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Atheists try their hand at writing Ten Commandments

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Closing our religion coverage for the week …

Here’s one version.

These people need a course in grammar. The following three are not commandments because they are not in the imperative mood*:

3. The scientific method is the most reliable way for your brain to understand the natural world.

4. Every person has the right to control of their mind, body and brain.

5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to use your brain to live a full and meaningful life.

But what are we supposed to DO with that information?

I prefer stuff like “Honour thy father and thy mother” [even if they weren’t great parents] and “Thou shalt not bear false witness” [even if it would benefit you or get your cousin off the hook for theft]. – O’Leary for News

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG *Imperative mood: If you do not know what I am talking about, do not argue with me; take that course in grammar that you promised yourself ages ago. Do it before the boss asks you to edit a report. 😉

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25 Replies to “Atheists try their hand at writing Ten Commandments

  1. 1
    awstar says:

    5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to use your brain to live a full and meaningful life

    No but God is necessary for you to exist, and for you to be in a good place after your materialistic body craps out after seventy years — more or less.

  2. 2
    keith s says:

    Denyse:

    *Imperative mood: If you do not know what I am talking about, do not argue with me; take that course in grammar that you promised yourself ages ago.

    The person who wrote the following might also benefit from such a course:

    It takes no great facility with language to see that adjectives are just appended nouns and adverbs are just appended verbs.

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    1) Thou shall treat all others as thou wouldst be treated thyself

    2) Thou shalt not kill without sufficient cause.

    3) Thou shalt not engage in any sexual activity with another without their informed consent

    4) Thou shalt not steal without sufficient cause

    5) Thou shalt not lie without sufficient cause.

    6) Thou shalt respect others and treat them with due courtesy except where, by word or deed, they have forfeited same.

    7) Thou shalt not infringe upon the right of others to believe and speak as they choose, except where such thought and speech might cause harm to be brought on others

    8) Thou shalt neither fear offense nor the giving of offense as there is no right not to be offended.

    9) Thou shalt seek after truth in thy fashion whilst always bearing in mind that thou art human and fallible mights be wrong.

    10) Thou shall treat all living creatures with the consideration due a human being, neither killing nor harming them without sufficient cause.

  4. 4
    StephenB says:

    I will [fill in] the part that the atheists left out:

    *Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.

    [Unless the subject is Darwinian Evolution]

    *The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.

    [Unless you are writing your own ten commandments]

    *Every person has the right to control over their body.

    [Unless you are small helpless person inside another person’s body]

    *God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.

    [Try to forget that there is no such thing as a “good” person]

    *Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.

    [Try to forget that you can’t take responsibility for your actions since you have no free will]

    *There is no one right way to live.

    [In other words, you can ignore everything that I just wrote]

    Leave the world a better place than you found it.

    [Never mind the fact that there is no such thing as “better.”]

  5. 5
    Axel says:

    Crazy, aren’t they, Esteban? Unbelievable.

    Pope Francis has been urging that we maintain coherence of our behaviour with our beliefs. He’d have mine and Buckley’s chance with that shower! They’d all score 0 out of 100.

  6. 6
    polistra says:

    4. Every person has the right….

    Oops! “Right” is an explicitly religious word, and it’s a dumb concept anyway. If God injected each of us with a package of these “rights” at birth, these “rights” would be physically unbreakable. Anyone who deprived you of your “right to free speech” would immediately die.

    Injected “rights” wouldn’t need to be endlessly argued and negotiated by lawyers, and it wouldn’t be possible to invent new “rights” like the “right” to abortion.

    God gave us a different means of reading natural law, and natural law doesn’t include any of those Enlightenment “rights”. It’s nicely documented in the Torah, which is the lab report from many millennia of experimentation. It’s also documented in our own bodies if we know how to listen and read.

  7. 7
    johnnyb says:

    Piggybacking on Denyse’s comments, it is interesting that in the Bible’s 10 commandments, these are things that are observable, testable, followable. Everybody knows what stealing is and whether or not they’ve done it. How can you tell if you have appropriately “thought about their perspective?”

    So, the Bible’s 10 commandments are implementable by every person in the planet – smart or stupid. The wise can further reflect on them and determine their deeper meaning.

    In the Atheist 10 commandments, even if they were true, would require one to be wise in order to know how to implement them. And even then, they are abstract enough that one could mold just about anything into them (unless of course you presupposed and superimposed the limitations of the Bible’s 10 commandments on top of them).

