The Ten Commandments

Let us analyze the Ten Commandments (also known as the Decalogue), shall we? These were merely a set of rules suggested by Moses, probably, or whomever, by which to govern his people. Now that the freed Hebrews were starting a new nation in Canaan, they felt that they needed some sort of moral code by which to abide. As idealistic as they may be, each edict is virtually impossible to obey, at least in this day and age, and people’s often futile attempts to abide by them only creates more gross hypocrisy. Why would “God” command such pronouncements? To me, these platitudes sound all too human-inspired.

1. “…Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” If “before” means in front of or in addition to, what’s the matter, doesn’t God like the competition? That is so silly. It doesn’t even make any sense. How can we be held responsible for anything that occurred before the fact? It’s like if you started a new relationship with somebody, and they told you, “You shall not have any other boyfriends before you met me.” What’s already done is done. You can’t change the past. Get over yourself.

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.” (Oh, so the Jews do acknowledge heaven!) But then the countless number of statues of Jesus and Mary and every other sculpture and depiction of religious icons, as well as those of regular folks, should never have been. It goes on to say, “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them, for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God…” Well, your Catholics, especially, don’t follow that one either, what with all the bowing and genuflecting that they do during their worship services, and displaying reverence when they encounter what they consider to be a holy image. And why would the Lord be jealous, and of what? How could God be that insecure? That’s another human trait, not a Godly one.

3. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain…” What does that mean, and why not? If a person calls the Deity by name, a name that we humans have assigned to It in the first place, by the way, then they must be using it for a reason. God has never told us what Its real name is or what It wants to be called, so how is that disrespectful in any way? Another version of this one reads, “You shall not invoke with malice the name of the Lord…“ But just as we ask God to bless people and things, we can also ask It to damn them. What’s the difference? Do you think that God really cares whether or how Its name is used and for whatever reason? I don’t think so. Some people also think that to utter a curse word in a house of worship is a no-no, as if to do so offends God in some way. It’s not God who decided which words are profane or taboo. That’s an entirely human assessment and imposition. It’s God who gave us language and words with which to communicate with one another, and not on the condition that we use only certain words for certain occasions. Drat! Zounds! Gadzooks! (Look them up.)

4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (whatever that means; how does commemorating a certain day safeguard it from evil or sin, and why designate only one day for deep reverence and adoration?); six days shalt thou labor 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, nor thou children, servants, cattle or any stranger that is within thy gates.” How impractical and hypocritical is that? Most Christian religions designate Sunday as their Sabbath Day (I tell you why in my Nativity Redux blog). But it wasn’t God who picked Sunday as the specific Sabbath. That was arbitrarily decided at a much later time. Sunday is a major workday for many people, myself included, and the officiating clergymen, musicians and staff at all the services and in all the churches and worship houses all over the world are working on that very day. Even the Pope himself works on Sunday. Students have assignments to prepare for school the next day. Horses, sheepdogs and other beasts of burden and work animals don’t know what day it is, or care. How are we going to stop them on certain days from doing what they do? Let’s not forget transportation personnel, commercial and business venues, food and drink outlets and the nonstop entertainment media. What, a whole day of no TV or radio?! The world cannot just shut down one day (or more) every week. If you want to take a day off not to do any work, then that’s your business. Don’t expect everybody in the world to follow such a restriction. Life goes on.

Realize that this Commandment is based on a stupid myth anyway. Since God allegedly created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh day, we should all do the same thing in respectful commemoration, I guess. How dumb is that? And then too, Sunday is not the only “Sabbath Day.” Some religions recognize both Friday and Saturday as their Sabbath. That’s already three days out of every week that would be off-limits. But look at the wording of the Commandment again. It says that six days shalt thou labor, but does not designate which specific six days. People all have different workweeks, depending on their particular job and schedule. For those who work in Broadway shows, for example, normally their day off is Monday. So then each person‘s “Sabbath” could be any day of the week, not only weekend days. That in itself renders this entire Commandment pointless and invalid. Next!

5. “Honor thy father and thy mother…” Well, that’s all right for those parents who merit it. But how about those parents who neglect, abuse, abandon, disown, hate and/or even murder their children? Honor and respect are a two-way street. It doesn’t say anything about parents honoring their children, which I think is more important. No child asks to be born, so I think it’s the parents’ obligation to honor their children for the privilege of being born. The parents are the ones who must set the example for their children. I wouldn’t honor a parent who has treated me like shit all my life just because they’re my parent. Unfortunately, we can’t choose our relatives.

The sixth Commandment simply and succinctly states, “Thou shalt not kill.” It’s not qualified with, “…unless it’s in retaliation for someone else’s death or self-defense” or “…except in cases of unwanted pregnancies, nonhuman pests, self-preservation or in times of war.” Are certain acts of murder acceptable when others are not? How should we interpret the statement? To whom does “Thou” refer? The common person? Only those in lowly, powerless positions? Apparently, most people think that “thou” certainly does not apply to them. Should executioners and hired assassins, for example, be exempt, because killing people is their very job? Police officers in the line of duty and homicide detectives, too, during their investigations, will often make a killing while they are apprehending a suspect (and even when they’re not). Our legal system even employs a convenient defense when it suits their purpose: justifiable homicide. “Oh, yes, I killed him, Your Honor. But he deserved to die.” “Oh, well, then. Case dismissed!”

