Morality as Survival Tool -  The Godless Commandments (2718 views) Notify me whenever anyone posts in this discussion.Subscribe
 
From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host3/24/05 1:01 PM 
To: All  (1 of 116) 
 150.1 

The Godless Commandments
By Charles Cutter (www.cuttersway.com)
March 3, 2005

Don’t covet your neighbor’s ox.

Does that truly sound like an issue worthy of an omnipotent deity, seeking to address the most vital moral issues human beings might face? Or does it sound like something that would be written by a class of property-owners seeking to protect their goods — and invoking common superstitious beliefs to buttress their decree?

The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments on two cases relating to the posting of the Ten Commandments on government grounds. A recent poll showed that seventy-six percent of Americans support this religious display — a fact which played into the hands of Justice Antonin Scalia.

According to Scalia, the Ten Commandments constitute "a symbol that government authority comes from God…it is a profoundly religious message, but it’s shared by the vast majority of the people…It seems to me that the minority has to be tolerant of the majority’s view."

Frightening words from the land’s highest court. His issue, here, is not the law — not the U.S. Constitution — but simply the majority viewpoint. (Which, of course, he happens to share.)

In principle — but less and less in practice — our government is based on the general concept of majority rule with certain minimum protections provided for every citizen. The first amendment to the Constitution prohibits any "law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." People have a right to their religious beliefs, if so inclined, and the government will avoid entanglement.

But certain religious adherents — primarily the so-called "Religious Right" — don’t respect that wall between church and state. (At least not between their church and the state.) They want a right-leaning Supreme Court to vote against the Bill of Rights and push this government further into the hands of their god.

Let’s examine this majority rule issue from a different angle.

Imagine, for instance, that a majority of Americans favored something other than the Ten Commandments. Perhaps they began placing, on government buildings, large and explicit photos of an unclothed couple engaged in sexual intercourse. From the majority viewpoint, it could easily be argued that nudity was the natural state of humanity; that sexual coupling was the means of our very existence. Both nudity and sex, of course, preceded the existence of the Holy Bible.

Would Justice Scalia still declare, "It seems to be that the minority has to be tolerant of the majority’s view?"

Of course he wouldn’t, any more than he would have voted in favor of Al Gore if the electoral circumstances had been reversed in 2000’s Bush v. Gore case.

It’s not law, it’s ideology.

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, "It will not do to investigate the subject of religion too closely, as it is apt to lead to Infidelity."

Let’s investigate anyway.

There are numerous laws and punishments detailed in the Bible besides the Ten Commandments. If the Supreme Court rules to allow the display of the Decalogue on government property, let’s also insist that other such holy laws also be displayed.

For instance:

If a woman has lied to her husband about her virginity, "…they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die…" (Deuteronomy 22:13-21

Adultery’s another clear capital case: "…the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife…the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." (Leviticus 20:10)

If a man rapes a virgin woman who is neither married nor engaged, "…the man…shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife…" (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)

A woman forced, by law, to marry her rapist? Let’s throw that one up on the statehouse wall.

The list, of course, goes on: "…whoever doeth work [on the Sabbath day] shall be put to death." (Exodus 35:2). "And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death." (Exodus 21:17). "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son…all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die…" (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

If the concept of church-state separation is to be judicially eroded, let’s not do it by half-measures. For every "Thou shalt not kill" and "Honor thy father and thy mother" there exists a litany of decrees that should turn the stomach of every decent human being.

If the Bible were indeed the words of a god, it would not be a god worthy of worship. But since the book was written by men, let’s simply accept that it reflected the prevailing attitudes of unenlightened people during a harsh period of human history.

Let’s accept the Holy Bible for the antiquated, violent, sexist, morally reprehensible work that it is.

  • Edited July 25, 2014 11:14 am  by  EdGlaze
 
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From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host3/24/05 1:05 PM 
To: All  (2 of 116) 
 150.2 in reply to 150.1 

Response to Charles Cutter's
"The Godless Commandments"

by Joseph Grant Swank, Jr., Pastor, New Hope Church
March 3, 2005

There are 26 stipulations in the Old Testament by which Jehovah gave command to put to death. One can read them right there in the Bible.

As Charles Cutter has written in his editorial, "The Godless Commandments," he has set forth some of these stipulations. Using these he thereby points to a barbaric deity, namely the God of the Bible, who needs to be doused and forgotten.

He is wrong.

The biblical stipulations were given by a civil deity establishing a civil culture called the Hebrew culture. God set forth severe penalties for breaking certain laws He brought into existence. God set forth severe penalties because the spiritually fallen mortal is exceptionally stubborn, inclined to write his own religion and call it ordained by Jehovah.

