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The Ten Commandments

Image from travisjmorgan.com

Image from travisjmorgan.com

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view (Even at the zenith of a past theological acceptance) that in a modern day society where science and reason have superseded literal Biblical thought, that they hold little if any relevance.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 rationale explanation’.
John Lord.

5 comments

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  1. rkg31557

    Rules to live you life by. Structure is as important as it is ubiquitous. For me, like most things in the bible, it is metaphor. As such the 10 commandments are a guide for living although the first 4 being about paying homage to god and god alone is a bit of overkill. At the time of their writing it served to keep the tribes together and alive. We are a pack anim al and our survival depends on how well we work and serve together. I`ll take #3 as the place to start, in the updated set.

    Thanks John I enjoy a bit of think and you always manage to deliver that oppotunity. I`ve always thought that humans would be kinder to themselves, their neighbours and the planet if they thought of themselves as part of the food chain rather than on top of it.

  2. Miglo

    John, you have the gift of thought and the gift of being able to put those thoughts into words.

    I envy you.

  3. el gordo

    ‘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 rationale explanation’.

    I agree.

  4. johnlord2013

    Enjoyed that. Thanks.

  5. Hannah

    Hi John, I’m inclined to think that simple abdication to the ‘Word’ is an abdication of self. There is an inherent imperative in human co-habitation that requires a degree of co-operation, care and fellowship, in other words an ethos, none of which need nor should rely on, or actually can rely on worship of any one individual. Where the first four edicts of ten are about the one above all others, there is a flaw in the ‘design’ of cohesive community because anyone can, and potentially will be, sacrificed both figuratively and literally to that one. Placing trust in the one, in the most viable leader, is not the same thing as devotion or worship and can give strength to a community, provided the leader seeks to ensure the furtherance and survival of that community. I’m not writing a treatise here, but I think this things are not only inherent, to me they are observable and logical, and one need only look to the herd animal in the wilds to see it demonstrated. We need laws and basic codes of behaviour, however, I think there is a natural propensity for ethical behaviour which does not require the specificity of a list.

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