10 new improved and far better commandments

The_rethink_prize_-_Atheist_Mind_Humanist_HeartThere has been a “10 ‘Non-Commandments’ Contest,” in which people were asked to offer modern and far better alternatives to the famous 10, and the prize on offer for the winner was $10,000.

Who is doing this?

Lex Bayer, an executive at AirBnB, and John Figdor, a humanist chaplain at Stanford University


The cynical might simply make the observation that it is a book publicity stunt, but it does open up a rather interesting question – If we do indeed reject the dictates of religion, what comes next? Asking that matters because there are millions who self identify as nonreligious, and those numbers are rapidly growing.

The authors offer an answer that illustrates that humans can live a reasonable, ethical, and happy life without the need to invoke either superstition are archaic religious rules.

So what happened, did anybody enter?

The contest drew more than 2,800 submissions from 18 countries and 27 U.S. states, according to Bayer and Figdor. Then, a team of 13 judges selected 10 of the more sober and serious submissions, and announced the winners last Friday.

Who got to judge?

A few well-known and truly trustworthy individuals such as …

  • Adam Savage – Co-host of the Discovery Channel television series MythBusters
  • Greg Epstein – Humanist Chaplain, Harvard. Author of the New York Times Bestselling book, Good Without God
  • Gordon Bower – Cognitive Psychologist, Stanford University, National Medal of Science recipient
  • Andrew Copson – Chief Executive, British Humanist Association
  • Dan Barker – Co-President of the Freedom from Religion Foundation and and host of Freethought Radio
  • Faisal Al Mutar – Founder of the Global Secular Humanist Movement & Secular Post

… along with other really good choices.

So what are the winning ten?

These are.

  1. Be open minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.

Why: It is essential in order for us to be able to collaboratively work together to find common solutions to pressing world problems.

2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.

Why: We’re more likely to believe what we wish to be true over what we wish not to be true, regardless of veracity. If we’re interested in learning the truth, then we need to actively separate our beliefs from our desires.

3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.

Why: Every time humans have questions this method is used to solve them. If we don’t know, we don’t know but instead of making up the answer we use this method to reach a conclusion/answer.

4. Every person has the right to control over their body.

Why: This includes a person\”s right to not be murdered, raped, imprisoned without just cause (violating another person\’s rights), kidnapped, attacked, tortured, etc. This also protects a person\’s freedom of speech and freedom to dress and represent themselves as they so choose.

5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.

Why: When one does a good deed it isn’t because God tells one to do a good deed, but because one simply wants to be good person. As Human beings we are capable of defining our own, different, meanings for our lives, with or without a god.

6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognise that you must take responsibility for them.

Why: It may sound obvious, but negligence and refusal to take responsibility are an immense source of harm in the world, from interpersonal relations to Global issues.

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.

Why: If everyone did their best to carry this out as far as it can go, everyone would get along much better.

8. We have the responsibility to consider others including future generations

Why: As human beings, we have great power. As Voltaire noted “With great power comes great responsibility.” To not consider others would be selfish and petty. We have demonstrated the ability to be magnanimous, are rapidly becoming more so, and will be even more so in the near future.

9. There is no one right way to live.

Why: If you look, even a little, you find many cultures living in moral societies that are fundamentally different, with only a few very basic principles being adhered to between them. Just because one group is different, does not mean they are wrong.

10. Leave the world a better place than you found it.

Why: The Japanese concept of Kaizen teaches that small incremental improvements can have a profound effect over time. We should all strive to leave the world better than we found it be it through relieving the suffering of others, creating works of art, or passing along knowledge.

Are those better than the originals?

Very much so, let’s take a look at the originals so that you can then contrast them with the above …

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Not really an ethical directive at all, it is just a rule that demands that you stick with one specific fictitious god concept.

  1. 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.

Oops, that must be a tad embarrassing for the catholics or orthodox christians, and once again this is just about how to be religious and is not a specifically ethical directive.

  1. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain;

Yet another, how to be religious rule that is not really give any ethical guidance.

  1. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Must be a real bugger to be both a Christian and also a Nurse, Doctor, Fireman, or Policeman. Thankfully most of the religious have worked out that this one is not at all ethical, happily ignore it, and so we do have access to these basic services on a supposedly religious day.

  1. Honour thy father and thy mother:

Good advice for most, but that cannot and should not ethically apply to all. Some parents can and are abusive, you do not get to demand respect for simply giving birth, you earn it. 

  1. Thou shalt not kill.

Statement of the rather obvious, not unique or new when written down, and rather ironically, broken several chapters later when god orders the murder of rather a lot of innocent people. So this very much falls into the category of, “do not do as I do, but just as I say”. It is also rather odd that it is only when we get to number 6 that we finally find something of merit, so far the previous 5 have been worthless.

  1. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

How exactly did that work for a culture where men had a wife and also multiple concubines? This also in the only sexual directive, so to other things, such as incest or the idea of adults buggering young children, there is a rather stunning silence.

  1. Thou shalt not steal.

Humans had worked this one out long before a god supposedly advised them of it, and also rather oddly, this does not appear to apply when it happens to be land that belongs to, and is occupied by somebody else. The books within the bible just after the book of rules contain the story of how religion was utilised to justify an illegal land grab.

  1. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Guidance to always tell the truth … except most do not, and there is no law against doing so with good reason except in court. If asked, “Do I look big in this?” what would you say? If a NAZI officer knocked on your door and asked if you had seen your Jewish neighbour, the one you had just hidden in your basement, what would you say? Absolute truth is not always the most ethical stance.

  1. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s  … house … wife … his manservant …his maidservant … his ox … his ass, etc…

This appears to be a directive against our modern economic model, and is also telling people what not to feel. This has clearly not worked out very well at all as a bit of practical guidance.

So there you go them, the updated ten are clearly far better alternatives to the originals. What can one say except to make the observation that the supposed author, a god that created the entire universe, was a bit of a dunce and not very bright at all, nor for that matter very ethical either.

What do the Christians think of all this?

If you pop on over to TheBlaze (Yes, Glen Beck’s site) there you will find an article all about this contest and the results. The article remains mostly neutral, but what is simply hilarious are the comments after it, the term “batshit-crazy” does not even begin to describe it all.

Final Thought

What always strikes me a more than a little bit odd is that Christians will cite the ten commandments as their moral foundation, so much so that erecting stone tablets with them is rather popular, and yet when asked, most cannot recite all ten from memory, and cannot tell you where in the bible they are.

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