This past week, the people behind the book Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart revealed the winners behind an effort to produce an atheists’ version of the Ten Commandments. Yes, that they’re called “commandments” is silly, but we all get the idea. If a Bible-based believer can claim to live by the Ten Commandments, what would the equivalent be for a non-religious person be?
The results, I believe, are absolutely fantastic. Before we take a look at them, though, let’s review the original Ten Commandments as sculpted by God and given to Moses so many, many years ago. I do this because if you’ve never become familiar with all of them (other than classics like not killing people), then you might be in for a bit of a surprise:
- I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
- 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; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.
- You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.
In recent years there have been court battles over displaying these at various public venues including courthouses. Personally, I’ve objected to it because, as you can see above, most of these “commandments” are either out of date, specifically religious, or not crimes. Why display commandments at a courthouse when these are not illegal? It’s just a bit silly.
Looking at the commandments above, adherents themselves routinely disregard #2 (Jesus statues), #3 (God dammit!), #4 (Farmers!), and #10 (Capitalism?). Sure, there’s a few which make sense like not killing or stealing from people, but I do have a problem with a courthouse chastising me for coveting my neighbor’s new home theater. That thing is SWEET!
Heck, committing adultery isn’t even remotely illegal. Even pastors do it. But, OK, I get it. It’s a moral code and not a legal one. There’s some good tidbits in there. Let’s compare it to the new atheists’ moral compass now.
Here are the Atheists’ Ten Commandments:
- Be open minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
- Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
- The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
- Every person has the right to control over their body.
- God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
- Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
- Treat others as you would want them to treat you and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
- We have the responsibility to consider others including future generations
- There is no one right way to live.
- Leave the world a better place than you found it.
What I really like about them is how some perfectly mirror the originals except that science takes the place of God. There’s a few that we can agree that everyone can follow, too. Let’s dig into the details.
The opening three commandments are the specific, science-based ones. I love the first two, because it’s precisely the kind of thinking that will keep you away from the ideologies of a religion. Catholicism, especially, falls prey to this lack of thinking. You see, Catholics are strictly not allowed to have sex for pleasure. Do they? Sure. Yet, they shouldn’t. Well, no…they should because sex is great and there’s plenty of health benefits from doing it. However, the ideology of religion is not built to change often because, quite frankly, there’s rarely new information coming in. As a result, many Catholics have to live in personal opposition to the teachings of their own church. It’s why the religion has declined. It’s not fun to feel like you’re a bad Catholic all the time.
The next trio of commandments are about your identity in the world. You are you, and you are not a possession of a god or gods. Take credit for the good you do, but remember to take credit for your evil. I find this line of thinking to be the crux of arguments between the religious and non-believers. Christians think it’s dangerous if a person believes they’re not held to judgement by God. Atheists find it disturbing that a person’s resistance to murdering someone is merely fear of that very judgement by God and not their own conscience. Both sides have a point based on their existing beliefs. Let’s just hope people find some reason not to do such horrible things anyway, right?
Commandment #7 is my favorite as it’s really the ONE rule you need in life: The Golden Rule. This one has a basis in many ancient religions and belief systems and so is nothing new here. However, it’s noticeably present whereas it’s not in the original Ten Commandments. It should’ve been. (It does appear elsewhere in the Bible, however.)
While I find #9 the weakest of these commandments (albeit true), the last group is simply beautiful because it goes way beyond the Bible and reminds us of something that’s so easy to forget in our busy, day-to-day lives. It’s up to us to not only take care of what we have, but to improve it! This one comes in the crosshairs of our political parties when liberals seek to change our laws to accommodate new information (gay marriage, trans-gender bathrooms, breast feeding, etc.) while conservatives often want to re-establish the order of things from their own upbringing. Heck, as a software developer, I try to follow #10 every time I’m writing some code.
Overall, I love these new commandments. They’re not official, and there’s been other lists before, but I appreciate them because they’ve been submitted by people all over the world and judged by a panel that includes the likes of Adam Savage.
So, what do you think of this list? Do you already live by them? Would you commit to following them in a formal way? Or do you prefer the original commandments?