Skeptimus Prime » Ten Commandments One atheist's thoughts on politics, religion, and philsophy Wed, 22 Apr 2015 06:30:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Commandment #11 of 10….wait…what? Fri, 08 Jul 2011 00:22:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Roy Moore’s 10 commandment display being removed.

OK, there are no more commandments, but I thought I would make a final post about the commandments to comment on one of the most troubling things about the ten commandments.  The biggest issue I have with the ten commandments is not with anything in them as much as it is with what they left out.  The commandments speak about a wide variety of subjects to be sure, but as I have pointed out much is included that is either unneeded or downright unethical, on the other hand many things are missing from the ten commandments which would have made this set of commands much more useful as an ethical guide, and considering the author is supposed to be omniscient it does beg the question of how they didn’t make the list.

1. How about a “thou shalt not own other humans as you would property?”  Most Christians quite rightly distance themselves from slavery these days, but until less than two hundred years ago many Christians felt that slavery was not only acceptable, but an entirely ethical practice, and based their arguments on the bible.  I pointed out that in commandment #10 it actually mentions slaves under the list of things you shouldn’t covet with not the slightest hint of condemnation for the owning of slaves. But this is hardly the only passage mentioning slavery.  Exodus 21, just one chapter after the 10 commandments is full of laws expressly telling people how to properly go about owning slaves.  Not once in this or any other passage in the bible does it so much as say, “but it would be better if you didn’t treat other human beings as property.”  It is a hard truth that few Christians will admit but the bible not only does not condemn slavery it encourages it.

There is an argument out there presented by some Christians that slavery as laid out in the bible was not as bad as the practice of slavery was in the American south.  In other words, they argue that our impression of slavery in America “poisons the well” of slavery in general, which is, apparently, carried out in such a humanitarian fashion in the bible that no one could rationally object to it.

Not quite it turns out, because I object.  First, no matter how well treated a slave is still property, and I find it inherently unethical and logically unjustifiable to own other human beings.  Second, the Bible makes it clear that the slavery therein was anything but kind and gentile.

Take this passage for example:

And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.  Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.  Exodus 21:20-21

In case you are unsure of the meaning here, this passage says it is not a crime to beat your slave to death as long as they survive a day or two.  No, slavery in ancient Israel was not humanitarian.

2. Here is another one that would have been nice, “thou shalt treat women as equals.”  Imagine how many problems throughout western history could have been avoided if this had been in the bible.  As bad as the treatment of slaves was in the bible, the treatment of women was often worse.  If you were unlucky enough to be both slave and woman then you might as well forget having any sort of freedom.

Take this cheerful piece of literature:

Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.  But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. Numbers 31:17

This is after the extermination of the Midianites.  Moses is essentially telling the Israeli soldiers, at the behest of god presumably, that they, after destroying a city including the girls parents apparently, they may force said girl to marry one of the very people who just murdered her parents.  Even worse it specifies virgins meaning these women were mostly likely younger that 15 years old.

Or should we talk about some of the statements about women’s rights in the Pauline and pseudo-Pauline letters.  How he tells them to remain silent in church in 1st Cor. 14 or in 1st Tim 2.  If there is a treatise on women’s equality to be found in the bible I have not found it.

3. How about a command against racism, or religious intolerance?  Not found anywhere in the 10 commandments I am afraid.  However, we can find plenty of passages in the bible where God orders genocide against whatever race, culture or religious group he happened to dislike, or happened to be on a patch of land he promised someone else.

All in all the Ten Commandments leave out a lot of things which would have helped make peoples lives much better.  Instead we get commands demanding worship and leveling threats at those who  refuse, and thought crimes.  If these were merely written by bronze age men who did the best they could, it would be understandable, in fact it would make perfect sense.  However if they were written by a all knowing God, it seems he could have done quite a bit better.  I find it impossible to believe that these were written by any sort of god.

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Commandment #10 of 10 Sun, 03 Jul 2011 15:14:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.
Exodus 20:17
Well, since I actually praised the last commandment it is appropriate that we end with one of the worst commandments in the lot.  There are so many things wrong with this command I am not even sure where to begin.

For starters god is criminalizing thoughts. This is both entirely opposed to common sense and very much in opposition to American law.  How does one criminalize a thought to begin with?  Exactly how is god expecting the Jewish legal authorities to detect a breach of this law?  Of course the American legal system is pretty clear on this.  Thoughts cannot be considered crimes in and of themselves.  

