A Better 10 Commandments

In my last post, I pointed out the obvious flaws with the Ten Commandments. If I’m so smart and know so much then why don’t I create my own Ten Commandments? If the old commandments are so bad then what should they have said? Am I just or a moaner who complains about everything or can I offer constructive criticism? So here is my attempt at a better 10 commandments. I think it says a lot that a mere mortal, still in his youth could improve on rules supposedly given by God.

Okay, what should be taken into consideration in making rules for society? There should strict prohibition of the worst in humanity and encouragement of our noble characteristics (a problem with the originals is that they are all negatives with the threat of punishment, there is no encouragement). Knowledge, love and compassion should be encouraged while fear, hatred and ignorance should be condemned. Secondly, I am working with the benefit of history. I can sculpture these commandments to avoid the great evils that have plagued humanity, those of war, hate, racism, sexism, homophobia, sectarianism and xenophobia. If I were to try and change the world, I would add commandments to help our fellow humans and not let the lords’ feast while the peasants starve. I would try and avoid the worst abuses of religion and nationalism, the cruelty of slavery and the gas chambers.

I want to add the modern wisdom we have discovered and share humanity a lot of suffering in the process. What if democracy had been the norm thousands of years ago? What if people had valued human rights we take for granted today? In this I turn to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for inspiration. It is a far superior document to the bible and a strong case for the triumph of humanism over religion.

1.       Judge someone not on the colour of their skin but on the content of their character
2.       Treat women the same as you treat men. Make them bear no burden you would not bear yourself
3.       Do not divide yourselves based on where you are from, what nationality you are, we are all humans
4.       Judge your life based on how much you have helped humanity, through wisdom, charity and joy
5.       Always think of the less well off, society will be judged not on its rich and important people, but on how it treats the poor and powerless
6.       Always question authority
7.       Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, speech and expression. The world has no more right to silence the individual than the individual has the right to silence the world
8.       Everyone has the freedom of association and to organise
9.       Everyone has the right to elect their leaders and law makers in free and fair elections. The right to govern comes directly from the will of the people
10.   Everyone has the right to a fair trial and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty

The first three commandments are a condemnation of (1) racism, (2) sexism and (3) nationalism. The first commandment is deliberatively reminiscent of Martin Luther King. Racism and nationalism have been major causes of war and violence, while sexism has subjected half the population to unnecessary hardships. It calls on men to share the burden. The fourth commandment is more advice. The most important thing in life is to help others and make their lives better. This can be done literally through charity, but also by adding to the stock of knowledge and making new discoveries. Simply being a good friend helps people more than anything. The fifth commandment is to avoid the mistake of history where a small handful lived in opulence while the rest of humanity lived in degrading poverty. We judge the Middle Ages not on the splendour of the royal court or the majesty of the cathedrals, but on the desperation of the peasants.

Never given into dogma and accept things unquestionably. Always challenge the powers that be and never accept mediocrity. Hold the powerful accountable. No matter who says it, never simply accept it, but rather always question it. From 7-10 the clear influence of the UDHR can be seen, in particular Articles 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, (10th Commandment) 18, 19 (7th Commandment) 20, (8th) 21 (9th). The second half of the 7th commandment is based upon a quote from John Stuart Mill and would be an antidote to the plague of censorship. Between them they are the hallmarks of a liberal democracy and are the rights our society is based upon. Imagine if 3,000 years ago these rights were given to Moses? Imagine if they had the democracy, the right to free speech, to vote, to form political parties, to form a union and to a fair trial? Imagine dictatorships trying to overcome these hurdles? If these rules had been adopted 3,000 years ago, the world would have jumped into a prosperous and tolerant future.

34 thoughts on “A Better 10 Commandments”

  1. Hey RN, just wanted to know your reasoning on how we can judge if your 10 commandments are superior to God’s 10 commandments.

    You seem to imply that the standard is a production of a prosperous and tolerant society? However, why is this kind of society superior to others?

    1. Well I compared them using my set of morals and my conscience and found that freedom of speech was more important than honouring your parents, that “Always question authority” is a better rule than “Thou shalt not have other Gods before me”. Obviously this comes down to each individuals own morality, but I think mine are closer to most people’s than the original 10 Commandments

      1. So in your point of view, objectively speaking these aren’t ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than any other commandments, it’s just your personal preference. If I come up with a list of 10 commandments that are the exact opposite of yours, you can’t really tell me that they are truly bad or wrong, just that you personally don’t like them. Thanks for your opinion, but don’t impose your preferences on gender/racial equality on anyone else if you’re going to be consistent in the philosophy in which you live.