Further, Jehovah had to establish a civil culture with barbaric cultures surrounding it. Pagan systems were to right and left of the newly formed Hebrew community. Therefore, in order to get the point across that the Hebrew culture was to be absolutely law abiding, Jehovah had extremely severe punishments for those who trespassed, hence in some cases the stipulations calling for the death penalty.

These punishments may appear unreasonable to some today for we live in a culture with laws, courts, judges, juries, police, and all sorts of guardians against the barbaric. But when Jehovah established the Hebrew culture out of nothing, there were no laws, courts, judges, juries, police and guardians against barbarism. There were only the laws set by Jehovah and the severe penalties for breaking those laws set by Jehovah.

All of this is not understood by such as Charles Cutter, therefore, they brashly cut through the Bible as if it is nonsense at best and torture at worst.

However, those who believe the Bible to be divine revelation understand the cultural backdrop to the various sections of the Bible. Therefore, what we read makes sense within the cultural backdrop and time span in which the various passages were scribed.

It is interesting to note that with the severe penalties for breaking the God ordained laws, very few instances are recorded in the Bible where those penalties had to be leveled. In other words, the Hebrews, stubbornly rebellious as are we all, by and large abided by the laws, even to the keeping of the Sabbath holy — refraining from work, etc.

I would challenge Charles Cutter and those of like skepticism to establish a civil culture from nothing, using limp laws and lax penalties. It would not work. Anarchy would result.

Even today there are times when civil individuals cry out for severe punishments against lawbreakers, this is so especially when anarchy impinges upon civil culture.

So we understand how crucial it is to have severe penalties. They help keep stiff-necked mortals in line. They also assure law-abiding persons that there is a penalty to be paid by those who set out to undo our civilization.

In the Old Testament, God set forth "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," for example. That had to be in order to corral stubborn, rebellious mortals into treating neighbors civilly. And in most cases during the Old Testament history, such worked within the Hebrew culture. When it did not, then penalties were exacted upon the trespassers. It all goes to making up a civilization. It’s necessary in a spiritually fallen world.

Harsh punishments keep people from treating one another meanly, at times utterly cruelly. Jehovah of course knew that principle, therefore, He enacted that principle in putting in place the Hebrew people and their society.

I don’t expect Charles Cutter to accept this explanation. The Charles Cutters tend to go on their skeptical ways debating ad infinitum.

I write this explanation however for believers who reach out for the rationale behind the severe penalties listed in the Old Testament in particular. Therefore, it is my prayer that believers will now understand that part of the Scriptures.

Now as to the Ten Commandments that are referred to by Charles Cutter, all the more the United States needs to be reminded of that marvelous, powerful ten. And our culture needs to abide by them throughout all time; they keep us in line, even the unbelievers.

So for America, the Ten Commandments need to be displayed wherever, just as I wrote in my article, "Show Ten Commandments Wherever," posted on this site.

 

 
From: Dotsman3/25/05 10:53 AM 
To: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon  (3 of 116) 
 150.3 in reply to 150.2 

This article is indicative of the kinds of endless excuses that are offered to justify foolishness, cruelty, and lack of reasoning on the part of a deity. This person asserts that these were harsh times; so the best this omnipotent deity could do was to pass out cruel, harsh, and rather stupid laws to keep the people in line. I've heard this "These were an ignorant and stubborn people, and that was the best Jehovah could do" argument before, and it's stupid.

Jehovah lacked the power, we must suppose, to establish a system of "laws, courts, judges, juries, police, and all sorts of guardians against the barbaric." He lacked the power, we must suppose, to offer reasonable rules of evidence, and sentences that fit the crime because they were ignorant and stubborn. Jehovah can create the world in six days, but as a teacher who could have his people serve as the world's model in the area of just laws, fair trials, and just punishments he's totally thwarted by ignorance and stubborness?

Here is a god who supposedly could speak down laws from On High, many of them ridiculous, and could be a source of divine truth(?) to certain *special* people, but when it came to figuring out who-done-it, a system of accusation was all it took to condemn someone. Where is the concept of innocent until proved guilty? And where do we hear about hearsay rules, or the right to be represented? It appears that all it took to be condemned was to be accused, and then off you went to be stoned.

Do we really base our legal system upon the Ten Commandments? No. Apparently, this omnipotent god had to wait centuries for the *pagan* Romans to figure out the legal system that most countries today base their laws upon. How can American Law be based upon the Big Ten when the First Amendment grants freedom of religion while the First Commandment forbids it?

This person assumes that because we read of few instances of these ridiculous, atrocious punishments being carried out, that this indicates that few violations of these ridiculous laws occured. For all we really know, these punishments might have been common. He further asserts that harsh punishments deter law violations, when the fact is that it is the *certainty* of a just punishment that is more likely to deter crime than the harshness of an uncertain punishment.

