An Athiest’s View of the 10 Commandments

From time to time there is a lot of talk or controversy about THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.  Mostly that people want them publicly posted.  This gets people who aren’t Judeo-Christian-Muslim in an uproar because it looks like state sponsored religion.  In fact, it may be.  However…  I think we should just go for it.  Why? Because when you strip religion from the commandments, what’s left over is a pretty good set of rules and moral behaviors for a peaceful and prosperous community.

First, I’ll be combining a few to illustrate how these ethical standards help a community.  In truth, we could probably shave this list down to 5.

  1. I am the Lord, your God, and 2) Thou shall bring no false idols before me.
    In my mind, this doesn’t have to be a deity.  Obviously in a religious text it is.  However, these are important to how we as people deal with priorities.  If we look at our lives as valuable and our community outlook as our work, then anything that interferes with that is an issue.  You cannot be a successful person and have multiple priorities.  It just doesn’t work.In the same vein, you can’t put things that aren’t priorities in front of what you consider your main priority.  Now in a judgmental sense we can say that this is one of the most broken of the commandments.  We worship many things above and beyond our true calling as humans.  We fill our lives with stuff, and junk, and visual entertainment, and almost anything to keep ourselves entertained. However, if our true calling is to raise each other up, then we’re failing.

    If you are truly serious about what you want to accomplish in life, then anything you put in the way that keeps you from being successful is an idol.

2. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.

In essence, I think this means don’t use language that’s divisive.  However, it can also mean that blaming God isn’t going to help you any.  I see people rail against God demanding the damnation of others.  I think anytime you use God to solve your own problems or to wish for an easy life, you’re taking his name in vain.

4) Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

Everyone needs to take a break, reflect, and slow down.  A steady treadmill of busy, busy, busy clutters the mind, weakens the body, and kills the spirit.  Whether in prayer or in meditation or in time with loved ones, having a slow day once a week is vital to living a good life.  So once a week, step off of the merry-go-round.  You’ll be better for it, as will all those around you.

5) Honor thy father and thy mother.

You might think you know everything, but you don’t.  You need to think about those who have already blazed a trail, those who have experience, and those who may actually know more than you do.  I see this as honoring the experience, information, and guidance of others in the community.  There is great damage that comes from not having history or taking the past into consideration.

6) Thou shall not kill/murder.

Obviously this kind of action, especially when done out of greed or envy, rips a hole in society’s fabric.  The fear that comes from the callous actions of killing another person creates a society filled with mistrust and fear.  Those emotions lead to even darker ones, including the desire for revenge.  While the Biblical interpretation is that only God can determine a person’s death, we know socially that’s not the case.  When this is done for no reason, it rips people apart.  A rip not easily repaired.

7) Thou shall not commit adultery.

I think of this more as a be a man/woman.  Again, trust is hard earned as it is.  Anything that tears apart trust and sows the seeds of suspicion makes working as a community difficult.  Trust violations are worse than murder because they cause the victim to question everything and everyone. It causes the spread of gossip.  It can be the cause of death.  Go ahead, tell me no one gets hurt.  Then picture going to work with your lying, cheating spouse and his/her new girlfriend/boyfriend.  Then tell me there’s no victim.  I dare you.

8) Thou shall not steal††.

Again with the trust stuff.  Stealing is more than moving an object from one home to another.  It is an invasion of someone’s security and trust.  Once this essential trust is broken, then it’s incredibly hard to bring a community together.  People will be suspicious, wary, and unwilling to take chances.  It shows others that you value YOU over all else.  It’s hard to ask people to be giving when they have no choice about the taking.

9) Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

This is so key that it’s hard to believe it has to be said.  And I’m sure the reader is TIRED of the writer harping on trust.  Yet, there we are. Sort of.  I see this as more than just lying about other people.  I see it also as gossiping and spreading news that is not yours to share.  Often this is done due to envy, fear, and greed.  It’s done to harm the other person in a way that cannot be easily recovered.  It is, for all intents and purposes, the killing of that person’s reputation and community standing.  While others need not know the extent of this kind of treason, it goes without saying that others will use this same tactic to get what they want.  Sad thing is, often what is wanted is just to see that other person brought low.

10) Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife (or anything that belongs to your neighbor).

One of the seven deadly sins — envy.  This causes the false witness, the adultery, the stealing and sometimes even the murder.   By looking at what others have and desiring that object or person, it keeps you from looking critically and your own life and treasures.  In a community, it takes over as the idol that supplants one’s true purpose.  Truly, I say, this should be the first and most important edict. This one will drive all the other negative emotions and the consequential actions.

While The Ten Commandments are put forth as the moral compass for the descendents of Abraham, it is also important to review them in the context of a secular life.  If all people were to follow these edicts, the community would be tighter, more peaceful, and more giving.  We could actually be that nation that people want, rather than having the 99%/1% split.

Now I admit that I thought lying was part of the commandments, but I see it’s not.  A pity, really.  Lying, tricking, and manipulating others for personal gain should be an added moral code.  For if we lived with that as a guiding light, we wouldn’t have a lot of 1-10 to follow.


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