CDW Writes Better 10 Commandments Than God and It Wasn’t Even Hard

February 9th, 2010

I’ve been thinking about the ten commandments lately and how god really missed a spectacular opportunity with this trim little list of rules.  Just think about it.  If the ten commandments had actually been intelligent laws, the world could have advanced so much sooner.  Instead the ten commandments are weak, short sighted, lacking the type of insight one would expect of a god and completely undeserving of making any top ten list for anything.  Yet these rules continue to be touted and engraved and memorized and etched into stone monuments in public parks and taught to little kids as if they were the most valuable laws in all of human history.  Which they are not.

The first four commandments…

1  Do not have any gods before me.

2.  Don’t make idols of other gods.

3.  Don’t take the lord’s name in vain.

4.  Remember the sabbath and keep it holy.

None of these commandments have anything to do with how to treat other people, live morally, or make the world a better place. Instead they focus entirely on god.  It is almost as if the god who laser beamed these commandments into the stone tablets is a paranoid control freak who lives in terror of losing his power.  Did this god forget to take his meds on the day he wrote these laws?  Was he feeling lonely… neglected… ignored… insecure… fat?  Was he suffering from a pimply breakout?  Had his girlfriend just dumped him?  Talk about your high maintenance god!   Oh well – there are six more to go – I am sure god will make up for his hyperactive control issues with some radiantly brilliant laws that will point all of humanity towards a perfect life.  Let’s see what god came up with next!

Commandment Five –

5.  Honor your mother and father so that the days may be long in the land that the lord is giving you.

Uh… okay…

But what if your parents are abusive?  Criminals?  Addicts?  Amoral?  Immoral?  Raving Lunatics?  Bloggers?  Must one still honor them?  There is also a nice little promise that follows this law. Evidently, the person who honors his or her parents is granted longevity and land.  Awesome!  So where is this land?  What about all the people who faithfully honored their parents their entire lives, and yet lived out their days in crowded tenement squalor dying of the German measles when they were nineteen?   Honoring one’s parent’s is a nice idea, but should it really make the top ten of all time?  Really?  How about outlawing genocide instead?

Commandment Six…

6.  You shall not murder.

I have no problems with this particular commandment, but I do wonder why god encourages his people to break it over and over again.  In the old testament, god is constantly leading the Israelites out to annihilate neighboring tribes (including the babies and the children) and also requiring death for breaking the most minor of laws such as working on the sabbath or disobeying your parents.  Then there is the troubling scene where god asks Abraham to murder his own son. I guess god can make the laws and god can break the laws.  Because that teaches people that… uh that… um… that.. uh… what does this teach people again?

Commandment Seven…

7. You shall not commit adultery.

Um okay… this is a good rule to live by.  But is it really more paramount than say – outlawing child abuse?

Or forbidding pedophilia?

I know that unfaithful spouses are the source of much heartbreak and misery, but adultery rarely leads to mass death, horrible destruction or the sexual torture of a child. Outlawing adultery seems a mite weak when you consider a few of the options god could have chosen instead.  Like maybe – don’t burn people at the stake if they have brilliant scientific ideas or if they practice a different religion.  Oh but wait… that goes against #1 and #2.  Nevermind.

Commandment Eight…

8.  You shall not steal.

This law is also okay.  It might be somewhat problematic if you are a starving parent with a houseful of kids taking only a few apples from your selfish neighbor’s tree.  Or a slave that over the course of twenty years manages to steal enough pennies to finally buy a bus ticket to freedom.  If god had insisted that no one can starve or if god had outlawed slavery this would be a moot point.  But god didn’t outlaw starvation or slavery… did he.

Commandment Nine…

9.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

We are taught that this law is supposed to mean ‘don’t lie’, but upon closer examination (without the rose colored lenses of faith)  it doesn’t really seem to be about lying at all. It seems to apply to some type of a courtroom situation.  As if someone has been implicated in a crime and god is insisting that the neighbors of this person must testify honestly in court.   I actually think testifying honestly is a better law than the more simple and austere ‘do not lie’.  There are clearly situations when lying is a good thing.  For instance…

Never tell a woman that her jeans make her butt look big – even if they do.

Never tell grandma your true feelings about her sauerkraut surprise – even if it tastes like stump rot.

Never tell your small daughter that her drawing of a platypus looks nothing like a platypus.

Never tell the plantation owner that you are hiding seventeen escaping slaves in your well house.

Etc, etc etc…

Honest testimony is a good thing, but overall I think the guarantee of a fair trial is probably better.  But I’m no god so what do I know?

Commandment Ten…

10.   You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

So no coveting.


Really god?

You are going to end with this?

This is your big finish lord?

You are going to outlaw desire?

You are making wishful thinking criminal?


Why does this matter god?

Why does this make the big ten?

Why not outlaw SLAVERY!

Or how about RAPE!


Do you realize how much good you could have done god?

How much pain you could have prevented?

How many lives you could have saved?

How much misery you could have stopped?

It is almost as if these laws were written by a barbaric tribal overlord who was using the idea of god to control his people.


No Way!

Holy shit!

And so – since the ten commandments were clearly written by a person and not by a god, I thought I would attempt my own version.

The Ten Commandments

By Rechelle

1.  Never hurt a child.

2.  No war.

3.  No slavery

4. No murder.

5. Basic human rights for all people regardless of sex, race, IQ level, eye color, hair color, political affiliation, and yes, even if they are K-State fans.

6. Learn

7. Share

8. Everyone gets a vote.

9. No gods at all.

10. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Which did not originate with Jesus, but with ancient Chinese Confucianism, further promoting the theory that Jesus visited China during the problematic ‘missing years’.)

I would love to hear other versions of the ten commandments.

Off to tackle the beatitudes.


  • Maybe the important ones were on that third tablet.

  • Potco:

    George Carlin said it best.

  • Jenny:

    I heard a great set of “rules” to live by. I was from a segment on NPR’s, “What I Believe”.

    1. Be kind
    2. Make works of art (in all you do, do it well)
    3. Be lighthearted (glass half full vs. empty; something I struggle with).

    I liked those. Seems all else might follow. And thanks for the John Prine. I love him.

  • I know that unfaithful spouses are the source of much heartbreak and misery, but adultery rarely leads to mass death, horrible destruction or the sexual torture of a child.

    But marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ’s relationship to his beautiful bride, the chuch, and this commandment foreshadow’s…

    Seriously, it is amazing what taking a step back and looking at things like that can do. Especially with tenets of faith like that which are assumed to be so basic and good that they are not usually looked at critically.

    We would be much better off with your commandments, but then people wouldn’t follow them any better than the original 10…

  • Ashley F.:

    It looks like I’ll be printing up your commandments on fancy paper and keeping them around for future inspiration for my little freethinker offspring. (Once any of them are old enough to read, which won’t be for a while.) I guess I’ll just have to lead by example.

  • Lucy Golden:

    I’d add, Don’t Abuse Animals…

  • This may sound generic but I’m so happy/relieved/encouraged to find this kind of conversation going on in the family blog space. I’m not a mom yet but I’m getting to the point of at least entertaining the thought. As a longtime agnostic/atheist, it’s been discouraging (to say the least) to see a group of people with such pervasive ignorance and hatred take ownership of providing morality to children. Which leads me back to Rule #1. I like yours best.

  • I like yours better than the original thing! Mine might be -

    1. Think before you open our mouth.
    2. Don’t be a moron.
    3. Honor thy mother and father by not dressing and or acting like a moron.
    4. Practice a random act of kindness every day.
    5. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
    6. Play nice and share.
    7. Don’t think you’re all that. At least not all the time.
    8. Find joy in whatever you do. If there’s no joy there, stop doing it!
    9. Read. Read a lot.
    10. Shut up and listen once in a while.

  • I love your list Kelley. Especially the ‘don’t be a moron’. Ha!

  • Darlene:

    Think of how many lives would have been spared with the following:

    Thou shalt wash thy hands, often, and especially before cooking, eating, and caring for sick people.

    Thou shalt boil thy water before drinking.

  • John:

    I think I love you.

  • Thank you for not mentioning PW in this blog.

    Live and let live.

  • Don’t be a moron, that cracks me up! I’m having a vision Rechelle, of you and your pizza boxes! Have you seen the Ricky Gervais movie yet?

  • Gail – I was going to include her in the 10 commandments – “Thou shall not criticize the world’s most inane blogger” but I went for no slavery instead.

    Amy – Ricky Gervais movie? Wha? Must find out more!

  • The Invention of Lying is a movie about atheism that Ricky Gervais made. There’s this scene where he does a version of his commandments and they’re on pizza boxes instead of stone tablets. Completely hysterical! I won’t say the whole movie is that funny, but you might like it considering your recent self-discovery.

  • Priss:

    And Rechelle, don’t forget that Moses broke the first set of tablets, the ones with those ever so perfect commandments. The ones that replaced them and that went into the ark of the covenant had these:

    6.Thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, even of the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.
    7. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread.
    8. The fat of my feast shall not remain all night until the morning.
    9. The first of the first fruits of thy ground thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.
    10. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.

