The rules of Christianity are based upon the Ten Commandments. It is from here that religious law and morality is drawn. Many Christians call for laws to be based on the 10 Commandments. However, as major guiding principles, they are atrocious. Half of them are pointless and the other half are either too obvious to be mentioned or not crucial moral guiders. They are just as flawed as for what they do not talk about, being silent on racism, sexism, slavery, tyranny, the list goes on. It is hard to find a more flawed moral code than the 10 commandments.
(There is some debate over what actually are the 10 Commandments. In the Bible they aren’t number so it’s not clear where one commandment ends and the next begins. There is a slight difference between Catholic and Protestant versions, with Catholics combining the first two into one and splitting the last one into two. The 10 Commandments as traditionally known as fond in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, but there is an alternative 10 in Exodus 34. However the alternatives are daft and nonsensical so it’s no surprise they are ignored.)
1. Thou shalt not have other Gods before me
This is effectively religious suppression. Were we to base our laws on the First Commandment, then no religions but Christianity would be allowed. This is the logic of the Taliban. Instead of promoting diversity, the 1st Commandment is sectarian and narrow minded. Ever hear of freedom of conscience? This is the complete opposite of our most cherished freedom, freedom of thought. Instead of telling us to think for ourselves, we are commanded that we must worship whether we like it or not. This is why no constitution can ever be based upon the Ten Commandments, it violates our number one human right, freedom of thought.
(Finally isn’t it extremely vain and petty that God’s first rule for mankind is all about himself?)
2. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath 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.
What is the point of this? This is the most ridiculous commandment possible. Instead of teaching humanity important lessons for future generations that will make the world a better a place, he is focusing on this drivel. What is a graven image and what’s wrong with it? Do you not think this commandment would have been better used to condemn racism or slavery, or anything that causes harm to humanity instead of this nonsense? It is also the longest and most detailed commandment, which seems a waste of space, considering how little detail is given for murder and stealing, you know the commandments that actually matter.
Graven image is often interpreted to mean statues, though there is debate and it could mean pictures too. Seeing as the Catholic Church is full of religious statues and many Catholics have holy pictures, aren’t they violating this commandment? Which according to God, is on the same level as murder (if not more important as it is listed first).
But this commandment outlaws all statues that resemble anything on Earth, so Christians should not permit any statues, or even photos. The worst part is the absurd punishment. Apparently God is a “Jealous God” so not only will we be punished, but so will our descendants to the third and fourth generation! What sort of atrocious law punishes people for crimes that not only did they not commit but occurred before they were even born? How they will be punished is not explained or why, or even what harm is done. Again this is Taliban style fanaticism and narrow mindedness.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain
This commandment isn’t entirely clear, is it simply cursing God that’s prohibited, or it saying things like “God damn!” or exclaiming “Jesus!”? Also why is this important? These are supposed to be moral codes for all humanity for all eternity, why are you wasting time on this nonsense?
Many people treat these commandments are absurd nonsense, but they have a sinister side. This commandment prohibits free speech. It declares you cannot criticise God, as though he a celestial dictator of whom no complaint is allowed. The freedom of speech is measured by the freedom to criticise, if we cannot criticise, then we cannot speak freely. The 3rd commandment is a clear violation of our human rights. This is particularly relevant in Ireland where in 2009 the government introduced blasphemy laws for reasons that were known only to themselves.
4. Keep holy the Sabbath day
Why? It is not clear how the Sabbath should be kept holy, are you not allowed to do anything (like fundamentalists believe) or is it just work that is prohibited? Seeing as this rule is being widely violated nowadays, will everyone who works on Sunday be punished in the afterlife? Perhaps on the same level as thieves? What day is the Sabbath, Saturday or Sunday?
Again this is a pointless restriction on our lives. God is like a cruel master who enjoys making our lives difficult, not because it helps him, but because he can. The Bible records the story of a man who collected sticks on the Sabbath. He was stoned to death for violating the 4th Commandment. Every religion has its own Taliban, not just Islam.
5. Honour thy father and mother
This is hardly an offensive rule, but does it really deserve to be included in the top 10 rules for humanity? Don’t children honour their parents anyway; is it really necessary to make it a commandment? What about in the cases of abusive parents? In case you were wondering the penalty for not obeying this law is death (would it be anything else?). Is it just me, or is executing children for not obeying their parents (in other words acting childish) the most revolting thing you’ve heard today? (Apart from the other commandments)
6. Thou shalt not kill
The first genuinely good commandment. We can all agree that killing is wrong and should be prohibited. The only question is why all those other nonsense commandments were ahead of this one on the list. Why are they even on the same level as killing someone? It is also a law that could hardly be considered divinely inspired as pretty much every society has been able to figure out by themselves that murder is wrong.
Unfortunately, there is no detail about this commandment. Despite spending several chapters describing the tent the commandments are to be held in, only a single line is spent on this important rule. God apparently didn’t think the most important rules for humanity deserved much time or elaboration. Thus there is debate over whether it is killing or murder that is prohibited. Is killing in self-defence justified? What about war? Manslaughter? These are important issues, but more space is given to describing prohibitions of graven images.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery
What’s wrong with adultery? Sure it hurts the partner who is being cheated on, but what if the relationship is in serious trouble and the person has a good reason? Why is it anyone else’s business? What right do priests have to go nosing into other people’s sex lives? The punishment of death is widely disproportionate and something only the Taliban would enforce.
8. Thou shalt not steal
This is another good rule. We can all agree that stealing is wrong, it’s so obvious a point that people had figured it out by themselves before the 10 Commandments. Unfortunately, no details are given so it isn’t clear what happens to people who are forced to steal. The starving for example. Or imagine I have been kidnapped but I can escape by stealing the kidnapper’s car. Am I allowed to do this or is this prohibited?
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour
This is arguably the best commandment. Not only does it prohibit lying, but it gives details. It is not just lying that is condemned by specifically lying that hurts other people. After all, we all tell white lies, but it is false accusations and perjury that are prohibited. This is the level of sophistication and common sense that is lacking in the other commandments.
10. Thou shalt not 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 anything that is thy neighbour’s.
Several problems with this one. First of all greed and envy are inevitable and unavoidable, prohibiting them is like prohibiting farts. It’s going to happen whether you like it or not. Many argue that greed is actually a good thing and should be encouraged not banned. It is argued that greed is the driving force of capitalism and the main reason we do anything. Some say if we did not envy successful people, we would have no motivation to improve our lives.
Secondly, it prohibits envying any of your neighbour’s property, including their wife. This is blatant sexism which views women as property like an ox. They belong to men and have no say of their own. It also describes servants as belonging to the master, which indicts they are slaves (they is a lot of debate on this, but I feel it reasonable to view this as including slavery). So God sees slavery decides not to condemn but only condemn envy of your neighbour’s slaves. And we call this God loving and just?
Thirdly, it punishes thought crime. Unlike the other commandments which focus on actions, this one deals with thoughts. It is an attempt at mind control. It isn’t enough to condemn teft and adultery, thinking about them must also be condemned. Totalitarian dictators tried to control every aspect of their subjects lives, but they never got inside their minds. Their thoughts were the one place where they could be free. However, religion tries to control even that.
So there is the Ten Commandments, a bunch of irrelevant, immoral, vague and simplistic rules that have done more harm than good. It is hard for anyone to look at them and believe that an all-powerful creator of the universe designed them, even I could come up with better rules and I’m a 21 year old student. In fact, I might just do that . . . .