Saturday, May 19, 2012

Some People Actually Want to Put the 10 Commandments in Courtrooms...and Some People Don’t Think That is a Ridiculous Idea

This was basically how the Ten Commandments were given out:

OK, Jews, listen up. I am God. I am the only God. I created this planet and everything on it. That means I created you, and I control your eternal soul. If you worship me, you will experience bliss for the rest of eternity after you die. However, if you piss me off, you will experience eternal suffering for the rest of eternity instead. Do not piss me off. If you do, I am liable to flood this whole fucking planet and start over with only my chosen zookeeper and his family. Here are my rules for eternal salvation: 1) Be nice to your parents. 2) Don’t kill anyone. 3) Don’t sleep with anyone you aren’t married to. 4) Don’t steal. 5) Don’t lie. These are all pretty reasonable, right? Good, glad we’re on the same page.

Oh, before I forget, there are a few other rules. Some of these are pretty random and/or peculiar, but roll with me anyway: 6) Don’t misuse my name. You know the phrase “that’s my name, don’t wear it out?”  Where do you think that came from? You can use my name when you’re talking to me or about me, but that’s it. Don’t use it as an exclamation during sex or to otherwise express astonishment, and don’t combine it with “damn” to make a compound word to give added weight to whatever you’re talking about. If you do, you can be goddamn sure I’ll send you to Hell.

7) Observe the Sabbath. That means that one day a week, every week, you don’t work. I don’t care if you have farming to do that is necessary for the survival of you and your family and I made it rain all week and then the Sabbath rolls around and it’s a beautiful day--you can’t work. Your slaves can’t work, either. Neither can your oxen. I am mandating that you do absolutely no work on the Sabbath. You either take a vacation day every week to read my books and tell me how great I am or you go to Hell. Take your pick.

8) Don’t covet your neighbor’s possessions. Just so we’re clear, that means you’re not allowed to desire anything anyone else owns. I’m allowed to be jealous; you’re not. Just accept your crappy life as it is, and don’t think about the fact that your neighbor has five donkeys and you only have two and wonder about how much more work you could get done with more donkeys. You have two, Mr. Jones has five, and that’s the way it is. Don’t try to keep up with him.

9) Don’t worship any other gods. Even if I don’t answer your prayers and force you to toil away in slavery for your entire life, don’t go looking for someone who will be nicer than me. Even though it’s simply human nature to desire a life that doesn’t suck, you’re just going to have to deal with it and keep worshipping me even if I don’t do anything for you.

10) Don’t make idols to any other gods. I know I kinda covered this in the last rule, but this is really important and I enjoy redundancy and making points that I’ve already made. Also, 10 is a nice, solid number, and I thought that reinforcing this point was more important than forbidding rape. So, as long as the person you’re raping is unmarried (see number 3 above), then rape away!  It’s all good as long as you pay her dad 50 pieces of silver and then marry her (sorry: if you break it, you buy it). Happy raping!

Astute readers will note that the commandments I labeled as 9 and 10 above were actually the first two listed in the Bible, presumably because they were the most important. To condense this argument: God demands that you worship Him and only Him or He’ll send you to Hell, even though He may never give you any cause to worship Him but will, instead, cause you to suffer through slavery and oppression.

And those are your hallowed “Ten Commandments.”

We all seem to agree that not killing, stealing, or committing adultery are good ideals to live by, yet we could care less about honoring the Sabbath by not working at all for one day a week. The phrase “oh my God” has worked its way into our vernacular without too much resistance, even though one of the Ten Commandments explicitly states that we should not use God’s name in vain. Yet, people seem to think that we should have the Ten Commandments present in our courthouses and they are the source of our morality. Because, you know, it’s much more important that we not worship any other idols than it is that we not rape others, so clearly those commandments are a good guide to living a moral life.

If you’ve seen the other absurd rules that God had for living a “moral” life during the time of Moses (which I so lovingly detailed in this post), you would surely agree that nothing written in Deuteronomy (or, really, the entire Bible) should be taken seriously today. Just because a few of these commandments happen to line up with some of the laws we have today is no reason to laud them. God couldn’t even come up with 10 good rules!  You’d think that an omniscient being could come up with a list of 10 that would still be relevant 3000 years later. Something like “don’t rape” or “don’t cheat” or even something as simple as “be nice to others.”  But, of course, He had to spend four of His ten rules to tell us not to forget how great He is. Maybe, just maybe, if He actually gave people a good reason to praise Him he wouldn’t have to tell them to do it all the time. Then He wouldn’t have to be so jealous and insecure. But you’re right, Judge Rehnquist, we should totally pretend that the Ten Commandments have a direct bearing on US laws.

The fact that some people think we derive our sense of morality from the Bible is so preposterous that I would almost rather discuss whether Anchorman was a better movie than Jack and Jill. The argument supporting Jack and Jill would make about as much sense as the argument supporting the Bible. I’ve already covered how ridiculous the laws in the Bible are, but it bears repeating that we’re talking about a book that considers eating bacon a sin. If your brain still works and you’re living in America then you’re aware of the fact that Americans loooooooove bacon. Love it. We eat it with eggs and burgers and salads and sandwiches and soups. We put it inside chocolate. We mix it with apple pie in milkshakes (which is crazy delicious, in case you’re wondering). We put bacon in margaritas, OK? This country has an outright love affair with bacon...and yet God told us not to eat pigs. If we’re supposed to be deciding what’s moral and what isn’t based on what’s written in the Bible, I think it’s safe to say we’ve fucked up royally.

But what about the good stuff, like “do not murder,” “do not lie,” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you?”  Doesn’t that come from the Bible? No. No it does not. That all comes from societies learning how to survive. Every religion and culture came to the same conclusion independently of each other: generally being nice to others is best for the group, regardless of the size of that group. This is literally common sense as it’s an ideal commonly expressed by everyone in the world:  “I want to be treated well, and if I treat others well they are likely to treat me well; Ergo, I will treat others well.” This has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the Bible, so let’s stop pretending that a vengeful man in the sky with a poorly-written book that he hasn’t bothered to update in well over a millenium somehow determines how morally we act. The world as a whole has agreed that there are some behaviors that are objectively “bad” regardless of their religion. After you eliminate the rules that are common to nearly all cultures, you’re left with nothing but nonsense like “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or clip the edges of your beards.”  Seeing as how we’re not all living like orthodox Jews, it’s safe to say that we most certainly do not derive our sense of morality from the Bible.

I’ve been good without a god for years. You should try it.


  1. I like that there are actually several versions: which is the best Decalogue?

    I wrote a similarly-themed piece a while back that you might like.

    1. Double parking is a very serious crime that does not get enough attention, so I'm glad you mentioned it in your post.

      Also, you would think that God could have found a decent enough editor to refrain from putting conflicting sets of commandments in His book. I mean, He had the whole world to choose from and still ended up with a rookie mistake.