It was a beautiful day. Sitting under our vine-covered ramada, lake glistening in the sun, a delicious meal just finished, conversation wandered to religion, in particular, the Ten Commandments.
“If we didn’t have the Ten Commandments, people would not act morally towards one another,” my father stated.
“Dad, do you really think that you would kill someone or steal if the Ten Commandments did not exist?” I responded, astonished.
And so ensued a passionate discourse.
Today in the US, there are powerful political forces demanding that the Ten Commandments be displayed in public institutions, in public places throughout our country…in courtrooms, in government buildings, in public schools, in public parks, as a public monument. Their purpose…to replace our secular legal system with Biblical law puncturing a large hole in the wall of church/state separation and establishing religious Judeo-Christian morality, morality that is not enforceable without legal standing for the Ten Commandments .
So let’s look at the Ten Commandments, the commandments many consider to be written or inspired by God.
1. I am the Lord your God...
Not a commandment but a declaration.
Why this declaration? To announce the commandments as his word! To scare, to demand reverence. Why would an omniscient, omnipotent god need to make this declaration? Would not the obvious significance of the commandments themselves be sufficient?
2. You shall have no other Gods before me.
If God stated this, then why does he indicate that there are other gods? Why did he not declare, there are no other Gods! I am the one and only. And why would an omnipotent being, be so insecure. Man would hurt his feelings by praying to one of the other gods. Does this god have self-worth problems?
2 You shall not make for yourself an idol.
That lack of self-confidence, self image problem again.
3 Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.
Here we go again. Sticks and stones will not break His bones but names will always hurt Him?
4 Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
Should not each and every day be a testament to holiness?
5 Honor your father and mother.
No matter how they have treated their children? Is honor not something earned? A child should honor an abusive parent? An incestuous parent? Seems like someone as knowledgeable as god might have been more specific. And when is a child old enough, brain-developed enough, to understand the meaning of honor. Younger then god? Should not parents honor their children? Authoritarian requirement or call to good parenting?
6. You shall not kill/murder.
Simplistic! We shall not kill as a society? No more capital punishment? No more war? No more killing in self-defense? Or do we human beings interpret this very specific commandment to take action as we see fit? Who is then acting like god?
7. You shall not commit adultery.
Is this more significant then you shall not rape, you shall not commit incest, you will not torture, you will not commit hate crimes….?
8. You shall not steal.
Even if your children are starving without a social safety-net to prevent their deaths? You shall not be so greedy as to "steal" a living wage from employees who do an honest day's labor.
9. Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Just against your neighbor? Why not applicable to anyone under most circumstances? Should you not bear false witness to protect innocent people in immoral circumstances…holocaust…underground railroad?
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Again, just your neighbor? But as important, causing a person to have shame and a sense of sinfulness because they covet shows a total lack of understanding of human nature. People covet…coveting is not the sin but the actions taken because of it may be "sinful". Actions, occurring because of covetousness, may be productive or destructive.
Simplistic and non-specific, lacking in proscription against a multitude of human evils such as war and genocide, the Ten Commandments, if considered divine or divinely inspired, are demeaning to God's judgement and should be disparaging as well as marginalizing to institutions oblivious to the shallowness of the content of this very superficial, limited code of conduct.