! Solomon's wisdom! Gideon's sword! Sampson's Strength! Jesus' Cross! It is The Law and The Prophets, that secret place of The Most High, The shadow of Shaddai:

    "All things whatsoever ye would that others should do to you, do ye even so to them." (Matthew 7:12) Āmen!

  42. Kenali dirimu kau akan mengenal Tuhanmu, awal daripada mengenal agama mengenal Tuhan ( Awaluddin Ma'rifatullah )

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