In preface, let me state that no, I have no illusions about converting the elders of the Church (any church). In fact, I’ve written them off long ago. But there are young people out there who might read these words and decide to think for themselves, at which time I will be successful.
Bored one day with YouTube, I searched for “Hitchslap,” which my regular readers might recognize as a search meme for successful arguments made by the late Christopher Hitchens, one of the all-time great atheist orators. Sometimes I think it a shame that I never got to meet him. He is a hero of mine, alongside atheist greats like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.
In a video I saw recently, Hitchens rewrote the Ten Commandments for the modern day. I found his list glib and insincere, as I’m sure he intended it.
This is the short or simplified version of the Bible’s Ten Commandments…
- You shall have no other gods before Me.
- You shall not make idols.
- You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet.
Hitch deconstructs these commandments pretty effectively.
Here are my replacement Ten Commandments…
- This above all: to thine own self be true.
- All human beings begin their existences as equals, and should be treated as equals until their actions demonstrate otherwise.
- Violence is an expression of an extinct human survival strategy, and all violence damages all of us.
- Each adult human may believe anything he wishes, as long as their actions don’t harm others, remembering that lying to children harms them.
- Be true to those around you who are loyal and faithful to you and who genuinely care about you. This doesn’t just include the humans, but animals in your life, and the life-sustaining nature in our world.
- Life on this small planet is precious, and sustains us. To kill without necessity, for mere pleasure or cruelty, diminishes us all.
- Respect the feelings and beliefs of those closest to you, and never betray those feelings.
- Respect the possessions and boundaries of those around you, and as part of that, let go of self-absorption and the consequences of it.
- No one was ever harmed by the truth. The truth shall make us free.
- Possessions are only tools, and devoting your life to desiring them and acquiring them is empty. Devote you life to creativity, truth, and love.
As I was penning this, a fellow blogger and good friend, Wil C. Fry, is in the process of penning a treatise on how he went from devoted, committed Christian to convinced atheist. He asked me for a link to my own treatise, and I was sorry to have to reply that I don’t have a single piece of work that states what I believe and how I got here; from my journal to my blog to a million conversations, my life is a body of work about my core beliefs. In summary:
Where Do I Stand?
I am an atheist. I do not believe in any god.
I was raised in the Episcopal Church, and was an active participant in their ceremony as an acolyte and lay reader. When I was very young, I believed that when our congregation prayed, a beam of spiritual energy shone through the roof of our little church for god to witness.
Though I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I discarded religion and its deities, it was apparent from my early teen years that I had reasoned away god. My journal from tenth grade indicates that I still participated in the Episcopal Church, but only at the behest of my parents. Journal entries and conversations I clearly recall from high school and college show that I was an atheist. As an adult, my journal and later this blog are filled with unambiguous statements to that effect.
I believe in evidence. I believe in reality. I believe that the Universe is a real place that can be explored and explained.
Well put — succinct in your usual style. Despite my admiration for your photography and other facets, it’s your brevity that I would most aspire to. :-)
Lean not unto thine own understanding. And read Anne Lamott’s “Traveling Mercies”.
>>Lean not unto thine own understanding.<< One of the most destructive of the Bible verses. "Oh, no. No, no. Don't think about it. Just obey." Why would god give us the ability to question and reason and then tell us not to use it?
This. Thank God for people like you, pun intended! :)
Nicely put, Richard. Hitchens has long been a hero of mine as well.
Your “commandments” are well stated and useful, whereas the Bible’s fall into three categories: (1) pointless, (2) thought crimes, and (3) societal rules that arose naturally without the help of gods.
re: the older comment about “thine own understanding”. I recently saw this in the Bible and scoffed at it. Anyone who tells you “don’t think about it too hard” is trying to scam you. I’m thinking used car salespersons.