    I’m all for hoping for people to be wise, but the Bible is clear to everyone what is needed for an orderly society – honor God, honor everyone with rest, honor your parents, don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t covet, don’t commit adultery, don’t bear false witness. They are easy to remember, and they are easy for anyone at any intellectual level to understand what actions they should and should not take in a large variety of situations.

  8. 8
    rvb8 says:

    1) I am the Lord thy God you shall have no other gods before me.

    I am an atheist; commandment 1) is pointless to me, try again.

    2)You shall have no false idols.

    See 1)

    3)You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

    Jesus bloody Christ, see 1)

    4)Remember the Sabbath to keep it Holy.

    The day God rested after the creation. If I look at modern America I can see that capitalism has put paid to this nonsense. The filthy practice of profit has bested God; very predictable given human evolved tendencies.

    5)Honour thy Father and Mother.

    Really? You need god to tell you to do this?

    6)Thou shalt not kill.

    Bloody hell; see 5)

    7)Thou shalt not commit adultery.

    Unless you can.

    8)Thou shalt not steel.

    Hmmm, is this a case of stating the bleedin obvious.

    9)Thou shalt not bear false witness.

    Unless you’re supporting an un-evolved scientific concept, with absolutely no evidence to back it up, and you’re willing to ‘bear false witness’ to keep this bedraggled idea afloat.

    10)Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, house and chattels.

    So it’s alright to covet the husband?
    To covet, is to have a personal desire. I desire many women, but I control these desires. I covet rich people’s money but I control these desires. Punishing covetessness is the ultimate in ‘thought police’ ideology.

    Enjoy your Ten absurdities.

  9. 9
    GMD says:

    Polistra at 6,

    I don’t think the idea of a “Right” is entirely unwarranted and I’m not sure if it’s explicitly religious. It seems to me that a right could be a societal construct that may have its blessing or derive its authority from a religion or religion’s. It could also be ideas that just seem natural to people and so are incorporated into society. If I were to say that every child has the right to live, I would think that the majority of humanity would agree without it necessarily being derived from a religious directive. The same might be said of the right to die. If we shoot injured horses because it’s merciful, then upholding a terminal patients “right” to die to stop suffering just seems natural; not to everyone of course and not to any religious edicts that I’m aware of but maybe to a majority of people. We, in Western society’s’, have the right to believe what we want to believe despite any evidence or defeaters to the contrary.

  10. 10
    johnnyb says:

    rvb8 –

    While most of your post was fairly non-sensical, I did want to respond to your final comment: “Punishing covetessness is the ultimate in ‘thought police’ ideology”

    Where is the punishment for covetousness?

    That’s right – the point of the 10 commandments is to tell you how to live rightly. There are no punishments specified in them, nor were there ever any implemented for coveting. However, coveting, even if you control your actions, will turn you into a very sad person. I’ve seen it happen numerous times, even in myself. Coveting changes you. Living a thankful life is what makes life truly joyful.

    Look at the Rich Young Ruler – he wanted eternal life, but his covetousness got in the way. That is, because he had lived a life of covetousness, when salvation was offered he could not take it. Coveting injures the one who covets. There is no external punishment, it just ruins your soul.

  11. 11
    rvb8 says:

    In what way nonsensical? As an atheist the first three commandments are pointless. The rest state the obvious, and one would have to say that the ancient Hebrews must have been dullards if they did not live by them, prior to God telling them not to steel, kill, or sleep around.

    Sorry about my spelling, covetousness, is indeed a sin of the mind. We, murder, wish hurtful things upon people, fornicate, steel,and do any number of terrible things in the privacy of our minds; the ultimate privacy. If you say you control these thoughts I have great pity for you. Giving release to these thoughts is a pressure release, denying them behind a veneer religiosity merely causes something psychologists refer to as ‘repression’, which leads to ‘guilt’ which leads to psychotic events. Letting your mind sin, allows you to function as a human being.

  12. 12
    StephenB says:

    rvb8

    The rest state the obvious, and one would have to say that the ancient Hebrews must have been dullards if they did not live by them, prior to God telling them not to steel, kill, or sleep around.

    So, in your judgment, commandments 4-10, including the law against coveting, constitute obvious morality.

    We, murder, wish hurtful things upon people, fornicate, steel,and do any number of terrible things in the privacy of our minds; the ultimate privacy. If you say you control these thoughts I have great pity for you.

    You pity people who control the same thoughts that you previously characterized as sinful???????

    Giving release to these thoughts is a pressure release, denying them behind a veneer religiosity merely causes something psychologists refer to as ‘repression’, which leads to ‘guilt’ which leads to psychotic events.

    So, which is it? Are those hateful and covetous thoughts immoral? Or are they moral on the grounds that they provide a psychological “release?”