Some versions of this Commandment have been revised to read, “You shall not commit murder.“ So then, what is murder? Murder is defined as the taking of a human life, regardless of the circumstances, period. Some have said that self-defense, for one, is not murder. But I say, why isn’t it? The intent is still there. But even if it isn’t, the result is the same. “I killed him to keep him from killing me.” Given that you have a choice, you could allow yourself to be killed instead of taking the other person’s life. Of course, you’d be dead, but you wouldn’t be guilty of willful murder yourself. If every single person obeyed the rule, then there wouldn’t be any need to defend yourself. So the concept of self-defense seems hypocritical to me. Since you are not going to heed the thou-shalt-not-kill agenda, why should I? That makes us both guilty then.

This commandment can never be achieved anyway as long as there is any type of warfare between humans, since killing each other is the sole purpose and result of war. Some claim that they “didn’t mean to do it.“ So what if you didn’t mean it? They’re dead by your hand anyhow. Moreover, do the victims of killing, per se, apply only to human beings? But then which human beings? Who decides? Is compassionate euthanasia of person or beast allowed, and then is it all right, too, to abort developing fetuses, to slaughter animals, swat flies, step on ants and roaches, chop down trees, pick flowers, pull out weeds? Don’t weeds have the right to proliferate as any other plant? To me, the terms murder, homicide, suicide, genocide, herbicide, insecticide (and all the other -cides), manslaughter, euthanasia, abortion and even warfare all mean the same thing–death by intentional means. Killing anything is still killing. Who can honestly claim that they have never killed a single, living thing in their entire life?

7. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Well, now. Most married people have not been able to get around that one. I go into a more detailed discussion of this little indiscretion in my Marry, Marry, Quite Contrary blog.

8. “Thou shalt not steal.” This one is similar to the killing thing. It’s a nice one to follow, in theory, but probably the most difficult one to uphold. Stealing is defined as taking something that does not originally belong to you. Who can honestly say that they have not stolen anything in their entire life? I, myself, am not entirely guiltless. It can be considered stealing when we keep an item we found that someone else lost, misplaced or left behind. School cheating is a form of stealing. You’re stealing the answers from someone else’s paper or from some outside source, and in the case of plagiarism, you’re stealing someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as your own. The people who copy music and visual media items for their own use are stealing the profits from the original creators of said items. Baseball players steal bases. A man might steal a kiss from his beloved. It could mean to seize, gain or win by trickery, deception or fraud, as in, “George W. Bush stole the Presidential election.” One can gain advantage on someone by stealing their thunder. “Nathan Lane stole the show!” Are most of these acts of stealing serious sins? Most would think not.

9. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” That seems kind of vague. I suppose it means that we shouldn’t tell lies on anybody. But then is it all right to utter falsehoods about oneself? I can make up anything about myself, whether it’s true or not, but anything that I say about anybody else is the absolute truth. What?! Try getting through life without telling a single, deliberate untruth.

10. (I summarize here.) “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, spouse, servants, household pets or anything that is thy neighbor’s.” This takes the 8th Commandment a step further. Not only are we not to take something that does not belong to us, we are not even allowed to desire someone else’s things! How stupid is that? What’s wrong with merely wanting things that we don’t yet have? Okay, Envy is said to be one of the “Deadly Sins,” but this commandment destroys all human ambition and aspiration. It’s telling us to be content with whatever we are dealt in life and never try to better ourselves. My neighbor has a nicely-manicured lawn and beautiful garden, but mine looks like shit. So I should just leave it like that, because my property shouldn’t look as good as my neighbor’s. There is nothing virtuous about that ordinance and has nothing to do with morality.

Notice that physical assault, rape and other undue aggression are not on the “Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit” list, but we mustn’t take the Lord’s name in vain? That’s a much more heinous infraction, apparently. So you can beat the shit out of your wife as often as you want, but don’t you dare ever utter “God damn you, you fucking bitch!” while you’re doing it.

I believe that every one of these Commandments is violated by most people in the world on a regular basis. How can it be avoided? I think that they just should be ignored all together, which all of us tend to do anyway. And since they were created for the Jews by them, we Gentiles don’t have any moral or religious obligation to abide by those laws. One exception might be No. 5, but I show respect to anyone who deserves it, not just to my parents or just because they are my parents. I, myself, have disobeyed only a few Commandments on the list, and some, like Nos. 1, 2 and 7 don’t apply to me. I haven’t created any graven images nor worship those that already exist. Since I am not married, I can’t be guilty of adultery per se, although I have been an accomplice to it. I don’t consider myself unrighteous or sinful by any means, and I’m not an immoral person either.

I have heard people refer to the Ten Commandments as a Christian proclamation. Christianity has nothing whatsoever to do with the creation of the Commandments. Therefore we have no religious obligation to heed them. Those laws were intended for Moses’ immediate flock. I am sure that he did not expect, or cared, that people would be abiding by his edicts for future millennia and beyond. What it comes down to, ultimately, is the fact that all of these Commandments and any other rules of life that humans are subjected to, are all our own doing and not at all advocated by God. We all are given the concession of free will, and God does not give a shit what we do. We all have to take responsibility and make the proper atonement (as well as endure and accept the consequences) for our actions and misdeeds that we commit in life.

[Related articles: A Critique of Catholicism; For the Bible Tells Me So; Heaven and Hell; Jesus H. Christ; Nativity Redux; Oh, God, You Devil!; Sin and Forgiveness]

5,149 thoughts on “The Ten Commandments”

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