The golden rule embodies intellectually, as an ethical axiom or maxim, our empathy with other humans and our intuition that thou and I are interchangeable - my luck could be your luck, your misfortune or pain could just as easily be mine.
It is a deep and important rule. It is the basis of equality, equal rights, fellowship (fraternity), and the disre for all others to share the liberty we have
It has nothing to do with the "imitation of God" if it exists - since that relationship is on an unequal footing with us supposed to worship god slavishly without equal reciprocation.
The ethics of the golden rule does not need a reference to a god. It is valid for atheists as well.
The formulation from Matthew 11:12 can be improved upon. It puts too much emphasis on the moral actor. The benchmark however should be the other. Treat x the way you would wish to be treated if you were x.
And who is x, the other? The moral circle encompasses not only the present generation of human beings but also everything that can suffer as well as future generations. Hence the golden rule forbids me to harm unnecessarily all animals that can suffer and all future generations of humans and such animals.
Therefore, the golden rule requires me to be vegan and to be ecological conscious, given the unacceptable expansion of the biological farm industry and the rapid deterioration of the environment, threatening the survival of our grandchildren.
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