Thursday, May 16, 2013

Going Wrong with the Ten Commandments

10 Commandments as seen in Muldrow
The Ten Commandments are at least 2,500 years old and are based on ideas that go back much  further in recorded history.  Elements of them appear in many ancient Middle Eastern cultures, including Egyptian and Sumerian. 

Despite their age, they keep showing up in our times.

Most recently, the good folks in Muldrow, Oklahoma were upset when the Freedom from Religion Foundation objected to the Commandments being posted in every classroom of a public high school.  Naturally, many of the residents violated the Commandment against taking God's name in vain with some intemperate remarks.

Some people did watch their language.  According to a published account, a state representative insisted the Ten Commandments were protecting the students from a terrible fate.  "A nation that refuses to allow educators to teach children right from wrong will become a corrupt nation, where sin prevails, evil abounds, and everyone does as they please," said Republican state Rep. John Bennett.

Like Sweden, Japan, Korea and other countries where religion has almost vanished and rank near the bottom on crime statistics?

The United States, home of the brave defenders of the Ten Commandments, is third worse behind Mexico and Estonia with 5.0 crimes per 100,000 people.  Norway, another country with limited religion, came in near the bottom with 0.6 crimes per 100,000 with Japan at 0.5.

To an Oklahoma cleric, the request to remove the Commandments was an attack on his faith, although the Ten Commandments are a Jewish document.  "It's Christianity under attack," Muldrow First Baptist Church Pastor John Moore said. "It was promised in the scripture [that this would happen].” 

Muldrow's t-shirt
The end of the world has been promised, too.  We all know how accurate that forecast has been.

To protect the kids, a local church prepared t-shirts with the Commandments printed on them and offered them at no charge.

Great.  Maybe someone will actually read the Commandments and see how foolish people are to espouse them.

Here they are: 

1.      Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 
That doesn’t work well considering the existence of Jesus, Allah, the thousands of Hindi gods as well as the multiple smaller faiths with their own deities.  By the way, one popular Hebrew name used in the Bible for God is Adonai, which is the Hebrew form of the Greek god Adonis.  Oops.

Violating the Second Commandment
2.Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 
Hmm, so all the images of Jesus in churches aren’t a good thing?  How about the stained glass windows, the small religious statues in homes?  

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.  There goes profanity.  Many of our residents would lose the bulk of their vocabulary.  Even terms like “golly” and “gee whiz” were created to avoid saying “God” or “Jesus” directly, but the intent is the same.  

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
A lot of people go to religious services on a Sunday, but the biblical Sabbath is Saturday.  Maybe holiness means stores are often, and people keep busy.  Another aside:  the Sabbath was created to counter a Babylonian holy day dedicated to the goddess Sin.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
Nothing wrong with that, but in our country, with its emphasis on youth, it’s a wistful thought.

6. Thou shalt not kill.
Oklahoma has the death penalty.  Oops again.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Again, nothing wrong.  However, it hasn’t generated much enthusiasm.  In the last available study available on the subject, in 41 percent of marriages, one or both spouses admit to infidelity, either physical or emotional.  Those numbers demonstrate a huge jump from previous research. 

8.Thou shalt not steal.
No complaint, but theft is commonplace.  Identity theft alone is considered the most frequent, most costly and most pervasive American crime. 

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Good idea.  Lying is not acceptable.  We don’t need the Ten Commandments to teach us that.

10. Thou shalt not covet.
This would complete undermine capitalism, which is based on the idea that you want to get anything a neighbor has.

As you can see, while there’s nothing terribly wrong with the Ten Commandments, they really are out of date.  They have no influence on our lives and wouldn’t if they were inscribed on every building and in every school across the country.

It’s illegal to do that anyway since they represent the beliefs of one faith and put the government in the position of endorsing a single faith. That, in turn, violates the government legal commandment separating church and state.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

No comments:

Post a Comment