Christopher Hitchens just wrote a 3 page piece for Vanity Fair about the 10 commandments titled The New Commandments. He goes through the KJV version and talks about where they are good and where they are not so good. Here is his summation:
What emerges from the first review is this: the Ten Commandments were derived from situational ethics. They show every symptom of having been man-made and improvised under pressure. They are addressed to a nomadic tribe whose main economy is primitive agriculture and whose wealth is sometimes counted in people as well as animals. They are also addressed to a group that has been promised the land and flocks of other people: the Amalekites and Midianites and others whom God orders them to kill, rape, enslave, or exterminate. And this, too, is important because at every step of their arduous journey the Israelites are reminded to keep to the laws, not because they are right but just because they will lead them to become conquerors (of, as it happens, almost the only part of the Middle East that has no oil).
So here is a rundown of how he fixes them:
- One to Three can go, "since they have nothing to do with morality and are no more than a long, rasping throat clearing by an admittedly touchy dictator. Mere fear of unseen authority is not a sound basis for ethics." (the invisible sky daddy flexes his muscles and demands worship.).
- He also says we don't have to ban sculpture and art (idols).
- Four. Gone. Pointless. (don't work on the sabbath, except black sabbath, of course!)
- Five, respect elders, sure. But also ban child abuse. What a concept! (I'd add that parents should only get respect like anyone else, when they earn it.)
- Six, taken care of by modern law. Don't murder. (Don't kill under almost all circumstances.) (although I think assisted suicide for terminally ill people should be legal)
- Seven, he seems to destroy too. (adultery) (and yeah, what about saying rape is bad? especially pedophilia and that kind of stuff?)
- Eight, ok. This one is good. Don't steal. (stealing)
- Nine, don't lie. Also basically good. (lying about your neighbor)
- Ten, women aren't property. This one is pointless and harmful in that it makes you a sinner just from your thoughts. (don't lust after your neighbor's goods or wife)
Other evils of human society that should be denounced, according to Hitchens:
- child abuse
- sexual repression
- white-collar crime
- wanton destruction of the natural world
- people who talk on cell phones in restaurants (and movie theatres, or who talk on the phone or text while driving!)
- people who blow themselves up while shouting 'god is great!' (and any other kind of jihadism or crusade)
- using people as private property
- condemning people for their inborn nature (like homosexuality, etc)
And this is how he finishes:
"Be willing to renounce any god or any religion if any holy commandments should contradict any of the above. In short: Do not swallow your moral code in tablet form."
Good advice! I think I stand by the principles I came up with for myself. What are yours? Do you agree with Christopher Hitchens?