I hereby propose a new version of the Ten Commandments.
1 Choose and follow a version of the golden rule. Note in your heart that golden rules have appeared in the writings of many cultures, including Jewish, Buddhist, Confucian and Ancient Egyptian.
2. Never publicly advocate that one’s own version of a supernatural God is truer than the Gods of others; always apply the same degree of skepticism one uses regarding the Gods and sacred writings of others to one’s own God(s) and sacred writings. Don’t build expensive or ostentatious worship places in honor of your God. Never scare any child with stories of great suffering in order to cause that child to believe in the existence of any particular supernatural being. Thou shalt not blasphemy the unfolding mysteries of the universe by claiming to know the thoughts or plans of any God. Thou shalt always approach the mysteries of life with humility, awe and unbridled curiosity.
3. Do not honor any God who you believe prohibits you from honoring any other God or who, in your opinion, threatens to eternally torture any person or animal for any reason. Constantly remind yourself that you have a serious obligation to take good care of all of the children of the world, not just your own children. Regularly breathe deeply and remember to keep a sense of humor, especially when considering spirituality, sex and death. Whenever you speak of God, don’t get that look like you’re about to be smacked with a newspaper.
4. Don’t kill, hurt, insult or ridicule people or animals without extraordinary cause. Never concern one’s self with the type of sex in which other adults privately and consensually engage.
5. Preserve the planet’s resources for future generations to the greatest extent possible. Let not your quest to reach an imagined afterworld cause you to neglect the planet on which you now live.
6. Don’t be piggish, even if the law allows this and even if other people are piggish. Always strive to help the poor. Constantly remind yourself that your realm of concern is larger than the people you happen to know. Don’t allow your government to threaten people or communities with harm or neglect in order to deprive them of their resources or possessions.
7. Do not base the treatment of others on their skin color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or style of expressing their connection with the universe. Strive to not give special favors to those who are wealthy or famous. Remember to treat your own body as a temple. Avoid excessive food, drink and amusements.
8 . Don’t tell lies for personal advantage. Generally tell the truth. When in doubt, tell the truth. Never compel any other person to assert that he or she believes anything that he or she does not believe.
9 . Do not give un-skeptical credence to any extraordinary claim in the absence of extraordinary evidence; remember to be self-critical. Don’t forget to use the brain with which you were born.
10 . Don’t meddle in the wrenching moral dilemmas of other people on which reasonable people disagree (such as how long to keep someone on life support or whether to bring a baby into the world). Let not your hopes for heavenly riches or your fears of eternal torture in hell ever serve as a motive for your actions.
I’m still trying to determine the procedure for officially submitting the above proposed Commandments for official consideration. Maybe there’s a form that I can use somewhere on the Internet . . .
I’m sure that someone could improve on these, but I drafted these to illustrate some of the problems with the “ten.” The “ten” commandments of the Old Testament of the Bible (of which there are various versions and of which there are really more than ten) present a Fellow who is too insecure and xenophobic to really be the omnipotent Guy who actually created of the universe.
Western cultures always downplay that the original commandments were specifically directed by a “local” God directly to “slaves” that God led “out of Egypt.” It is a huge leap of faith to assume that these Commandments were intended to have general application.
- Don’t be envious of your neighbor’s “ass.”
- Do not do ANYTHING that constitutes work on the Sabbath, including your “slaves” and “foreigners” (I think this would include illegal immigrants).
- God will punish four generations of people for the sins of their ancestor.
- God demands that the people refrain from worshipping any other (G)ods (God is thus admitting the existence of such other (G)ods).
- God motivates obedience only with fear, not wisdom: “Fear not; for God is come to prove you, and that His fear may be before you, that ye sin not.”
Modern apologists also conveniently omit numerous additional commandments from their lists of “the ten.” These include detailed rules regarding proper sexual and food preparation procedures. They omit the following:
- One must destroy the churches of people of other faiths.
- For seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread.
- Thou shalt not boil a goat in its mother’s milk.
- Don’t kill a cow and its calf on the same day.
- Don’t trip blind people.
- “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.”
- Don’t mess around with ghosts.
- Don’t wear linen and wool together.
- Don’t eat water animals without fins and scales (catfish, lobsters, oysters, shrimp, crabs, clams, mussels, squid, frogs, octopi).
- Honour thy father and thy mother, by never leaving their land.
Admittedly, these “forgotten” commandments aren’t exactly the sort of thing that anyone seems to be fighting to display in public places. And they aren’t really forgotten or overlooked. They are consciously ignored just like all of the other inconvenient portions of the Bible. Scripture quoters are constantly trolling the Bible, but only on a lookout for things they would find useful. If the Bible had commandments that we should “kill homosexuals,” or ”Compel children to pray in public schools” these would certainly not be overlooked.
[On the topic of public display of the commandments, I would am considering agreeing to the following compromise: you can display ten commandments in your community’s courthouse as long as you display them ALL and literally obey them all—no exceptions. That would never happen.]
Even if one believes that there are only “ten” commandments, these traditional ”ten” encourage followers to be unrelentingly sycophantic. As a result, the original commandments encourage dysfunction and unhealthy relationships among followers.
That is why I have proposed my modified version of commandments. My proposed commandments comprise a big tent. They leave room for many types of beliefers, though they admittedly would exclude those who believe in ogre-Gods. The proposed commandments leave room for spirituality, mystery and awe. They attempt to motivate people to be kind and decent to each other for reasons other than the fear of eternal torture in hell. People should be kind and decent because it’s the right thing to do, not because they are frightened to do otherwise.
I offer my Commandments as an exercise to illustrate many of the differences between my own beliefs and the beliefs of those who belong to many conservative sects.
I am, by no means, a pioneer in this attempt craft an alternate set of Commandments. Check out another alternate set.