SOME THOUGHTS ON ETHICS AND RELIGION
“If God does not exist, everything is permitted” is attributed to Dostoyevsky’s Ivan Karamazov. Did he mean that it is impossible to have a moral code of conduct without believing in God? In fact, one could argue the opposite. True ethics exist only in the absence of an authoritarian and watchful God. For of what value is good behavior if it stems from fear of punishment or hope of heavenly rewards?
Ethics evolve when people have emancipated themselves from external diktats and internalized the values they have absorbed from their parents, teachers, mentors and other influential individuals in their life. That is what is meant by leaving childhood and becoming adults.
So then shall we reexamine the Ten Commandments in that context to see how much relevance they have today? They definitely need dismantling.
–Let us first get rid of the three in which an irascible and capricious God enjoins us to obey only him.
–Some commandments should become optional–Keeping the Sabbath and honoring your father and mother. That is up to each one of us to decide.
–Covetousness and adultery are certainly undesirable but not sinful.
–Killing, stealing and bearing false witness have now entered the criminal code and therefore are redundant.
Having smashed the tablets, we need to proceed to building our own set of values. I have identified six commandments for myself and would like to know what guideposts other people have decided on.
1. Thou shalt not be cruel and hurt others deliberately, whether humans or animals.
2. Thou shalt not betray anyone’s trust.
3. Thou shalt not force thy beliefs onto others.
4. Thou shalt not be greedy and accumulate wealth at the expense of others.
5. Thou shalt be solely responsible for thy actions and not blame thy parents, genes or environment.
6. Thou shalt get rid of the concepts of sacredness and blasphemy. No people, places or objects such as relics are sacred. All are subject to questioning.
These then are my six commandments. What are yours?
Good thinking! Actually, what are called the Ten Commandments appear twice (with some variations) in the Hebrew Bible: Exodus 20:12-14 (on Mt. Sinai) and Deuteronomy 5:6-18 (on Mt. Horeb). The major difference between the two is that in the latter, the reason given in #4 for keeping the Sabbath is not that the creator rested on the 7th day, but that he liberated the Hebrew tribes from Egyptian bondage. It also, in #10, adds one’s neighbor’s field to the list of items not to be coveted. However, neither one of these versions is explicitly named “The Ten Commandments!” That honor… Read more »
Thanks for the information on the commandments. I used a streamlined version so as not to lose track of my point : they need revision.
My father had quite an influence on me. He didn’t believe in God, but he always stressed the Golden Rule. That would be the closest to a Commandment that I could come up with, and believe me, I haven’t always followed it.
Even the golden rule has its detractors–fussy people I suspect, saying: how do you know how other people would like to be treated?
Good point, Simone! Although I’ve never heard anyone say that, I have no doubt but there would be someone out there who would! It’s just such a simple idea,the Golden Rule, but covers a lot of territory! And, I like it because it does not get too academic.
gotta go with number 4…thou shalt not exploit others to greedily amass more than you could possibly need and thou shalt assume some social responsibility…McDonald’s workers make a not-enough-to-live-on wage, while McD’s amasses billions in profits? Really? And is it necessary to go into other countries and fatten their citizens? Seriously?
There should probably be something in there about helping others less fortunate than yourself, but the problem with that is the same as #4, which is how do you define the appropriate amount of help just as it is hard to define what is the appropriate amount of wealth. This exercise shows how hard it is to write a rule that one can always apply. That is why I like decency and common sense as guidelines, but how would you ever write a rule about those?
Hmm, how to “define the appropriate amount of help…(and)…what is the appropriate amount of wealth?” Fellow named Marx had one definition (in gender-exclusive terminology, unfortunately): “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”
How that might work requires too complex a disquisition, but it’s an interesting goal for a humane humanity…
hasn’t that been tried?
Having thought about it some more, I would simply add: “Thou shalt help those less fortunate than thyself.”
Very good. Someone else suggested: help thy neighbor also.
I think that the premise of Simone’s current blog is that there is no God. As I don’t share that position, I obviously will have a different take on these things. The more work I do in my field of astronomy, the more I see an incredibly beautiful, complex design and implementation of physical laws governing an amazing universe. This leads me to believe in some supreme being. The more I learn about the world, the more support I see for the records in the Jewish books of the Torah and the New Testament being factually correct, and not just… Read more »
Whether people like it or not, God EXISTS… Jesus Christ WILL return… Better are the positions who trust in him or atleast keep their mouth SHUT & acknowledge that they don’t know rather than tampering with His (perfect) laws for the benefit of the whole humanity… Good & patient explanation given above… But I’m very impatient towards these “gods” who try to win an audience…
This is foolish even if the fools says god doesn’t exist the very fact that you have a concept of god its self proof that god exist you cannot denied something that exist because the very fact that you say god doesn’t exist you have the concept of god and second every man is born of having the concept of good they know what is good or bad for there neighbor whether you want to destroy him or help him that on your freedom that god like a father respects your freedom
Just treat everyone the way you would like to be treated.
Ok, so lets test this with a thought experiment: I love flowers. I love flowers so much that my dream is to be surrounded with flowers and I’d love to work in a flower shop or in a nursery that produces flowers. To receive a gift of flowers makes me supremely happy. With that in mind I make a point that when I visit someone I give a gift of flowers. Problem is that one of my friends has an allergy to flower pollen and it’s such a serious allergy that she is in misery during certain seasons when the… Read more »
I totally agree with Dales’s comment.
God “exists” or “does not exist” is a matter of belief as neither can be proven wrong. But my problem is with the concept of “GOD”. If he is the creator, if he is all knowing, if he is all controlling (also over our minds) and if all of us are his children; then the world that we live in or the way it had been for the past 3000 years puts serious questions on his capability and intention. Its is easy to overlook evil by saying “Its his will”; but which “GOD”/father will willfully sit and watch(omnipresent) killing, rape,… Read more »