    So god couldn’t remember what he thought was so important the first time? Or he changed his mind about what was important and not leaving the fat of a feat until morning was more important than not stealing? And not seething a kid in its mothers milk is wayyyy more important than commandments that never got mentioned like to not rape women? Just kind of hard to figure why this set was the one that god wanted saved. Unless it’s a made-up religion, then it makes a lot of sense .

  • km:

    Be kind.
    that covers everything if you think about it.

  • Sandra:

    You haven’t seen “The invention of lying”? Oh, you must! Some of it was just silliness, but there were parts that broke my heart. In a good way.

  • Axelle the french reader:

    “since the ten commandments were clearly written by a person and not by a god, I thought I would attempt my own version.”
    I’m not sure to understand well this sentence and maybe my post will be without sense.
    I just wanted to say this sentence is really the heart of the … debate : Did you stop believe in God ? Or did you stop believe in churchmen, Bible (written by men ..) and all the things which go with ?
    That’s a HUUUUUGE discussion ! Very interesting but huge ! ;-)

  • m:

    I don’t think you fully understand the Bible. You would of understood the Ten Commandments if you read the Bible with an open, loving, accepting heart.

  • I personally think if you treat everyone the way you want to be treated that covers every issue LOL. Unfortunately, that only works if everyone does it.

  • Maria:

    “I know that unfaithful spouses are the source of much heartbreak and misery, but adultery rarely leads to mass death, horrible destruction or the sexual torture of a child.”

    What about Helen of Troy, the whore — I mean *face* — that launched a thousand ships? :) Seriously, though, adultery is fine and dandy in many parts of the bible, or other ancient texts for the matter, if it’s for a good reason (infertility, need for an heir, etc.). Unless it’s a married woman who’s doing the cheating, that is. The sexist aspects of the Bible should probably be kept for another post, however. My issue with the ten commandments is that it’s all so very subjective. Honor the Sabbath! …unless your wife bugs you to drive to Walmart or mow the lawn or something. Do not kill! …unless the person is himself a killer, then fry the bastard. Do not commit adultery! …unless your wife gives you the thumbs up to knock up her servant so that you can have a son and heir. Do not covet your neighbor’s ass! …well, I guess that one’s not very subjective, unless you believe in biblical double entendres. Hm.

    Another thing that bothers me about the ten commandments, and those who fervently believe in their innate Godliness, is the fact that at least four out of ten of them have consistently appeared in codes of conduct for centuries, long before the Bible was being pieced together by mere mortals. Don’t kill, don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t cheat: these things would have gotten you punished in ancient Sumatra, Greece, Japan, and many other places long before Moses and his burning bush became internationally known. These theoretical concepts are universally accepted as the signs of a society whose inhabitants are bound by moral laws. It isn’t “Christian” to not kill, lie, steal and/or cheat, or to live a moral life; it’s civilized. I’ve had people tell me that I, an atheist, cannot live a moral life because I do not believe in God or his book, but I’m not out there raping and pillaging because of that, am I? Aren’t there Christians out there who murder their families, rape children, and begin wars, despite being the barometer of all things moral? Gah.

    Sorry for the rant, but you’ve brought up some great points.

  • pam:

    “There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes,
    Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose” Sam Stone – John Prine

  • M – Yes I know. I made the mistake of reading the bible with an open BRAIN!

  • Wow. I don’t know what to say, besides I really enjoyed visiting your blog, but it is now time for me to leave also. Farewell Rechelle. All the best to you and your family.

  • m:

    I’m with Heidi. I hope you will make it through life without struggling for answers when all of them are in the Bible.

  • Anna:

    I’m a new reader and I do know what to say, mainly, welcome to the rational world.

  • Notice that neither Heidi nor m could actually point to anything wrong with Rechelle’s analysis of the 10 Commandments. That’s because the Commandments are indefensible as they’re a list compiled by a semi-barbaric nomadic tribe from 2000+ years ago who really didn’t know any better.

    Fortunately, Rechelle has pierced the veil of cloudy thinking that surrounds religion. It’s empowering, enlightening, and irreversible if you’re a thinking person.

    And fair-weather friends who only like someone who is just like them will desert her in droves because of her enlightenment.

    Ask yourself, could you ever believe in Santa Claus again?

  • M and Heidi-I am English and the first word that entered my head having read your input was ‘bollocks’ so as I prefer to be honest, I’ll stick with that. I doubt either of you understand that nor the instructions on a box of cornflakes without being told what it means. You have a brain, use it, don’t take the easy way and follow. You are still responsible even if you pretend not to be.

  • Rechelle, I love your new ten commandments. They’re a vast improvement.

    Although I have to admit to getting a little enjoyment out of discriminating against people based on their IQ level…

  • StephenG:

    Well, you lost a couple readers today, but you gained this one in return. I’m sure there are others here that will more than make up the difference.

  • “Well, you lost a couple readers today, but you gained this one in return. I’m sure there are others here that will more than make up the difference.”
    Seconded. So you’ve made that difference up so far.

  • Joel Wheeler:

    Rechelle, radiant contemporary covenant-forger:

    You are separating the wheat from the chaff. And all of your pancakes will be more delicious as a result.

    Loving your work and process!

  • kimj:

    Rechelle – You do still make me laugh – esp. #5 of your 10 commandments!! (I’m sure my No. 1 son loved that one! :)) And all of the comments left on your blog posts make for fascinating lunch time reading! Hang in there with all the nasty-nasts out there! Hope to see you soon!

  • Jean:

    Wow, are you really that ignorant of the Ten Commandments that you don’t already know that all of yours except #9 are already contained in the original ten? Or that you break your own #9 by even having the audacity to write such a list, as if you above all know what is right and what isn’t? That’s sort of a god attribute, don’t you think? The more I hear your take on Christianity the more I realize that you have no clue what it even is except in caricature form. The least you could do, if you have any interest whatsoever in intellectual honesty, is aim your barbs at the real thing instead of the straw man caricature. But maybe intellectual honestly is not the point at all. If not, carry on. You seem to be enjoying unintellectual dishonesty just fine.

  • I don’t think I could be nearly as direct and pointed as you and Kelley (Kelley, you a a hoot!), but I do appreciate the challenge of a “top ten”. Here’s mine:

    1. Be honest, but tactful, with yourself and others.
    2. Respect those who deserve respect, not necessarily those who demand it.
    3. Think critically.
    4. Act rationally.
    5. Understand that everyone has worth, regardless of their station in life.
    6. Find the humor in as much of life as possible.
    7. Help out in those situations where no humor can be found.
    8. Be generous of spirit.
    9. Be appreciative of what you have.
    10.Live in a way that makes you proud, but not smug.

  • Debra:

    Hi, I have read your latest entries with a great deal of concern. It’s obvious you have been badly let down and hurt by a church or the people in a church. But true worship of Christ never lets anyone down. You seem to have a real chip on your shoulder and are happiest when attacking others.
    He forgives us of everything we do and no matter how many times we do it. How many people will do that?
    It’s time for me to move on as you are unable to write a balanced commentary on anything lately. Don’t blame PW for not being funny anymore because you aren’t either.

    • Actually Debra – I am hilarious. You just lack a sense of humor girlie.

  • You have seen Monty Python’s Life of Brian, right? *Awe.Some.*

  • jan:

    What a sad time for you and your dear children.

  • Priss:

    Jean, I’d be very interested to see how the Bible’s ten commandments encompass the ones that Rechelle gave as her list. Please explain. Since slavery was all through the bible and certainly not frowned upon, I don’t see how no slavery is in the ten commandments. Likewise hurting children since you could (and should) stone your child with impunity if he was disrespectful to you. Wars were a big part of god’s plan in the old testament. Basic human rights were sadly lacking, especially for anyone who wasn’t an Israelite and male. Anyway, I’d really like to hear how you see Rechelle’s list fitting in to the Bible’s ten.

  • CilleyGirl:

    If all of the answers are in the Bible, where does that leave the roughly 65% of the rest of the world who aren’t Christians?

    Seriously, if there were no Bible, would your lives really change? Is that all that stops one from being a good person? Because, again, about 2/3rds of the rest of the planet are not Christian. And let’s not even get into whether a child — say, under three years old — is *really* Christian. That would definitely drop them thar numbers.

    Do you believe, or have you been taught to believe? Some of us think for ourselves and manage not to cause carnage wherever we go. It’s not fear of hell or God’s wrath that is stopping us. Rational thought, maybe that’s it.

  • I second what my k-stater of a mother said :)

    My cubicle neighbors probably think I have seizures every lunch hour because I’m here trying not to laugh out loud so I sort of snort instead and take really deep breaths and chomp on my fist, etc.

    I get a big kick out of the bible thumpers who’s oh-so-delicate sensibilities are offended, too. hah!

  • MarthaB:

    LOL. Now I understand….you drank the Kool-Aide while at KU.

  • 1. Always question authority.
    2. Keep a sense of humor and don’t take yourself so damn seriously.
    3. Be true to yourself.
    4. Do not abuse others.
    5. Live and let live.
    6. Be responsible for your own actions.
    7. Be direct.
    8. Do not manipulate others.
    9. Take care of the ones you love.
    10. Never stop learning or growing.