    Letting your mind sin, allows you to function as a human being.

    So, in your judgment, it is psychologically healthy to drool over the prospect of murdering your enemies and seducing their wives, but it is immoral to convert those psychologically healthy thoughts into action?

  13. 13
    liljenborg says:

    Rvb8, the first commandment is the most important one. To skip ahead to your later attempts at a “point” you say “Really? you need god to tell you to do this?”. You then refer back to this argument several times. But then you get to Commandment number seven and say “unless you can”. I deduce that you mean that there’s nothing really wrong with sleeping around (assuming mutual consent from all parties concerned). But that leads you into the logical trap. If adultery is okay, because you enjoy having sex with people to whom you are not married, why can’t I respond to “Thou shalt not steal” with “unless you can”? You claim it is a case of “stating the bleedin’ obvious”, but is respecting other people’s property obvious? There are whole philosophies (Marxism, for example) that consider “private property” the quintessential sin.

    Is “thou shalt not kill” obvious (the real command is “do not murder”)? Isn’t avenging yourself on people who have wronged you a fairly common moral ideal in cultures all around the world? Is honoring your parents? Our culture is built on the “generation gap” with young people encouraged to ignore and disrespect their elders as hopelessly old fashioned. “Don’t listen to anyone over the age of thirty” may have been a slogan in the sixties, but it’s part of our pop cultural DNA now-a-days.

    The First Commandment “I AM Yahweh your God” is the commandment all the others are based on. God is the moral measuring stick. Who and what he is define morality. The first commandment gives us the WHY for all the others. If there is no God, there is no moral measuring stick except for our own personal preferences, what we decide “works” the best. Right and wrong are defined by what we want and what we’re willing to do to get what we want. “Wrong” becomes nothing more than the potential costs of getting caught. In the end right and wrong will be defined by the guy who can bring the most friends with the sharpest sticks to the ethical debate. If there is no God, morality is absurd.

    Since He is God, worshiping anything less than Him is obviously wrong. Letting anything else define right and wrong for you will only lead you into behavior destructive to yourself and others. If there is no God we run around looking for things or people to replace Him as our object of devotion. History and our own experience show us how much we can hurt ourselves and others, how easily we can dehumanize others and justify all sorts of evil when we worship something less than God.

    Since He is God, swearing an oath on His name that you don’t intend to keep (which is what “taking God’s name in vain” means) is obviously wrong. If there is no God, there is no standard anyone else can hold you to without force, no standard you can hold anyone else too outside of your own ability to convince or force them to.

    Since He is God, time is sacred. The Sabbath is an institution designed to teach us to respect time. If there is no God, time is pointless and how we spend or waste it is up to us, or up to whomever we give the power.

    Since He is God (and, therefore, the One who gave you your parents) family is sacred. If there is no God “family” is whatever relationships we choose to collect either in an effort to build an echo chamber for our own aggrandizement or as a part of someone else’s echo chamber (whoever or whatever less-than-God thing we’re worshiping).

    Since He is God, life is sacred. Don’t take it without a just reason. You can’t give it back. If there is no God, life is pointless. It is nothing more than reacting chemicals. Stopping those reactions means no more than putting out a fire.

    Since He is God (and life and family is sacred) sex, the way new life is created, is sacred. If there is no God, other people (indeed our own body) are nothing more than things we can use for our own pleasure or goals. Their wishes or desires are nothing more than neurological electrochemical interactions inside a complicated gland within their skulls. Violating those electrochemical interactions isn’t “wrong”, it only risks the consequences of those bags of chemicals getting other bags of chemicals to cause you pain for doing so.

    Since He is God, the creator, and, therefore, owner of everything, the stuff he allows you to have, or gave you the talent, freedom, and resources to build or earn, property is sacred. Don’t take it if it doesn’t belong to you. If there is no God, all things are merely objects. Ownership is absurd except as far as you are able to enforce your ownership over “your” things and using things that other people consider “theirs” is only risking their retribution. If they don’t know you took it, or are too afraid of you to take it back, what was “bad” about taking it?

    Since He is God, who created language and communicates to us with language (language being one of the defining characteristics of humans), truth is sacred. If there is no God, words are merely sounds that various bags of chemicals have invested with “meaning”. Truth is merely what you can convince or force others to accept as “accurate”, such as that small scale adaptations can result in the evolution of completely new species with dramatically different bio-chemistries, physical traits, and anatomical abilities with absolutely no evidence to back it up.

