High profile court cases have focused on whether the ten commandments can be displayed in public, with no firm results, leaving split decisions that haven’t settled the debate. It’s time to define the ten commandments as icons of religion that don’t belong in the American public square. Many on the right argue that they are the very basis of western law. I will explore why they are wrong.
As a reference for those who follow a particular faith, they are fine. It is when the adherents of that faith demand that they be publicly displayed, or that I give them any particular deference at all, that I take issue. And why? Let’s take a look at the commandments themselves.
1.”Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” It strikes me that this is the first one. That of all the laws that might come after, God feels that this one is the most important. And what about the Hindu, the Muslim, the Wiccan, the Non-believer, or anyone else who is not “Judeo-Christian?” This law does not apply to them, regardless of how many fundamentalist righties will scream that it does. It is no more important than any law of any other religion. And it doesn’t apply at all outside the realm of religion. It has no secular meaning, and therefore no place outside of faith. And again, I think it says something about the vanity of the god when the foremost law is one of his own vanity.
2.”Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath,…” This one goes on, including saying “I the Lord your God is a jealous God” again, seems more centered on petty jealousy than any law that should apply to anyone outside the faith. And interestingly enough, it says that we humans should not make “any likeness of anything that is in heaven above” it would seem to be that the only ones following this law are the Muslims, prohibiting the image of Muhammad.
3.”Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Again, seems more like a commandment aimed at keeping the believer on the straight and narrow, not one that should apply to the god-damned rest of us.
4.”Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” OK, whose sabbath day? Even the Christians can’t all decide which day it should be, not to mention all the other religions. So why should anyone who doesn’t hold the sabbath to be holy be told to keep it?
5.”Honor thy father and thy mother.” We have to get to number 5 to get one that actually makes sense for everyone. We should honor those that came before us. It is something we fall woefully short of in America, while many less “Godly” cultures do a much better job.
6.”Thou shalt not kill.” This one is obvious, and not exclusive to the ten commandments. Funny that it is number 6, though…seems more important than the ones that come before it….
7.”Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Not bad sounding. And I would agree, it is a very important part of a good marriage. Trouble is, the bible also identifies “looking upon someone with lust” as adultery. Regardless of that, it doesn’t rise to the level that there should be a law against it. It should be part of a bond of trust between partners.
8.”Thou shalt not steal.” A good one. But again, not exclusive to the Judeo-Christian tradition, and is part of secular law.
9.”Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy nieghbour.” Again, good advice, but not law. Unless it is done under oath or in another legal capacity, then there are laws that apply.
10.”Thou shalt not covet thy neighbours house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbours wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy nieghbours.” Hmm…how about the ass of they nieghbours maidservant? I digress. Actually, good advice. We should be happy within ourselves. I would bet that there aren’t many Americans (Christian or otherwise) that obey this one.
In closing, the ten commandments are religious doctrine meant for those who follow that doctrine. They have no place in the public square where others are forced to view them. And to those who feel otherwise, consider this-do you really think you are converting others putting the ten commandments in their face? Or possibly just pissing them off?