  • Marcus:

    1) Do not hurt others unnecessarily
    2) Errrr…
    3) That’s it.

  • Ted Powell:

    Debra: You seem to have a real chip on your shoulder and are happiest when attacking others.

    You mean attacks like:
    “I don’t think you fully understand the Bible.”
    “…it is now time for me to leave also.”
    “Wow, are you really that ignorant of the Ten Commandments…”
    “What a sad time for you and your dear children.”
    “It’s time for me to move on…”

    Debra, I don’t think you’ve been keeping track of who’s been writing what. Some people are able to disagree without being disagreeable.

  • Ashley F.:

    Oh no, Rechelle! Now “they” are digging down low for the “you were never a REAL Christian” defense. Clearly if you had ever been a *real* Christian and weren’t such a bitter/misled/chip-on-shouldered/hateful/ignorant/god-complexed somethingorother, then you would see that, despite all the written evidence in their Perfect Book to the contrary, their god is a god of peace and love and harmony. Clearly, god has enough respect for the human race to expect us to behave in ways contrary to both what he does *and* what he says.

    Oh man. People make me laugh.

  • Jan, actually it’s a time of celebration and joy. Her mind has been freed of superstition and unreason. Her life will now be richer, more enlightened and things will make a LOT more sense.

    But so-called “moral” Christian friends will still criticize her, never actually answer any of her questions, and desert her. That will undoubtedly cause her some pain, which is an unfortunate side-effect of living in such a superstitious country.

    I can assure her, though; the pain will be worth it.

  • I can assure her, though; the pain will be worth it.

    It most certainly will. I’d never swap what I have now, free of those evil ideas, to go back to those ideas and those who follow them. Just one experience: I finally had courage to tell someone about the physical and sexual abuse I had endured all through my childhood. I chose to tell my local vicar and his wife, both ardent Xtians. They held a special service for me for which I was touched by their kindness. Until I attended it that is and they asked all present to pray for my forgiveness. I walked out and never went near again, nor any other Xtian church. Today, I am glad they did that because ultimately it set me free. I was in my late 20′s at the time.

  • Jacob:

    Where is all the Christian love? They follow the so called “prince of peace”, but if you leave the fold they turn on you? Am I missing something?

  • It took me a while to settle on my spirituality (notice I didn’t say religion?) once I did I am very happy in myself. I think much of what was said was apropos for the time but may not apply in todays world, but those things that are plain old good manners remain.

  • Liz:

    I like what “English” Colin wrote about having a brain. Rechelle, one of the things you have accomplished is getting your readers to think. As to PW, it is a bit like comparing you with cotton candy – you are are the “all-day” chewy stuff! Keep up the good work!

  • Jayne:

    I’ll ditto Jacob’s comment………

    “Where is all the Christian love? They follow the so called “prince of peace”, but if you leave the fold they turn on you? Am I missing something?”

  • ian:

    Actually, when Jesus was asked which of the ten commandments took precedence over the others he cited not one of the ten but the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which is also from Leviticus.

  • Jill:

    Both Christians and atheists think they’re enlightened. I don’t see tolerance on either side of the issue in these comments.

  • Why would one tolerate evil?

  • That’s funny Ian – I thought he named two – love the lord your god with all your blah blah blah and love your neighbor as yourself.

    Since god is imaginary that is a very silly rule. And it is impossible to love your neighbor as yourself. It’s a nice idea – but impossible.

  • There’s a difference between being “enlightened” in a religion which hasn’t had a new idea in two-thousand years while actively repressing actual thought and enlightened by using your own brain and reason to throw off the shackles of faith which requires belief without evidence, the very opposite of enlightenment.

    Why should any Christian actually feel enlightened? Have they done anything to earn it?

  • Joel Wheeler:

    Jill – tolerance is highly over-rated, is not a noble goal, and is usually a mask for deep intolerance anyway. and being tolerated is not an enriching or pleasant experience. One ‘tolerates’ a cranky newborn on an airplane because one has no choice.

    It’s been my experience that when evangelical Christians tell me that they will ‘tolerate’ my homosexuality, for example, all that really means is that they won’t kill me for it. Mostly because they can’t. But it certainly doesn’t mean that they approve, condone, embrace, or respect me in any way, just that they recognize their inability to force me to change.

    How many, I sometimes wonder, have suffered under the ‘tolerance’ of the good Christian.

  • Jill:

    Well heck, Joel, if tolerance was enriching or pleasant, life would be so easy, wouldn’t it.

    Personally, I don’t care if you’re homosexual, atheist, Christian, agnostic, or whatever. And believe me, that doesn’t mask deep intolerance. You may be right about the motives of people who say they tolerate your homosexuality but what gives? At least they’re being polite to your face. Everyone’s free to think for themselves, isn’t that what enlightenment is supposed to be about? You say they’re judging you, and yet you do the same by assigning negative meaning to their words even if they’re being “tolerant.” Sorry, but people can barely agree on what to eat for dinner, much less core issues like faith and sexualtiy. That’s reality and it’s not going to change.

    I get your gripe with the Christians but they don’t have the market on treating their fellow man in the basest, most evil of ways. That’s a human condition. Sorry tolerance is not as exciting as enlightenment, judgment, indignance, etc., but lack of it really seems to rampant and it absolutely does make a difference in the state of the human race.

  • Jean:

    Priss, it would take all day to explain fully how all but #9 of Rechelle’s list are encompassed in the Biblical one, and I’m not going to waste as much breath as it would require when I suspect you’re really not all that interested, but just in case you do actually have a semi-open mind, you might want first to try making a distinction between instruction and practice. (And yes, go right ahead and use my “condescending tone” as a reason to stop listening. You were most likely going to anyway, and any excuse works. I’ve been in these kinds of discussions before and they all go the same way. But I can dream that listening still exists, can’t I?) What people in the Bible did has no bearing whatsoever on what the ten commandments mean or don’t mean, anymore than the behavior of middle-school students gives a true picture of what the school handbook says. So the existence of slavery or incest or lying or whatever means nothing in a discussion of whether the ten commandments speak to it. That idea (differentiating between ideal and actual, between God and man) matters and it’s why many of the arguments atheists posit (including most of Rechelle’s Abraham ones) are just irrelevant.

    Likewise, you might want to stretch yourself and investigate in more depth some of the prevalent ideas as to what exactly the ten commandments are. Most uneducated people think they’re simple rules for living, but that’s not even a fraction of what most serious Christian theologians would describe them as. Some would go so far as to say that the moral instruction in the ten commandments is secondary to the picture they give of the nature of God–that the commandments define “godness” and apply to humans only in relation to that godness. Iow, the basis for not murdering or not giving false testimony or not coveting is that IN GOD, in his nature, there is no such thing as murder or lying or unfaithfulness or illegitimate authority or disrespect of one’s neighbor or grasping for that which one has no right to.

    Also, each commandment serves not only as specific instruction but as the tip of a much bigger iceberg. An example of this is when Jesus reveals that one can break the “you shall not murder” commandment by saying “You fool” to his brother. (I break that one quite a bit.) The commandment encompasses the greater sense of “hurt and harm” of one’s neighbor, whether it rises to the level of physical death or not. Likewise “honor your father and mother” speaks to the issue of authority, which can be extended also to other areas of authority spoken of in the Bible, including familial, ecclesiastical, civic, etc. This one, I believe, has some bearing on the issue of slavery (although not as much as the first commandment, which has the greatest bearing on pretty much everything in life and on every one of the other nine and without which they make no sense) because it gets to the heart of the difference between legitimate and illegitimate authority. The Bible does identify legitimate authorities (most Americans don’t agree that there is such a thing) but leaves slavery (and war, too, for that matter) as a gray area which becomes less gray when one acknowledges that generally the Bible seems to drastically limit the scope of personal authority. Iow, there are some areas where lines of authority are specified; outside of that, we can’t assume authority. As such, slavery falls under the “not specifically allowed” heading and therefore would NOT be condoned by the ten commandments, especially if one has the understanding of slavery not as “a social institution by which goods and services are exchanged” but as “complete and utter ownership” of another human being. The ten commandments allow complete and utter ownership of NOTHING; that’s what the whole “you shall have no other gods” thing means. “You shall not steal” also speaks to the issue of slavery. In Luther’s explanation and re-statement of this commandment as a positive rather than a negative, he says it means to help one’s neighbor (that would by another human being) to “improve and protect his possessions and income” which slavery obviously does not do since it allows a slave no possessions or income. But the point is that GOD is a giver; he gives that which is to our benefit. His concern is not with bleeding humans dry for his gain; neither should ours be.

