"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". On the surface of this maxim all appears well. The golden rule appears to be a great moral statement. Let's analyze it a bit and see what happens:
The question arises; what if you are suicidal and want someone else to kill you (suicide-by-proxy)? A strict reading of this rule says it would then be ok for you to kill other suicidal people. There are other religious rules designed to prevent murder, but this rule, by itself only, leads to that conclusion and what would happen if your beliefs lead you to think large numbers of people are living suicidal lifestyles? Also, what if you are masochistic and want people to harm you? Here also, this rule by itself only, would allow you to harm other people. Thus a suicidal or masochistic person could use this rule to justify all manner of harm to large numbers of people.
If suicidal/homicidal or masochistic religious terrorists use this interpretation coupled with the idea that one can go to heaven when they die and especially when slain in battle, all hell can break loose. Since there is the monotheistic idea that heaven is better than earth and people can go there when they die, it could also be seen by these twisted individuals that it is a good thing to die and a good thing to kill people. They would be sending their victims to heaven sooner if the victims were good and hell sooner if bad. A pernicious and pervasive religious suicide-by-proxy would be established with devastating results. Thus coupling the golden rule with the idea of going to heaven after death allows reality to be turned on its head and death to be better than life and murder to be even more ok!
Another question: What if you're a cop arresting criminals? If you were a criminal you certainly wouldn't want to be arrested. Therefore, according to this rule, you shouldn't arrest criminals. There are other rules designed to punish criminal behavior, but this rule, by itself only, leads to that conclusion.
So, certain valid but crazy interpretations of the golden rule can lead to the very things this rule and the religion behind it (monotheism) would have you believe (on the surface) that it wants to prevent! Thus this rule taken by itself, only, can be a crazy invitation to commit murder, and all manner of crimes! This rule is insidiously inviting negatively minded people to go on horrendous downward spiraling sprees of crime and violence. Someone once mentioned to me that maybe it is very cleverly warning people that they had better stay positive minded or else. Perhaps it is cursing all negatively minded people and causing them to kill each other and thus selecting for the positive minded people, increasing their relative numbers. This can't work because the positive minded people would be swept up in the destruction and die as well.
Wait just a damn minute you say? This is all "wrong"? People are supposed to be good to each other or something and that's what this rule is really saying, you say? Fine, then why doesn't it say that instead? But don't the other religious laws prevent these "wrong" interpretations, you say? Look around and you will see that they don't. You might then say that people are just not living up to moral principles and failing. That's valid. So I ask, Why not couch moral maxims in terms that cannot be "misinterpreted", especially one called the "golden rule"?
The problem here is that the golden rule cannot stand on its own. It can be "misinterpreted" and it needs other moral principles to rescue it from those "misinterpretations". "Be good to each other, or something" just does not have a good ring to it, so I suggest the following maxim in place of the golden rule: "Be as thoughtful of others at least as much as you are of yourself." This is a good "starter" moral principle. If you are suicidal or masochistic, this rule does not justify harming others like the golden rule can. If you think you are rotten, it leaves open the option of thinking better of someone else than that. If you think you are perfect, it invites you to think others are as well. It reminds you not to be too selfish and invites you to considerations of and actions toward other people on a more equal basis. This rule can stand on its own much better and it suggests more positive behavior. Furthermore, this rule is not impossible to follow completely and thus does not so easily create an amoral or cynical atmosphere like the golden rule can.
As I have shown here, pernicious interpretations of the golden rule can occur, causing the rule to lose some validity making it easier for people to be cynical and amoral. It just sounds good on the surface and is an ideal invitation to hypocrisy, for who can really follow it completely, using all of its interpretations, without dying? Interestingly, if the monotheistic idea that heaven is better than earth and you can go there when you die is accepted, then an evil, twisted justification for the rule appears--one that makes death better than life! Monotheism has made it possible to turn reality on its head by opening the door for negatively minded people to think the purpose of life is to die, thus threatening to negate the very thing it apparently wanted to do, to save people.
The purpose of life is to live, so let's keep it that way.