By pinning a name on the rank-based abuse that causes indignity, this model of morality addresses one of my take-away questions from Sunday School: How could we make the golden rule not only self-evident, but self-enforcing?
Under the terms of this deal, religion would be more humble about its teachings, acknowledging that they are sometimes wrong. When science confirms one of religion's guesses, it gives credit where credit is due for having "divined" the answer before it could be established beyond doubt.
America is not truly religious -- rather we ignore the Golden Rule daily. Rather than the follow the Golden Rule, we follow the more savage rule of "might makes right" with the violence and hypocrisy of a schoolyard bully who falsely believes that he will always be the biggest kid.
Land employs both the Golden Rule and Jesus' Greatest Commandment to justify shooting someone to death if necessary, so long as there is a perceived threat against someone you consider your neighbor. But then, why is there nowhere in the Bible that Jesus endorses violence?
There were years when the Murfreesboro Islamic Center seemed like an unattainable vision, with vocal opposition, messages of pure hatred, arson and legal battles. But when I arrived with my colleagues, none of that was visible.
The Golden Rule teaches that we should treat others as we, ourselves, would wish to be treated. This basic ethic is repeated in a multitude of variations in the texts of all the great religions of the world.
When our models can't change, behavior patterns become frozen, and some of them are apt to be abusive and unjust. The peace and prosperity of the world depend on attitudes about the evolution of models and our degree of comfort in allowing this process to unfold.
Religious models such as monotheism, the golden rule and universal dignity are pillars of human civilization. Like science models, their strength is due to the truth they embody, and not dependent upon the zeal of "true believers."
Sometimes, when you can't get from A to B, it's for lack of a steppingstone. In that spirit, it seemed possible to me that for religion to realize its vision of peace on Earth, it may first need to make peace with science.
Sitting at his right hand in front of thousands of worshipers, hearing him refer to me as "his brother in faith," it was as exhilarating as my first firefight in combat -- except much more pleasant and uplifting.
When we give to others, we give without expectation of reward. We give without attachment to either the gift or the recipient. The practice of giving is thought to be one of the most basic human virtues, a testament to the depth of our humanity.
Torture debases the persons tortured, as well as the torturers, and it violates the two truths that are common to most people of faith: every human being is created in God's image and we should love our neighbors as ourselves.