        1. Ok, it is obviously impossible to pretend there is one iron law of morality, where something is either always right or always wrong. Obviously that is impossible or unknowable and I don’t claim to have the answer. For example murder is generally considered wrong, but there are exceptions where it is not (self-defence, war etc). There is no objective morality, and before you claim so, it sure as hell does not come from God.

          There is no such thing as pure right and pure wrong. The world is not black or white, it is shades of grey.

          You may claim that these are just my personal preferences, which to an extent they are. However, they are based on accepted morality (the only kind we have). Common sense is their strongest advocate. Anyone with half a brain can see that racism and sexism is wrong. You may claim I have no reason to say that, but it is blindingly obvious that they are.

          You cannot be serious that the opposite of these rules, which would force people to be racist is no better or worse then mine? Don’t impose racial equality on others? You may feel people have a right to be racist, but I disagree.

          1. FIrst off, I think you misunderstand what objective morality actually means. It does not mean that a certain action is always right or wrong in every situation. Rather, objective morality refers to the unchanging ethical code that is binding upon every individual in every place.

            It is quite obvious by the way you talk that you do in fact affirm an objective morality. “Shades of grey”, “anyone can see that ____ is wrong” etc. These statements imply a sort of universal standard irrespective of subjective opinions.

            My basic argument is that you cannot account for this objective morality without appealing to the Christian philosophy. In the atheistic view, morality simply cannot be more than personal preference. Opposing racism is equivalent to me preferring Colgate toothpaste. When one calls oneself an atheist yet appeals to objective morals, that person is a living contradiction.

            Since you must ‘borrow’ from the Christian worldview to argue against the Christian worldview, this proves that you indeed believe that God exists yet you suppress that truth and rebel against it (as Romans 1 explains).

            These are hard words and difficult to comprehend. I hope you take time to ponder what I’m talking about. I’m more than willing to talk about things further if you have questions.

            1. “My basic argument is that you cannot account for this objective morality without appealing to the Christian philosophy.”

              But a Muslim would say “My basic argument is that you cannot account for this objective morality without appealing to the Muslim philosophy” and a Hindu would say “My basic argument is that you cannot account for this objective morality without appealing to the Hindu philosophy”, etc etc. Your argument does not lead to christianity containing any truth, it’s just one religion trying to take credit for a system of rules for living together that humans have been working out for themselves for many thousands of years.

              1. Of course, I would say that all foundational philosophies outside of Christianity (yes, including ones that affirm a God or some sort of supernatural) fall into inconsistency. Are you a Muslim or Hindu? If so, I’d be happy to interact with you on that level.

                If you are indeed an atheist, can you please explain to me how you can appeal to objective morality while affirming an atheistic philosophy?

                1. If morality comes from God, then how do we have rights that God didn’t give us? For example the bible does not give us the freedom of speech or association, yet these rights are the cornerstone of any liberal and free country. Were you to be arrested for your beliefs, you may claim that is wrong, but the Bible does not say so. I fact there are many examples were people of the wrong religion are suppressed. Blasphemy laws are a clear violation of freedom of speech.

                  If morality comes from God, then everything God does is moral. Since God, exterminated almost all of humanity in Noah’s Flood, mass extermination must be moral. Therefore you have no right to call genocide wrong or bad.

                  Finally, you are religious and I won’t deny it. Why do you pretend that I am really a theist? Can you not accept that I am an Atheist? Or do you believe that everyone secretly agrees with me?

                  1. Who says freedom of speech is an objective moral right? You aren’t able to, that’s for sure. A Christian could possibly make a good argument for it from the teachings in God’s revelation (the Bible), but in the atheistic world there are no such things as objective rights.

                    Yes, God is morally justified in exterminating the whole human race (minus a few) for their sin. Of course, it does not follow that genocide done by humans outside of the Lord’s command is morally right. The Bible is very clear on that point.

                    It’s important to note that from your standpoint you are unable to say that anything God did is right or wrong. In your philosophy, all you can say is that you don’t prefer it (just like I don’t prefer Tropicana orange juice). However, clearly you do think that God has done objective wrong which brings me back to my point above. You reject God by appealing to the Christian philosophy regarding morality. That is why I say that you indeed believe in God (as evidenced by your actions), but you suppress that truth.

                2. “If you are indeed an atheist, can you please explain to me how you can appeal to objective morality while affirming an atheistic philosophy?”

                  I don’t appeal to “objective morality”, I don’t think there is any such thing. Morality is a set of rules that we have developed through thousands of years of trial and error, that allow us to live and cooperate and flourish together. A hermit would have no need for “morality”. But we who live in mutually dependent groups have to find the best balance between pursuing our own self-interests and cooperating for the good of the group.

