Why do so many religions have a "Golden Rule"?

By which I mean some version of “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.” As far as I know Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddism and Hinduism all have some variant of this. Is it really such a universal idea?

Normal human beings go through a stage in early childhood where they develop a “theory of mind,” which is the belief that other people are conscious individuals no different from themselves.

Since this belief is present in everyone, when people set out to determine grounds for ethical behaviour the golden rule comes to mind pretty easily. It’s just common sense.

Seems to me it’s a rather obvious “rule” irrespective of your beliefs or lack thereof. If you want other people to be nice to you, be nice to them.

It’s pretty common. My favorite is “Be excellent to each other.” That’s not on that graphic, though.
Anything else would give a green light to dicking other people, I doubt it would go over well.

While I respect the teachings of the Wyld Stallyns, “Be excellent to each other” is not a form of the golden rule.

Generally the Golden Rule is a good one until someone is trying to force their beliefs on you because “If I was going to end up burning in hell I sure would appreciate someone showing me how I could be saved.”

It seems to me that the concept of “golden rule” is highly stressed in the USA (and perhaps more generally in the Anglo-Saxon world). Not to say that the sentence itself is unknown over here, but you don’t hear it all the time, and there aren’t people referring remotely as frequently to the “golden rule”, even though most people are Christians.

And I believe that, since it’s deemed so important in your culture, people who mention other religions look specifically for it. The concept is rather straightforward, so it’s easy to come up with something quite similar, and it’s probably present, in some form or another, somewhere in the teachings of any religion worth its salt. It doesn’t mean that members of said religion would give it remotely as much importance as you do. But when you’re comparing religions, and even more so when you want to point out at their similarities, you’re going to search for the very familiar “golden rule” and point at it. And other people will hear from you that all religions teach the “golden rule”.
So yes, I think a similar concept can be found pretty much everywhere, but that it’s probably true for many other concepts you just don’t pay as much attention to. And that its apparent universal importance and omnipresence is only a cultural bias on your side.
I would suspect that if you were born in a Buddhist country, you might have begun a thread titled for instance “Why do so many religions stress the importance of compassion?” (maybe using some specific well-known sentence instead of just “compassion”) for similar reasons, and that asking about the “golden rule” wouldn’t have crossed your mind.

I can believe that different religions stress the golden rule more or less, but I think you’re wrong that there isn’t something innately fundamental about the rule.

I’m not suggesting that it’s an intrinsic “law” of nature or anything like that, but just that it’s a much more basic rule of morality than any other rules. For example, you specifically mention compassion. One can see how a person can arrive at the concept of compassion, starting with the golden rule as a premise. However, the reverse is not true: the golden rule does not necessarily follow if you believe that compassion is fundamental. The same can be said for any number of other ethics.

I don’t see how you can have ethics without some form of it. How should we determine how other people want to be treated without comparing it to how we would want to be treated in the same situation?

Compassion might be perfectly sufficient as a basis to lead a moral life. If you have compassion, won’t you behave well with your neighbour? Will you harm him if you’re compassionate?

I still think it’s a cultural bias to assume that the golden rule is a necessary basis for morality.

By noticing that they suffer and choosing to alleviate their suffering, again out of compassion?

How do you determine whether other people are suffering, and what the effects of your actions on them would be? By putting yourself in their shoes and imagining how you would feel in that situation. The golden rule is simply empathy. The alternative is viewing people other than yourself as simply part of the external world, and not considering that they have their own subjective experience of life - similar to how most people view plants or rocks.

From this site :

Note that this quote specifically exclude a comparison between ourselves and the others (“based not on our own projections and expectations”), if I interpret it correctly, hence exclude the “golden rule” as a basis for morality.

I think that by “projections and expectations” he is referring to future benefits for yourself.

Not that one person’s ideas about stuff like this could be considered “evidence” of anything anyway, it’s still open to argument.

Then you run into the problem of not being able to tell if a person is lying or not. That is if you just go by someone wishing to be free from suffering.

All I can tell is what I copied/pasted above. You’d have to ask to a Buddhist.

But I suspect that this view you mentioned is strongly influenced by our cultural background. For instance, the golden rule implies a permanent comparison (“what would I like to be done to me”) and stress action (not doing unto others) over feelings (like empathy) while compassion only implies that you understand suffering and want others not to experience it. A sociopath, without empathy, could theoretically apply the golden rule, but couldn’t be compassionate, for instance.

Besides, even if we come to the conclusion that when all it said and done, the golden rule can be deduced from whatever other fundamental moral basis, it doesn’t mean that we could just say that the golden rule is at the heart of this or that religion. Not having a clear understanding of Buddhism, I don’t think that we can just cast it in the mould we’re accustomed to and state “Ho! Basically, it’s all the same”.

Well… I certainly can’t elaborate about a religion I don’t know.
I just wanted to point at the danger of projecting our own moral philosophy, and assuming that all others are based on similar premises and essentially equivalent, without an intimate knowledge of those other philosophical and religious traditions. It seems quite short-sighted to me. I thought it was worth saying. Now, you can make whatever you want of that.

All religions aspire to the “higher self” part of man, which is, of course, is the opposite of the “lower self”. Carl Jung calls it the Shadow Self. Most people have an innate sense of right and wrong and kindness, etc., and it is expressed in the spiritual mythology of that culture.

Basically, they all say, one way or another, don’t steal, lie, cheat, kill etc.

It’s not a basic tenet of every faith, but it appears in the literature of almost every major faith. If you’re looking for scholarly articles about it, you’ll have better luck Googling ethic of reciprocity than The Golden Rule. There’s a pretty good list of examples from various faiths in the Wiki link.

My thinking was not that it is central to all religions, but rather that it’s basic human nature.