    This is getting too long and I wouldn’t blame anyone for giving up by now, but the only way you’re ever going to understand another viewpoint on what the Bible says about stoning and war is if you get the difference between rogue individuals and the “state.” Israel was a theocracy. That was their form of government. I know that doesn’t sit very well with most anti-authoritarians and atheists (pretty much the same thing, I’ve noticed), to have government and God tied together like that, but it’s a crucial distinction. Stoning was not revenge or child abuse (And do you seriously think “stoning your child” meant stoning a two-year-old?), it was a lawful judicial sentence, not based on a whim but on proper channels of government authority. It was the death penalty ENACTED BY THE GOVERNMENT, which received its authority from God as a way to do justice and deter evil, sort of like what government is supposed to do now but doesn’t. “Justice” would be another great thing for you to research. Modern understandings of it don’t come close to capturing what the Bible means by that concept.

    But to get back to your original question, war is prohibited in the ten commandments in that a nation of persons perfectly following them would never have reason to go to war against another nation perfectly following them. The standard set by the ten commandments is perfection–war doesn’t exist within that setting in the same way that marital unfaithfulness (including any unfaithfulness by Christ toward his “bride” the church) or disdain for a holy God or stealing don’t exist. We fail to achieve that standard, though, and that’s why God sometimes allows humans to wield “the sword” within a context of lawful authority and why wars (just or unjust) sometimes happen–when there’s lots of evil going around, sometimes you have to pick the lesser one, and sometimes the lesser one turns out to be pretty horrible and not anything like the perfection called for by the ten commandments.
    Of course, “you shall not murder” speaks to life and death issues like war, although killing in war is not at all the same thing as murder in the same way that the death penalty, enacted as a just consequence by a legal authority (whether you agree with it or not), is nothing like somebody deciding she hates her neighbor and can darn well off him if she feels like it.

    As for harming children, by now you maybe can see how “you shall not murder” (according to Jesus’ definition of it) applies, as does Luther’s explanation: “do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need”, prohibiting us from inflicting any wound on another, including of course a dependent child, and how the issue of legitimate authority raised by “honor your father and your mother” would lead us to care for and protect the “least of these” instead of doing whatever we want to them as if we own them and God does not.

    Which brings it all back to a holy God, who, contrary to the ugly thing Rechelle and others twist his actions and words into, and who could by rights use his holiness to harm us, is so profoundly FOR us that he refuses to allow us to sit in our self-righteous stew and rot. But I guess some people are so mad that they didn’t get to create the world the way they wanted or make people in their own image and tell them how to live that they just can’t see him as anything but a rival. That’s sad and ugly and beneath the human race–IF there’s a God, that is. If there’s not, no worries. But at least argue against God with integrity instead of this cheap caricature crap.

  • marewood:

    Catholic here. I learned as a child that the greatest commandment is love whatever your belief or non-belief. We all have our opinions and feel the need to make others see our point of view. Maybe that “love” is allowing our neighbors, friends, bloggers to have their faith or opinions without criticism. Read or don’t read, but have you noticed how many posters keep coming back to say their piece?… kind of like driving slowly past an accident. We’re all gawkers at heart.

    Off the subject, has anyone else noticed the date and time of the latest postings are a little futuristic? Isn’t it the 9th? or have I lost a day?

  • Katherine:

    applause applause…hahahahaha…what fun that was to read.

    For decades the 10 commandments have pissed me off .. I mean Really? Reeeeallly? Really? Of all the wise advise that could of been handed down for all of eternity…these were picked..that’s what happens when men meddle in other peoples life.

    I treat others the way I want to be treated.
    I hurt no animal unless they jump out and scare me, then my instinct for survival kicks in and I can’t be held responsible.
    Kill no one…except in self defense…again the survival thing…
    Don’t take what’s not yours to take.
    Respect those that deserve it.
    Never ever never speak baby talk to confuses them and could be harmful to their development
    Enjoy life as you only get to go around once

  • Martha in Kansas:

    MarthaB, it couldn’t have been Kool Aide at KU. Doncha know, KU has an iron-clad contract with the Coca Cola Company?! No Pepsi products and certainly no Kool Aide.

  • Ted Powell:

    marewood: Off the subject, has anyone else noticed the date and time of the latest postings are a little futuristic? Isn’t it the 9th? or have I lost a day?
    It’s 8am Wednesday the 10th in various places on the western side of the Pacific. It would seem that the server’s time zone has been set there, deliberately or otherwise.

  • Nickki:

    Just a couple questions–if one does not believe in the existence of God, on what does one base any sort of moral standards? If there is no God, why have any moral standards at all? Shouldn’t we be following Darwin’s law of survival of the fittest? If we have no soul, what difference does it make how we treat anyone or anything?

  • Priss:

    Jean, I read through all you said. You sound like someone who has thought and read about this a lot. And you sound like a decent, moral person. But what I see in what you said is going backwards from what we now consider moral behavior to make it fit into the ten commandments. God gave very detailed instructions to Moses on lots of things, down to what color cloth to use in the tabernacle. He gave very detailed instructions on how to treat servants and prisoners and that witches should be put to death and many, many, many other things. And yet, with these ten commandments, god leaves out a whole lot of important details that you and Christian theologians think are included. Everyone gets a vote in the ten commandments? Sorry, but I don’t buy it. Thanks for taking the time to answer me though. I do appreciate that.

  • Jadehawk:

    oh, this was funny. and so true, too. banning slavery and rape should have been AT THE TOP of the list, considering how prevalent both are and were thorough history.

    instead, you get instructions for how to sell your daughters into slavery, and how to treat your slaves :-/

  • Nickki – You have opened up a can of worms there. But really – if you need god to be your moral guide – at least the god in the bible or the god of Islam – you are looking at a morality of extreme evil. All that hell, war, tyranny, slavery, genocide, misogyny, the bible condones and encourages it all. Evil people will be evil regardless of their religious beliefs and good people will be good regardless of religion too. We have civil laws that have nothing to do with religion and these laws were invented by humans – not god. They are also far more effective and meaningful at maintaining order and peace than any religious laws.

  • Joel Wheeler:

    Nickki, the short answer is as follows: A functional moral standard may be effectively constructed on a single pair of principles.

    1. minimize unnecessary harm
    2. maximize joy

    The basis is human happiness. The ‘morality’ that you feel could not exist without God is more aptly termed ‘righteousness’, meaning adherence to God’s alleged will. Morality and ethics have nothing to do with God.

    Google ‘euthyphro dillema’

  • Jacob:

    Nickki, that’s simply foolish. Because A. the god of the bible does not follow it’s own rules( don’t spew that garbage about god having different rules, either make them up and follow them or don’t do either.) and B. It isn’t in our best interest to go around rape/murder/kill from a nature stand point, we figured out a long long time before the bible had been thought of that if we work together we achieve more. Now that we’ve gone over the obvious I’d like to ask you a question. If morality is only given to those who follow religion, explain Elephants and Chimps. Elephants mourn for their dead, visibly grieving for a period of time, same goes for Chimps. Both show compassion/love ect ect all without being able to read your magic book.

  • Jean – uh… could you please explain how your definition of ‘stealing’ refers to slavery and so evidently that was a no no – but then just a few lines down ‘god’ is instructing his people not to covet another person’s slave? WF? But I was happy to learn that it was NOT OKAY to stone a two year old. Thank goodness for that! At least wait until the stubborn little tyke is three.

  • Jadehawk:

    nickki, do you only do nice things for people because god told you to and you don’t want to be punished?

    that’s the morality of a child. adults are capable of empathy and reasoning, and therefore understand that if one doesn’t want to be hurt oneself, the best way to accomplish that is to live in a society where it’s considered taboo to hurt others.

    Also, you’re comitting the naturalistic fallacy if you claim non-believers “have to” follow Darwin’s “law”; for one, there are no such laws; evolution is descriptive, not prescriptive; and two, just because something IS a certain way naturally, doesn’t meant it OUGHT to be that way among civilized humans.

  • scd:

    First, that was a great post.

    Second, that is hilarious about ALL THE MEANING we are supposed to “read into” the 10 commandments. God sure was obtuse for somebody dealing with a horde of illiterate people. Did he expect them to go to theology school in the desert to interpret all that, or to wait thousands of years for someone to explain? (Too bad they’re dead now, they missed out.)

    Third, what’s up with all the people, here and on April’s blog, feeling So Sorry for April? Who shunned her sister? Who took the link off their blog to their sister? The Christian sister. That’s some way to treat family–shunning. Oh wait, that’s the Christian way. Shunning. Rechelle shares her Christian sister’s blog but April doesn’t share her atheist sister’s blog. You figure out who is tolerant. Or which one I’d pick to be my sister.

  • Braulio:

    Jean said

    “The ten commandments allow complete and utter ownership of NOTHING; that’s what the whole “you shall have no other gods” thing means”


  • Ted Powell:

    Nickki , are you claiming that you didn’t have any moral standards until you started going to Sunday School/church? Didn’t you learn anything from your parents?

    My parents were descended from a long line of people who prospered because, among other reasons, they behaved well. People who don’t behave well tend to (that’s “tend to”, not “necessarily”) leave fewer descendants.

    Doubtless many of my ancestors attended church, but I suggest that in most cases they picked up good moral standards from their parents long before they were old enough even for infants’ classes at the church. As did their parents before them.

  • Sabazinus:

    Bravo Rechelle. Your list makes far more sense.

