Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Ten Commandments?

The ten commandments. Everyone, mostly, has heard of these. Controversies have abounded about their postings in federal court houses throughout the country. Also, schools have petitioned for the right to display them in publically funded schools. many people regard them as the rules for living. Mandates of morality. God's injunctions upon us lowly sinners, designed to help us live the life he wants us to live. There are ten of them. Ten of the most moral, ethical thought-provoking and good laws, right?

Well, except there are actually two sets of these commandments. That's right, two seperate sets, housing some repeated commandements, and other completely different ones. So my question(s) are for the devout, bible-believing christian.

1. Did you realize the bible has two versions of the ten commandments?

Ex. 20:3 - You shall have no other gods before me

Ex. 20:4 - You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven or on the earth or in the waters below

Ex. 20:7 - You shall not misuse the name of the lord your god

Ex. 20:8 - Remember the sabbathday by keeping it holy

Ex. 20:12 - Honor your father and mother

Ex. 20:13 - You shall not murder

Ex. 20:14 - You shall not commit adultery

Ex. 20:15 - You shall not steal

Ex. 20:16 - You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor (Lie)

Ex. 20:17 - You shall not covet your neighbors house, wife, servants, livestock, or any other belongings (paraphrased)

These are taken from the Life Application Study Bible, New International Version puublished by Zondervan on pages 137-138

Good so far, right? We all know these commandments very well. But, before we get to the second set, let's look at the first set a bit more closely.

1. You shall have no other gods before me.

Isn't god supposed to be the only god, all others aren't really gods. How would the only god that exists think it necessary to issue these life-messages to his most prized creation, while simultaneously saying there are no gods but him, and that we should lift no other gods higher than him? Which is it? Are there other gods, or aren't there? If god is the only one, Commandment number one is pointless. Because it is obviously there for us to read, then there can be only a few reasons for it:

a. We made them up (we meaning the ancient arabs of a few millenia ago)

b. God really isn't the only one in town, he is competeing for our allegiance with a myriad of other, also invisible, evidence-lacking deities.

c. God is kinda stupid, as he is portrayed in the bible.

My vote is obviously for reason number 1, we made these laws up, which would explain why the first is so petty in nature.

2. You shall not make for yourself any idols

How is this moral? How is a statue an idol, but a cross is not? Any symbolic thing is something that on some level worshipers are worshiping, be it cross, multi-armed elephant statuette, or intergalactic space-traveller talisman. All are stand-ins for the real object of worship, and since the god of the big three has been consistently absent, allowing only symbols to remain behind him (shroud of turin, the cross, the crown of thorns, etc...) he himself is an idol. Humanity possesses only objects associated with the creator of all things, even the idea of god is a possession. Again, the idol worship was something born of fairly non-sophisticated thinking, something religious folk would not want to attach to their god. We made this one up too, and not very well.

3. You shall not misuse the name of the lord. Goddamn it! There I did it, no punishment though. This is just a silly law. How is it even possible that the supposed creator of everything in existence would give a rip about the particular vernacular vehicles his favorite creations used in life. It's not like teaching a kid to not swear. Parents do this for the benefit of the child, not their own. God's commandment to abstain from taking his name in vain is the ultimate example of his very own vanity (though I should say our own vanity). This is about as far from a moral precept as one could get when trying to come up the most important social laws. We made this one up too, who else but insecure, power-hungry, miscreants would say something so playground-oriented was a great law? We are so petty, but we don't have to be.

4. Remember the sabbath by keeping it holy. How exactly is a calendar day that is not even universally recognized as such supposed to be involved with the massive issue of morality? Christians say the world was created in six days and that god rested on the seventh day, but they don't tell us whether that seventh day was a thursday or a sunday. We have established, WE have established that sunday is the day of worship, except that catholics recognize saturday as the day to worship. it is an arbitrary assignment, just as the whole idea of a sabbath day itself is arbitrary and silly. there is no moral behind such a stupid commandment, only control measures designed to instill fear into those who are to be controlled. Why would we need to remember something so important as a sabbath day, wouldn't anyone under the yolk of supernatural control be able to remember something like that without the need for a commandment like that? Couldn't god have used that space for a more moral commandment, like say, don't rape anyone? Guess what folks, we made this one up too. It's so obvious, because it's such a childish thing to require.

5. Honor you father and mother. Okay, now we're at the morality side of things. This is a good one. We should respect those who gave birth to us, but I think mostly that we do this without turning to the bible each time the thought of parental honoring pops into our mind. Point being, while this a good rule to live by, there is no reason to ascribe it's origin to god. Children, by and large love their parents, especially when they are children. I know my son thinks the world of both me and his mother. You can see it in his eyes, when we are playing. He has never consulted the bible on this issue, yet he still loves us more than anyone on the planet. The commandment is honor your parents,not love your parents. To me, this speaks not to the children of the world but the adolescents, those who are most likely to willingly disobey their parents. So what reason would an omniscient god have to include a provisional commandment for the adolescents of the world? Aren't the ten comm. supposed to be for everyone. A bit shortsighted, if you ask me, and again shortsightedness on god's part is not an association religions are comfortable with. However, shortsightedness on the part of men (and women) is something we all recognize. Painfully obvious, we aren't very good at writing morally absolute laws.

