Thursday, 3 April 2008

Atheism is compatible with the Ten Commandments

I guess that most atheists may not be aware of the fact that they observe the Ten Commandments better than many observant Jews and Christians. I mean the original Ten Commandments, the Decalogue of the Bible. You don't believe me? Here is the proof.

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
The observant Jew will certainly fulfill this commandment. The observant Muslim, too. The observant Christian, too. But most certainly of all, any atheist will fulfill it perfectly. He is the only one who can be certain. All others must ask themselves whether they really might worship the wrong god, and who the big Me really is.

2. Thou shalt not make for thyself an idol.
Observant Jews (and Muslims) will fulfill this commandment in the real world, but not in their mental imagination. Observant Roman Catholics violate it grossly, making crucifixes and Mother of God statues, even praying to them. Observant Orthodox Christians violate it grossly, making icons and kissing them in prayer. Only atheists will fulfill the Second Commandment perfectly, in the real world as well as in their imagination.

3. Thou shalt not make wrongful use of the name of thy God.
Observant Jews have taken the Third Commandment very seriously. They considered every use of the name of God as wrongful and therefore avoided even to pronounce it. This position comes very close to atheism. Any atheist may be ready to share this view, stating that there are really great things behind our visible world, things that we never will be able to fully understand, and that we should not use the name of a god to denominate them. Devout, fundamentalistic Christians and fanatic Muslims use God's name frequently, and this use is considered wrongful by more liberal and open-minded Christians and Muslims. Only atheists can be a hundred percent sure that they never will violate the Third Commandment.

4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
Well, this one seems to be the exception to the rule stated above. But besides the orthodox Jews, most religious people do not give it a high priority.

The following commandments, basically, are all variations of the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated by them. The Golden Rule is fully compatible with a secular (atheistic) humanism. Whether a person will fulfill it or violate it has nothing to do with theism or atheism, just to make this clear.

5. Honour thy father and mother.
Because, once you are a parent, you like to be respected by your own children.

6. Thou shalt not kill (murder).
There have been many violations against the Sixth Commandment in the name of God.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
The wording is not quite how a secular humanist with a modern sexual ethic would put it. There are modern forms of ménage à trois, and they may work in some cases. But if you do not like your sex partner to have partners besides you, you should keep the same rule for yourself.

8. Thou shalt not steal.
Because you do not want to be a victim of theft.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Because you do not want him to do it to you.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house nor his wife.
Because it is easier to prevent a conflict than solve it later.

In conclusion, I have shown that it may be easier for an atheist than for observant Jews and Christians to keep the first three commandments. The big part of the rest has nothing to do with God, therefore atheists and believers are equally fit to keep it or violate it. The only instance where atheist will lag behind is the Fourth Commandment, but this may not be the most important one.

Photo credit: Wikipedia


sacred slut said...

I don't think you need any ten commandments. The Ethic of Reciprocity pretty much covers it: Don't do things to other people you wouldn't like done to you. Or: treat people as you would like to be treated.

Or more simply: Be kind.

The said...

I understand the reasoning for your answer to number 6, but I say that it is still a very weak position. Never let your morality/ethics be limited or dependent upon those of others.