Sunday, 8 December 2013

10 Commandments - Redux

I’ve been re-reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything in the last two weeks, and am about to delve into Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation for a debut read.

I’ve never been a “believer”. My grand father thought it was all an utter crock, and my father thought that if there was a God, he would never have allowed WW2 to happen. That his school chums were forcibly removed to extermination camps by people with ‘Got Mit Uns’ on their belt buckles just re-inforced it. My mothers felt the same. Not believing in a super-natural higher power, what were my parents supposed to instill in me other than a love for learning, an ability to reason and an open minded willingness to investigate all issues? If I wanted to become religious, they figured I could make up my own mind when I reached adulthood.

I’m well into adulthood now, and not only have I not had an urge to adopt a religious belief, my disbelief has only grown with time.

Hitchens in particular has recently been fueling my feelings that I shouldn’t just be passively a-religious, but to be actively anti-religious.

He wrote a piece in Vanity Fair, about the 10 Commandments. Like so much of the Abrahamic religions, it seems like it is often accepted without any critical appraisal. Sure, some of them are perfectly reasonable. But I think 5 of them should be stricken from the list. (I thought Louis C.K.’s comment was spot on:
“It’s in the Ten Commandments to not take the Lord’s name in vain. Rape isn’t up there, by the way. No, rape is not a Ten Commandment. But don’t say the dude’s name with a shitty attitude.”)

Hitchens has come up with a revised 10 Commandments, as have two other atheists, the afore mentioned Richard Dawkins and Penn Jillette. While fundamentalists likely begin foaming at the mouth at the mere mention of these blasphemers, I think their suggestions demonstrate more humanity and common sense than the one Moses was supposedly given on Mount Sinai. As Dawkins puts it, “it is the sort of list that any ordinary, decent person today would come up with.”

Christopher Hitchens’ New 10 Commandments

  1. Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or their colour.
  2. Do not ever even think of using people as private property.
  3. Despise those who use violence or the threat of it in sexual relations.
  4. Hide your face and weep if you dare to harm a child.
  5. Do not condemn people for their inborn nature. (“Why would God create so many homosexuals, only to torture and destroy them?”)
  6. Be aware that you, too, are an animal, and dependent on the web of nature. Try to think and act accordingly.
  7. Do not imagine you can avoid judgment if you rob people [by lying to them] rather than with a knife.
  8. Turn off that cell phone.
  9. Denounce all jihadists and crusaders for what they are: psychopathic criminals with ugly delusions and terrible sexual repressions.
  10. Reject any faith if their commandments contradict any of the above.

Richard Dawkins’ New 10 Commandments (plus 4 suggested additions)

  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 the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.
  8. Never seek to censor or 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.
  11. Enjoy your own sex life (so long as it damages nobody else) and leave others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none of your business.
  12. Do not discriminate or oppress on the basis of sex, race or (as far as possible) species.
  13. Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.
  14. Value the future on a timescale longer than your own.

Penn Jillette’s New 10 Commandments

  1. The highest ideals are human intelligence, creativity and love. Respect these above all.
  2. Do not put things or even ideas above other human beings. (Let’s scream at each other about Kindle versus iPad, solar versus nuclear, Republican versus Libertarian, Garth Brooks versus Sun Ra— but when your house is on fire, I’ll be there to help.)
  3. Say what you mean, even when talking to yourself. (What used to be an oath to god is now quite simply respecting yourself.)
  4. Put aside some time to rest and think. (If you’re religious, that might be the Sabbath; if you’re a Vegas magician, that’ll be the day with the lowest grosses.)
  5. Be there for your family. Love your parents, your partner, and your children. (Love is deeper than honor, and parents matter, but so do spouse and children.)
  6. Respect and protect all human life. (Many believe that “Thou shalt not kill” only refers to people in the same tribe. I say it’s all human life.)
  7. Keep your promises. (If you can’t be sexually exclusive to your spouse, don’t make that deal.)
  8. Don’t steal. (This includes magic tricks and jokes — you know who you are!)
  9. Don’t lie. (You know, unless you’re doing magic tricks and it's part of your job. Does that make it OK for politicians, too?)
  10. Don’t waste too much time wishing, hoping, and being envious.

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