The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Ten Commandments - Mostly Useless

Moses Smashing the Tables

The Ten Commandments are mostly worthless.

God botherers like Roy Moore and Representative Lynn Westmoreland R-GA love the Ten Commandments.  Westmoreland and Moore love them so much that they demand they be displayed in every public building because they "provide the moral and legal foundation for our civilization" and "without them we would lose our sense of direction."  Of these ten foundational, imperative, paramount moral and legal principles, Westmoreland was able to name three.

The truth is that the Ten Commandments are mostly useless and serve no moral or legal purpose whatsoever.

1.  Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.  This commandment is completely worthless.  It provides no moral or legal guidance whatsoever - akin to a Commandment that Thou shalt not recognize Unicorns or Pixies or Faeries.  Commandments that do nothing more than stroke Yahweh's massive and completely unwarranted ego are completely useless.

2.  Thou shalt not make or worship graven images.  Yet another worthless commandment.  Honestly, the Creator of the entire Universe comes down to our planet, takes the time to actually give us specific commands and THIS is what he gives us?  Don't make statues?  Really?  Another useless commandment that does nothing more than stroke Yahweh's massive ego.

3.  Thou shalt not take the lord's name in vain.  Really?  No swearing?  God dammit!  Another meaningless Yahweh ego stroking commandment.  Don't make fun of Leprechauns!  Don't insult Cthulu.

4.  Honor the Sabbath by keeping it holy.  Honestly, we're nearly half way through the entire list of THE MOST IMPORTANT MORAL AND LEGAL DOCUMENT EVER and the ONLY thing the document has done is stroke Yahweh's massive ego.  Honoring the sabbath does not make one moral.  It does not lead to a better life.  It does not advance human kindness or fairness or equality.  Four out of ten and not one sound legal or moral principle.  No wonder Representative Westmoreland can't remember them.

5.  Honor thy Father and Mother.  Finally.  This is the first Commandment that actually posits an actual moral position and is actually somewhat useful.  To be sure, this is not a legal commandment.  And to be sure, many fathers and mothers are not actually worthy of honor, so the commandment is not universally applicable, but as a general proposition, this is actually somewhat worthwhile.  Congratulations Yahweh, you finally got one. 

6.  Thou shalt not murder.  And so we come to one of the Commandments that people actually remember.  This is the first actual legal principle articulated in the Ten Commandments and it is actually an indispensable legal principle that, unsurprisingly, exists in every single culture.

7.  Thou shalt not commit adultery.  Another fine moral principle.  Not one that is or ever has been particularly well followed, or one that is a recognized legal principle in any Christian or Jewish state, but nevertheless it is a sound moral principle that people should try to follow.  Ironically, the only states where this commandment actually carries legal weight are in Islamic countries.

8.  Thou shalt not steal.  This is one of the other Commandments that people actually remember - mostly because it is an indispensable legal principle in every single culture in human history.

9.  Thou shalt not bear false witness.  This is the final Commandment that people usually remember - mostly because generally speaking, people know that it is bad to lie, cheat, steal and kill.

10.  Thou shalt not covet.  Really?  Why not?  Even if we don't act on it?  We shouldn't think about and dream about bettering ourselves?  We shouldn't look at what other people have and desire that for ourselves?  To be sure, it is wrong to TAKE what other people have, but that is already covered by the no stealing, no adultery, no killing Commandments.  Coveting is merely a thought - a desire - to prohibit that merely constitutes a meaningless and completely useless thought crime.

So for those of you keeping score:  Five are completely worthless.  Two represent good moral aspirations.  Three represent indispensable legal principles.  In other words, SEVEN of the Ten Commandments are so disposable that they do not even make it into modern legal systems.

God could have done so much better.  Instead of engaging in Yahweh's useless ego stroking and punishing thought crimes, God could have said:

Thou shalt not discriminate against one another on the basis of sex, nationality, religion.
Thou shalt not enslave one another.
Thou shalt not torture.
Thou shalt provide equal protection for all citizens under the law.
Thou shalt not arbitrarily deprive citizens of property.
Thou shalt not arbitrarily arrest, detain or exile.
Thou shalt presume the innocence of the accused until they are proven guilty.
Thou shalt not interfere with the privacy of others.
Thou shalt ensure the freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and freedom of speech.
Thou shalt provide for the safety, welfare and security of all your people.
Thou shalt educate your people.

Those are all actually provisions of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.  All of which would be a dramatic improvement over Yahweh's ego stroking commands.  They actually provide a basis for a more just, equitable honest, fair, egalitarian and peaceful society.  Surely an omniscient being could have come up with such commands.  Surely an omniscient being could have designed a society in such a way.

Instead Yahweh wastes the bulk of his divinely authored tablets stroking his own ego.  Further, Yahweh wastes chapter after chapter after chapter of the Biblical legal code discussing how exactly all of his blood sacrifices must be prepared and then going on to describe in even greater detail the exact measurements and construction methods for the Ark, the exact style of dress for priests, the dimensions of the tabernacle, the width of doors and windows, etc.  In other words, VAST amounts of legal doctrine that could have been used as the foundation of a more just, more fair, more peaceful, more virtuous society are instead squandered on useless and pointless laws that do NOTHING but give Yahweh a chance to design buildings, braziers, arks, candles, tents and priestly vestments.

One has to wonder why the Creator of the Entire Universe would have the slightest inclination to waste his time on such pointless and trivial matters when he could have simply outlawed slavery or torture or warfare.  The Ten Commandments are worse than mostly useless - They are a colossal waste of opportunity.


  1. Let's not forget that coveting is the basis for 21st century capitalism.

  2. One can make a pretty convincing case that nearly all social progress involves coveting. Coveting freedoms, coveting advances, coveting wealth. It is what forces us to reevaluate the way we are doing things.

  3. great post. as for #1, I would add that God sure is insecure and needs constant ego stroking.

    as for #3, once again.. let me say, God is an insecure asshole who throws a hissy fit everytime his name is taken in vain. i thought God was supposed to be All-Powerful and All-Mighty. Why is he gonna get mad if one human being takes his name in vain? Boo hoo. Your god sucks!

  4. How dare you steal from George Carlin and not give him credit. You sir, are an ass.

  5. And you sir are a pompous, presumptuous windbag, though I thank you for prompting me to look up Carlin's bit on the Decalogue since I've never read it before.

    Either you didn't read what I wrote or you didn't read what he wrote. The fact that we both criticize the Ten Commandments does not mean that one is derived from the other.