Christians have lobbied for the 10 Commandments to be placed in front of every courthouse in the land for quite some time. And the Supreme Court, in defiance of the separation of church and state, has ruled many times that the public positioning of a passage from the BIBLE in front of a court of secular law is Constitutional. It boggles the mind.
There are actually 3 passages that list the 10 commandments. The first is in Deuteronomy 5, and is usually what the xtians want engraved in stone, as proof that wisdom and law come from god alone. The second is in Exodus 20 . . . it reads essentially the same, but continues with instructions about how to build an altar. Exodus 20-26 makes me chuckle: “And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.” The third list is at Exodus 34 and . . . well, it’s different. It’s supposedly the literal words of god, written down, and this doesn’t sound like a very pleasant dude. Promising to destroy a whole list of tribes. Demanding that the first-born of ANY womb is to be sacrificed to him. “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.” Yikes. What does the creator of billions of galaxies need with a dead goat? I’m pretty sure a group of his witch-doctors added that part.
But let’s get back to the plain vanilla list from Deuteronomy 5, (KJV) shall we?
Thou shalt have none other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make 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 waters beneath the earth.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee.
Honour thy father and thy mother.
Thou shalt not kill.
Neither shalt thou commit adultery.
Neither shalt thou steal.
Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
So. The first 4 rules are all about never, ever insulting god. Obey, go to church and for god’s sake (oops, just broke #3) never ever worship anybody else! Wowza. This deity has a really fragile ego.
And the list above is really truncated (reads better on a monument or plaque this way). #2 [graven image] actually continues with: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto 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.”
How is cursing 4 generations of human beings because one ancestor refused to worship reasonable? My Grandfather refused to go to church. So apparently, I’m damned from before conception (as was my oh-so-pious mother). These were vicious people. I mean, look what they supposedly did to each other over that golden calf fiasco. They slaughtered 3000 of their own people over that graven image, BEFORE the graven image law and the no other gods law had been read to them. So yeah, maybe killing non-believers and casting out whole families made perfect sense to them. But remember, that “to the 3rd and 4th generation” part is supposed to be the literal words of a perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe. Really? This god sure sounds like an angry power-mad tribal witch doctor to me.
Pause for questions and musings. Now, that golden calf story . . . Aaron was a wuss. One would think a High Priest who had SEEN God part the waters, and then drown their enemies, would not just roll over and make a golden idol – of any other god. He’s a multi-talented guy though – a priest and, apparently, a master goldsmith. And where did they get enough gold? It supposedly was made from their jewelry, but even if the statue was the size of a cat, that’s a lot of gold for a bunch of slaves fleeing persecution. Then after Moses came back and threw a temper tantrum over the statue, the Levites were ordered to slaughter 3000 men who worshiped the idol. So, hey, this should be easy to prove! You have a group of (um, numbers vary widely, but many church “authorities” claim -) 600,000 men. Fleeing north ? through the desert, where there were many Egyptian military outposts. Trying to get to — an area close to what is now Jerusalem, about 200 miles away, even though it’s under Egyptian rule. (Never mind that part.) Mt. Sinai, Jebel Musa, is about 130 miles south – if this is the right mountain, finding proof should be easy! There’s evidence of a long-term encampment for 600,000 men plus wives and children! There’s a mass grave with 3000 bodies! Go find it! What? Archaeologists have already searched there, as well as three other “holy” mountains, and have found absolutely nothing? Oh right. Because the Exodus is a never happened. So this story is exactly what it sounds like: A warlord and a priest, plotting together to make rules to prove to the people that god talks directly to them and will kill them if they disobey. So let’s get back to what the warlord said god said.
At the time, “graven image” was pretty synonymous with a god. The statues in Catholic Churches was one of the main reasons my Mother said “All Catholics are going to hell. They aren’t real xtians.” For centuries, the statues and paintings in Catholic Churches helped the priests tell Bible stories to an illiterate congregation. Didn’t an omnipotent god know about the Catholic Church when he dictated the graven image bit?
Honor thy father and mother. It sounds reasonable. Obey your elders. But, as with the rest of the list, it’s so authoritarian that it has its own problems. What about children of criminals? Should a psychotic serial killer’s child hold him in high esteem and obey him simply because he impregnated their mother? What about children of addicts? What about children who have been beaten or neglected? What about the girl whose father who has been raping her? Should she honor him?
Now, 6 through 9 seem reasonable. Don’t kill, don’t cheat on your spouse, don’t steal, don’t lie.
Don’t kill. But wait! There are hundreds of verses that direct people to kill! Mostly as punishment for breaking the ten commandments of course: unmarried pregnant women, non-believers and their babies and their livestock, homosexuals, anyone who works on the sabbath, all uncircumcised males, any child that curses their parents, anyone who commits adultery, etc. Some websites say kill meant, to ancient Hebrews, “murder”. And all laws only applied within the tribe. So “Thou Shalt Not Kill” actually means “don’t get mad and murder a fellow (male) member of your tribe”.
Don’t lie, don’t steal. At least, not within your own tribe. Adultery also sounds reasonable. Until you realize that women did not have any say in who they married. Young women were sold by their father to men who wanted a wife – or another wife. She had no say in . . . literally anything. So adultery refers to a sin of property. Having sex with another man’s property is not allowed.
And number 10 is a head-scratcher. Don’t wish you had a neighbor’s stuff. Wishing that you had a better house or could make more money might even be a good thing if you’re a parent despairing over how little you are able to give your children. Wishing doesn’t help much, and doesn’t make it happen, but it certainly doesn’t rank up there with — well, ok, it can go in the “don’t say goddamnit” category.
C’mon people. That list is WEAK. The list that xtian groups all over America want placed in front of our courthouses is flat-out embarrassing. Anyone with even a vague understanding of human nature could sit down and do better in less than an hour. And these are the literal words of an All-Knowing, All-Powerful Creator of everything that exists, the master designer of the human being? Seriously?
Consider how much suffering could have been eliminated if there was a commandment that war is evil. That destroying other tribes in order to take their land, women, and property is wrong? That other tribes worship other gods, and that’s ok. How about a commandment that says “If you see someone in need, find a way to help them”? Let’s have a commandment that says women are equal to men and must be treated with respect. How about a command to never strike a child? A command to never take a slave, that even people from other tribes or those who committed crimes cannot be forced to labor without compensation? What if there was a commandment that said any sexual act without consent of the other (adult) party will get you banished from the tribe forever, and the rape of a child is worse than murder? This list is a FAIL and has caused immeasurable suffering.