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Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Ten Commandments Disproven

The first problem with trying to justify a morality based on commandments like the Ten Commandments is that the notion of commandments is anti-contextual, that is to say, they don't take context into account at all. But there is no such thing as an action without context - all our actions exist in a context that dictates what values they effect. Therefore commandments are false automatically because they assume a fantasy world where actions exist without context.

Another problem is that commandments go against the virtue of moral autonomy as a general rule. They do not appeal to reason but to intimidation and force. They are, in short, anti-values and anti-virtues - believers can only act to repress them in other people. Thus commandments do not give us morality but in fact take it away.

Many of these commandments demand death for people who break them, making them against personal rights and freedom as well. All of the Ten Commandments go against our current laws as well.

In this short analysis, I am very generous, using most charitable interpretations (except for the "kill"-is-really-"murder" nonsense), and not, for example, including productivity for commandment 2, where Christians would most likely ban the trade of such images as well.

All references are from Logical Structure of Objectivism. Anyone who wants to read more about the logical justification of each value and virtue is free to consult and search the chapter I've listed for each.


1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Opposing secular values and virtues :

* Autonomy - the commitment to acting by one's independent judgment. (ch. 6) Necessary for the use of reason.
Commandment 1 orders us to subjugate our judgment. A person's independent judgment that other gods exist, despite the lack of evidence for either position, is considered inferior because of this commandment. Failure to follow moral autonomy leads to prejudice, social control and ultimately thought control.

* Non-coercion - one should not initiate the use of physical force against others. (ch. 6) Necessary for a free society and the use of reason.
Since there is no initiation of force involved in "having other gods", to punish someone for it is a violation of the secular virtue of non-coercion.

Better secular principle : Don't accept claims without evidence.


2. 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:

Opposing secular values and virtues :

* Art - selective re-creation of reality according to value-judgments. (ch. 4) Necessary for the concretization and integration of principles in one's life.
The secular value of art is based on "likenesses of things", and therefore goes against commandment 2.

* Non-coercion - one should not initiate the use of physical force against others. (ch. 6) Necessary for a free society and the use of reason.
Since there is no initiation of force involved in "making graven images", to punish someone for it is a violation of the secular principle of non-coercion.

Better secular principle : Make art according to your rational value-judgments.


3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain

Opposing secular values and virtues :

* Non-coercion - one should not initiate the use of physical force against others. (ch. 6) Necessary for a free society and the use of reason.
Since there is no initiation of force involved in "taking the name of God in vain", to punish someone for it is a violation of the secular principle of non-coercion.

Better secular principle : We give power to words when we make them taboo. Destroying the taboo destroys the power of its words.


4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Opposing secular values and virtues :

* Productiveness - the commitment to taking responsibility for achieving one's values. (ch. 5) Necessary to apply one's rational understanding into action.
Commandment 4 goes against the secular virtue of productiveness by limiting the individual's choices of production, making one day out of seven useless. It orders progress to be limited by fiat.

* Non-coercion - one should not initiate the use of physical force against others. (ch. 6) Necessary for a free society and the use of reason.
Since there is no initiation of force involved in productiveness, to punish someone for it is a violation of the secular principle of non-coercion.

Better secular principle : Work whenever you want.


5. Honor thy father and thy mother:

Opposing secular values and virtues :

* Justice - the commitment to evaluating other people objectively and acting accordingly. (ch. 6) Necessary for the accomplishment of our values in society.
Interpreting commandment 5 very generously, as an order solely to praise or respect and not to obey, it still breaks the secular virtue of justice, in that it asks us to not evaluate objectively one's parents, or not act accordingly. In breaking justice, we almost always break the virtue of honesty also - the commitment to grasping the truth and act accordingly.

* Non-coercion - one should not initiate the use of physical force against others. (ch. 6) Necessary for a free society and the use of reason.
Since there is no initiation of force involved in "taking the name of God in vain", to punish someone for it is a violation of the secular principle of non-coercion.

Better secular principle : Judge your parents and act accordingly.


6. Thou shalt not kill.

Opposing secular values and virtues :

* Non-sacrifice - the recognition that one should not devote oneself to other people's values. (ch. 6) Necessary for the accomplishment of our values in society.
By demanding that we forego self-defense in favour of extreme pacificism, commandment 6 demands sacrifice, breaking the secular virtue of non-sacrifice.

* Commandment 6 also stands against forms of recreation such as hunting.

Better secular principle : Defend yourself against the initiation of force.


7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Opposing secular values and virtues :

* Justice - the commitment to evaluating other people objectively and acting accordingly. (ch. 6) Necessary for the accomplishment of our values in society.
By demanding that we forego certain kinds of relationships, commandment 7 goes against the secular virtue of justice, in that it demands that we do not act accordingly to the desirability and willingness of others to participate in consenting sexual relations.

* Commandment 7 also stands against the value of sexuality, in certain contexts.