6. You shall not murder. Sounds good to me. I don't want to be killed, so what would make me think anyone else wants me to kill them? Except that we do it all the time, war is state sanctioned-murder. There is no other word for it. War requires death at the hands of an intentional being. Warriors set out for the purpose of taking the lives of as many intended victims as possible. We all labor under the belief that life is sacred. But not all life, only life that conducts itself as we see fit. Animals have no sanction within this mindset, yet they are as alive as we are. Death elicits thoughts of fear in most people, not because of the pain which might be involved, but because we have no idea what actually happens to "us" after we die, but we assume there will still be an "us" at that point. Where does this assumption come from. What makes us think we are more than our bodies? Our minds? The fact that we can think? Murder, taking someone else's life prematurely, is an immorality only because we think so much of ourselves, but an immorality it is, nonetheless, and rightfully so. Are we to believe that prior to Moses decending from Mt. Sinai with those tablets that mankind had no qualms about killing each other (ironically, this is probably the case, at least in our very early ancestry, when we first came down out of the trees)? I'm sure the week before god's gift to mankind, the whole of the world's population was not slaughtering each other willy-nilly. Point being, Murder is an immorality to humans, because we are mortal, and as such are very aware of the opposite state of being, that of not being alive. We were aware of this unpleasantness well before moses brought the words of god to the hebrews. We did not need god to point out to us that murder is something we should avoid, afterall we are the mortal ones, not him. What would god know about death, he is supposedly the beggining and the end, here before us and here after, so what the hell, why should we give a shit what an immortal being says about the ending of life. Again folks, moral though it may be, we decided to include this one in the commandments, not god, god doesn't exist.

7. You shall not commit adultery. Ahh, the first of the many biblical reprimands on sex. The moral issue at hand here is not lying to the one you promised your life to. It has nothing to do with sticking a penis in a vagina, whether or not those two reproductive organs have bodies attached to them which possess a piece of paper stating said bodies are legally allowed to practice such enjoyable hobbies. This one could have been saved for the later one about covetousness, or atleast rolled into it, because the lie is the real immorality. The sex is just that sex, animals do it, hell most animals committ adultery as a rule. Ever heard of the alpha male? There's a reason why all the smaller lions practice fighting with each other. So they can one day fight off the head of the pride and take over all the newly available lionesses. Seems to me an omniscient being would have known that adultery is an issue of lying, not sex, just as covetousness is also an issue of lying, and such a great being would have known to roll those into one big don't lie commandment, freeing up a space for a commandment like say, don't abuse children. I can however see very clearly how a society which degraded the value of women such as we see in the bible could easily come up with that whole sex is bad, you should be punished severely for ever thinking it is more than the most sacred thing, thus including it in a set of timeless social rules. man how can anyone think the ten commandments are anything but manmade?

8. You shall not steal. Good, I agree. But as in the murder one a few back, I'm pretty sure mankind did not need to told in tablet form that stealing is bad and should be avoided. Infact, I'm equally sure that any society throughout history has had in place, non-biblical means with which todeal with thieves. Again, this seems a bit redundant, but a good rule nonetheless.

9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Again, a good rule, but lying is something which society at large is more than capable of dealing efficiently with. No need for god to write it down for us, even society back then was capable of self-regulation.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor's stuff. This one's a bit touchy. I mean what's wrong with wanting what your neighbor has? If you do something about that desire, something which would violate another of the commandments, then I can see the danger, but the simple desire itself seems a bit over-the-top. We all want our share. Consumerism is the basis of all progressive economies, including ours. Without products, people would not buy things. that in and of itself is not a bad idea. I kind of like the concept of self-suffiency. But to include it as one of the unbreakable moral codes of humanity is bit extreme. Seems, jealousy was high on the minds of the authors of the bible. I guess it's not a bad rule to have, but I for one have some reservations about it.

Now to the "other" set. the one no one ever talks about.

In exodus chapter 34, moses has to chisel two new stone tablets to replace the first set which were broken. On these tablets were written, by god (supposedly) the ten commandments:

Chapter 34:27 -28 "Then the lord said to moses " Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and israel." Moses was there with the lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the the words of the covenant --- the ten commandments."

1. Do not make cast Idols (34:17)

2. Celebrate the feast of unleavened bread (34:18)

3. The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break it;s neck. redeem all your firstborn sons. (34:19)

4. No one is to appear before me empty-handed. (34:20)

5. Six days shall you labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest (34:21)

6. Celebrate the feast of weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the turn of the year (34:22)

7. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the sovereign lord, the god of israel. I will drive out nations and enlarge your territory,and noone will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the lord your god (34:23).

8. Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice with anything containing yeast (34:25)

9. Bring the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the lord your god (34:26)

10. Do not cook a young goat in it's mother's milk (34:26)

WOW!! This is such an awesome set of moral rules. How many times have I sat down to boil up a goat in it's mother's milk and thought to myself, ehhh, I better not do that, it's so wrong. Give me a break. I don't even need to go into how inane this new set of rules is, except to say, the bible itself, says these are the ten commandments, not those other ones from before, although at one point in the timeline those earlier ones were the covenant, but since the tablets were broken, they aren't anymore. These new ones are even better. So which set do you, Mr. Christian, adhere to? The first set which are morally either not, or obvious, without the hand of god needed at all; or the new set regarding cooking practices and feast celebration protocol?

The bible is just stupid.

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