Monday, January 10, 2022

A New Ten Commandments

How might a Decalogue look if it was written for the 21st century?

Christopher Hitchens:

I never quite trust myself beginning a sentence by saying thou shalt not, but let’s see if we can adapt this famous question.
  1. Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or their color.

  2. Do not even think about using people as private property.

  3. Despise those who use violence or the threat of it in sexual relationships.

  4. Hide you face and weep if you dare to harm a child.

  5. Do not condemn people for their inborn nature.

  6. Be aware that you too are an animal and dependent on the web of nature.  Try and think and act accordingly.

  7. Do not imagine that you can escape judgment if you rob people with a false prospectus rather than with a knife.

  8. Turn off that fucking cell phone.  You can have no idea how unimportant your call is to us.

  9. Denounce all jihadists and crusaders for what they are:  Psychopathic criminals with ugly delusions and terrible sexual repressions.

  10. Be willing to renounce any god or any faith if any holy commandments should contradict any of the above.

While I would never presume to improve on Hitchens' list, I did wonder what my own list might look like:
  1. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

  2. Live and let live (unless someone is causing harm to someone else).

  3. Learn to think for yourself.

  4. Maintain intellectual curiosity in all things.

  5. Cause no harm to children.

  6. Do not make government your god.

  7. Be fully engaged with the person or persons in front of you.

  8. Respect nature and the environment, but balance the needs of the environment with the needs of humanity.

  9. Understand that objective truth exists; our job is to find it or at least try to find it.

  10. Be willing to renounce any god or any faith if any holy commandments should contradict any of the above.
I included Hitchens' Numbers Four and Ten in full, but I think I have included most of his points in one way or another.

Numbers One and Two.  Regarding Hitchens' Numbers One, Two, Three, Five, Seven, and Nine, of course I agree with all of these.  But I'm happy to let my Numbers One and Two cover these issues, as they do for so many other sins (murder, rape, theft, fraud, discrimination, false witness, failure to yield, etc.)

Number Two.  Let's stay with my Number Two.  Surely this applies to all manner of issues.  Inborn nature (to use Hitchens' terminology), lifestyle choices, whatever.  But religious people need to pay it particular attention.  Do not attempt to shun or subjugate (or worse) people of differing faith systems.  Likewise do not attempt to shun or subjugate (or worse) people who wish to leave your faith.  Simply put, if you cannot live and let live, you are an evil being, deserving of the worst outcome of your own religious beliefs.  And if your faith instructs you to NOT live and let live, see Number Ten.

Number Three.  Please heed my Number Three.  This is a commandment.

Number Four.  This is true for everything.  But it is especially true for those beliefs we know to be true without evidence, i.e. articles of faith.  I often find the faithful's lack of curiosity unforgivable and dangerous.

Number Five.  As I mentioned, I included Hitchen's Number Four in full, as my Number Five.  It is interesting to note that this was not a prohibition in the original Ten Commandments.  Surely, God did not think it was necessary to include it.  But I guess we've learned a lot since then.  Today I think all of us find it absolutely necessary to include it.

Number Six.  Many who have lost faith in the divine replace it with faith in government.  Their willingness to believe in the efficacy of government, without evidence and often in the face of evidence to the contrary, is indeed an article of faith.  Government is made of men, and almost always, far from the best men.  It is certainly not worthy of anything near religious faith.  In fact, it's tempting to add:  Be skeptical of all matters of government involvement.

Number Seven.  Hitchens mentions cell phones.  I would simply extend that to the internet, social media, video games, television, etc.  But in truth, this commandment extends beyond technology to any distraction.  Pay attention to others.

Number Eight.  Speaks for itself.

Number Nine.  Today the idea of objective truth is under attack.  Therefore, sadly, it merits its own commandment.

Number Ten.  Finally, it is worth noting that so many religious people believe that they get their morality exclusively from their religion.  But their religions can pronounce horribly unjust penalties for arbitrary sins.  In any case, here I hope you can find ten rules of morality which do not require religion in any way.  I am not telling you to not be religious, or that religion is bad.  See my Number Two.  But do not believe that only religion, certainly not only your own religion, can produce moral people.

It's funny how ten is just the right number.  I could do with no less; I can think of no more.