The 10 Commandments are an extremely weak basis for morality
A common topic discussed on non-religious or post-religious sites is the subject of morality. Many religions, particularly those who consider Abraham the father of their faith – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – believe they have the corner on morality and that “God” though his “holy book” is the source of morality in the world.
We’ve had our share of discussion on this site including HeIsSailing’s The Bible does not contain a guideline of moral absolutes, AThinkingMan’s Challenging Religious Myths 1: No Morality without Religion, and Stellar1′s You do not need religion to be moral. Of course this is not an exhaustive list as this issue is a part of several other excellent blog entries.
For many, the 10 Commandments set the foundation on which morality is based. The 10 Commandments are found in Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. Depending on your religion or denomination, there are 12 commandments used to make up some version of the 10 Commandments. They are:
- I am the Lord your God
- You shall have no other gods before me
- You shall not make for yourself an idol
- You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain
- Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
- Honor your Father and Mother
- You shall not kill
- You shall not commit adultery
- You shall not steal
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
To be inclusive of everyone, let’s assume that there are 12 Commandments and consider whether or not these commandments serve as a good base for morality.
The first 4 commandments provide nothing more than an egotistical nod to the supremacy of the Moses’ God and contain no guidance for morality. The 5th is really nothing more than a very strange ritual. Thank goodness Jesus, his disciples, and Paul decided that this ‘jot and tittle’ could pass away and that it is no longer relevant.
The remaining 6 (or 5 or 4 depending on how you’re counting), are a bit more relevant to morality. However, why was there an emphasis on bearing false witness and coveting and no mention of rape, bigotry, slavery, incest, torture, or abuse?
In addition, one has to question whether these are absolutes when the Bible itself condoned many acts of killing, lying, and stealing depending on the circumstance. Jesus was not a big fan of the “honor your father and mother” commandment as discussed in my post WWJD Series – Jesus and Family Values.
Overall, I do not believe this list is a good basis for morality. If I had the pleasure of being the omniscient creator of the universe, I would spent time carving a different set of commandments in the stone for my creation to use as a basis for morality. You can bet it would include commands against terrible acts such as rape, torture, child abuse, slavery and bigotry.
- The de-Convert