Bob decided to strictly follow the ten commandments. He worshipped god. He didn’t look at his beautiful neighbour’s wife walk by, he was faithful to his. He told her she was fat and ugly going out the door to work. He asked his boss to not have to work on Saturday. He went to a café where the waitress spilled his coffee. He hit her in the face and raped her on the bar. He locked her in his basement and asked her family for a hefty ransom. They didn’t pay, so he tortured her and burned down their house. He joined a group to exterminate the jews. He was happy, he strictly obeyed the ten commandments.
The ten commandments are surprisingly inadequate.
First, It contains only negative commandments, nothing positive. There is nothing about being good. If you only had one commandment to give, « Do onto others what you would have them do onto you » would be a good place to start.
The ten commandments contain a very precise list of crimes (sorry, sins), that directly hurt someone: do not kill, commit adultery, steal and bear false witness. That’s it. There is nothing about slavery, rape or sexual abuse, incest, prostitution, physical harm, torture, blackmail, extortion, kidnapping, arson, vandalism, genocide, nuclear proliferation. If you could only pick four, would you really pick those four?is “borrowing” office supplies from work really up there at the top of the list?
Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s house… Have you never felt even the slightest pang of envy? Shouldn’t resisting temptation be a good thing? Should you be punished for your urges, when you successfully keep them in check? Punishing thought crimes has its own category of unacceptable.
You can’t work on Saturday (or Sunday). Respecting a day off is in the top ten rules for our lives.
Finally, 3 out of 10 are about worshipping god. He could have boiled it down to one and leave some space for torture and rape. For god, worshipping him is three times more important than not killing…
In addition, there are several versions of the ten commandments. The « real » ten commandments, as designated as such in the bible, engraved on stone tablets given to Moses by god, are actually:
(1) Do not worship any god other than Yahweh.
(2) Do not make molten gods.
(3) Keep the feast of unleavened bread.
(4) The firstborn offspring of every cow and sheep is to be sacrificed to God.
(5) The seventh day of each week is set aside to rest.
(6) Observe the feast of weeks.
(7) All male children must appear before God three times per year.
(8) The blood of a sacrifice shall not be offered together with yeast, nor shall the sacrifice of the Passover feast be left until the next morning.
(9) The “first of the firstfruits” of the land are to be brought before God.
(10) Do not boil a baby goat in its mother’s milk.
So the original version skipped over killing and stealing for a few dietary suggestions and a blood sacrifice…
The alternative to the Ten Commandments cited by Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion is:
- Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.
- In all things, strive to cause no harm.
- Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.
- Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.
- Live life with a sense of joy and wonder.
- Always seek to be learning something new.
- Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.
- Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.
- Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.
- Question everything.
Dawkins uses these proposed commandments to make a larger point that “it is the sort of list that any ordinary, decent person today would come up with.” He then adds four more of his own devising:
- Enjoy your own sex life (so long as it damages nobody else) and leave others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none of your business.
- Do not discriminate or oppress on the basis of sex, race or (as far as possible) species.
- Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.
- Value the future on a timescale longer than your own.
- You shall treat all people with respect regardless of race, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, or national origin.
- You shall not kill, assault, nor intimidate with threats of physical violence.
- You shall not rape, sexually coerce, nor intimidate with threats of sexual violence.
- You shall cultivate intellectual curiosity, be open to new ideas, and respect the scientific method.
- You shall not cheat, nor cheat others out of what is rightfully theirs.
- You shall not lie, deceive, nor spread lies about others.
- You shall not steal, that is to say take or use what rightfully belongs to another person in a manner that causes harm. (Stealing is a trickier concept than it once was. How do you say yes to Fair Use and no to software patents?)
- You shall keep your promises.
- You shall not waste natural resources nor pollute the shared environment.
- You shall take responsibility for your actions and their consequences.
Written by Erika Hall