Of course another problem stems from what thought he decides to criminalize.  He could have criminalized thinking about something bad, like “don’t think about being a serial killer,” or “don’t think about furry porn,” but no, he criminalizes coveting, which last time I checked was the basic thought process that makes capitalism possible.  Coveting is practically an American institution, and considering the number of Christians out there who seem to think that American free market capitalism is exactly the economic system their god wants in this country I submit that many of them do not know the bible as well as they think they do.

Lastly, I would point out the type of things god says we are not to covet is probably the most disturbing thing in this command.  That is, that among the “property” of your neighbor you are not supposed to covet he includes both his wife and his slaves.  For those who don’t think god approves of slavery in the Bible, feel free to point them towards this command.  Of course women are property right?  I mean what else would they be, certainly not individuals with their own desires and thoughts separate from your own.  That’s just crazy talk.

So there you have it, in one fell swoop god condemns free thought, capitalism, and civil rights.  Well that’s just great god, I mean really really great, way to end on a high note.
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Commandment #9 of 10 Fri, 01 Jul 2011 15:54:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.  Exodus 20:16
Okay, we now come to the only commandment that I actually think is good.  I actually have nothing bad to say about it.  Though interestingly the reason I have nothing bad to say about it is because the command doesn’t actually seem to be saying what most Christians assert that it says.  

Almost without fail, Christians will tell you that this is a command to never lie.  I would argue the wording is much more specific.  In the context, the rule seems to be much more specific.  To “bear false witness” seems indicate a legal meaning, meaning that the command is telling people to not accuse others of illegal activities they are not guilty of.  In essence this command is one against perjury.  
As such I find this command like the others, reasonable, clear, concise, and fairly closely matches laws in our own legal system.  Of course it doesn’t provide for what the punishment will be, but otherwise I have nothing really bad to say about this commandment.  I just wish Christians would read it more closely and realize that this commandment does not deal with lying in general.  Don’t get me wrong I prefer honesty, but I don’t think it makes sense to make lying a crime.
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Commandment #7 of 10 Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:59:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Thou shalt not commit adultery, Exodus 20:14

This happens to be one of the few commandments I generally agree with.  I do have a couple of small disagreements though.  My first problems comes from what was generally considered adultery, until modern times the only person who would be blamed for breaking this law was generally the woman involved.  Men were mostly overlooked.  
The other issue I have is that I think this is primarily an issue of honesty.  If people agree to some form of poly-amorous relationship, as long as all parties agree and no one is being dishonest or forced into anything against their will I don’t really see the problem with it, though technically such behaviors would run afoul of this command.
In any case, I can’t think it is good or reasonable to criminalize sexual infidelity on its own.  This seems to be something those in sexual relationships need to work out on their own without interference from the government.
This commandment, at one time, had a larger place in the legal system in the U.S.  In fact are still states that carry a law punishing adultery varying from a life imprisonment in Michagan, to a 10 dollar fine in Maryland.  Of course these laws are very rarely used, and several supreme court decisions have made most states reluctant to attempt to prosecute people under these laws, since they are often overturned in higher courts.
Though the government has been rather inconsistent when it comes to laws against sexual behavior I generally find that making sexual behavior illegal between consenting adults to be something unneeded and counter to the constitutional guarantee of equal rights.
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Commandment #6 of 10 Sat, 25 Jun 2011 17:34:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Thou shalt not kill.  Exodus 20:13
Now we reach the first commandment to actually be codified into our laws and stay there.  We do of course consider it wrong to kill other human beings, except in certain limited cases like self defense or war.  
However, I have a major problem with this command.  Besides being vague, god regularly violates his own law, and even hands out orders which regularly violates this law.

Take this passage from Samuel 15 for instance:
Thus saith the Lord of hosts … go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare him not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

Now, understand if this were just a war I would have a certain modicum of understanding, we in the modern world still unfortunately end up in wars, but the command god levels here clearly orders the killing of non-combatants, to be frank he orders a genocide on a level more extreme than any 20th century dictator.  War is always ugly, but in the U.S. we make a special point to avoid injuring non-combatants.  God, on the other hand, seems to think murdering infants, elderly, women, even pregnant women we can assume (so much for abortion being wrong by god’s standards) is fine, you know as long as he commands it.

This leaves those who believe morality is commanded by god in a odd position.  Most Christians like to claim their morality is objective, however it seems in this case to be completely relative to whims of god’s command.  It’s wrong to kill, until god commands you to kill babies, and then suddenly its time to pick up swords and stop lopping off baby heads.

Perhaps I am being crass, but I think its needed.  I cannot stress how horribly immoral and unethical I find the bible to be as a whole.

