New Ten Commandments

Came across this recently,

The New Ten Commandments

which strikes me as eminently sensible and admirable.

This is from a blogger named Adam Lee, who posts at and who’s published a book by the same name. He makes a common observation about the Biblical ten:

…the first four of them are purely religious in nature and intent, serving no purpose other than to show how a primitive tribal culture felt their deity should be worshiped, and the remaining six are simply general moral principles, some of which our society abides by, some of which it does not, and most of which are obvious, common-sense ethical directives that every society in history that did not ultimately destroy itself figured out. It certainly took no special insight or wisdom to produce them.

Lee’s list is below, but his entire post is well worth reading for its essays explicating each ‘commandment’. The first part of his post concerns Lee’s reaction to some fundamentalist’s site promoting the Biblical Ten,

which is a disturbing mix of fire-and-brimstone nightmares, dark hate-filled fantasies, and rants from the depths of a clearly ill mind, claims to advocate a “rebirth” of America upon biblical law, and envisions a theocratic state where all religions other than the author’s extreme fundamentalist Christianity would be outlawed and where atheists and homosexuals, among others, would be executed.

You could skip this, and scroll down about four pages to get to his proposed Decalogue. Which are:

  1. Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you. [The Golden Rule]
  2. In all things, strive to cause no harm.
  3. Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.
  4. Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.
  5. Live life with a sense of joy and wonder.
  6. Always seek to be learning something new.
  7. Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.
  8. Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.
  9. Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.
  10. Question everything.

The more I read the essays that accompany each commandment, the more I want to quote. I’ll settle for just one, for now — about the 6th:

Of all the threats to morality and incentives to evil, perhaps the greatest is dogmatism, the invincible certainty that you are right and that the opinion of anyone who disagrees with you is worthless and can be rejected out of hand. The greatest crimes in history have been committed by those who possessed such certainty, whether it appears in the context of religious belief or not. From the belief that a person’s opinion is worthless, it is only a small leap to the conclusion that the person themself is as well.

Likewise, the belief that any one person is fallible and the weight of the evidence must always be the ultimate arbiter of what is true – something known in its institutionalized form as the scientific method – has driven the greatest and most rapid progress humanity has ever known. Therefore, the second five of the new ten commandments are designed to counter the threat of dogmatism and encourage continued human progress by training people to use their intellect in the best way and to the fullest extent.

Ironically, while there’s a Wikipedia page about Alternatives to the Ten Commandments, Lee’s list is included as an entry for Richard Dawkins, because Dawkins cited it in his book. (You know which book.) Lee deserves more credit. He should be better known.

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