Monday, March 14, 2005

The Ten... Um, Eight... Um, Six... Okay, I guess Five... I Mean, Three... Okay, Maybe Not Three, But Two! Two Commandments!

Dissecting the Ten Commandments
reprinted in its entirety from Counterbias

March 9 2005
Doug Griffin

With the debate raging over the display of the Ten Commandments at America’s courthouses and other government buildings, I wanted to analyze each commandment with something called logic.

I. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

First of all, what does this commandment have to do with law? Nothing says control like “obey me and only me.” This is the most blatant attempt by the authors of the Christian Bible to control you. You are not allowed to question this, only accept it. I’d question anything that says, “this is the only way and all others are false.” These are the edicts of an insecure god, not a powerful one. Also, if God is all-knowing and all-powerful, there is no need for the middleman (Moses of old, Benny Hinn in modern times) to deliver the message to the masses. Throughout history there have always been hucksters—and I'm sorry but, theoretically, Moses might qualify—saying that they are delivering the message of God. I heard D. L. Hughley once say, “everybody that says they work for God, isn’t necessarily being truthful.” Or something to that effect.

Jesus is quoted as saying, "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the Kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the Kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty."

This is one of those quotes that you won’t hear often at church because the statement basically cuts out the middleman—your pastor(s). If you claim to be Christian, it stands to reason that you would follow the words of Christ—and not necessarily the Old Testament which Jesus supposedly made null and void. For all you fire-and-brimstone conservatives, that means you’ve got to let go of a lot of your beliefs. That is, if you are truly a Christian. But that requires change—possibly your biggest fear.

II. 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: 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.

Again, nothing to do with the law. And again, here is another control mechanism. Do you realize that only the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—they're all related) require you not to question their respective validity? From a logical standpoint, does it make sense that an all-knowing, all-powerful entity needs:

A) hucksters and charlatans to spread the message? B) your total, unquestioning obedience to soothe God’s ego? And last, but not least, C) your money?

I think if one can think logically, the answer to these questions is “No.” But logic has no place in organized religion, otherwise, most wouldn’t exist.

III. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Again with the vanity. And again, not a law. Why anyone with higher than a third grade education—around the time I started questioning religion—buys into the absurdity that any omnipotent figure would be this petty, is beyond me.

IV. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Almost halfway through and no laws yet. The true Sabbath is Saturday; the origins of the word Saturday bear that out. In Spanish, Saturday is Sabado. Christianity can’t get their own days right in this respect, so they go to church on Sunday. Obviously it is okay to question or even change some rules to suit your needs. This too should be a reason to question. But most Christians wish to continue the status quo and be slaves to their beliefs rather than think for themselves as Jesus Christ—again, the namesake of the religion—directed.

V. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Five commandments in, and so far nothing resembling any laws we have on the books. Maybe this one should be a law considering the way we treat elderly people in this country.

VI. Thou shalt not kill.

Finally, a law! The problem is that people, including Christians, kill all the time. From the original Crusades to the modern day Crusades of President Bush (a devout Christian), and everyday across America. The man accused of being the “BTK” serial killer is reportedly a devout Christian and active member in his church—probably a registered Republican too. Go figure. Additionally, abortion clinics have been bombed by Christians—ironically called pro-lifers. Those bombings took the lives of innocents as well; some of the victims have been pregnant women, who would no more think of abortion than the most avowed pro-lifer, but whose only mistake was working in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out!Huh? Can I get an Amen?

VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Another no-brainer, but not a law. If it were, the sanctity of marriage might actually mean something, rather than the ridiculous and un-constitutional notion of banning gays from it. If you would not want your spouse to cheat on you, why then would you cheat on him or her? Why does one need a commandment to uphold their marriage vows? If you follow one of the most basic of Christian doctrines—Do unto others—you need only think to yourself before you break that vow, “How would I feel if my spouse were to do what I am about to do?” If you're honest with yourself, you wouldn’t like it. It might even make you want to kill someone.

VIII. Thou shalt not steal.

Hey, another law. That’s two. We’re cooking with gas now!

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

This one is only a law if you are under oath. This falls under the do unto others category.

X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Again, do unto others… but not a law.

So, only two of the ten commandments are actual laws on our books. Why then must the commandments be displayed on government property?

Jesus reportedly summed up the Ten Commandments with two:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. And, Love your neighbor as yourself.

Buddhism simply says, “Cause no harm.”

That sums up everything that Commandments 5 through 10 discuss in one simple sentence. It sums up life in general. Is what you are doing at this moment causing harm to anyone—ncluding yourself? That’s the only question you need to ask yourself before you do anything—lie, cheat, steal, kill, abuse—to any person or animal.