This leaves the modern Christian with an interesting logical conundrum.  Many of you may remember the story of Deanna Laney who, in 2004, stoned her children to death because she felt god told her to.  Now as an atheist I think its clear there was a lot more wrong with her than her religion, she clearly had mental problems.  Most Christians would of course join me in that assessment, but how do they justify their position?

Christians must believe that god does hand out commands to his followers, and clearly god has had no problem in the past telling people to kill children so how can they be certain that people like Deanna Laney were not told by god to kill their kids?  This is the basic problem with a supernatural centered world view.  The belief in forces that are undetectable by any natural means leaves it fundamentally impossible to determine if people’s subjective views of reality are true or not.

Of course this a bit far afield of the original topic.  The point I am trying to make here is that even though this command is built into our legal system in theory, in practice U.S. law is much more clearly defined, and more consistently practiced than the biblical law.  Odd isn’t it, that god, a supposed perfect being, can’t even create an ethical system as well organized and consistent as us flawed humans.  It’s almost as if these laws were just created by men and not by a god at all.

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Commandment #5 of 10 Sat, 25 Jun 2011 02:31:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>  Honour thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. 
On the surface this seems like a pretty good command doesn’t it?  I mean who doesn’t think honoring ones parents is a good thing?  However, upon closer examination this commandment is of little real value.
First off, it is quite vague, what exactly does it mean to honor ones parents?  What actions qualify as honoring them and which don’t?  You would think that a command which includes a threat of a shorter life span for disobedience would be more specific about the details.
Secondly what about parents who don’t deserve honor?  Some parents are abusive, or bad, or criminals.  Recently Damon Fowler was kicked out of his own house for standing up for church state separation in his high school graduation.  He was effectively disowned by his parents for this.  Many parents are not worthy of honor, do we honor them anyway?  
If you’re father is a thief do you help him steal….wait that violates another commandment doesn’t it?  Is it possible for god to create a set of 10 rules which don’t contradict themselves?

Not only is the command a rather useless one upon close examination, politically it is no where to be found in our laws.  It doesn’t directly contradict anything in our laws unlike all of the earlier commandments, but nothing in our laws command children to honor their parents.
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Commandment #4 of 10 Fri, 24 Jun 2011 03:16:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 
This is the first commandment that actually deals with behavior as it pertains to humans and the effects said behavior has on them rather than god. 

On the surface it doesn’t seem to bad to suggest that people take a day off, but once we read it carefully we find that a big part of this command turns the focus back on god again, in that we are supposed to do this because god did it.  Further, it is not simply a requirement that people take a break once in a while it is a specific day that everyone must take not work.

The nature of this command becomes more clear when viewed in the context of Number 15:32-36. in this passage a man is caught gathering sticks on the Sabbath and at the behest of god is put to death for his violation of this law.  Once you read that it becomes clear that once again this law was not really about making things better for our fellow humans, but about control.  God wanted his followers to take a day off and spend it worshiping him.  In fact isn’t this exactly the mentality of many modern Christians when it comes to Sunday?

Certain pieces of law have been put into our legal system based upon this law, such as laws prohibiting sale of liquor on Sunday, but by and large this is another commandment that is largely ignored by our government.  Little wonder since it would violate the establishment clause, plus a death sentence for work on Sunday would wipe out just about everyone in the country.  In modern society it would be impossible for us to implement a common day off for everyone.

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Commandment #3 of 10 Thu, 23 Jun 2011 05:08:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.  Exodus 20:7

On to number 3,  god still seems majorly concerned with his how people view him.  Considering he is now 3 for 3 he seems to have a major preoccupation with himself.


The main thing to note here is that this commandment referred to a use of god’s proper name, of course which proper name is a debate in and of itself.  One that can, and has, filled entire books on ancient Jewish religion.  God was referred to by many names in the Christian Old Testament, especially the earlier parts which has caused some scholars to speculate on whether early Judaism might have been polytheistic.  I don’t personally have an opinion on this as I am not well versed enough in the history, nor do I really care, polytheism is no more rational then monotheism in my book.

Modern Spin:

Most modern Christians spin this to speak about using swear words, specifically things like “god damn it” or “god is a fucking asshole.”  Christians always hate it when I say that last one for some reason…


Well, for one, its a threat.  God doesn’t really say what his is going to do, but considering some of the other stuff he does in the bible it probably won’t be good.


