The Ten Commandments
1) I am the Lord Thy God, Thou shalt have no other Gods before me
I do not see any way that a secular person can find value in this first commandment. By itself, it is a simple “pick me, pick me!” plea presented in the form of a command. Further, I do not see any value it creates for society as a whole, unless that society is religious, and believes in the particular God in question.
As an Atheist, and Anti-theist, I find it intriguing that the very first commandment ( the implication being that it is of paramount importance) is concerned with the position of priority this God seeks to establish of other gods. I always thought, if you needed to make a list of unwanted behaviours in order to create a civil society, it would be better to start off with something a little more meaningful.
2) Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
Again, from a secular perspective this carries no meaningful insight into how best to create or maintain a civil society, it just seems to be more of the same stuff as number 1. If we glance back through history, even up to the present day with the soldiers of God killing people for making an image of their prophet, it is not difficult to find episodes where the failure to adhere to this bit of godly egocentricity has caused pain, imprisonment and even death. I seem to remember something at the beginning of a book regarding a golden calf and a whole bunch of folks paying quite dearly for having the temerity to create such an affront to this god’s ego.
3) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain
Even assuming the existence of this God fellow, this seems a little childish, wouldn’t you agree. I’m frankly surprised he didn’t see fit to leave a phonetic template to ensure proper pronunciation. It’s patently obvious that this God had never smacked his thumb with a hammer, or even barked his shin!
4) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
Could have been a little more specific here, as I have trouble even remembering which religion considers which day to be The Sabbath. I’m also fairly certain that in some cases, a specific bunch of believers actually changed the day to better meet their needs and distinguish them from some of the others.
All told, the first four commandments seem largely concerned with assuaging the godly ego, rather than pillars upon which to found a moral system of interaction.
5) Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother
Well, okay, but my father abandoned his children when they were very young to go off with another woman ( incidentally breaking one of the other commandments along the way! ) this seems similar to those who feel they are due respect as a result of their position, rather than actions worthy of respect. Respect should be earned, not commanded.
6) Thou shalt not kill
It’s about bloody time! Finally at number six in this theistic hit parade we get to something which everyone should be able to agree with. Except of course that every major religion has broken this very commandment more times than anyone can reasonably be expected to count. Then there are things like “What if some crazy axe murderer type is trying to kill me and my family?” Still can’t kill him first? I think better phrasing might have helped this one gain more traction.
7) Thou shalt not commit adultery
Okay, but what about rape? What about child sexual abuse? What about polygamy? Again, this God fellow seems rather limited in his understanding of the human ability to behave in absolutely vile ways when it comes to sex.
8) Thou shalt not steal
This one I like, and I don’t think anyone except a thief or a starving street urchin, or someone desperate to provide food for their starving family would object.
9) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour
What about the fellow from down the street who has better farmland than you. He’s not your actual neighbour, so I guess it’s okay, as has been borne out down through the centuries.
10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, nor thy neighbour’s wife, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s
Again, this seems to leave ample room for acts of coveting against those who are not our neighbours, still I guess this commandment might prove useful in a small social group such as existed in say… The Bronze Age.
Now, I know some of this sounds flip, but honestly, why do you feel that these words are so important that they should be posted in public spaces and driven into the heads of our children? Do you really think that without these definitely less than ideal instructions, humans would be incapable of creating a moral code, or even a set of laws with which to govern themselves?
What do you think a more important set of commandments would be? Let us know!