  • LucyGolden:

    It’s so much fun reading others comments…

    One of the things that “gets” me about Christians – Some feel that they can lie/cheat/steal/generally be dishonest & not be repentant because, glory be! because they believe in Jesus, they’re forgiven…Isn’t it just better to live a good life in the first place just becuase it’s the right thing to do?

  • amishpromqueen:

    I always find it amusing that when you don’t agree with anything in the Bible, or any other dusty religious tome, you are chided for “not reading it with an opening, loving, accepting heart.” (read: don’t think about it, just obey. Also read, you’re doing it wrong.) I guess it makes them feel better about themselves. Whatevs. Rape, incest, slavery, pedophilia, torture, murder, etc, etc…I guess I just was never was good at being opening, loving and accepting. Unless I’m supposed to believe Jesus was God’s big do-over. Anyhow, I’d rather follow Rechelle’s 10, plus Kelley’s “don’t be a moron.” Sounds like the basis of an enlightened life to me. You’ve got another new reader here! Thanks for your honesty!

  • speedwell:

    Rechelle, just remember who is joyfully encouraging you to use your mind and follow your heart, and who is pissing their pants because you aren’t unquestionably adhering to their desperate Doctrine.

  • Kristin:

    Bravo Rechelle. Jeepers, many of these so-called-Christian commenters are totally validating my teenager’s commitment to atheism. Do you people LISTEN to yourselves?

  • Jill:


    where’s the link on Rechelle’s blog to April’s blog?

  • Spinny:


    scroll up to the top of this page. You see that box on the right that says “Coal Creek Farm”? It’s right under the blog title banner thing.

    If I’m not mistaken, Coal Creek Farm is April’s blog.

  • Wow! It is scintilating writing like this and the one about PW that will generate 20 million hits a month and significant ad revenue.

    keep it up!!

  • Jill:

    Spinny, thanks.

  • Kimberly:

    So…what does that say about somebody if they need to have some sort of eternal reward to be a good person? Additionally, then what does that say about atheists, etc. who are good people without needing that ‘eternal reward’?

    I’m glad my own morals aren’t shaky enough that they depend on the existance of an imaginary being in the sky…

  • Nadine:

    Jean…it seems like it’s not that all of Rechelle’s commandments are wrapped up in the original ones, but more that they’re wrapped up in you and the apologists who have tried to make an ancient text match our modern sense of morality.
    It’s within all of us, god or no god.

  • Jill:

    Kimberly, here’s another question – what would a moral person believe is the best way to treat someone who has a different set of beliefs than themself? Or lifestyle or sexual orientation?

    Is it to respect their point of view or to deride it because it doesn’t agree with their own?

    What’s the point of someone trying to claim the moral high road while simultaneously mocking another’s beliefs?

  • Inga:

    Pass the popcorn please.

  • Jean:

    Priss, you’re welcome. Thanks for taking the time to read it. I agree that there absolutely is a chance that later readers of the Ten Commandments “put into” them what they want to be there, (just like there’s a chance that atheists do the same) but there’s also a chance that it was all (and more) there to begin with and we’re all coming short of understanding it in our own unique human ways. But I think it’s great that humans of every generation have the privilege of trying to sort it out. I don’t begrudge anyone that or their right to express their conclusions sarcastically. It’s just kind of nice if people try a little harder to research and explore more fully the thing they so blithely and vehemently reject. I don’t exactly call Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens theological heavyweights, but do any of you who go gaga over them ever read any rebuttals? Or do you think your own bit of biblical education is more than sufficient to evaluate the arguments? (Not speaking personally to you, Priss, but “you” in general.) That seems like hubris to me unless you prove you’ve got somethin’ besides a few stock atheist phrases and childhood bible stories.

    But, again, Priss, thanks for listening! I’m not out to convert anybody–I just like it when people keep thinking instead of all this “I’ve arrived at enlightenment, let’s all rejoice” hogwash.

  • Jean:

    Rechelle, I don’t speak Aramaic or Hebrew, but if you did and your audience was people of the ancient near east, what words would YOU use to communicate “those who work with you to help you keep food on the table” to those people? It seems like the Hebrew equivalent of “manservant and maidservant” or even “slave” would work. So what? If I say “Don’t covet your neighbor’s slut of a wife” I am choosing words I know will communicate to my listeners exactly who I mean based on what they know, not saying anything about whether she should be a slut or not or whether he should stay married to her. You’re arguing piddly little stupid stuff and straw men. Your arguments will be stronger and your conversion story more compelling if you actually grapple with something of substance. I wish you well in it. I’m going to cut out now, though, because this kind of stuff is like a drug to me and I really, really don’t have time for it right now. Peace!

  • Anoria:

    As I’m sure you intended, I take issue with your 9th commandment. The rest are sound ideas for helping humans get along with each other and be happy and productive. “No gods at all” is just vindictive and reactionary. Faith can inspire people to do great things, even *outside* the organized religion that you’re so violently opposed to. Outlawing belief in any god – or would you like to extend it to anything supernatural? No ghost stories? No Santa Claus? No pagan earth spirits? – is on par with telling people they have to believe in one specific deity. Nobody has the right to tell people what they should or shouldn’t believe in, and that includes attempting to outlaw faith because you don’t think people can be trusted with it.

    One of those basic human rights that you wish to guarantee is to have a choice in what you believe. You and I have chosen not to believe in any gods. Neither of us is in any place to tell someone else they must do the same.

    In short, your commandment 9 is in direct violation of commandments 5 and 10 (actually, your whole blog recently has been in violation of #10. I understand it’s an initial reaction against having been done-unto in a way you didn’t like, but eventually you have to grow out of that and start respecting your fellow human beings again). Please rethink your priorities with respect to human morals, and present a revised version.

  • OK, now you have done it. You made me dust off that special item I was saving for ‘the right time’ !

    Your fine contribution (and valuable comments!) to sanity makes this the right time. I hope you comment on ‘Ten Commandments
    of GodStone’ and double-back with a link.

  • Twin-Skies:

    “Though shalt not bear false witness”

    I remember one Christian fundie saying that it was actually better if families did not lie to protect Jews from the Gestapo and Waffen SS, since lying would be a sin.

    That was disgusting.

  • Ron:


    I found your site through one of the atheist blogs I follow. Congratulations to you on your “deconversion” — I’m looking forward to reading more about your experiences as an “out” atheist. I’m glad you’ve turned the comments back on, as it’s been fascinating to read the reactions of different readers.


    I can see why theology is an interesting subject. It takes a lot of work to interpret parts of the bible in a way that is coherent and relevant to today’s world. As an example, the bible is inconsistent when it comes to slavery, given how both sides of the slavery question in the U.S. used the holy word to bolster their arguments.

    I’ve read a book-length rebuttal to “The God Delusion”, and found it to be unconvincing based on its assumptions and weak logic. This idea that one needs to be a “theological heavyweight” in order to credibly criticize theism and religion is addressed in the parable by PZ Myers called “The Courtier’s Reply”:

    Did you reject (Islam, Hinduism, LDS, etc) after carefully reviewing all of the scholarly works regarding the various sacred texts and teachings?

  • Jean-has a talent for bamboozling.Don’t fall for it.
    I have long thought there is something seriously amiss with those who believe they can have peace in Heaven whilst others, our fellow humans, are suffering. Example: how could Rechelle’s ‘Xtian family imagine they could be in peace in Heaven whilst Rechelle is burning in Hell? What sort of person could even think such a thing, let alone accept it.

  • Rechelle:

    Anoria Darling – Do unto others… yes – if every single day I sat down and wrote mindless tripe, earned millions for it, while taking revenue away from other people – I hope someone would raise a holy stink about it. That would be called “doing unto others as you would have them do etc etc etc” I would never want to suspend the human ability to critically think, and make judgements about what is worthwhile and what is stupid. And I would never take away their right to say it. Good grief! Should every book review, movie review, product review be positive? Is no one allowed a dissenting opinion? Do we all have to adore Sarah Palin too? What about Obama? What about Clinton? What about Brittany Spears, If we see public figures being stupid – can we not comment on it? The ability to discern between what is ‘edifying’ and what is not is one of the great things about being a human being.

    If there were no god – almost all wars would cease immediately. Religion does not have to be the only thing that inspires people. Thank goodness scientists are not motivated by religion but instead by curiosity or we would all be dead from small pox and this conversation would never have happened.

  • Jean -

    In the spirit of others here, allow me to ask you one question – just one – that not a single theist has yet to answer:

    Why is it that the bible (and thus everything in it) is the Holy Word of God… and the Koran, the Upanishads, Richard Bach’s Jonothan Livingston Seagull, and Hop on Pop are not?

    Why do you not worship Vespacian, who was also said to have healed the sick and raised the dead in his role as Rome’s emperor?

    Could it be you were raised to believe the Bible is ‘holy’, instead of the book actually being any sort of inspired word? Is that even possible? If it is, how can you be sure it isn’t true?


    BUT. On to the ten commandments! Howabout these (all borrowed from other sources):

    1. Take the time to know, with a mind open enough to discard falsehoods rather than cling to them when they are revealed.