Commandments 1 through 4 basically feed the alleged vanity of God. Again, I ask, why would an omnipotent being be vain and need ego-stroking?

The question has to be asked, again, why display something at our courthouses that really has nothing to do with our laws?

It is the ego of Christianity—not of God—which compels Christians to insist the Ten Commandments be displayed. Everyone does not worship the Christian God and it does not make those people wrong because they do not. Nor should it diminish the power of the Christian God simply because the commandments are not displayed. Give God a little more credit!

To me, one of the biggest problems with Christianity, indeed Judaism and Islam as well, is the arrogance that each have in saying that theirs is the only way. If you notice, the further west you go on the globe, the more arrogant the practitioners of the religion in the region. And you just don't get any further west or more arrogant than the United States of America.

I am not an atheist. I grew up in the Baptist church. I started questioning the contradictions in the Bible—and there are many—a long time ago. However, I do still believe in a higher power. I just don’t believe that I am as detached from that power as the messengers of Christianity would have us believe. I believe that we are all God. I don’t need a filter nor do I need to be told how to connect—I am already connected to God.

It has been my experience that getting to heaven is the sole motivation for Christians to do the right thing.

In that respect, I ask two final questions:

Is it best to do what is right because you have a perceived reward waiting for you in the hereafter? Or, is it best to do what is right simply for the sake of doing what is right?

Cause no harm.


Glen Dean said...

Shea, I won't argue with you on your belief, but I think you have a misunderstanding of Christianity. That is probably because you grew up around a legalistic, religiosity type of atmosphere. Some of what you said has merit. For instance, it is true that Christians are not under the Law. We are living in what is called the age of grace. Many people misrepresent Christianity, like Benny Hinn for example. However, real Christianity is not about behavior. That is Good News for someone as wicked and sinful as I am. The New Testament says that we are "saved by grace through faith, not of yourself, lest any man should boast." This basically means that no matter who you are, if you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and that he was resurrected. And if you confess your sins, then you are forgiven. You are forgiven for everything you have done before and everything that you will do in the future. You can not lose your salvation, because it was not attained by anything you done. It was a gift from God. The desire to live in a godly manner and to live Christlike comes from the "Holy Spirit" and the gratitude that Christians feel toward a loving God. Getting into heaven is not why a Christian should do what is right. That is because, doing right will not get them into heaven. Christians should do right because they have had a change of heart brought on by the Holy Spirit. I do not doubt that you have seen some bad representations of the gospel. That is because some of these people who call themselves Christians still are not living the freedom that comes with belief in Jesus Christ. They are still under the "chains" of the law. Those type of people are sad because they have never experienced Gods love, only a set of rules that they cannot possibly live by. We are all on our own spiritual journey. You are on yours and I am on mine. I know that these overly religious types have hurt you in the past and I am really sorry for that. They were wrong, but they were probably a lot more sick than they were evil. If anything, maybe we should have compassion for those very unhappy and frustrated people. I don't have all the answers, but I know that this "higher power" loves you just as much as he loves me and that all are equal in his sight. God bless you, brother.

Simon said...

Love the site Shea, vigorous discourse is a good thing if the motivations are good ones!

Wow, there is a mouthful to comment on with this one (by the way, thanks for posting this article).

First, regarding your comment Glen, I don't mean to take from what you have said. You've said some kind and understanding things as a good Christian should. I would point out though that even internally within christianity it isn't as clear cut as you have stated. The views you have represented on salvation are predominantly Protestant beliefs, and they differ significantly with Catholic beliefs. But, it's more important where they agree! And, since I'm a Buddhist, what do I know! ;) (once again, solidarity brothers! lol)

Ok, second point, the buddhist message "cause no harm" was a bit, oversimplified! Now, if you are seeking emptiness, practicing zen, are an ardent follower... that's good. If you are an outsider looking in, it can be misleading! The buddhist religion is not indifferent to homosexuality and other such issues. Though, adultery, killing, and just plain giving in to your lust are viewed as being made of the same stuff. The message "cause no harm" says, despite any of this, if you can do nothing else then cause no harm. It most certainly asks us to do so much more though! The very aim of Mahayana is the enlightenment of all beings through the very acts of our own compassion.

But I digress on religious issues and have forgetton about the article. ;)

On the article: it's unfortunate that hypocrisy abounds. I am often amazed at those who talk about religious conservative (insert your own terms) zealots who try to force beliefs and are intolerant of others beliefs. Well, what happens next, they criticize, say religion is stupid, and do the very same thing! Wonderful. ;)

It's unfortunate that we can't see clearly enough to accept a difference of opinion, on all sides, and show respect for one another.