    Coveting is not simple “desire”, it involves the pursuit of things that aren’t yours to have. You can’t have your neighbor’s wife without destroying your neighbor first. Jesus talked about how hating was as wicked as murdering, lusting after a woman was already having committed adultery. Because when we dehumanize others in our thoughts we’re already wronging them. If there is no God, limiting ourselves by controlling our desires is absurd. The only control is what we fear others will do to us if we are caught indulging those desires.

    So yes, the ten commandments are absurd if the first commandment is thrown out. Respecting time, respecting our parents, respecting other people, respecting women, respecting other people’s stuff, respecting honest and fair dealing, respecting ourselves and the people around us by controlling our baser impulses is an exercise in absurdity unless there is an absolute moral standard beyond humanity.

    The “atheist ten commandments” leave open the HUGE question of WHY. Why should we be fair minded? Why does every person have the right to control over their body? Why should we leave the world a better place than we found it? They’re mostly nice sentiments with a few logical flaws (what standard do they hold for defining words like “good”, “better”, “right”-both morality and legally), or perhaps they’re intentionally leaving the language vague so there’s ethical wiggle room. “Person”, for example, isn’t necessarily synonymous with “human” so a woman can “control” her own body and abort her baby, but the fetus may not be a “person”, so controlling the baby’s body doesn’t violate the commandment. I generally agree with some of them, like “the scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world” though I think there is a lot more to the world than just the “natural” part of it. But I have a reason WHY I think the universe is rational enough that a rational method would successfully understand it (a rational God designed it-that is stating the obvious). I have a reason why I should take responsibility for my actions (there is a God who will hold me accountable). This list of vague ethical sentiments, many don’t even rise to the level of “principle” let alone “commandment”, never gives you a WHY they are good or WHY one should pattern one’s life based on them.

  14. 14
    JWTruthInLove says:

    What happens if atheists interpret the “commandments” differently?
    What happens if an atheist breaks one of the “commandments”?
    Why should any atheist follow the “commandments”?
    What is the purpose of the “commandments”??

  15. 15
    Mark Frank says:

    Imagine a political leader issues ten founding principles for his party and the first three are:

    * You shall have no other leaders before me.
    * You shall not make any images of any other leaders.
    * You shall not take my name in vain.

  16. 16
    Joe says:

    Mark Frank- That sounds like a page from North Korea

  17. 17
    Mark Frank says:

    #16 Joe

    Which is, of course, exactly the point.

  18. 18
    Joe says:

    OK, Mark- do you think there was a God before God? 🙂 (joking)

  19. 19
    jstanley01 says:

    Go figure. Falsifying scientific evidence to buttress the case for anthropogenic global warming violates none of the atheists’ ten commandments. GOOD JOB!

  20. 20
    Bob O'H says:

    Mark Frank @ 15 – UKIP?

    *runs & hides*

  21. 21
    velikovskys says:

    Jst:
    Go figure. Falsifying scientific evidence to buttress the case for anthropogenic global warming violates none of the atheists’ ten commandments.

    For example?

  22. 22
    rvb8 says:

    liljenborg,
    I have no problem with Marxism, as long as it was implemented and followed according to how Marx defined it; “to each according to their need, from each according to their ability”.(Sounds like something Jesus would say, the similarities have been noted by others.) Unfortunately like the Ten Commandments it is impossible to follow. Happily however, unlike the ten commandments if I don’t follow Marxist doctrine I will not suffer eternal damnation.

    Your reply to me was extensive. ‘God is the moral measuring stick.’ You forgot to add, ‘in my opinion.’ Fine have it that way. Just never read a book of history, God’s morality is questionable.

    ‘Since He is God, worshiping anything less than him is obviously wrong.’ Actually ‘worshiping’ anything is obviously wrong, but you have it your way, Allah is indeed worthy of your worship. Oh wait, which god is your cup of tea?

    I swear to God I hope He takes my life and soul before I have completed this post. Is that in ‘vain’ enough.

    Really? The Sabbath is designed to teach us to respect time? Where in Genesis is that given as reason by this giant mass murderer?

    My grandparents gave me my parents, actually they fornicated to create them; ‘create’ being a poor way to describe what actually took place. My great grandparents did the same, and so on; understand? Along the way Random Mutations led to similar, but different looking progeny.

    Your God argument really is a ‘one hit wonder’, the classic unsatisfying non-answer for every difficulty, and conumdrum you face, isn’t it? Life is sacred because humans made laws protecting it. And, life is considerably more sacred to secular societies such as in Europe, and N America than it is in the abysmal religious countries of our world.

