Have you ever read the “The Ten Commandments”?
I cannot ever remember reading a book that has not in some way left an impression on me. It might just be the absurdity of a poorly written novel that adheres it to one’s memory. Alternatively, it may very well be the profound sense of goodness that books like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (Harper Lee) or ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ (John Steinbeck) do for your thoughts on social justice. Or even the boredom that a text book might bring in research or study. On the other hand, it may be writers like Tim Winton and Marcus Zusak who compose sentences that send one’s head into a divine heaven of literary bliss.
Even a poem can leave you with beguiling sense of awe. I recently read a poem that a friend sent me that painted a masterpiece with words that still occupy the labyrinth of my thoughts. The residue it leaves speaks of the power that imagination has.
This then brings me to the book by Richard Dawkins titled ‘The God Delusion’. It left me reconsidering many personal philosophical and theological concepts. However, with regard to impression, what has remained indelible in my mind is his short discourse on ‘The Ten Commandments’. I have long held the view (even at the zenith of a past theological acceptance) that in a modern day society where science and reason have superseded literal Biblical thought, that they hold little if any relevance. By relevance I mean directly connected with, and important to a modern twenty first century society.
In his book Dawkins advocates a replacement set of values drawn simply from a Google search and adds in a few of his own for consideration. He points out that they are not the work of any great sage or prophet or professional ethicist but rather from ordinary citizens.
Listed below are the original Ten Commandments and the suggested alternatives. I will say no more other than with your reason and logic decide which have the more relevance and are therefore more applicable for the world of today.
1. ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.’
2. ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’
3. ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.’
4.’Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.’
5. ‘Honour your father and your mother.’
6. ‘You shall not murder.’
7. .You shall not commit adultery.’
8. ‘You shall not steal.’
9. ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.’
10.’You shall not covet your neighbours’ house; you shall not covet your neighbours’ wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbours.’
Or these as alternatives:
1. Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.
2. In all things strive to cause no harm.
3. Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.
4. Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.
5. Live life with a sense of joy and wonder.
6. Always seek to be learning something new.
7. Test all things; always check your ideas against your facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.
8. Never seek to cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.
9. Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.
10. Question everything.
And some further alternatives from Dawkins:
1. Enjoy your own sex life (so long as it damages nobody) and leaves others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none or your business.
2. Do not discriminate or oppress on the basis of sex, race or (as far as possible) species.
3. Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence and how to disagree with you.
4. Value the future on a timescale longer than your own.
In conclusion. The purpose in writing this is my contention that the Bible is the only ‘How To’ book ever written never to have been updated. If the Bible is the supposed literal (or inspired) word of God why then did he stop dictating or even revising? Now that’s something to think about.
‘The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of scientific fact and reason, never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rational explanation.’
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John, has anyone ever told you that you are a wonderful wordsmith?
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If the Ten Commandments were meant to be universal moral pronouncements I think he messed up somewhere. Most of them relate to admonishments not to follow other gods, proving yet again that the Abrahamic deity is jealous, selfish, vengeful and petty, alternated with sugarcoated emotional blackmail.
Of course, Jesus offered his own alternative: his existence and death and resurrsction are part of the promises God made to His people. Jesus came to sort out those who would adhere to the Law like glue: his alternative wording was Love God and Love Your Neighbour. That is all.
The omission of admonitions to neither lie or kill is regretable in alternative commandments.
That said removing the guff about graven images and religious fidelity is a godsend. (jk)
Jesus (Bible 2.0) of course was Jewish and ascribed that “Not one jot or tittle of the law shall be changed”.
As such, it was hard to move a product in the early days that was only available to those with circumstantial evidence (The old testament makes it clear that only people of the Jewish faith can enter heaven).
So, as with all successful programming, the software was constantly altered so your hardware didn’t require modification.
Success! A local product was finally compatible with the world market. Trouble was, it still had to compete with established brands. For hundreds of years Christianity was literally the Apple of religions. Obscure, inflexible and out of step with the other 99% of the world, that saw things through a different set of Windows.