Displaying the ten commandments in a building dedicated to upholding the very virtues this country was built on (one of them being separation of church and state): by itself, is an affront to every non christian in America. Maybe if you prominantly displayed other religous works (I haven't seen the Four Noble Truths, passages of the Bhagadvita, Upanashads or Qur'an posted in any American building I have been in!) Or maybe we should just "practice what we preach" (as a country) and not display such things in these buildings. That, is "cause no harm" my friends.

Trying to go the extra step mentioned above, of showing all of our religions (including representations of those who are atheists!) would be truly showing our diversity, and what a beautiful thing it is.

Perhaps it is such contradictions that cause others to label us hypocrites, certainly sounds like hypocrisy to me.

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." Matthew 6:5

Or better maybe?
"I do not sit with deceitful men, nor do I consort with hypocrites" Psalm 26:4

windspike said...

Nice repost. I have a short comment - promise. Why is it that folks who follow one god or another insist that their's is the right god? I asked this question long ago on my blog:

A fine post and good comments - I am going to blog roll you!

SheaNC said...

Wow, lots of comment on this one :)

Well, I guess everyone can see off the top that this article is a little tongue-in-cheek. I got a kick out of it in relation to the discussion that has been going on in other blogs about the ten-commandments-in-the-courthouse. I enjoy the way it describes how the Ten Commandments, regardless of their historical role in the development of contemporary law, are not so legally or politically relevant to modern law (IMHO). They are historically significant to our law in the same way as, say, a list of laws originating in the Roman senate from the classical period: ingredients in our judicial recipe (including a grain of salt).

As Glen Dean knows from our past discussions, my problems with fundamentalist religion stems from tolerance issues I witnessed in the past. Any religion that forces itself on people instead of offering them a choice is bad news in my book, and that obviously includes more than christianity.

I also need to address in greater detail my thoughts about religion being the source of modern law. So far two people have mentioned that, and it's a good one to build on, as I was a philosophy class junkie for a semester or two :)

It occurs to me that I have never actually told anyone what religion I am. Well, the best way I can sum it up is like this: on an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, someone asked the Clampetts what there religion was. Jed replied, "Why, we's Golden Rulers."

That has been my religion, too, ever since :)

Simon said...

:) HA! I loved Jed's comment, classic. Speaking of the Golden Rule.

Shea, the article was tongue-in-cheek? KIDDING! ;) Hyperbole can be a great tool, well I think so at least. I like to think that Solomon's baby cutting antics was a great demonstration of pointing out lunancy by being looney.

I agree with you, the ten commandments (and religion in general) are not relevant to modern law—other than, ones right to worship(or not worship) should be protected.

I would say that religion did more than just influence law, there was a time the two were the same thing. But, times change, people have spread and met with people who have different beliefs, consequently religion and law had to split.

I agree with you about fundamentalism, it usually spells bad news. Plus, I'm going to guess that the majority of people are not saints/avatars/pickyourterm, so I'm skeptical when the average joe comes along and says "You better follow me, I know the way!" instead of focusing on simply self improvement through their worship.

And hey, thanks for sharing what relgion you are, though it doesn't matter-it's just words dude. If you live the good life, that's all that matters. ;) My two cents.

SheaNC said...

It's true; religion and politics used to be one and the same - cultures' rulers were also the religious figureheads, and there was only one religion in the sense that the whole culture, the whole social order was like a fabric, with interwoven threads of politics-religion-tribe-clan-family, all that stuff... I guess that's why separation of church and state is such a hot-button issue. It's a relatively new phenomeon, historically speaking. Like they say, it takes a village...

Glen Dean said...

I love Jed Clampett. Also, Ellie Mae was hot in that bikini, hanging out by the cement pond. The Flatt and Scruggs jam at the beginning of the show was pretty cool too. Wait, we're supposed to be talking about the ten commandments. I think I just broke a couple of them with my thoughts. Oops! :) Sorry Sheanc, for filling your blog with all of this nonsense.

Simon said...

Oh sweet Ellie Mae... *drool* and Marian... no wait, that was Gilligan's Island...

Where am I?

Dang it Glen, stop distracting me! ;)

SheaNC said...

As for the Beverly Hillbillies, I always thought Jane Hathaway was a seething volcano of unspent passion...

And on Gilligan's Island, there was no escape from "Lovey" Howell's shrieks of "Thirston! Thirston!