                  Even though there might be no arbitraty single best set of rules for allowing humans to live together, some sets of rules certainly function better than others, and societies with ineffective or outmoded rules just don’t last long. Pronoucements of the moral superiority of this or that religious system, or the perfection of some ancient book, or the infallibility of somebody in a funny hat do not improve our lives. Coming up with systems of rules for behavior that minimize human suffering and maximize human wellbeing is what improves our lives. (Hat tip to Sam Harris for that wording.)

                  1. You don’t see that you are still appealing to objective morality? ‘Improving our lives’, ‘minimize suffering’, ‘maximize wellbeing’, ‘cooperate and flourish together’ ‘finding the best balance’ etc.

                    Why are these things good? You say that you don’t appeal to objective morals, yet you constantly use language that suggests you do.

                    If you prefer the improvement of lives, that’s great for you. If another prefers the opposite, who are you to say that your opinion is greater than the other without appealing to an objective morality?

                    1. You’re a human being, who was probably (as most of us are) raised by parents who cared about your happiness and wellbeing, and you need to ask these questions? Does your religion really obscure your view of the world that much?

                      Care for the wellbeing of ourselves and our families and empathy for others is what has allowed us to exist as cooperative social animals over the last several million years. It’s a trait we’ve inherited because it’s what works.

                      If my children are going to have successful lives, their best shot at that is to live in a peacful and prosperous society. So that’s what I work for. No self-appointed representative of an invisible man in the sky needs to tell me this stuff, it’s just bleedingly obvious.

                    2. So are you now affirming that an objective moral standard exists? Is it ‘bleedingly obvious’ that certain things (like peace, empathy, survival/life) are good and other things are wrong irrespective of one’s opinion?

                      I would certainly agree with that and I’m happy you do as well. However, this moral standard makes perfect sense in my philosophy, but it is utterly inconsistent with the atheistic outlook. The fact that you, as an atheist, recognize objective morals proves that you do know that God exists, yet you suppress that truth.

                      In the Biblical book of Romans, chapter 1 describes this behaviour by mentioning that God’s qualities are clearly seen (‘bleedingly obvious’), yet people do not glorify Him as God nor give thanks to Him.

                      I’d ask that you reflect upon your behaviour and even check out the book of Romans to see for yourself what it says. Thankfully, God is patient and full of mercy, He receives those who turn from their previous lifestyle and follow Him.

                    3. I’m glad you agree about the goals we should be reaching for. Most of them are obvious. But “goals” aren’t morality. Morality is a set of rules for behavior to help us reach those goals. And there is no one “perfect” set of rules, no objective standard for that.

                      I’ve read your bible too many times already. Most atheists in the US are ex-christians, and I’m no exception. Reading the bible is one of the reasons I’m now an atheist – I read ALL of it, cover-to-cover, twice, and not just the nice bits and pieces in “bible study” class.

                      What sort of behavior am I supposed to reflect on? I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, or gamble. I’ve been faithfully married to my spouse for 27 years. I’m raising two intelligent teenage daughters who also don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs, and neither of them has gotten pregnant either. I’m honest to a fault, hold down a full time and a part time job, teach sunday school at the UU and do volunteer work. I’ve never even gotten a speeding ticket! My “lifestyle” is so squeaky-clean that it would put most pastors to shame. I don’t think I need to “turn from” anything. And I don’t live my life this way because of any “pie in the sky” promises from any religion. I behave ethically because I want to live in a world where people behave ethically.

  2. Actually, it not commandment, it better to be called 10 principles because commandment is a command or order from leader/higher rank to others. This is principle because you need to applied to yourself too (unless you don’t want to follow it). Common sense…

    I believe it only applicable if the world is utopia. This principle is great if applied to individual but not for society and to may be person who are educated only (may be as you do). It not universal principle.

    As society, we deal with a different type of people (not only academician or lecturer), some are people who don’t have any degree, ex-criminal, low IQ, ultra-rich, middle income, army, etc. All this need to be consider.

    To have an universal principle, you must think universal too. To be a policy thinker, do not confine your mind or understand the world are similar with university life, full with brightest/ brilliant people. Outside are not like that at all.

    The lack of proposed principle is there was no protective measure and protection. The way I see it, it something like open free website without firewall or anti-virus.

  3. Yes, these are definitely much better than the Bible version. Unfortunately, we humans would still find ways to pervert them or just plainly not follow them, as has been the case with biblical commandments. 🙂

  4. I fail to understand why people are so intent on getting around the first 10 commandments from God. And if people won’t even try to obey God’s laws, what makes some think people will obey the laws of man? A few minutes in a busy intersection will confirm the willingness of man to break his own laws.

    Obedience has to do with affection. Laws are made for the law breaker; the one who hates the maker of law is the one who will break that law. Yet the one who obeys rarely considers the actual law. He takes into consideration the inherant value behind the law. If I respect God I will gladly strive to obey His commands. If I have no respect for my Creator I will strive to find some replacement for His directives.

