Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What the Ten Commandments Should Have Been

At this point in my life I pretty much have an allergic reaction to the word "commandments". But, often as a believing Mormon, especially after learning a little more about how humans function psychologically, I began to be dissatisfied with the big Ten. With all the wisdom, insight, and understanding of human nature and our needs that God was supposed to have, the Ten Commandments seemed to be lacking in the instructions that would really be useful to humankind.There is no commandment against physical abuse. There is no commandment to work for social justice. It would have been nice if the message in the Beattitudes was in the big Ten.

Now, I don't believe in god anymore. I realize that today many of the big Ten are ignored and violated, many times even by believers. But, for many, many years people tried to live by the big Ten and many still do today. So, if you could change history, what would you make the Ten Commandments, if you knew that many people would try to live by them?

As a reminder, here is a list of the old commandments:

ONE: 'You shall have no other gods before Me.'

TWO: 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.'

THREE: 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.'

FOUR: 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.'

FIVE: 'Honor your father and your mother.'

SIX: 'You shall not murder.'

SEVEN: 'You shall not commit adultery.'

EIGHT: 'You shall not steal.'

NINE: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.'

TEN: 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.'

Here is my revised list:

1) Strive to use your best judgment. Realize that these commandments are aspirational in nature. Their intent is to guide and inspire toward the very highest ethical ideals. There may be times when the most appropriate course is to supercede one of these principles, so use your best judgment. Practice moderation - you need not run faster than you have strength.

2) Strive to limit the harm one causes. Be aware of the possible consequences of your actions, and make a reasonable effort to not cause unnecessary injury or obstruction or damage. This includes harm to one's self, others, all creation and the environment. This does not mean that you should seclude yourself so as to limit the chances of doing anyone harm and it is understood that by living you will cause some harm - you have to eat something, your body fights bacteria, you will produce some waste products, etc. Be reasonable with one's expectations on this point.

3) Strive to benefit one's self, others, and the environment. In as much as it is possible, and with respect for the desires of others (i.e., don't help when your help is reasonably not wanted), help all to live healthily and adaptively.

4) Strive to be trustworthy. Excepting times when honesty puts others in danger, seek to be honest in your dealings with others. Hold in confidence information that should be kept confidential. Act with integrity and be true and honest with one's self.

5) Strive to take appropriate responsibility for one's actions. Keep your word and uphold your commitments. Repair the damage your actions may have caused. Sincerely apologize to, and if possible reimburse, individuals you may have injured. Know the laws and what is expected of you. Once you have done what you can to right your wrongs, forgive yourself and move on.

6) Strive to be fair and just. Inasmuch as possible practice equity. Be aware of and try to limit the influence of one's biases and prejudices.

7) Strive to respect and protect the rights and dignity of one's self, others, and all of creation. It is not enough to ensure that you are not mistreating others, you must strive for social justice for humans and the humane treatment of animals. All people have a right to self-determination. Special safeguards may be necessary to protect the rights and welfare of persons or communities whose vulnerabilities impair autonomous decision making.

8) Strive to be patient and forgiving. Try to have patience with one's self, others, and anticipated events in life. Free yourself of the bondage of resentment and disappointment.

9) Strive to gain understanding. Knowledge enables one to make better use of that which is available and helps one to successfully adapt to one's environment.

10) Strive to love, show empathy, and be compassionate. We are a social species and for much of our lives are dependent on one another. It is important to our well-being and mental and emotional health to have strong relationships with others. Loving is satisfying to the soul and beautiful. Empathy and compassion can calm arguments and disagreements.

Did I forget anything? What would be your Ten?


Malcolm said...

On a related topic, did you know that a new beatitude has been found on an old scroll: Blessed is the pessimist, for he expects little and thus is seldom disappointed.

James said...

Another alternative from centuries Ago:

10 Commandments of Solon

Solon the Athenian was born, we believe, around 638 B.C.E., and lived until approximately 558, but the date in his life of greatest importance to us is the year he was elected to create a constitution for Athens, 594 B.C.E.

1. Trust good character more than promises.
2. Do not speak falsely.
3. Do good things.
4. Do not be hasty in making friends, but do not abandon them once made.
5. Learn to obey before you command.
6. When giving advice, do not recommend what is most pleasing, but what is most useful.
7. Make reason your supreme commander.
8. Do not associate with people who do bad things.
9. Honor the gods.
10. Have regard for your parents.

Solon is the founder of Western democracy and the first man in history to articulate ideas of equal rights for all citizens, and though he did not go nearly as far in the latter as we have come today, Moses can claim no connection to either. Solon was the first man in Western history to publicly record a civil constitution in writing. No one in Hebrew history did anything of the kind, least of all Moses. Solon advocated not only the right but even the duty of every citizen to bear arms in the defense of the state--to him we owe the 2nd Amendment. Nothing about that is to be found in the Ten Commandments of Moses. Solon set up laws defending the principles and importance of private property, state encouragement of economic trades and crafts, and a strong middle class--the ideals which lie at the heart of American prosperity, yet which cannot be credited at all to Moses.

Anonymous said...

The Mosaic Ten Commandments Add Nothing: They are Unnecesary and Banal

Only four of Moses' commandments have to do with moralilty (don't kill, steal, commit adultery, lie)

and Humans (and advanced Apes for that matter) followed those commandments long before Moses restated them.

As for the others,
1. Remember the Sabbath Day: now was that Saturday, or Sunday, or Friday?
2. Thou shalt have no other God before me: Now is that Christ, or Yahweh, or Allah, or Shiva, of Mother Moon.


We did/do not need the 10 commandments to know that it is immoral to lie.
And our President, an avowed born again, relied on lies to lead us into War and kill and mutilate thousands of young men and women, including Iragis.

Anonymous said...

I love the way George Carlin breaks it down for us :