Heavy marketing, stealing from other brands and systematic killing off of the opposition finally put them in the leading position.
The original code was still there of course. But mostly rendered redundant with new instructions.
– Graven images are OK. White Jesus on a cross being a best seller.
– Working on the sabbath is fine. Especially if your serving me my McBreakfast on the way to mega-church.
– That murder thing only applies to believers. Killing people of other faiths is Gods work.
– Adultery is so old school. Hell, even my church leaders ignore that old chestnut.
– Coveting thy neighbors ass? Well, that’s just the adultery clause in different form.
Thank you John, I actually have my own interpretation of Dawkins’ commandments pinned to the wall above my desk work as a constant reminder – they often attract attention and nobody has ever found fault with any of them.
Fundamentalists of all persuasions would have great difficulty accepting the Alternatives simply on the grounds that they offer no punishment.
Have always baulked at the first 4 of the 10 commandments – redundant and of little benefit to any except a being a little too concerned with himself.
John raised a very pertinent point which can be expanded to include most, if not all, religions, if such literary works purporting to be of divine inspiration, why no revision to suit an ever changing world? Did god forget he created a dynamic universe?
Thank you John for this excellent post.
I too find reading all those things you describe ( boring, dull, exciting, life changing,eternal etc).
Reading the Bible from cover to cover ( KJV) three times changed me. Changed me from a searching devoted Christian to a relieved, mind-opened, atheist.
There is no god so any argument including such a concept is a furphy.
There was no Jesus, just an advertising idol for the control feaks of the times. All that the Xtian ‘Jesus’ was and had done and ‘become’ had been done before, by the ancients, the ancient pagan religions (Horus/Osirus et al..born of a virgin, crucified etc). The main aim of the new ‘Christian’ faith was to put women back in their box after their being raised up in the “Natural” belief systems.
I read Dawkins’ book and had my consciousness raised that little bit more.
To be caught in a text ( eg 10 Commandments which were not only TEN by the way but over 100) and to remain steeped in an archaic and ignorant mindset is to set the world on fire, literally, with hatred, divisiveness, bigotry and prejudice.
This is no way to live, to think, to act and to love.
In the beginning-he created-man in his image-man is master of all-he made woman from man-he will end this world. Hard to find a religion that is not by men for men. Thou shall not kill unless the heathen repent eth not. Thou shall covet as much as possible as long as ye repent. Thou shall take the ass if you pay indulgences. Thou shall hide the truth if it is important to your purpose.
I see nothing wrong with them but I have my own interpretations far away from religion 🙂 and based on the meaning of the words.
1. ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.’= Don’t make people Godlike.
2. ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’ = Don’t worship idols (as all religions encourage people to do).
3. ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.’ = Don’t misuse, abuse or pervert the inherent function of something.
4.’Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.’ = Make sure you have days of leisure to spend with family.
5. ‘Honour your father and your mother.’ = Respect
6. ‘You shall not murder.’ = Don’t kill
7. .You shall not commit adultery.’ = Be faithful to your partner
8. ‘You shall not steal.’ = Don’t steal.
9. ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.’ = Don’t lie and gossip about people.
10.’You shall not covet your neighbours’ house; you shall not covet your neighbours’ wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbours.’ = Don’t be envious.
The critical point here concerns the “thinking human being”. When 50% of the population are below average intelligence, they follow what they’re told to think. In the past that meant religion (and in the present in theocracies/non secular societies). “Religion is the opiate if the masses” Marx, ie. it kept everyone in line. Today we have Murdoch to preach to the unthinking, to tell them what to think and what to believe.
Reblogged this on In my own opinion.
The bible has had substantial rewrites the most extensive under the roman emperor Constantine.
According to Professor John Crossan of Biblical Studies at DePaul University the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (274-337 CE), who was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, needed a single canon to be agreed upon by the Christian leaders to help him unify the remains of the Roman Empire. By unify of course he meant control. Until this time the various Christian leaders could not decide which books would be considered “holy” and thus “the word of God” and which ones would be excluded and not considered the word of God.