    “What are the facts? Again and again and again—what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars fortell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history”—what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!” – Heinlein, as Lazarus Long.

    “Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin — more even than death…. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.” – Bertrand Russell

    “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” – Yet more Lazarus!

    2. Understand Liberty as a concept, and uphold it.

    3. Live mindfully. The only ‘sin’ is to live a life that, upon death, made the world a worse place than it was before you got there.

    4. Take responsibility. Never be afraid to claim what you have done, even if the results were unintended – live in a way that minimizes regret.

    “When the need arises—and it does—you must be able to shoot your own dog. Don’t farm it out—that doesn’t make it nicer, it makes it worse.” – Lazarus Long, yet again.

    5. There is nothing wrong with fear, as it is a useful sign of risky endeavor. However, be courageous. You cannot live well without risk.

    6. Smile. Even at its worst, life is precious and beautiful – even when tempted to forget that, it remains true.

    7. Do not suffer fools. Bear in mind that ignorance is a curable state in those with truly open minds; fools are those that loudly proclaim how open their minds are while, at the same time, utterly ignoring everything that may actually change their world view. They cannot be saved, and trying is tilting at windmills. Of course, Don Quixote made a career of such things.

    Beware that you never become a fool. The litmus test, of course, is ‘given evidence, will I change my mind?’ If you ever answer ‘no’, you’re a fool.

    “I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn’t wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine.” –Bertrand Russell

    8. Love, Laugh, and Live. Love wholly, love unwisely, love carelessly, love ceaselessly – love all of that part of this world that is good and just and beautiful, if only for the fact that it is, indeed, good and just and beautiful. Laugh, because it is from laughter that life gains value. Live wholly – which means existing in the moment that is now, a moment that may stand on the past and look forward to the future – but is only NOW. Right now. That’s all you have. Make the most of it.

    “And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

    9. Never forget that tomorrow the triumphs and tribulations of today will be past. Neither rest on your laurels, nor bemoan your past problems. This wastes time.

    10. “Thou shalt remember the Eleventh Commandment and keep it Wholly.” – Lazarus Long (The 11th Commandment is: Mind Your Own Business.)

    THERE. Done. Or something. :)

  • Noelle:

    Have loved John Prine since the 70′s – thanks for the clip. Maybe if he started a church I’d be interested.

  • To me the only unforgivable sin is a closed mind. A closed mind cannot change so any error remains.

  • km:

    i always found the Desiderata soothing. It has a God mention at the bottom but more of a “whoever that may be” type vibe.
    Also Rechelle I would love you to do a post on dissent in the US.
    Why are our opinions so stratified? Why can a Repub not criticize a Republican, a Democrat a Democrat? Why do so many sound like kids arguing over their favorite Jonas brother when they talk about politics.

  • michael:

    Rechelle, I have to say I am shocked by the comments of your (former) Christian friends. Jesus challenged his own flock to question conventional thinking, yet these people who claim to be followers of jesus are ready to drop you the minute you start to think for yourself. This is typical of the indoctrinated mind, no matter what the nature of the indoctrination. I think you’ll find in the end you’ll gain more friends than you lose. I for one, while not a friend in the strictest sense, have had a similar shift in my thinking and can completely relate. I find your blog riveting and will be glad to add to the chorus of support. Yay for free thought!

  • km:

    re: Michael – In that spirit I recommended Velvet Elvis to Rechelle. I was lucky enough to be encouraged to question, question, question without fearing damnation. I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be to be so shackled by an all or nothing religion

  • Nickki:

    Not real sure of posting etiquette, but hoping to try and answer some people who commented on my earlier post.

    Joel- really trying to wade through euthyphro dilemma, but I see problems with a lot of it. In my opinion, it is a lot of talking in circles and not truly understanding the nature of God. But, I am trying to read it all! I am not as bright as Rechelle and I have to think about stuff longer.

    Jacob- no it isn’t in our best interests to go around harming others, but who is to say that that version of morality is less valid than yours? I’m sorry, but the elephants and chimps thing isn’t about morality at all. Having empathy isn’t morals, it’s more an emotion. Also, chimps cannibalize each other so that argument doesn’t stand up.

    Ted and Jadehawk-I am simply asking you to seriously consider on what basis do we have any standard of morality. If we have no ultimate standard of morality, then we cannot argue with anyone who’s standard is different than ours. Who is to say they are wrong and we are right? There is no basis.

  • Nickki-NO ONE ‘truly understand the nature of God’!!!!! You fall at the very first hurdle. Only hubris could account for such a belief.
    Empathy just an emotion? You really are very limited if you think that.

  • Ted Powell:

    Nickki wrote: Ted and Jadehawk-I am simply asking you to seriously consider on what basis do we have any standard of morality.I gave you an answer, which you have failed to address. I’m not saying that you were obliged to—just drawing other readers’ attention to the fact.If we have no ultimate standard of morality, then we cannot argue with anyone who’s [sic] standard is different than ours. Who is to say they are wrong and we are right? There is no basis.Which “ultimate standard of morality” do you support? Shari`a Law? Mosaic Law? Nickki Law? Playing “my standard is more ultimate than yours” is a game unlikely ever to have a satisfactory conclusion.

  • Jadehawk:

    Nickki – I have answered you question: Adults with empathy understand that not wanting to be harmed means creating a society that doesn’t allow harming others.

    And that’s it. There is no magically inherent “good” and inherent “bad” thing. the only thing you can do is see if what you’re doing is harming people; and if it is, then it’s wrong. if you have a whole belief/moral system that’s hurting people, then your whole system is wrong, too. that’s how you know. it’s really as simple as that.

  • Lindsay:

    Katherine – In Linguistic circles, what’s known as “Motherese” (AKA baby-talk) is generally considered to be beneficial to language acquisition as it emphasizes syllabic and inflectional subtleties. It is also used universally by adults in every culture and cross-linguistically.

    In related news – I’ve been looking everywhere for a good take-down of the ten commandments which I always thought were weak and uninspired – even when I was a Christian.

  • Nickki:

    Colin-I did not mean to imply that I fully understand the nature of God. I meant that the philosophical arguments that I am trying to digest as suggested by another poster fell short in even beginning to understand God’s nature. And I still don’t see how empathy is related to morals and isn’t more related to emotions.

    Ted-Your answer was that you learned morals from your parents. I am asking though from where do any standard of morals come? Our parents have them and teach them to us, but what is the basis? How do we know our standard is better than any one else’s? I am not trying to play a game, I’m really not. I am just trying to talk about how apart from God we don’t have a way to say that this moral is important and that one isn’t. There needs to be a foundation and we don’t have that without an ultimate standard that we can point back to.

  • Jadehawk:

    oh yeah, and I have one more thing to add: even religious people take their morals mostly from this understanding of not harming others, and what their society thinks it means to not harm others. Christians didn’t stop believing that slavery was ok because Jesus came down from heaven and declared it: they did it because society as a whole has come to the realization that slaves are humans, too, and therefore mustn’t be harmed and treated like things. Christian morality has been evolving over the centuries, just the same as the moralities of other, non-christian societies have. it was not chiseled in stone (hehe) thousands of years ago as it is today, and then remained the same.

  • Nicki I meant that the philosophical arguments that I am trying to digest as suggested by another poster fell short in even beginning to understand God’s nature.
    This only repeats the same mistake. You DO imply clearly that you have some understanding of God’s nature or else you wouldn’t make this claim.
    As for needing God to give us morals-whose God? My conscience would not allow me to behave in the manner the Koranic God does nor the Biblical God or any other God I have heard or read of.
    Do you need to be told, under threat of eternal damnation, that doing to others that which hurts you is bad? Only a person who is deficient in brain ability needs to told that what hurts us would hurt others. I suffered terribly as a child and I didn’t need anyone to tell me not to do others what was being done to me. I think there is something lacking in those who do and who need a ‘boss’ to tell them what to do. I heard a missionary once who worked with the starving and dyeing and she said she did it for Jesus which I found shocking. In my naivete I assumed she was doing it because she cared for the poor wretches but she was doing it for herself to secure her place in Jesus’ affections! Very sad. It still helped those she helped, but it didn’t help her. She was still the self centred person she always had been.,

  • Ted Powell:

    Nickki wrote: Ted-Your answer was that you learned morals from your parents.No, that was only part of it. You missed (or failed to get the significance of) this bit:

    My parents were descended from a long line of people who prospered because, among other reasons, they behaved well. People who don’t behave well tend to (that’s “tend to”, not “necessarily”) leave fewer descendants.

    You may find John 15.2 instructive. Or not.

  • Debbie:

    Actually, folks, there are 613 commandments in the Bible, not only 10. But whose counting…

  • You had me right up until the “no gods at all” thing. Enforcing atheism can be just as oppressive as forcing a specific religion. Perhaps “respect the beliefs of all people, even if you do not share them” would be better.

  • Respect the right of all people to believe as they wish. That is NOT the same as respecting people’s beliefs. How can one? It is also not right to suggest that one ought to. Am I expected to respect the belief that people of colour are not as worthy as white people? No of course not so why expect anyone to respect a religious belief? Yet another piece of nonsense from those who wish to have their beliefs rule.

