This I Believe

Marc - San Antonio, Texas
Entered on May 18, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: golden rule
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I believe in the Golden Rule. The rule that says to “treat others as you would like to be treated if you were in their shoes”, or its corollary, “do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” Although the Golden Rule is found in nearly every major religion, I believe that it is not God-inspired. I am an atheist, a member of the most despised minority in America. Yet, the actions of many deeply religious people lead me to believe that my moral standards are superior to theirs.

My children have respect for me because I have always shown respect for my parents and grandparents. I treat everybody with respect, in particular older people who have the life experience and wisdom that comes with age.

I would not consider killing a fellow human being, unless in self-defense. I hope to lead a long and fulfilling life and it would be sad for my relatives if a murderer were to cut it short.

I love my wife and do not cheat on her. I would be upset if I found out that she cheated on me, not that this is even a remote possibility.

I do not steal from others because I would hate the feeling when somebody would steal from me. When a store clerk gives me too much change, I gladly return it. Perhaps he will have to account for all receipts at the end of the day and will need to cover a shortfall out of his pocket. I would not feel good if I were in his shoes.

The ethic of reciprocity exemplified in the Golden Rule does not require a belief in God. It is a human-inspired moral principle. I do not need the threat of brimstone and hellfire as an incentive to practice the Golden Rule. I just know in my heart that it is the right thing to do.

I feel bad when I cannot practice the Golden Rule. For example, in the late 1990s my wife had a blood disorder and needed to have numerous transfusions. I wanted to donate to the local blood bank to reciprocate the precious gift of life from anonymous donors, but I was not allowed to. This was the time of the foot and mouth disease in the UK and blood donations from people from European descent were not accepted. I am now recovering from cancer and we will never be able to return the favor.

If everybody were to consistently practice the Golden Rule in the way Confucius, Jesus and Muhammad intended it to be practiced; the world would be a much better place. If people were judged on the basis of their actions and the way they lead their lives and not on their words or on their religious beliefs, the prejudice and bigotry against atheists may finally be eliminated and freethinkers would have a fair chance at becoming the President of the United States.