Partly true. The Bible originated under his rule. He was not totality converted himself. I might expand on the subject at a later date.
A good article by Peter Murphey supports this view
“one can easily argue that the first Christian Bible was commissioned, paid for, inspected and approved by a pagan emperor for church use.”
There was a great deal of pragmatism associated with Christianity in Roman times, Theodosius I who was regarded as a champion of Christianity only converted when he was seriously ill and St Ambrose was a pagan when he was publicly proclaimed as bishop of Milan.
But, getting real, the Ten Commandments were not REALLY carved with lightning on stone tablets by God up on Mt Sinai, you know. In real life, they were a set of practical laws formulated by the intelligentsia of the time, to help the Hebrew people survive in their newly established nation, surrounded by powerful enemies. By and large, they seem to have worked pretty well in context – but to suggest that they are necessarily infallible in the 21st century is… well, let’s just say your mileage may vary.
It would, of course, be possible to find fault in many of the original ten commandments, though others appear to be pretty sound. To me, 6, 8, 9 and 10 appear to be perfectly sensible, 1, 3 and 4 are irrelevant to anyone not of the Judeo/Christian faith, 7 is obsolete, 2 would eliminate much of our creative achievements, and 5 would depend upon the conduct of the subject in question. In short, a mixed bag, useful enough at the time but perhaps not a workable creed today.
By all means let’s give either Dawkin’s alternate set, or even Kaye Macovec’s excellently conceived secular version a try. Both appear to be far more workable than the originals.
Reblogged this on Nick Thiwerspoon.
In my humble opinion there only needs to be one commandment as all sins and wrongdoings come out of breaking it.
1. Thou shalt not be greedy.
Stealing, adulatory, coveting, lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath, envy and maybe even pride are all forms of greed to me in wanting to possess more than you need.
That would make stealing solely for survival if no other means were available not a sin as that theft is not based on greed.
And that commandment has nothing to do with religion, but one necessary for a lawful and functioning society.
Most interesting …. confirms for me what I already know to be true. And the insights into the history of the publication of the Bible are always good to be brought to the fore.
A favorite book of mine, relating to the early years of Christianity and its interaction with the Roman Empire and the Emperors is THE DEATH OF CLASSICAL PAGANISM by John Holland Smith. Amazing details on how the Roman Empire evolved into the Catholic Church AND the damage and destruction the newly triumphant Christians reeked on the Mediterranean world.
If the answers are within why aren`t we looking there……….? It`s close but not quite there …yet..!
It was a very clever move by ‘someone’ to turn natures trinity into the holy trinity??
Our existence here on earth is solely the province of nature ie. the sun – the atmosphere – water.
Some fast buck marketer turned this into – the father – the holy spirit/chost – the son, creating a trillionXtrillion dollar industry.
Hence we have god the father through the intercession of the holy ghost created a son??
Reality shows that the Sun (“I am the light of the World”) through the presence of the Atmosphere created water.
Water is the essence of life!
Random thoughts generated by this piece presented in no particular order.
1. Richard Dawkins as an authority on religion and metaphysics
Richard Dawkins may deserve acknowledgment for his knowledge of evolutionary biology but is very dodgy on religion and metaphysics. One source offers the following summary critique of his position:
a. His views of God as a created being, miracles as nothing other than ‘more-or-less improbable natural events’ and faith as unevidenced belief represent a ‘straw’ version of Christianity which the orthodox would not wish to defend. Consequently, arguments based on these assumptions do not actually engage with the intended target.
b. Attacks based on meme theory, religion as a ‘mental virus’ and the supposed gullibility of the young have no anti-Christian mileage in them whatsoever. These are simply theories about how ideas spread – any ideas. They say nothing about the truth or falsity of the beliefs themselves and have the boomerang effect of being equally applicable to the spread of atheism!
c. There appear to be a number of inconsistencies between Dawkins’ various claims. These concern arguments from analogy; the use of chance + selection by intelligent agents; the legitimate use of metaphor; wishful thinking; and the meaning and purpose of life. It is important to distinguish between confident assertions and their justification.
d. Much of Dawkins’ world-view depends on his odd claim that ‘religion is a scientific theory’. I know of no professional philosopher who makes such a assertion. An attempt to justify such a contentious claim is long overdue if Dawkins’ position is to be taken seriously.
