by Larry Gott
(This was written some time ago in answer to the outcry for posting The Ten Commandments in schools, in the hope of stopping more school shootings.)
Since the violent incidents at Peducah, Kentucky; Littleton, Colorado and Springfield Oregon, among others, there has been an outcry among well-meaning people that the “Ten Commandments” should be posted in all schools. This we are told will provide a “moral compass” for young people and adults alike. If students see the commandments posted as they enter school every day, so the reasoning goes, they will be inspired to be kind to one another, and all their violent passions and urges will somehow magically dissipate.
Let us examine the “commandments” and see just how much guidance and inspiration they contain for the modern world.
Beginning with Exodus 20:1 the author of the document identifies himself:
(Ex. 20:1) And God spake all these words, saying, (Ex. 20:2) I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. [He identified himself, so the people would know who was the author of the law and for whom it was intended. He was very specific: he was the god of the fathers of the Hebrews. In Exodus 3:6 he is even more specific when he tells Moses that he is the god of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.]
(Ex. 20:3 Commandment #1) Thou shalt have no other gods before me. [Modern Christians insist this law should apply to everyone, including Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus or any of hundreds of other groups with hundreds of other gods. Since God was specific about whom he was giving this law to, and since at no time did he deny the existence of other gods, it is reasonable to assume that everyone but the Hebrews could worship any god they chose. Only the Hebrews were expected to obey this commandment, and even they were tacitly allowed to worship others as long as the I AM was first.]
(Ex. 20:4-6 Commandment #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. [Although it seems to say the I Am didn’t like carved, sculpted or engraved images of anything at all, this is usually interpreted to mean icons of other gods the Hebrews might otherwise worship, probably because a visible god is easier to keep in mind than an unseen one. This appears to be only the first half of the commandment ,which continues:]
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them. For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. [If you have graven images you are not to worship them. Within this commandment the I Am reveals himself to be jealous, a distinct weakness psychologists say is characteristic of insecure people. Then he warns that he punishes not only those who offend him, but their heirs as well, though they be innocent of the offense.]
(Ex. 20:7 Commandment #3) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. [Though he is Master of the Universe — if his press notices are true — he is as offended as a Hollywood celebrity if his name is misused.]
(Ex. 20:8-11 Commandment #4) Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour 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, thou, nor thy son nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it. [This clearly is intended to remind the Hebrews on a regular basis just whom they owed everything to. Interestingly, those who want to post this commandment in schools with the other nine pretty much ignore it. Even the most orthodox of the Jews, who won’t light a candle after sunset Friday, hire a Shabbes Goy to light candles for them on the Sabbath, though manservants and maidservants are expressly forbidden to work by the commandment.]
None of the first four commandments has anything to do with making people better or kinder. None seeks to regulate the behavior of people toward one another. All are aimed at worship, and letting people know who’s boss. Rules to live by if you are an ancient Hebrew, but the I Am made it clear he wasn’t interested in the behavior of any other people.
(Ex. 20:12 Commandment #5) Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. [This is the first of the commandments that has anything to do with what most societies would call morality. But even then it supposes that ones parents are honorable. In the modern world is a child supposed to honor a father who is abusive or a mother who sells herself to support her crack habit? Are we to suppose that before this sentiment was codified Hebrew children were not expected to honor their parents? Can anyone find a society anywhere in the world where honor of the (honorable) parents was or is not considered among the virtues taught to children? This is preaching to the choir.]
(Ex. 20:13 Commandment #6) Thou shalt not kill. [Good one! But it was by no means final. The Lord may have desired that Hebrews not kill each other, but he directly ordered them to kill many thousands of others (even their herds — Deut. 20:16 — But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth…). Every society of human beings has prohibited murder — and encouraged slaughter in war. Seems they all followed Jehovah’s commandment (not to say his example) even if they never heard of him. Harris and Klebold knew better than to kill, but did so anyway. It is doubtful that having the Ten Commandments posted in their classrooms would have prevented this tragedy.]
(Ex. 20:14 Commandment #7) Thou shalt not commit adultery. [Almost every society in history has forbidden adultery, though historically few ever heard of the Hebrew Bible. And didn’t Jehovah himself commit adultery with the wife of Joseph? Or was that rape? Isn’t the taking of a woman who has not the right to say no a rape by definition? In fact adultery is enjoined in every civilized society, commandment or no, because all people wish to protect their connubial “rights.”]
(Ex. 20:15 Commandment #8) Thou shalt not steal. [Another “commandment” which is adhered to by every society, with or without knowledge of “the Ten,” because protecting everyone’s property protects one’s own. Simple self interest.]
(Ex. 20:16 Commandment #9) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. [This commandment is both too specific and too vague. “Thy neighbour” in this context seems to mean only other Hebrews, which appears to let others off the hook. Certainly in the context of the time the commandment didn’t refer to Egyptians as the Hebrews’ “neighbors.” And what is meant by “false witness?” Is that testimony, as in court? Is it lying to procure advantage or favor? Is fibbing to protect the feelings of another equally forbidden? The general virtue of truthfulness is taught by every society. But exceptions have always been made. Even God deceived his first children when he told Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:17) “. . . for in the day that thou eatest thereof (the tree of knowledge) thou shalt surely die.” That Adam lived more than nine hundred years, according to the same book, seems to show that God himself was careless with the truth.]
(Ex. 20:17 Commandment #10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s. [The first thoughtcrime! The other commandments dealt with what the chosen people were to do. This one tells them even their thoughts can be sins. If they desire something belonging to another, whether or not they do anything about it, they are guilty. Clearly now, neighbour means other Hebrews, because just before God led them to this place where they received the commandments, he ordered them to “spoil” the Egyptians among whom they had been living. Then it was okay not only to desire the property of others, but to steal it.]
My conclusion is that the Ten Commandments are defective at best as a moral compass for all mankind. It would be better (and easier to read) to post “DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU” in schools, and to consider those words in class, with discussions on their meaning every so often. That is a moral compass that can be understood by all, religionist and apostate alike.