  • Jane:

    Wow, Nickki, you seem to have a really difficult time wrapping your head around the idea that it’s possible to have morals without religion. Let me take a whack at addressing this:

    I was raised without the influence of church.

    I was taught to think about the consequences of my actions.

    This is where empathy comes in; by considering how other people feel, I can choose to act in ways that will have the most positive effect on the greatest number of people around me. So yes, empathy is a *huge* part of morality. (It’s called, not being a dick.)

    Living in a society involves making these judgement calls every day. I believe that I am responsible for my own behaviour, and that I am obligated to treat the people I encounter at least as well as I would want them to treat me. (I don’t like when people are dicks to me.)

    Central to this idea are a couple of key points:
    1) a belief in basic universal human rights. We are all equal, we all suffer, we all wonder, we all feel.

    2) trust in my own good judgement, accountability for my actions.

    And because I believe that when I die, my corpse will rot, I cherish every single second of every single day that I live on this amazing, beautiful planet. I tell my friends and family regularly how much they mean to me.

  • Clay:

    Jill’s comments are the most interesting here, because they are about the way people treat each other. She says both Christians and atheists think they’re enlightened and she doesn’t see tolerance on either side of the issue in these comments.

    So what does “tolerance” mean in that context? Surely it is not intolerant to hold a belief that is different from what someone else believes. And it is not intolerant to state the reasons that you think the other person’s belief is wrong.

    But it is intolerant to reject them as people, which is why Joel has a valid point about the issue of homosexuality. The attitude that people have assumed through their religion is a rejection of homosexuality, and indicating that they “tolerate” his sexual orientation communicates a rejection because it is part of what he is. In fact, they are intolerant of him as a person, no matter how they frame it. I don’t think it is a matter of “assigning” negative meaning at all; the meaning of their words is quite clear. And no, “being polite to your face” it is not polite when it says that you tolerate them.

    Mockery is another issue. There is a lot of that among these comments. It is mostly mockery or derision of religious beliefs, and in that respect it is comparable to Christian attitudes about atheists beliefs. Is this intolerance? I think it is not when it describes beliefs, but it is when it passes moral judgements about peoples beliefs. The domain of religion is a structured moral code, which it applies in detail to human conduct, so it is much more commonly intolerant than among the non-religious, although we see examples on the other side here also.

  • This is the best posting I have read all year! Kudos to you, and whether you like it or not, I am forwarding the post to everyone I know and then some. You crack me up and make me grin like a fool. Thanks!!!

  • Danii:

    While I do agree with one reader that no one should enforce atheism either (personally, I think “No invisible person in the sky/ground/bag of cheetos should rank over real live human beings when it comes to your actions” works a little bit better, I very much like your list.

    Further, to anyone who says that you didn’t read the 10 Commandments with an ‘open, loving heart’, I say that that is EXACTLY what you did. You looked at an archaic, unsatisfying list that is part of a set of laws set out by men for various purposes over the ages and you saw with your heart, with the part of you that cares for children, for those who were (and are, unfortunately human trafficking is not in the past!) enslaved, for those who have been raped or murdered, for women who have been oppressed, for peoples who have been attacked for their beliefs or the lack of them. You looked with your heart, and your empathy, at a code that has been used to harm others and is still being used to harm others, and I commend you for your courage (and your empathy) and your thoughtfulness in putting together a ‘new’ list.

    By the way, if you can get your hands on it, I would recommend getting a copy of this movie: as it has some really intelligent, interesting, and even hilarious things to say about the human condition, and religion. Bill Maher might not be your cup of tea (he’s not really mine all the time) but it’s a really good watch.

    Take care, be well, and keep rocking.

  • Rechelle, my last post was too flip, so I want to expand a bit, because there is an awful lot of careful thought going on here. I find your newly-discovered mental freedom a beautiful thing, and I am so glad that your cloud has been lifted, for that is what I consider the yoke of religious doctrine to be: a cloud of obfuscation and myth, of fear and obtuse intimidation. ‘Believe THIS or else suffer the consequences!’ It worked in the Bronze Age, so why not now?

    How tired and trite. I run into this buzz saw every time I post a counterpoint to my very religious friends Facebook entries… they simply cannot believe that anyone can function without the scriptures tattood into their frontal lobes. ‘INCONCEIVABLE’, they cry… their very bedrock is shaken at the thought of anyone without god in their lives, first and foremost.

    Although raised Catholic as a child, my world opened up when I read Arthur C. Clark’s ’2001- A Space Odyssey’ and then saw it upon release at the movies. I think I was 12 or 13 years old, and I was dumbstruck… the whole concept put forth by Mssrs. Clark and Kubrick made infinitely more sense than the crazy dogma that had been drilled into my head by the nuns in catechism school. From that moment… and I remember it at 53 years old as if it were yesterday… I have never looked back into the darkness that is religious belief.

    Natch, I don’t deny that belief is important to many… hey, whatever blows your hair back, right? I just rail at the quest believers have to instill, indoctrinate and intrude their regressive philosophy into every aspect of our lives. It just sucks, but try to complain and they begin to scream ‘RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION!!!’

    So… welcome to the light, young lady. Thank you for this place to converse… I am new to your site but will no longer be a stranger, because I like it here!

  • my version of the commandments…very simple my dear….simply indeed

    1. LOVE

    thats it…that is all…..just………

  • Susan:


    You’re my god!

    Another new regular reader,

  • efrique:

    Did you ever see the George Carlin routine where he dissects the Ten Commandments, throwing out the redundant ones (the ones implied by the others), and the ridiculous ones, and summarizes them all down to two actually useful commandments?

    If you google on George Carlin Ten Commandments you’ll find it. It’s very good.

  • Boy I thought I had people attacking me when I posted about people who were anti adoption (….I refused to print the negative ones because they said I “stole my child” and called me the “c” word.

    You are a brave woman….you had to know all this @#$% was coming…the comments are interesting….What is it…never discuss religion, politics or ….hmmm…

    Just because I am a Christian doesn’t mean I can’t read someone else’s point of view and then have to beat them up for it.

    I like reading others points of view as long as they can be civil.

    I love this…now a follower!

  • Brian:

    This is one of the best takes on the ten commandments I have ever read.
    You are right, god missed a great opportunity to prevent abuse.

  • Posted by Grimm -

    “Jean –
    In the spirit of others here, allow me to ask you one question – just one – that not a single theist has yet to answer:
    Why is it that the bible (and thus everything in it) is the Holy Word of God… and the Koran, the Upanishads, Richard Bach’s Jonothan Livingston Seagull, and Hop on Pop are not?
    Why do you not worship Vespacian, who was also said to have healed the sick and raised the dead in his role as Rome’s emperor?
    Could it be you were raised to believe the Bible is ‘holy’, instead of the book actually being any sort of inspired word? Is that even possible? If it is, how can you be sure it isn’t true?”

    Jean, I hope you don’t mind me stealing your thunder.

    Grimm – Seriously? No theist has ever answered that question for you?

    Faith. Belief. Hope.

    Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the flawless recitation of the words of Allah to his prophet, Mohammed. Therefore, Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the Holy Word of God, similar to the Christian belief regarding the Bible.

    Muslims think Christians are reading the wrong book, Christians think Muslims are reading the wrong book, and it seems that you believe that both are reading the wrong book, seemingly because they’re reading a book at all. That’s your belief… Hey, man… That’s cool.

    But the reason the Bible is the Holy Word of God for me is because I believe it to be the Holy Word of God. I’ve read it, I’ve tested it out in my own life, and I’ve come to a place of faith as well as reason – a reason I fully expect you don’t understand, and a faith I can already tell you already don’t hold in high regard – that works for me. I am satisfied in my belief that there is a God, that Jesus Christ was His Son, and that He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. You choose not to believe that. That makes me sad, and I hope that God reveals Himself to you in a way that you can’t deny. I hope that, when presented with the evidence, you say “yes” to changing your mind. I’d hate for you to be a fool by your own standards.

    But hey, that may never happen, either.

    But Pascal’s Gambit makes a whole lot of sense to me. (Grimm, you seem to be a very well-read person, so I’m going to explain it for the benefit of any others reading this.)

    There are two possibilities in the universe: either there is a God or there is not.

    There are also two possibilities in life: living as though there is a God, or living as though there is not.

    So that presents us with four distinct possibilities.

    1. There is a God and you live your life as such.
    2. There is no God and you live your life as though there is.
    3. There is a God and you live your life as though there is not.
    4. There is no God and you live your life as such.

    Possibility #1, which I subscribe to, carries with it the benefit of “eternal gain,” as Pascal says.

    Possibility #2, which most atheists believe to be my state in life, still really isn’t all that bad. If Christianity – the true, honest form of the religion, defined in James 1:27 as follows: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – is my life model, then I’m still going to be a really nice guy, loved by the majority of the people I come in contact with, focused on loving others and just not being a jerk. When I die… Well, there’ll be a lot of people at my funeral, even if I’m not going anywhere except underground afterwards. So I believed in a God that wasn’t there… So what? I guess it makes me an idiot. But I was a really nice idiot, and hopefully the lives of at least a few people were improved by my idiocy.