The most unjust and most cruel punishment ever threatened is to someday have most of humanity burned forever in a lake of fire for, of all things, a failure to believe certain absurdities and worship Biblegod on the basis of these absurdities, but because this punishment is not just uncertain but too ridiculous to take seriously, we have people who in fact are not so intimidated by this threat as to abdicate their reason "just in case."

When it comes to figuring out a good justice system, the best that can by said for Jehovah is that he was incompetent.

 

 
From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host4/8/05 6:27 PM 
To: All  (4 of 116) 
 150.4 in reply to 150.3 

 

 
From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host4/8/05 9:51 PM 
To: All  (5 of 116) 
 150.5 in reply to 150.4 

Looking at atheist commandments
Click here to go back to atheist articles

Perhaps the more well-known moral principles in the world are the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. This is not very well deserved. I have discussed elsewhere my opinion on these principles. Suffice it to say that they are primitive and hardly suitable for human life.

However some more valiant attempts have been made to elaborate a system of ten principles which would be auspicious to human life. Incidentally, it is perhaps interesting to think about the reason for the number of ten — this may be due to our numerical system. It is not obvious that a sufficient amount of moral principles must be equal to ten: it may be five, fifty, or any other number.

Of course, the question may arise on what "sufficient" means. It seems to me that in this case, a system that covers most usual decisions may be "sufficient".

I will give two of the attempts I mentioned. The first is from Solon the Athenian (approx. 638-558 BCE), argued by some as being the father of modern civilization:
(see Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 1.60)

  1. Trust good character more than promises.
  2. Do not speak falsely.
  3. Do good things.
  4. Do not be hasty in making friends, but do not abandon them once made.
  5. Learn to obey before you command.
  6. When giving advice, do not recommend what is most pleasing, but what is most useful.
  7. Make reason your supreme commander.
  8. Do not associate with people that do bad things.
  9. Honor the gods.
  10. Have regard for your parents.

The other is from the famous Rationalist, Bertrand Russell:
(see Bertrand Russell:An Introduction, by Brian Carr, p 65)

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition… endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do, the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every "opinion" now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the later.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

Solon's creed is direct and unsophisticated. This may be good in a way, but makes one unduly open to interpretation. For example, it is not necessarily obvious to everyone what "good things", "bad things" or "good character" is.

Russell's creed, on the other hand, is more elaborate and makes us think at times of the famous maxim of Voltaire, "doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd", and the rigor and unpopularity of reason. Indeed, his commandments emphasize the intellectual aspect of life rather than one's actions. There is some merit in this approach, since the mind is at the basis of action: but it is perhaps too abstract for a majority of people.

These are fairly good sense and simple rules of living which are much less arbitrary than the Ten Commandments. While the latter do discuss relatively positive things such as not bearing false witness or not killing people, even those things are nullified by the Bible itself. In the end, they suffer the sins of absolutism and contradiction like most results of Divine Command Theory.

[continued in next message]

 

 
From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host4/8/05 9:53 PM 
To: All  (6 of 116) 
 150.6 in reply to 150.5 

Can one elaborate a list which is less restrictive, and yet sufficiently descriptive? Perhaps. Here is my own humble proposition for a set of nine (just to be contrarian) atheist moral principles.

1. You have only one life, use it wisely.

This is definitively the most important and basic of all rules of morality. A belief in the afterlife gives us no motivation for good actions in this life. If we accept, as most atheists would (and, it seems, even most theists resign themselves to it), that our survival and happiness on this Earth is paramount, then one is motivated to act towards sustaining them. This makes all the other principles possible.

2. Remember that you are responsible for your actions, good and bad. Act with prudence and thought.

This is also a basic rule. If there are no gods or other supreme powers, no pseudo-scientific powers, and no determinist excuses, points on which again most atheists would agree, then we are all responsible for our actions. This is contrary to the Christian idea that God can redeem any sin committed by a believer. Such an idea may be attractive to people who seek to escape responsability, but is morally repugnant to any reasonable person.

It is not, however, an anti-empowering idea, or an idea of guilt. It also tells us that our destiny is in our hands, be it qua individual or as a part of society. We make our own future, not God, karma, or whatever other concept one may want to assimilate humans into.

This may also be understood to represent temperance, which was one of the virtues of Greek philosophers and has stayed with us today. Temperance is the idea that our natural attitude in general should not fall into extremes. Note that this is completely distinct from the notion of "compromise".