Murrough O’Brien reviewed ‘The God Delusion’ quite generously for ‘The Independent’ here: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-god-delusion-by-richard-dawkins-425934.html
Some choice quotes: “This big, colourful book is mostly tendentious tosh, but it will stay with you. … Dawkins wastes a lot of space, and his readers’ time, flogging the corpses of sacred cows. … Despite his pious promise not to attack soft targets, that is precisely what he does, at some length. American evangelicalism, which for some reason he regards as the Christian norm, gets a relentless beating. … Some of his arguments are old atheistic chestnuts, and how merrily they crack in the roasting pan. The palm for outrageous question-begging goes to the Who Made God “argument”. Dawkins squirts this sachet of puerile pap (most of us had outgrown it before hitting double figures) over the whole book, to inadvertently comic effect.”
I won’t go on the whole piece is quite entertaining and deserves to be read.
“On source offers…” Who is that source that offers?
The God Delusion, Reviews
Book by Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion gives it to believers with both barrels. Joan Bakewell cheers him on.
Good review, deserves a read. So far I’m seeing far more positive reviews than negative.
Random thoughts generated by this piece presented in no particular order.
2. John Lord notes the failure of the author of the bible to update his work over the last two to four thousand years (Some of the old testament of course predates Jesus by a very long way). C G Jung himself the son of a Christian Protestant pastor, felt that the withering of Christianity that we have seen in the 20th century in particular resulted from its failure to evolve, to adapt or re-evaluate itself in light of changing circumstances. It seems JL would agree with Jung. Jung had much of interest to say about the role and plight of religions particularly of course Christianity. Although Jung’s wide ranging metaphysical speculations have themselves been subject to (sometimes severe) criticism his writings on these topics are fascinating.
As A ‘How to book’ the Bible is remarkably obscure and, as Möbius Echo’s comment above shows, frequently downright odd. The Ten Commandments themselves are an attempt to codify a set of rules for an ethical existence. Given their antiquity and (from our viewpoint) their exotic cultural context and the fact that they are still in large measure appropriate today they are a pretty good attempt to set out an ethical framework for living ‘the good life’. But as a map of the route to spiritual awakening or (if you prefer) the Kingdom of Heaven they don’t offer much help. Although I think Dawkins is blundering around in a field he has only poor understanding of his alternative framework has the advantage of setting out what folk should do rather than what they shouldn’t do. This makes them active participants rather than passive receivers. The Christian position seems to be; obey the rules unquestioningly and wait for the celestial vacuum cleaner to suck you up to eternal life in a better place. Nothing more is asked of you than that you do what you are told until you shuffle off this mortal coil. A far better organized and to me more credible explanation of the human condition and description of the path to spiritual awakening is the Buddhist four noble truths. Now I’ve referred to these before in commenting on John’s writing so anyone who can’t be bothered with all this heathen rot should stop here. I spent some years studying these teachings but have cribbed these summaries from various cybersources notably Buddahnet.
Four Noble truths
a. The truth of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, unsatisfactoriness)
b. The truth of the origin of dukkha (desire, craving,attachment). Given the transitory nature of all phenomena attachment is bound to result in some measure of ‘suffering’.
c. The truth of the cessation of dukkha
d. The truth of the path leading to the cessation of dukkha (the noble eightfold path)
The first two truths summarize the fundamental cause of human ‘suffering’. the third points to the possibility of overcoming this state and the fourth, the noble eightfold path gives the template for advancing towards this goal based on your own efforts.
