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Where I Get My Ethics from Part I: The 10 Commandments


Being an atheist, I am constantly being asked the question of where I get my ethics from. My answer is very simple: the same place most people get them from, various sources, the 10 Commandments for example. As is the case with everybody, I cherry pick only the ones I agree with. Let's take a look at this, here's the text:
  1. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery: This isn't really a command I guess but either way I don't think I agree with it, haven't seen any evidence.
  2. You shall have no other gods before me: I have never had the need to but I'm actually OK with this one. Since I don't believe in any god, this one is fine with me.
  3. You shall not make for yourself an image, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Not that I would ever want to do this but I think it conflicts with the first amendment to the Constitution. Freedom of expression trumps this one in my mind so I probably wouldn't go along.
  4. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments: Again, there is a freedom of expression issue here. Even though I see no reason why I would ever want to do this, I reserve the right to do so. (Sounds a little harsh too: four generations?! He does love the others though so it's OK.)
  5. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name: if God is a public figure I think he is fair game (at least according to the US Supreme Court).
  6. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work-you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it: Kind of, I don't really like to work on Saturdays (or Sundays, I'm not sure which is the seventh day) but I would like to reserve the right to work overtime in case I need extra money.
  7. Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you: Sure, I am actually big on this one. Unless your parents are real pricks of course, some parents don't deserve respect and should be in jail.
  8. You shall not murder: Very big on this one (I do reserve the right to do it in self-defense though).
  9. You shall not commit adultery: Sounds reasonable, why not. Judging from the evidence though the compliance rate for this one is pretty low.
  10. You shall not steal: I am actually big on this one too. I would also like to extend the concept of stealing to such things as downloading pirated music, using pirated software and all sorts of other intellectual property. Most people don't see it that way though.
  11. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor: another good one (I guess that neighbor means anybody, not just your physical neighbor).
  12. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house: nothing wrong with coveting, as long as you stay away from it.
  13. you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor: Interesting, your neighbor is allowed to own a slave but you are not allowed to covet it. How about rewriting this one: "you shall stay away from anybody's spouse, or ox, or donkey (I would add 'automobile' here), or anything that belongs to him or her (I guess in the original hers are not allowed to own anything, not even slaves!)." This version makes more sense to me.
Hey, there are thirteen here... Oh well, blame Wikipedia for that. Enough for today, it is Sunday after all and I am supposed to be resting (or was it yesterday?) More about my ethics in future blogs.

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