    What a sad world you must live in. As an educated person, who understands the animal nature of humanity, sex, to me is very good fun, healthy, and enjoyable. You can keep your iron age view of fornication, and its attendant guilt, and psychologically screwed youth to yourself. Apparently all of the 9/11 Saudi bombers were virgins; tell me these young men may not have been more balanced if they grew up having normal (sexual) relations with women?

    I’m sorry, I won’t refute the rest, suffice it to say this statement, “The atheist ‘Ten Commandments’ leave open the HUGE question of WHY” explains clearly how fearfully you live your life. I’ll play your game. Why did God knowingly create a being He knew would fail to live up to his commandments? Why did God kill an innocent (himself) 2000 years ago for me? If I were there I would like to think my morality and I would try to have stopped this barbarity. Your emotional twaddle boils down to the listener believing in God; I don’t. And having read your poor defense of the indefensible I’m pleased with this.

    God as yet has not answered my desire for Him to strike me down. Perhaps in His dottage He’s a little deaf. If you would pray for my demise that would be equally useless but it might give you some solace.

  23. 23
    liljenborg says:

    The God argument is a one hit wonder? We’re here because we’re here in a 2nd-law-of-thermodynamic-defying accident of organic chemistry doesn’t even rise to ‘unsatisfying’ as an answer to any difficulty or conundrum. It’s simply a sledgehammer that smashes them with ‘it doesn’t really matter, get what you can’. Life can’t be sacred because humans made laws protecting it. That only makes life legally protected. If there is no God nothing, by definition, is sacred. Incidentally, it was not “secular” European societies that did so, it was that part of the world once referred to as “Christendom”, because they had a moral framework built on a Creator God who had made humanity in His image to base it on.

    I was simply arguing the ethics of the two sets of commandments. Why be good? Why respect life? The Ten commandments have a built in logic. The atheist’s commandments are a list of relatively shallow and vague ethical sentiments that all generally harp on the notion that science is the only real way to know anything, science doesn’t lead you to “right and wrong”, so no one has the right to define morality for anyone but themselves (and be flexible there, too). That’s the real “emotional twaddle”.

    As to your questions. I don’t know if I can answer them to your satisfaction, or that this is the forum to do so. You give indications in your post that you have a problem with the concept of “love”. As an educated person who understands the social nature of humanity, promiscuous sex has been shown to be often not very fun at all, certainly not healthy, and ultimately unsatisfying since it denies the emotional and spiritual relationship with a woman that sex is only designed to be one facet of (whether you believe that design is the result of Natural Selection or God). So the idea that God would create beings capable of loving Him back (and therefore also capable of refusing to love) may not make sense to you. That, God would love you enough, knowing that you could not rebuild the relationship with Him from your end, made the way back Himself would also, probably seem silly to you. To do it, he had to take all the injustice and barbarity that humanity could throw at Him and drown it in forgiveness, and you’ve already declared such self sacrifice “indefensible”.

    Maybe God hasn’t answered your demand to strike you down because He loves you enough to give you more time to get to know Him. That, in any case, is what I will pray for.

  24. 24
    johnnyb says:

    rvb8 –

    It is really interesting that you view Judaeo-Christian morality as self-evident. History shows this to be false. It is only self-evident to you because you grew up in a culture that is founded upon Christian principles. However, you quickly find that without the Christian base, morality very quickly descends to a might-makes right attitude.

  25. 25
    JDH says:

    The submissions for new commandments were reviewed by the contest judges — Adam Savage was one of 13 judges — and ten submissions were chosen that were deemed worthy of being called commandments. The ten writers of the chosen submissions split a prize of 10,000 dollars.

    Which means a panel of atheists chose to award $1000 for the statement.

    God is not necessary to be a good person or to use your brain to live a full and meaningful life.

    Of course the statement would have been okay if they limited to “full” and did not include the word “meaningful”. Can the people who submitted these commandments really be this ignorant? Ignoring that the above is a declarative sentence and not a command at all, it is just obviously wrong.

    To put it bluntly:
    “God” is the name for the possible transcendent being who, as he exists outside of the material universe, is the only one who can grant meaning to what otherwise would be a meaningless existence.

    IOW it is impossible to live a meaningful life without the existence of God because without a transcendent existence there can be no meaning. This is not complicated stuff, this is just obvious. You can’t have a purpose to the universe without a God. You can’t have a life which means something ( i.e. meaningful ) in a universe which has no purpose.

    The fact that meaninglessness of life without a God infuriates the atheists so much that they pay $1000 to the person who declares that somehow they can have a meaningful life without him, just shows me how they are desperate to ignore the consequences of their own beliefs.

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