The Ten Commandments Aren’t Great: Critique and Alternative set

The source that I’m using for the statements regarding the Ten Commandments, as found in Exodus chapter 20: The Ten Commandments of the Bible

Yes, criticism of something that is new this time if the age of the comments in the comment section are any indication.

The list

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or 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, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
  3. You shall not take the name of the lord your god in vain, for the lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain
  4. 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 manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
  5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Commandment 1: have no other gods before me

As a means of promoting morality or well being within society (“These 10 commandments are good, basic, moral laws that will help keep us out of trouble with ourselves, family, friends, and neighbors”), it is inconsequential.

Commandment 2: Make no images, nor worship them

As a means of promoting morality or well being within society, on account of the previously provided statement from the site, it too, is inconsequential. The only basis on which it has a consequence, is on account of

For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

which I can use against another statement made.

God knows what is best for us and He simply wants all of us to stay out of trouble

If this were the case, then the basis for the basis for why people would be in trouble, is something which he can choose not to do. The value in the action is not dependent upon it’s direct impact on people around them, but on the actions of a deity.

Commandment 3: Don’t take the name in vain

Unfortunately for the person who worked on the site I’m criticizing, your claim that

The above 10 commandments need no explanation.

as demonstrated by those in the comment section (thank nia), there is need to explain. In regards to 20:7

It is uncertain what this command was intended to refer to: suggestions include deceitful oaths (as in Lev 19:12), unwarranted use of formal curses (Brichto 1963: 59–68), the use of God’s name in magic spells, or all of these and other things (Childs 1974: 410–12). But it is quite clear that the improper use of the name YHWH is prohibited. The command is closely related to 20:2–6. It is YHWH’s honour that is at stake. To wrest his name to one’s own private and deceitful purposes is to dishonour the one who bears it.

(2001-09-06). The Oxford Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 4668-4672). Oxford University Press – A. Kindle Edition.

So, unless the people responsible for it think that the commandments require no explanation, then by all means, they should be informed of rather significant details such as the original context of the verse having been lost.

Commandment 4: Sabbath Day

A ritual law, which would be better suited to the ten commandments found in Exodus 34.

Commandment 5: Honour Your Parents

Quite frankly, I’m inclined to view this one negatively. Honour is not earned within the context of the commandments, it is given on the basis of who you are related to, regardless of if it is deserved. Say for instance, somebody’s parents kick the hypothetical person out because that person questioned their parents’ actions. A cruel action, which harms the individual, on a poor basis. On what basis should somebody be inclined to honour them? That might not be enough to demonstrate the absurdity of the commandment. Say that a parent kills two out of three of their children. On what basis should the last child be inclined to honour that parent?

Although, to be specific, the commandment doesn’t apply to children, so lets modify those examples to the demographic it would be applicable to. Adults looking after their parents who are old enough to have difficulty looking after themselves. On what basis should the individual who has endured either scenario be inclined to honour their parents?

Commandment 6: Do not Murder

Finally, one that promotes morality. Murder, usually used in the bible to refer to the unlawful killing of a member of the community (meaning that this excludes capital punishment). But there are problems with it. For instance, say that somebody is accused of a crime, found guilty, and executed, with new evidence which can be  a scenario that happens more often than what we might want to see. One might be inclined to suggest that commandment nine would address this, to which I’m inclined to ask: how would you account for facts which you are unaware of?

Commandment 7: No fucking around

Sure, that isn’t quite it, but it sounds a lot better than how they say it. Try enforcing this one. The best that has been attempted is to induce shame, guilt, and fear for even thinking about it, and that hasn’t done the job. Turkey attempted to enforce the law in about 2004, without success. All of the arguments that can be dragged out in favor of this one, such as limiting the spread of disease, the risk of pregnancy without support, and matters of trusting one another, can be undone by pointing out that the spread of disease can be limited by making informed decisions, that modern support is not solely limited to the person who is the father, and that people can have an open relationship without having trust issues, although, depending on the presentation of the arguments, the simple objections might not address them in whole.

Commandment 8: Don’t steal

Finally, one which promotes morality, and doesn’t have problems. One out of ten that promotes morality, well being, and doesn’t have problems. Think about that for a second. But it could go along with another commandment, number nine, in a sort of merge referred to as “Be honest.”

Commandment 9: Don’t bear false witness against thy neighbour

This one related to legal conduct, and quite frankly, can be expanded upon, to something akin to “Be honest.” It isn’t that hard to say, and does a lot more. It doesn’t have the limitation of being only to those who you regard as your neighbour or to be acknowledged in legal proceedings.

Commandment 10: Don’t envy your neighbour

A few problems with this commandment, as summarized by Hitchens

  1. It establishes a thought crime. Nothing to do with actions, but with thoughts
  2. It equates people, especially women, with property

On just the first point alone, it is flawed.

Unremarkable nature

I find it rather unremarkable that the commandments were written in stone, given the importance which has been attributed to them, the supposed capabilities of the deity to which the commandments are attributed by means of dictation, and that the tablets they are written on are shattered, causing the need for a new decalogue to be produced within Exodus 34. A more remarkable, and by the standard set of the site

“The fact that God would go so far as to have these basic 10 commandments manifested on a stone tablet really tells me they are very important

method would be to have them manifest clearly in the stars, not only in Ancient Hebrew, but other languages, depending on the time and distribution of the language, with explanations, and the author clearly defined, so that they would exist for a much longer period of time, that they could not be simply shattered, and would be better understood due to the lack of ambiguity on account of an explanation.

An Alternate Ten

But now that at the very least, a basic criticism of the ten commandments has been presented, what would an alternate set consist of? What set of ten, fairly straightforward statements, can be used to communicate morality and social well being?

  1. Be honest, especially in your dealings with others, in the search to learn about the universe, and to yourself.
  2. Acknowledge that you are not the only person, and as a result, that your needs aren’t any more important than the needs of another due to any perceived superiority such as wealth, fame, or affiliations, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity
  3. Admit when you are wrong, so that you can undo any damage that might have been done as a result of being wrong.
  4. Recognize that as a member of the species Homo sapiens, that your survival and health are dependent upon other species, and upon the Earth. Act accordingly to ensure that they are not harmed.
  5. Acknowledge when another being is suffering, either by circumstance or due to intent, and act to prevent their suffering.
  6. Learn and think critically so that you can improve not only your lot in life, but as many lives as you can.
  7. Never condemn or praise somebody for something which they have no control over. Condemn or praise people on the basis of their actions, contributions, and their character.
  8. Empathy and knowledge should be at the basis of every decision; when you lack them, do not commit any action which you cannot correct.
  9. Do not feel obligated to be completely for or against anything. If you regard only segments of something to be valid or good, state that, and criticize the things which you regard as bad or don’t regard as valid.
  10. The future generations are important. Don’t teach them what to think, teach them how to think.

While they might not be as memorable, they are good, basic, and moral laws, which promote societal well being, and would keep people out of trouble, which is what the Ten Commandments referred to earlier from Exodus 20 don’t really do that well, while being completely dedicated to those concepts, which the ten commandments are not. A fallible human being should not be able to do that which a supposedly infallible deity is not inclined to do.

And to Richard Dawkins who didn’t bother really trying to come up with his own list in the God Delusion, it isn’t that hard to come up with ten, but that tenth one is a real Christopher diCarlo.

Additional critique’s of the ten commandments

Christopher Hitchens: The New Commandments

George Carlin – The Ten Commandments (Comedy)

Mr Deity and The Top Ten (Comedy)


2 responses to “The Ten Commandments Aren’t Great: Critique and Alternative set

  1. I am SO borrowing this! Brilliant!

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