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The Righteous Almost Everyone - Most Five-Year-Olds Follow the Golden Rule

Updated on August 26, 2011

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, famous for writing "When Bad Things Happen to Good People", wrote another book on what it's important to teach your kids. I forget what it's called. Anyway, in it he compares religions. All the major religions have the golden rule, some version of "Love your neighbor as yourself."

This simple rule, it seems to me, is the basis of morality. Every psychologically intact five-year-old intellect and above does their best to follow the golden rule. This holds for atheists and agnostics, of which i am one. (I was a born-again Christian from age 8 to 22, but reasoned my way out of it. I knew the golden rule before I was a Christian. My Sunday school teachers thought I was a Christian before I was one because of the way I treated others.)

Those who have inconsistent or less-than-compassionate parents may not get the message. Yep, before the age of five, our personalities are elastic. What happens then determines if we turn out to be psychopaths or sadists. I can't say that even these unfortunate folks are not righteous. They do the best they can within the limits of their flawed personalities and disabling past. Don't get me started on free will or its lack.

The reason psychologically intact (PI) people follow the golden rule is that they're capable of forming bonds with other humans. If person PI hurts someone person PI has a bond with, he or she will hurt, too. Call it empathy. Call it conscience. I feel better and feel better about myself when I treat you well.

My thanks to Mark Knowles for hubbing "The Righteous Atheist" and inspiring this hub.


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    • Jillian Barclay profile image

      Jillian Barclay 6 years ago from California, USA

      So simple, yet so true! My best friend and I were discussing the same thing a few days ago. We both are cautious with other peoples' feeling and agree with you completely! How glad I am to know that there are even more of us out there! I have not read Mark Knowles hub yet, but will! While I still call myself Catholic (too many years of Catholic school to do otherwise), I don't go to church. I don't defend organized religion, but consider myself spiritual, because I believe that tolerance and kindness, along with acceptance and empathy is what constitutes spirituality. I see my young grandchildren, 8 and 2(the 2 year old is still a bit of a brute, but I see the pure, true love he has for his sister and other children, as well as for my dog and for Nemo, of course!) and that is how we should all be. What is it, do you think, that makes some people grow to be intolerant and lacking in empathy, while others flourish and grow in tolerance, generosity and wanting to help others. Is it really just conscience? Could it actually be that simple? Thank you for a beautiful piece of writing!

    • cathylynn99 profile image
      Author

      cathylynn99 6 years ago from northeastern US

      thanks, jillian, for the compliment and especially for the chance to know you a little better.

    • mary stormshade profile image

      mary stormshade 6 years ago

      you contacted me about this hub it is great writing, but i am not only a unitarian, i am a universalist, and in my belief there is no hell, see we have unitarian christians, unitarian muslims unitarian whatever the heck you can think of, but most people at my church think of everyone as righteous and awesome and if were wrong well i'll see yah in hell but yeah... i'm not entirely sure of my beliefs but keep in mind, i am 12. :)

    • cathylynn99 profile image
      Author

      cathylynn99 6 years ago from northeastern US

      mary,

      my first bet is that when you die, it's all over. heaven and hell are here in the lives we make for ourselves. eternal life is the lasting effects of the good we do. defined this way, jesus, moses, confucius, buddha and mohammed have awesome afterlives.

      but if there is a heaven, i agree that we all go, even hitler, but he will spend his first 6 million years there washing jewish feet and loving it. a loving god wouldn't create anything just to have it suffer eternally.

      wow, you're just 12. from your posts, you seem as mature as any hubber. keep up the good work and positive posts.

      the church i attend on occasion is UU, too. i love the affirming of the worth and dignity of every person.

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      Interesting take, Cathy. If you don't mind my asking, how, then, do you explain the existence of evil?

    • cathylynn99 profile image
      Author

      cathylynn99 2 years ago from northeastern US

      dad dies in a hunting accident, so is not there for junior. junior doesn't bond. junior does whatever he feels like doing and passes that on. there are a gazillion ways early childhood parenting can be insufficient.

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      So your contention is that all orphans necessarily grow up to do evil?

    • cathylynn99 profile image
      Author

      cathylynn99 2 years ago from northeastern US

      orphans can bond with someone other than a parent.

    • cathylynn99 profile image
      Author

      cathylynn99 2 years ago from northeastern US

      my point is that bonding may not occur through no one's fault and lack of bonding will result in lack of morality.

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      @Cathy

      Based on how many years of research and after how many case studies did you come to your conclusion?

    • cathylynn99 profile image
      Author

      cathylynn99 2 years ago from northeastern US

      i took psychiatry in med school and practiced medicine for nine years. i've lived for 58 years and been a keen observer for all of it. you certainly aren't basing your views on science. why am i held to a different standard?

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      @Cathy

      My apologies, I thought you were one of those weird Atheists who believe the only valid evidence is scientific evidence :)

    • cathylynn99 profile image
      Author

      cathylynn99 2 years ago from northeastern US

      there were two studies recent that show that babies and toddlers are moral. babies prefer puppets who treat their fellow puppets well. toddlers dole out equal amounts of treats to all participants.

    • cathylynn99 profile image
      Author

      cathylynn99 2 years ago from northeastern US

      the babies in the puppet study were six months old.

    • cathylynn99 profile image
      Author

      cathylynn99 2 years ago from northeastern US

      my hub is just my observation, but the fact that it bothers you so much gives it more validity.

    • cathylynn99 profile image
      Author

      cathylynn99 2 years ago from northeastern US

      observation is the first step in the scientific process.

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      @Cathy

      How curious ...

      Why do you think your opinions bother me?

    • cathylynn99 profile image
      Author

      cathylynn99 2 years ago from northeastern US

      your confrontational tone. maybe that's just the way you communicate.

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      @Cathy

      My apologies. I was simply vetting your suppositions and conclusions. I do, after all, love truth :)

    • cathylynn99 profile image
      Author

      cathylynn99 2 years ago from northeastern US

      we share that. thanks for commenting.

    • Joseph O Polanco profile image

      Joseph O Polanco 2 years ago

      :) :) :)

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