    Maybe I’m as full of silliness as someone who would waste his time trying to reinvent the wheel. Shrug Shrug………

    1. “I fail to understand why people are so intent on getting around the first 10 commandments from God.”
      Because a lot of us don’t think those commandments came from a god! We think they came from bronze-age goatherder priests and chieftains who were trying to force their set of rules on everybody else, to solidify their own power over their small warlike tribes. Humans have been living in much larger and more complicated groups than that for a long time now, and we need better rules. And we’ve come up with a lot of better ones, like “don’t own slaves” and “women aren’t property” and “don’t abuse children”, none of which appear in your bible.

    1. And how they will rejoice that they have done away with God. They will celebrate and send gifts to one another. How amazingly futile! The only “killing” will be that they refuse to let their lips acknowledge His Glory and their lack. Is that killing?

      He will send to the grave and bring all men, women and children to His Holy Throne. There they will be witnesses of His Glory. Every “man” will bow to his knees with terror. For they refused to consider their Creator. There they will appear, helplessly testifying by their record on this earth, “We have failed to consider our ways. Woe to us! For The Lord’s Judgment is pure, faultless, and Righteous.”

      It doesn’t matter what you do here in regard to God. Nothing, in the heart and thoughts of man affects the Glory of God. But they will boast about how they have rid the earth of Him. I would laugh if it weren’t so serious an error.

      Look how the youth of the world is being taught to spurn the Holy God. And if anyone comes to them to testify regarding the Living God he is labeled arrogant. “That anyone should say they know what is true and faultless, what a fool that man must be!”

      We are told to believe. How hard is that? But men now go from bad to worse. They not only refuse to believe, they encourage and glorify doubt.

      No one answers to me regarding all these things. But there is a place of accountability. And every one of us will encounter it.

      The people glorify witchcraft, immorality, the works of man’s hands, and all manner of defiance against God. But if a man speaks of the Lord in loving terms, he is held in contempt. So be it. Even so, Lord Jesus, come.


      1. Or so you claim. You seem to be taking an unhealthy amount of pleasure from the torment non-believers will allegedly suffer. What ever happened to mercy and forgiveness?

        The youth aren’t being taught to spurn God, they’re looking at the evidence and making an informed choice. I should know because I am one. We are throwing away fear and superstition and blind acceptance of our ancestors rules and deciding for ourselves. We are deciding in increasing numbers that religion has outlived its usefulness.

        Witchcraft? Really? I think the reason you are held in contempt might be less to do with speaking about God and more with speaking about witchcraft.

  5. I can imagine why a person with a Christian ‘worldview’ would find your version of the 10 commandments simply devastating. Clearly the version with the mention of Sabbath and “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” is of much more value to the human race. 😛

  6. Since you are specifically referring to the Bible then it is necessary to take it in its complete context. It would be helpful to read the Bible from cover to cover so the things you refer to from the Bible will be in their intended context.

    The Bible has not only an Old Testament, but also a New Testament. In the Old Testament, the 10 commandments were given for a specific purpose, but God did not intend for the law to be permanent. That’s why He sent His Son. Christ came as the reality of the law to replace the law. This is mentioned in the New Testament in many places, but particularly in Galatians 2:16-21.

    Then, Galatians 3:24-25 refer to the 10 commandments as a child-conductor to conduct us (lead us) to Christ that we might be justified out of faith.

    I think you would like Galatians. Galatians chapter 1 reveals that Christ is versus man’s religion.

    Related to this matter of commandments: our human life will never make it. It doesn’t have the capacity. Teachings, new commandments, self-help, philosophy, new laws, social reform – at best it’s a big band-aid. It doesn’t address the source of the problem: our fallen, human nature. What we need is another life – the divine life of God. When we receive Him by believing into Him, we receive His very life and nature. His divine life has the capacity to live out all the righteous requirements of the law. Our need is not new laws. Our need is to receive a new life, the divine life of God.

    It doesn’t stop there though.
    What do we do after we receive His life? Live by it.

    1. Well the Bible doesn’t talk about applicability much, but its generally assumed that its a one size fits all, that the laws are for everyone and all time.

      Actually Jesus said he was there to re-enforce the Old Testament not replace it. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17)

      Galatians 2:16 is contradicted by the Catholic Church who have quotes to argue that it is faith and good works that are needed. Honestly, the bible is so contradictory that its not much use.

      Viewing humans as fallen is a profoundly negative way of looking at humanity and one that leads to trouble. The Magdalene Laundries were set up to deal with fallen women and look how they turned out.

      Anyways, what do you think of the new 10 rules?

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