Now we reach the first commandment to actually make it into American law in some form.  I speak, of course, of blasphemy laws.  Of course the federal government never had such laws as they would have violated the first amendment.  However state governments often have had such laws.  Though as far as I know no one has been successfully prosecuted for them since the 14th amendment extended the effects of the bill of rights to all levels of government.

I would say that  the 1st amendment puts our law, in a philosophical sense, in a rather strong opposition to this commandment.  The government, unlike god, choose to not criminalize what people say in and of itself.

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Commandment #2 of 10 Fri, 17 Jun 2011 04:00:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.  Exodus 20:4-6

So this one is bit longer than the first one.  It also contains some rather interesting lines.


This one, like number 1, was very literal, but was not necessarily a commandment against any form of art.  Almost all art at the time was religious in nature, so it was a warning make idols and then worship them and serve them.  In many ways it is a rather similar command to the first one. God seemed to want to make sure people were paying attention to him and not a statue.

As an aside this particular command resulted in the destruction of quite a bit of catholic art work during the protestant reformation.  Many protestant groups decided that all the art the Catholic church had commissioned counted as graven images.


Wow, where to begin.  If commandment #1 made god sound like a bit of a narcissist, then he openly admits in in this commandment when he points out that he is “a jealous God.” He then follows it by a threat to punish the children of anyone who dares not love him.  It is one of the many places in the bible where god sounds like an abusive prick.  Oh of course he loves you if you do what he says…but its a rather conditional love, rather like the love of a husband who gives his wife a black eye when she burns his dinner.


Once again, I see nothing the U.S. constitution which would mirror this command.  In fact I noticed  a rather strange while reading this. People like Roy Moore, or Rep. Patrick Williams (D-Shreveport) consistently try to push for large displays of the the 10 commandments to be placed in public places, in an action that, ironically, seems to go against this very command. Am I the only one that finds it odd that these people demand the right to put up a large stone plaque of rules they think everyone should obey, which specifically tells them not to build monuments?

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Commandment #1 of 10 Thu, 16 Jun 2011 03:11:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

So I am writer out some posts speaking about each of the 10 commandments.  As I mentioned in my last post, there are many people out there under delusions that the 10 commandments are brilliant and that they are the basis for our moral code in this country.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  Exodus 20:3

Well there you have it, one of the shorter commandments in the list, commanding us to put god first. 
Historically this passage actually referred to other gods.  Judaism formed in in the middle of a world which was polytheistic.  As a result the Israelite believed in multiple gods, this command was to let them know that they had to put their god before these other ones.  This is actually a fairly typical command of any tribal deity (as Yahweh certainly was at this time).  Worshiping the god of another land would have looked very similar to treason to most of a persons neighbors at the time.

Modern spin:

Most modern Christians like to ignore the tribal roots of Judaism and instead tend to interpret this commandment as a metaphor.  Instead of talking about literal gods modern believers will refer to mundane things that distract them from “following god.”  A pastors jargon from the pulpit will typically reference things like money, fame, sex, porn, video games, and generally anything that people enjoy.  


Well this most obvious criticism is that it makes god look like a narcissist.  He gives a top ten list of ethical rules and the first thing out of his mouth is “hey everybody look at me!”   It is hard for me to imagine that a being capable of creating a whole universe is going to be terribly concerned with whether or not I remembered to thank him for it.

Of course Christians try to spin this by saying that the command is really for our benefit.  They will often say that god only wants us follow him first because it will make us better or happier or more attractive…

OK, I made that last one up.

In any case this argument really doesn’t work either factually or logically.  Factually it doesn’t work because there are so many people who believe in other gods, or no god at all and seem just as happy and well adjusted as any Christian.  Logically it doesn’t work because it leaves unanswered the question of why god would choose to create beings that must kiss up to him in order to be happy.

To illustrate lets compare god to a parent for a moment, since that comparison is made quite often by the bible and by believers.  Would anyone of us think well of a person who raised their child to be totally dependent on them for their entire life and unable to make even the simplest of choices with out checking with their mom or dad first?  Or would would think better of a parent who raised their child to be independent, to go their own way, and to live their own life?  I think we all know the answer to those questions.


This should be really obvious, there is nothing anywhere in the constitution or any part of the law that mirrors this commandment even slightly.  For that matter it would be impossible to do so in its present form. If one wanted to make it a law they would need to be much more specific, giving very clear instruction on what actions would count as putting something ahead of god.  

So commandment #1 is not part of our legal system and is far to vague on its own to even count as a law.  I see no reason to think that the founding fathers of the United States ever once took this commandment into account when designing the constitution.

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