The 10 Commandments are often looked upon as a source of morality and good. But are they really? What if you had the opportunity to rewrite them for the modern age? What if atheists were given the opportunity to re-write the 10 Commandments?
Lex Bayer, an executive at AirBnB, and John Figdor, a humanist chaplain at Stanford University, delivered their own 10 “non-commandments” in a book they co-wrote: “Atheist Heart, Humanist Mind.”
“A lot of atheists’ books are about whether to believe in God or not,” he said. “We wanted to consider: OK, so you don’t believe in God, what’s next? And that’s actually a much harder question.”
Atheists were asked to offer modern alternatives to the traditional 10 Commandments in the “10 non-commandments contest”, which drew more than 2,800 submissions from 18 countries and 27 U.S. states, according to Bayer and Figdor. The results?
Behold, the “Ten Non-Commandments”
1. Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
4. Every person has the right to control of their body.
5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
8. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.
9. There is no one right way to live.
10. Leave the world a better place than you found it.
Do these non-commandments present a better framework for morality?
Back the original 10 Commandments…
Only 60% of Americans know them, and the first four have nothing to do with morality. It appears that God’s priorities are Himself – ensuring people don’t worship anything or anyone else, because He admits He is a jealous God. The other commandments are basically variations of the Golden Rule (present in most religions) and predictably obvious for a social species like our own.
To refresh your memory, here are the 10 Commandments, as presented in the King James version of the Bible:
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
Choose Your Commandments
Given the choice (which, incidentally, you have), which set of commandments would you follow? Which do you believe would best serve humanity?
Methinks thou shalt choose the atheist’s non-commandments.