Why The Ten Commandments Are Unnecessary

The Ten Commandments are unnecessary as a moral code. This may seem like a bold statement to a non-secular reader, but hear me out. The Ten Commandments are often used as an argument for a be-all, end-all moral “law of the land” and I argue that not only are the Commandments redundant, they are completely unnecessary to a rational, thinking human.

First let’s take a look at the Ten Commandments as they are stated in Exodus 20:2-17:

2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;commandments

3 Do not have any other gods before Me.

4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,

6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

8 Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

9 For six days you shall labour and do all your work.

10 But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.

11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.

12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

13 You shall not murder.

14 You shall not commit adultery.

15 You shall not steal.

16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

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

Or, in short:
1.I am the Lord your God/You shall have no other gods before me
2.You shall not make for yourself an idol
3.You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God
4.Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
5.Honor your Father and Mother
6.You shall not murder
7.You shall not commit adultery
8.You shall not steal
9.You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
10.You shall not covet your neighbor’s house/wife

At this point, I’m going to propose something about what we know as “the golden rule.” I propose that “the golden rule” is a naturally understood feeling in humans. I think humans naturally know to treat others how they wish to be treated. I further propose that any behavior outside of that is taught behavior. It is my belief that humans have an inborn desire to show compassion and are born as good people. I also believe that our natural understanding of the golden rule is proven by societies’ desire to improve and build communities. So this “golden rule” of treating others how you wish to be treated sort of gives us a pretty good moral compass in and of itself just through guiding us to show compassion.

Now let’s examine how many of the Ten Commandments fall under the scope of The Golden Rule:

1.I am the Lord your God/You shall have no other gods before me
2.You shall not make for yourself an idol
3.You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God
4.Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
5.Honor your Father and Mother
6.You shall not murder
7.You shall not commit adultery
8.You shall not steal
9.You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
10.You shall not covet your neighbor’s house/wife

The last six on the list can all be hit with the simple idea of treating people how you would wish to be treated. They’re all “do good, not bad” Commandments. Since I think that showing compassion and treating others how you would wish to be treated are inborn desires, these 6 Commandments can go.

This leaves us with the first four. And you’ll notice that the first four contain NO moral code. They do not contain anything that would determine anyone’s behavior without an accompanying existing law. Let’s look at them separately.

1.I am the Lord your God/You shall have no other gods before me This is the “committment commandment” that all religions have. All religions have something in them that says “You will believe in me and nothing else and if you believe in the other stuff, you’re wrong.” Otherwise, there would be no commitment to the religion and people would be hybrid believers. Any one religion can’t thrive and exist without this one, so as a law of the religion this is necessary. However, as a law of moral code, unfortunately it is not.

2.You shall not make for yourself an idol Sorry, Ruben Studdard. In reality, this is an expansion of #1. If you make yourself an idol, it threatens the authority of the leader guy. Again – necessary for religion, NOT necessary for morality.

3.You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God So I don’t have to say that this one is not necessary for morality in any way. A person can lead a good and moral life using any language they want. This is otherwise known as the “sticks and stones” theory.

4.Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy To be quite honest, I can not think of a single reason why a “holy day” is necessary other than to give people time to commit to the religion. As a moral guide, it does nothing for a person.

Essentially, these first four commandments were never meant to be a moral guide to its followers, but rather a way to honor their creator. The rest of the commandments could be summed up with the words “show compassion.” And showing compassion is an inborn desire.

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9 Responses to Why The Ten Commandments Are Unnecessary

  1. robber.baron says:

    I think you can go a bit further with the “Golden Rule” as a basis of morality though.

    I find that most believers think that because the “Golden Rule” extends across societies, religions, and even non-believers that is undeniable “proof” of God’s existence. Otherwise why would we all share this ingrained sense of morality, justice, etc?

    The point you might want to make is that the golden rule extends outside the species. When two noncompetitive animals meet each other in nature the natural action is not violence or aggression but apathy. They just try to stay out of each others way. This extends across the animal kingdom.

    In more social species there is certainly an increase in a sense of social morality. Even dogs will exhibit a sense of guilt at doing something wrong and a social hierarchy depends on a sense of fairness and justice which is evident in apes.

    The Golden Rule is universal because it encourages life and thus life is inclined to evolve to benefit from this rule. Religion is just a reflection of this truth, not the source of it.

  2. theroan says:

    I’m not quite sure why this posts is relevant to anyone? Is this for Jews, Christians, athiests or just anyone? For anyone other than Jews, Christians and Muslims, of course the first four don’t apply, why would they? For the first three, well its a statement of God saying, “if your with Me, this is how we do things.” Even Christ recognized that the 10 commandments could be condensed to just 2. I just don’t see how you arrived at the conclusion that all “commandments” must be morally related. I’m at work right now, “applications for 2008 go in purple files and the applications from 2007 go in green.” It’s a work rule, procedure and let’s face it commendment, that has nothing to do with a moral code.

    For the other dude, I believe the proof of God in the morality arguement isn’t found in the fact the species will act moraly, but you touched on it with guilt, which is the knowledge of right and wrong. Otherwise we could choose to be civil or fight and it would only be dependent on our own self preservation.

  3. magikent says:

    theroan,

    If one cannot arrive at the conclusion that there is a push for the commandments to be used as a moral guide, then what is the argument to display the ten commandments in government buildings, in front of city halls, courts, etc.?

  4. theroan says:

    I’m not arguing against that, what I am saying that where applicable, a moral code is what comes with the terrotrory of being a Christian, if your not a Christian then it doesn’t really matter to you. In terms of posting the 10 commandment on government buildings etc, I’m with you man, the secular world has no adopted moral world, there are some culturally agreed upon actions that make sure we’re all not sitting on our front porches gaurding our stuff, but your right there would be no reason to post them.

  5. theroan says:

    no adopted moral code is what I meant

  6. Geoff says:

    No wonder the world is so screwed when we have people like you teaching rubbish and lies.

    It is since the Commandments have been removed from public places that things went down hill frther. Is this what you want?

    The Bible says that those who do not teach His law are in hot trouble so unless you change your tune you are in trouble. Wake up man before it is to late!!

  7. matt says:

    the law of the ten commandments are PERFECT!! They are forever just as God is forever

  8. m0k3d says:

    Take a look around…secular society cant adhere to the 10 commandments…Heck, most of us Christians cant neither..

    What you are leaving out as a “secularist”? is God’s JUDGMENT!,The 10 commandments are a necessary standard that we may one day be judged by…

    1.I am the Lord your God/You shall have no other gods before me….money, TV, your car,your bling,etc…

    2.You shall not make for yourself an idol….Mary worship, the rosary beads, (see comandment#1)…

    3.You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God….Its using God’s name in VAIN!…saying “Jesus Christ” or “GOD damn it” out of ANGER!

    4.Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy….This is actually Friday at sunset till Saturday at sunset….most people going to church on Sunday don’t even realize this…$atan fooled them a long time ago!…

    Lets stop there, I pray that you “get it” but you probably never will?

  9. […] https://thegreatrealization.wordpress.com/2008/02/05/why-the-ten-commandments-are-unnecessary/ 08 April 2012 11:11am – Images « 10 Commandments of Church Websites The Ten Commandments Ten Commandment Listing of The Ten Commandments » […]

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