Better secular principle : Relationships should be guided by the consent, values and needs of the individuals, not religious institutions.


8. Thou shalt not steal.

Opposing secular values and virtues :

* Non-sacrifice - the recognition that one should not devote oneself to other people's values. (ch. 6) Necessary for the accomplishment of our values in society.
By demanding that we forego stealing necessities of life in emergency situations, commandment 8 demands sacrifice, breaking the secular virtue of non-sacrifice.

Better secular principle : When your life is in danger, think about your life first.


9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Opposing secular values and virtues :

* In its non-political form, goes against prudent predation and some other special contexts. In its political forms, however, there would be more important values against it, including the right to free speech.


10. Thou shalt not covet...

Opposing secular values and virtues :

* ALL values we do not already possess.

* Purpose - the commitment to values and accomplishment based on them. (ch. 4) Necessary to apply one's rational understanding into action.
* Integrity - the commitment to acting in accordance with principles in pursuit of long-range values. (ch. 5) Necessary for a healthy moral character (i.e. action in accordance with reason).
* Productiveness - the commitment to taking responsibility for achieving one's values. (ch. 5) Necessary to apply one's rational understanding into action.
By demanding that we not pursue values that we do not already possess, commandment 10 forces us to forego purpose, integrity and productiveness in most contexts.

* Non-coercion - one should not initiate the use of physical force against others. (ch. 6) Necessary for a free society and the use of reason.
Since there is no initiation of force involved in coveting, to punish someone for it is a violation of the secular principle of non-coercion.

* The repression of feelings is also extremely counter-productive and mentally damageable, leading to a degradation of all spiritual values.

Better secular principle : Emotions are not a standard of knowledge. Treat emotions as they are - guides to your internal states. Don't repress or give into them, but treat them like any other fact.

Continue to part 2.

Post a Comment


4 Comments:

At 4/23/2005 3:11 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 4/23/2005 3:11 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

I also hate the "kill = murder" Christian claim regarding the commandments.

As Bertrand Russel said, "The Bible is known for many things, but clarity is not among them."

 
At 4/25/2005 8:35 AM, Blogger Hellbound Alleee declaimed...

I posted the "Ten Anti-Commandments" on the Hellbound Alleee blog. They look good!

 
At 8/13/2006 3:46 AM, Blogger cylon declaimed...

Many people try to achieve goals. Most fail. Some strive, work hard and plan for all the details yet they achieve little or nothing at all. Others strive, work hard, plan and achieve huge success. Yet there are a few individuals who do little else than take small steps and seem to achieve a great deal with what seems like effortlessness. What is the difference between these people and which one would you like to be?
Most members of the human race fall into two categories - those who live in the past and those who live in the future. Most live in the past. Many of these are the people who achieve very little in their lives and are so fearful of the future that they dare not strike out to get anything. They are the under-achievers who hang onto bad episodes in their lives and either relive them time and again or look at new situations as similar potentialities. They say things like "all men are deceivers" or "all women are interested in is money" or "I can't do it. I tried before and it didn't work so why bother!". Due to bad experiences in the past they believe that all future events will turn out the same way if they dare to go after what they want.
The other type of person lives in the future. This type tends to create more of the things they want in life. They have a vision of where they want to go and exactly how they are going to get there. They work diligently at making concrete plans and they pursue those plans with a persistent ferocious appetite for success. These people are the high achievers - The Richard Branson and Bill Gates of the world. These people have much to teach us about setting and achieving goals.
However, there is a third type of person who almost goes unnoticed. They are the person who takes life in its stride and yet achieve most of what they want. I am sure you know of such a person in your life that just seems to saunter through life and yet they always come out on top. Or a person who you hear of that has decided to open a shop. You meet them a few months later and they have three shops all doing well! So what makes these people so successful and if they aren't living in the past and aren't living in the future where are they living?
I suppose you guessed it! Whether they are consciously aware of it or not they are living in the present. It is in the 'living' present that we have our greatest power. Everything happens in the present. You live your entire life there - even if your mind does not!

By becoming more aware of the present and by 'accepting' it as it is we are much more in control of our emotions and focus. When we live in the past we are fearful of making bad choices and/or getting hurt. We do not wish to recreate the past again! When we live in the future we can also be fearful of what might happen. But even if your future vision is full of power and worthy of working towards many people can, and often do, get stuck there. By constantly reaching for bigger and better goals they fail to enjoy what they have in the moment.
If you wish to start living a life that is almost effortless begin first by living in the present. Accept your situation the way it is and then you can enjoy what you have. Your focus changes from a memory of what was or a vision of what might be to a realization of what is. You become much more empowered to then see the beauty of life and also look at where you wish to make changes. But to make changes you must first accept the situation as it is. Trying to escape from your present only increases your focus on your problems by creating resistance to what is. Accept your life as it is now. Make no judgement, just accept it and then you will be free of doubt, worry, pain and fear. For you only experience these things when you live outside the 'moment'. personal-development.info

 

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