    Possibility #3 – Well, it really sucks to be you, doesn’t it?

    Possibility #4 is a life completely unrestrained by eternal consequence, guided only by temporal and personal morality. This can be a life of absolute hedonism, stoicism, altruism, anything… Doesn’t really matter, since once you’re dead, you’re dead, and there’s nothing else the matter to do with you ever again. So leave a legacy, leave a crater, or just leave… Doesn’t matter, have fun.

    So… I’m banking on #1, personally. And that’s also why I believe the Bible to be the Holy Word of God. It makes sense to me. It doesn’t have to make sense to you. I can’t see how it doesn’t… But that’s just me.

  • Pascal’s Gambit implies to me that you are not a good person at all but a scared one who is just hedging his bets.
    By you, I mean many, not you specifically. It fails to take into account that people are good and treat others well even if they don’t believe in a God.
    I might be as thick as s**t because the Bible story makes no sense to me whatever. I have the ability to reason, and being free from the fear damnation for making the wrong choice, I reject it.

  • Colin – couple of things…

    #1 – “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom,” so… Yeah, scared into becoming good is a pretty OK way of looking at it.

    #2 – No, it really doesn’t fail to take moral non-believers into account. That’s actually exactly what I said in Possibility #4, when I pointed out that a life of altruism is possible. It’s up to personal moral choice. Since the morality has no higher root in that mindset, it’s perfectly possible for someone’s individual morality to be completely withdrawn from any theological implications.

  • 1. behaving well because you are too sacred to do otherwise is not being good. It is being scared. It does nothing to alter one for real.
    2. the book you, in YOUR judgement, which is what your faith is actually in, your own judgement, has no more authority than Noddy and Big Ears, other than that with which you have endowed it.
    Your faith is not in God but in yourself and your own judgement.

  • Jadehawk:

    “There are two possibilities in the universe: either there is a God or there is not.”

    well, actually that already is completely and utterly false. once you’re willing to entertain the possibility of invisible and unevidenced beings, the sky’s the limit of the number of possible ways you could be wrong (but there’s always only one correct answer).

    or as homer simpson said: “suppose we’ve chosen the wrong god. every time we go to church we’re just making him madder and madder!”

  • Colin -
    1. Actually, you’re wrong. Look up Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. All morality begins at a level that is based entirely on the fear of punishment, then moves to a position of self-interest, followed by social norms, then adherence to the law for the sake of the law, then advancing to an understanding that mutually assured “good” behavior – good morals – can benefit everyone in a society, and finally culminating with the idea that morality is good for its own sake, and that adhering to the betterment of all humanity is the right thing to do. So… Yeah, fear does a whole lot of things to alter one for real.

    2. That’s what faith is. I’ve decided – by my own judgment – that there is a God, and that I believe in Him. You have your evidence, I have mine. You think I’m crazy, I think you’re blind.

    Jadehawk -
    OK, fine, let me restate my entire position for the convenience of your inability to see past the words on the page:
    “There are two possibilities in the universe: either Christianity is right, or it isn’t.”

    Does that work for you? Because no matter what other possibilities you present now, it all still boils down to Christianity either being right or not being right. So… Is that better for you?

    G.K. Chesterton once said, “If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.” How very, very, VERY right he was!

  • Jadehawk:

    “There are two possibilities in the universe: either Christianity is right, or it isn’t.”

    that is still what is called a false dichotomy. you’re presenting two choices as if they were the only choices, without any evidence that this is so. and this is important to the understanding of Pascal’s Wager. the wager is about limited choices vis-a-vis unlimited consequences. it means that with a limited set of options that have potentially unlimited consequences, it ALWAYS pays to pick the option which offers limited punishment and unlimited reward; but when the options are as unlimited as the potential consequences, the probabilities that were in favor of the one option shrink to zero. it’s a statistics/probability thing, not a “faith” thing. don’t bring out arguments you’re only superficially familiar with.

    “G.K. Chesterton once said, “If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.” How very, very, VERY right he was!”

    nope. if there were no theists there would be no atheists. btw, I’m an aleprechaunist, too. does that mean leprechauns exist? what a silly argument.

  • I think Kohlberg is wrong. From the earliest age, I knew that to treat others as I was being treated would be wrong because surely they would feel as I did. Fear had nothing to do with it.
    I didn’t once say you were crazy nor do I think it. I think had you been born in a different society you would be just as rigid in your belief of whatever that society’;s main belief was. In other words, had you been in a Muslim country, you’;d be a fundamentalist Muslim because the need for such rigid thinking is within you, not without.

  • Andy:

    I’m ok with rights for KSU fans, but not for the beakers. MIZ!!!

  • Jadehawk -
    Alright, you wanna talk probabilities, let’s talk probabilities.

    There are only two possibilities when considering Christianity – it is either 100% right or it is 100% wrong. There is no middle ground afforded even within Christianity. Since Christ makes claims of complete exclusivity, if there’s even 1% wrong, that blows the whole argument.

    I never said that Christianity is the only option for what’s right. I did say that if Christianity is right then everything else is wrong, and by extension of that, if anything else is right, then Christianity is wrong. So… Again… Either Christianity is right or it isn’t. Those are the two possibilities. If Islam is right, Christianity is wrong. If atheism is right, Christianity is wrong. If Flying Spaghetti Monster-ism is right, Christianity is wrong. So… Again… Christianity is either right or it is wrong.

    And here’s the thing about the Chesterton quote…

    If there is a God, an Atheist is someone who does not believe in that God.

    If there is no God, an Atheist is still someone who does not believe in God.

    Now, if Atheism is correct and God exists merely as a construct of man’s own design, then Atheists are still non-believers in that construct, but since there’s actually something there for the Atheist to not believe in, the concept of God must be acknowledged as a reality. Notice that I did not say that God must be acknowledged as a reality, but the concept of God.

    So if there is a God, an Atheist is still defined by the non-belief in that God (or other gods).

    But if there is no God (or other gods), an Atheist is still defined by the non-belief. The Explicit Atheist position is a rejection, it is not substantive on its own. But even in the case of Implicit Atheism, as soon as a question of God or gods is brought up, the position taken on a god, God, or gods, is entirely dependent upon the existence of the notion of theism at all.

    Colin -
    Really? From the earliest age? So there was never a point in your development where you believed that everything you saw was yours, fully understanding personal ownership for yourself but not yet understanding personal ownership for others?

    You must have been one heck of a baby.

    You’re honestly denying personal moral development? Even as a child, you just KNEW right and wrong the same way you KNOW right and wrong now?

    I am impressed.

  • Jadehawk:

    Aaron, let me guess, you’re of the school of statistics where everything is a 50-50 chance: either it’ll happen, or it won’t


    and incidentally this is just idiotically wrong: “if anything else is right, then Christianity is wrong.”

    WTF is “everything else”? you’re thinking in false dichotomies. are you even able to realize this? apparently not.

  • Do you recall being a baby?

  • Natalie:

    I love how these “Christians” who are defending the bible attack you, your family, and your blog. I thought Christians were supposed to be loving? Does “turn the other check” sound familiar?? Everyone is entitled to their opinion and all you haters really are just hypocrites. I just found this blog and LOVED this post! You have gained a follower :-)

  • Kayla:

    I liked yours best! I have probably added “be yourself, not what “god” wants you to be”. your really inspirational. Please wright more and forgot what all the haters are saying.

  • Beebs:

    Man. Wow. Shoot. I really like Rechelle and want to have a beer with her and talk about kids and husbands and stuff. I’m worried she’s getting all angry and bitter and falling in with the wrong crowd! God? I don’t care if she believes or not! She’s funny as heck, I have a feeling she’s pretty nice and a good friend and mom…

    I just hope she doesn’t go too far with this anti-God stuff because a lot of her friends are pro-God and I’m not saying they won’t be friends with her for that reason. But that she might be starting to really hurt their feelings.

    Rechelle, I don’t know you, so didn’t address this directly to you. Just trying to express my reactions to your blog lately, in case you care! (And wow, there are some mean “Christians” out there! (and not a few mean atheists, too!))

  • Ryan:

    i stumbled across your blog when you wrote the former christian apology letter. I loved it!!! It was very interesting to see someone else’s point of view regarding those topics.
    I am a former church goer, stopped going around 15 when I realized that I never had the feeling or belief and that i needed some hard, concrete evidence. i never got it…

    as for my 10 commandments, here goes: (best list i could put together on a whim!)

    1.) Love

    2.) Laugh

    3.) Learn

    4.) Eat, Drink (lots!) and be merry

    5.) THINK! think before you speak, think before you do, be
    rational and logical. USE YOUR BRAIN! (most people don’t…)

    6.) “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

    7.) Question everything. (ask questions, question authority, question the meaning of life…)

    8.) Don’t worry, Be Happy.

    9.) Basic human rights for all. ( i liked this one…)

    10.) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (i kept your #10. i feel that slavery, no murder, and never hurt a child are all contained in this final rule.)

    i hope you enjoy!