3. Know thyself.

The good old Delphic maxim (or as Plato said, "the unexamined life is not worth living") still holds true, especially as related to our emotions and reactions. While emotions are great instruments in measuring our mental state and needs, they are not good instruments to find knowledge. Unfortunately, people who adopt religious principles usually do not know themselves sufficiently to profoundly understand that the only reason why they adopt religion is emotional.

By knowing oneself, we can understand our own influence on what we know (or not know) and how we live. Some examples of good disciplines in that regard are evolution and evolutionary psychology, psychology, sociology, and of course epistemology (the use of reason applies in all instances of course, but particularily here).

4. Uphold any divine authority, supernatural entity, belief or ideology only when proposed with sufficient evidence.

This is a simpler way to express the notion of rational doubt and objective evidence. Obviously we must all hold knowledge about diverse domains of reality, including religion. But this is unfruitful if one feels force to take decisions without proper evidence. This foolish quest for certainty underlies the religious mentality: "you must take religion on faith", "either God exists or he doesn't", "religion is better than science since it doesn't change". This is a mentality completely contrary to reason.

One must uphold something because it is objectively true, not because one's parents, friends, favourite media outlet, authorities, or religion say so. Mere desire, testimony or say-so do not a fact make.

[continued in next message]

  • Edited 4/8/2005 9:54 pm ET by EdGlaze
 

 
From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host4/8/05 9:54 PM 
To: All  (7 of 116) 
 150.7 in reply to 150.6 

5. Remember that you are an individual with your own capacities, goals and needs.

More faithful Christians are said to "die to the world" so that they better serve God. Likewise, many cult members or political followers speak of losing themselves into a collective entity such as "the society" or "the group".

This is not a sane attitude. Any action must be based on the obvious notion that ultimately only individuals can act, whatever system we want to be part on. One may not bow to authority just because it is authority. Get involved with people willingly, choose your own environment, act towards your own goals, even if it goes against your education, religious ideals, or is considered "egoist".

6. Do not murder, hurt or cheat people unless they are putting you in danger.

This is akin to the Golden Rule, but actually concrete. The main reason why one should not hurt others is because they can also hurt you — or have friends who can. There is no use putting yourself in trouble when you can be in peace with others. Sometimes we also need to detach ourselves from others because they are hurting us in some way — however this is not necessarily hurtful in itself (see point 5).

While Christians usually claim to follow this line of thinking, it is incredible how they will contrive justifications for their actions by putting conditionals on, for example, the Ten Commandments. Cheating for people, murder in war, praising God for one's survival antagonistically to thousands of victims, can all be acceptable if one tries to contrive a rationalization out of the Bible.

7. Respect others and do not create unnecessary antagonism. Benevolence and good will are usually easier than hostility.

This is a continuation of point 6, but as applied to social responsibility. Do not advocate stealing from others, or repressing others. Let people be, even if you disagree with them. There is no use being antagonistic when making your own opinions be known is more effective. Only respond in antagonism when people attack you.

8. Do not lie to others, but rather stand up for the truth.

This is a consequence of point 4 and point 7, however communication in our modern world is very important. Lying is problematic since you may be found out, you can trap yourself in your own lies, and it is not an escape from disapointment and self-delusion. It is much simpler to live with the truth.

As for speaking up, as the maxim says: for evil to win, it is only sufficient for good people to stay silent.

9. Enjoy yourself as much as possible.

Have fun, get some hobbies that you like, enjoy your body as well as your mind, enjoy life. Christians feel justified to forego good things in life because of a belief in an afterlife heaven. However, this is once again emotional delusion. If there is a Heaven, it has to be on Earth — do not make it your personal Hell.

  • Edited November 18, 2014 6:35 am  by  EdGlaze
 

 
From: Red (Red3931)5/3/05 11:01 AM 
To: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon  (8 of 116) 
 150.8 in reply to 150.1 
The amazing thing is that the ten commandments are over the top of the supreme court house building.
 

 
From: ERIC313 DelphiPlus Member Icon5/3/05 11:11 AM 
To: Red (Red3931)  (9 of 116) 
 150.9 in reply to 150.8 

>The amazing thing is that the ten commandments are over the top of the supreme court house building<

can you confirm this ? I can't find any evidence of this and I can't just jaunt on over there to see it.

 

 
From: ERIC313 DelphiPlus Member Icon5/3/05 11:37 AM 
To: ERIC313 DelphiPlus Member Icon  (10 of 116) 
 150.10 in reply to 150.9 

Actually on further review - there is evidence of the ten commandments at various points inside and outside the supreme court building. Outside we find Moses holding two tablets , doesn't say whether the commandments are inscribed thereon. On some doors inside is another illustration but no inscriptions.

Here is the unsavory link.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/967509/posts

 

 
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