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Letter to the Editor: The Ten Commandments for the modern atheist

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Paraic King

Paraic King

Paraic King

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For a 21 century person living in a world that values reason, modern technology and science, do the Ten Commandments still hold wisdom that is relevant, especially for the non-believer?  The latter five commandments regarding murder, adultery, theft, lying and coveting, for the most part, prove to be non-controversial with just about everyone regardless of beliefs.  But what about the first five?  Not having other gods before God, no idols, not taking God’s name in vain, keeping the sabbath day, honoring parents?  What relevance could these commandments have to a secular person who believes in reason and science?  

“You shall not have any other gods before Me” nor “make idols,” says God.  It may seem very easy to ridicule this as merely a scare-tactic to control an ancient pre-scientific population through means of fear.  Although that may or may not be true, dismissing the message at that point may indeed be missing a deeper point.  What if instead of seeing God as a caricatured bearded man that is jealously watching every move, God is love, a path of light in a dark world that leads away from suffering and toward well-being, an ideal if you will.  How that path looks can be debated but with that idea of God in mind, the injunction to not have other gods before God nor to make idols could simply mean to not let worldly distractions, or lowercase “g” gods, divert you from your path of what you deep down know to be Good.  It’s the difference of following your true calling, instead of “worshipping” material wealth, social media, petty dramas or other gods of shallow pleasures. 

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”.  So if God is looked at as the ideal of Love or Goodness, what would take the name of Goodness in vain mean?  You can see examples of this age-old corruption all over the place in politicians advancing their careers in the name of the people, advertisements that usurp images of love and happiness to associate with certain products or any selfish motives masked behind pretty pretenses.  

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”  Having a seven day week may seem arbitrary but a day of rest in seven is arguably a sound way to structure a society that balances getting the work done to keep things functioning while maintaining the sanity and spiritual well-being of the individuals that comprise it.  Historically this commandment is important in giving every individual equal value regardless of social standing as it is a commandment that every person, king and peasant alike, rest, commune with family and worship their Good.  On a personal level, having one day in seven to disconnect from the day-to-day to refocus on your highest ideal is hugely valuable.

“Honor thy Father and thy Mother”.  Who are your parents but your elders, your ancestors, those who you are standing on the shoulders of?  They, in a sense, are the entirety of accumulated wisdom and knowledge that has been gathered hitherto in the human endeavor and should not be merely rebelled against or thrown away so easily without first having an understanding of.  Humans have gone through eons of trial and error, through a rigorous selection process that has led to a functioning world that is mostly peaceful despite its many imperfections.  Honoring those years of collective wisdom that make up this complex world with humility before deciding to burn it to the ground to build utopia from scratch is still sage advice.

Paraic King can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @theorion_news.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Letter to the Editor: The Ten Commandments for the modern atheist”

  1. Herrnhut on May 3rd, 2018 8:29 am

    Remember in New covenant Ten commandments bring whirlwind. Hebrew chapter 12.

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Letter to the Editor: The Ten Commandments for the modern atheist