Noble Eightfold Path
1. Right view or understanding of the nature of reality and the path of transformation.
2. Right thought or attitude. Liberating emotional intelligence in your life and acting from love and compassion. An informed heart and feeling mind that are free to practice letting go.
3. Right speech. Clear, truthful, uplifting and non-harmful communication.
4. Right action. An ethical foundation for life based on the principle of non-exploitation of oneself and others. The five precepts. These are as follows (The first precept is to avoid killing or harming living beings. The second is to avoid stealing, the third is to avoid sexual misconduct, the fourth is to avoid lying and the fifth is to avoid alcohol and other intoxicating drugs.)
5. Right livelihood. This is a livelihood based on correct action the ethical principal of non-exploitation. The basis of an Ideal society.
6. Right effort or diligence. Consciously directing our life energy to the transformative path of creative and healing action that fosters wholeness. Conscious evolution.
7. Right mindfulness. Developing awareness, “if you hold yourself dear watch yourself well”. Levels of Awareness and mindfulness – of things, oneself, feelings, thought, people and Reality.
8. Right concentration, meditation, absorption or one-pointedness of mind.
The eightfold path, as with Dawkins’ replacement for the Ten Commandments, makes people active participants in their own advancement. Together the first six steps on the eightfold path constitute a comprehensive ethical framework which although far more complete has similar aims to both the Ten Commandments and Dawkins’ replacement. The final two however go way beyond setting out the rues for a life well lived and (in their expanded version) set out a framework of practices intended to produce profound beneficial mental/spiritual change in the practitioner.
Author Michael Poole ‘A Critique of Richard Dawkins’ views on religion’ Nucleus Magazine summer 1996 pp2 – 9. I found it here: https://www.cmf.org.uk/publications/content.asp?context=article&id=552. It is much longer than the little bit I cribbed but makes good sense I thought.
My point is that you can find any review that concurs with your opinion but that doesn’t make it a good review, just a good review in your opinion. Cherry picking reviewers doesn’t prove the point in my view especially when the majority of reviewers state the opposite of those cherry picked.
And no matter what the reviewers aver, as it is with movie reviewers, it is bums on seats or in this case readership that is the final judge. 4 out 5 positive is good in anyone’s book.
Though I found The God Delusion flawed I certainly didn’t find it selective, shallow and self serving propaganda. Shit I’ve read enough religious tomes, many highly lauded, that in my opinion are exactly that.
Try googling critique of Richard Dawkins’ views on religion. I haven’t read the book (Haven’t read anything by Dawkins since ‘The Panda’s Thumb’ but the TV series ‘The God Delusion’ spawned was I thought, highly selective, shallow and self serving propaganda. O’Brien’s review of the book concurs with my opinion of the TV show. So my antennae are twitched by the mention of his name in this context. I don’t advocate for religion of any type but a respected academic and public intellectual needs to mount an argument more rigorously than this.
duggy47 re your earlier posting and your link to Murrough O’Brien. While you seem to applaud O’Brien, I find his article somewhat problematic. Here’s a quote you may wish to discuss.
No psychological benefits? May I suggest that one of the problems with religion is that it plays on psychological delusion. Sure some (perhaps the majority) get psychological certainty from metaphysical assumptions, but isn’t that what Dawkins is suggesting? I know of many people who get ‘psychological’ benefit (self perceived) from all types of ‘drugs’. Me included. And I am an atheist.
Then we have:
So it’s the belief in god that gives us ‘philanthropy’? Any other possible explanations? Perhaps some grounded in ‘politics’ or perhaps ‘sociology’? And then there’s:
Really? O’Brien is clearly he is a ‘theist’ imprisoned by his own assumptions. And he doesn’t realise it. ‘Repentance’ for god’s sake. Tell me again what we are repenting for? ‘Original’ sin perhaps?
As I said I haven’t read the book but in the TV series Dawkins did not distinguish between esoteric and exoteric religious traditions, focusing entirely on the latter as if the former did not exist. This plainly serves his argument. Perhaps he is unaware of the distinction or perhaps he is concerned simply to present material that supports his preferred outcome? Maybe his book is more thorough? He did not mention Buddhism a religion that doesn’t have a God at its centre and which clearly addresses many of the problems he wishes to highlight with his straw man arguments against all religion. These seem to me to be gaping oversights. Again perhaps the book is more thorough? Michael Poole seems to agree with my concerns without having a personal barrow to push as was the case with some other reviews and critiques I scanned, so I highlighted his critique of Dawkins. I have not conducted a contents analysis of reviews of Dawkins so can’t say what the majority of reviewers support but I’d suggest that it helps if reviewers have knowledge of the topics of the books they are reviewing. This is the case with Poole and O’Brien and seems also to be the case with Joan Bakewell who wrote The Guardian review supporting Dawkins. Bakewell however also indicates that Dawkins confines himself to Judaism, Christianity and Islam in his book which supports one of my reservations above. Even if the majority of reviews support Dawkins in his blunderbuss confrontation with religion I’m happy with my critique of the limited selective nature of the material Dawkins highlights. If Dawkins had limited his critique to fundamentalist strands of three religious traditions I would have been happy enough to overlook the other logical and ethical shortcomings that Poole highlights and more or less go along with him but no, he wants to use these outliers of three selected religions as a stick with which to beat ALL religions. This is intellectually shoddy. Straw man argument more suitable to the likes of Andrew Bolt than a popular public intellectual.
“And no matter what the reviewers aver, as it is with movie reviewers, it is bums on seats or in this case readership that is the final judge. 4 out 5 positive is good in anyone’s book.” The numbers of people that suggest in an online poll that they like the contents of a book as the determinant of the quality of the arguments presented by the book? Give me a break. On this measure Andrew Bolt would be deserving of our highest regard
Then again perhaps Bakewell doesn’t qualify as an expert reviewer after all. Her Guardian Profile describes her as “a broadcaster, writer and Labour peer. Between 2008 and 2010 she acted as a Voice of Older People.” Her book ‘Belief’ a series of conversations “selected from (her) BBC Radio series of the same name, constitute(s) a broad and surprising insight into what thinking people think.” Pretty thin qualifications on which to base opinions about ALL religion. A bit closer to the person looking at a painting who ‘may not know much about art but knows what she likes.’
Actually your reviewer Joan Bakewell’s book ‘Belief’ appears to be a series of edited conversations with well known ATHEISTS including … you guessed it … Richard Dawkins. What a coincidence! Bakewell, a self declared atheist, puts together a book consisting of conversations with atheists including Richard Dawkins and … who’d have guessed it … she LIKES Dawkins’ book. Now isn’t that amazing. Something of an echo chamber at work here? Having decided on the strength of a simplistic TV series built around blatantly cherry picked case studies that the book would be a complete waste of time. I’m beginning to think I will read it after all.
Try reading Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsh. Very few people realise how accurate it is.
More revelations about god and us, will come out later this year. There is a continual flow of information
I just read JL’s review and I had this realisation that we are considering God’s existence from our human point of view even a scientific point of view according to Dawkins conclusions.
But what if our point of view is irrelevant not in the discussion sense but of seeing the facts. Much like a man in a boat in a stormy sea who cannot see land even a glorious continent such as Australia.
What if somehow Dawkins and Atheists and humans generally are without a true point of reference because they cannot have it.
So maybe there is a God who is “forward looking in his thinking, anticipating the future and acting to make the future better than the present. Maybe this God does not only consider today’s reality; but he dreams of tomorrow’s possibilities…”
But again maybe if Dawkins could somehow ascend over his bias and great knowledge of all and everything only than can he describe to us there is no God or angels or demons or spirits or heaven and hell or saints… Or is he deluded like the rest of us who read his book looking for truth.