Right here, God says you're a jackass!
As we all remember in our last episode, we covered the four God commandments. You know the ones that instructed humanity what not to do against God, those terrible sins by which you, personally, can hurt the feelings of the Lord of the Universe, the prince of peace, the big guy himself. Unfortunately, as my readers know, I simply couldn’t answer the riddle of how anything we did, anything at all, would ever be of harm to an omnipotent deity. We are like yeast cells to him and ask yourself, has yeast ever really made you mad or made you cry? Ever??
I suspect the answer to God’s hurt feelings just doesn’t exist and like all the other puzzles of similar ilk lying within these pages, theists will insist we file it under the “Mysterious Ways” heading and never look directly at it again. If we don’t think about it, it won’t bother us. See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil. Well, I’m a speakin’! Ignorance isn’t bliss; it’s just goddamned ignorant. Is that really what we are striving for here? I think not, my little buttercups! It’s my philosophy to pull all the assorted trash out of the closet and see what trite little trinkets it really consists of. Speaking personally on those first four commandments, I’ve gotten better advice off gum wrappers. And Simpson episodes? They are veritable tomes of human wisdom. The Lord my God in-frakking-deed!
But this episode, boys and girls, isn’t about those God Commandments. It’s about the human ones, five through ten, the back of the bus regulations. These are the laws meant to protect us from ourselves or, to be more accurate, each other. Now again, let’s take the Christian argument that the Ten Commandments are the very basis of our legal system today. Well, obviously the first four have nothing to do with any recognizable legal framework at work in America today, but the Fundamentalists could argue that our system with its vast number and variety of laws, restrictions and regulations is based innately on the next six. We’re going to do an in-depth check on that little fallacy right now.
By the way, I in no way mean to imply that any fundamentalist would ever consider those first four to be unimportant. Obviously, they would place respect for their bloody-handed God at the very top of their rigid pyramid of order, far above any respect for those things merely human in origin or, for that matter, those mere humans themselves. History is chock full of Christians massacring those who didn’t worship their God, who worshipped their God in a differing manner and those who worshipped their God in nearly identical ways but who owned a lot of cool shit that the first Christians wanted. If you hold your God first, ordinary people matter little.
In human affairs, the first commandment really should have been greed. The rest you could have just made up as you went along. Much like they did.
Onward you non-Christian soldiers for there are people to enlighten.
We start with commandment five: Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
Most of us who grew up with this directive have placed it in the background and never really thought about it. Of course you’re supposed to honor your father and mother. Duh! But after doing quite a bit of reading and thinking on this, my opinion has metamorphosed some. This is likely to be the most socially progressive commandment of the ten. The original intent here was not to insist on respect of people who may not even deserve it. It was an edict demanding that you take care of your parents even when they have become old and no longer economically useful, a kind of mandated and wholly privatized social security system. If everyone takes care of their own, there will be less poverty, starvation and misery. The logic for a primitive society is hard to argue with.
Overall, I’d have to give this commandment a thumbs up. In the interests of truth, however, I also have to point out that I do not get along well with my own parents. As any long time reader of this blog is aware, my atheism has strained our relationship to the breaking point. I believe I’m out of the will completely by now and when they find out about the Blessed Atheist Bible Study, it’ll be over for sure. So ironically, the one commandment I respect the most is the one I seem unable to follow. Damn my blackened and withered soul!
The next commandment is too important to be anything but the climax of my case so I’m going to skip number six for now and plunge into seven: You shall not commit adultery.
Ooooh! Well, we do see this mating jealousy even in the animal kingdom, monogamous marriage, driving away potential rivals and the like. This whole concept is a veritable foundation of evolution for we want our genes passed down, ours alone, not the genes of slick talkin’ Leisure Suit Larry over there. But at the same time if we can slip one in on the side and get Jim-Bob there to raise one of our kids as his own… Well, you can’t deny it happens and evolutionarily it’s still our genes.
It’s morally reprehensible but common. Evolution certainly favors an ethics system but hardly a perfect one. It uses a game theory of life: that which will get us ahead will be favored but not to the exclusion of other strategies. Evolution and ourselves are always hedging our bets. Both cheating and loyalty have some success. However, civilization is also dependent on stepping away from our animal instincts and forming something a bit higher, a new moral zeitgeist so to speak. We need to rise above thinking with our groins. Will this be successful? I’ll have to get back to you on that, but I’m pretty sure a moderate level of adultery will ensue well into the future no matter how high we rise.
Just to be clear here. I don’t favor adultery and have never even cheated on a girlfriend let alone my wife, ever, and seriously frown upon those who do. Nonetheless, I am quite aware of humanity’s foibles. Of course, if you use that old Fundy chestnut that if you have lusted in your heart then you have committed adultery then I’ve sinned on a daily basis. Though in my most humble opinion, what’s lusted in the heart stays in the heart. If they want to worship some kind of omniscient peeping tom, that’s up to them, but the sum-bitch gives me the creeps.
Eight: You shall not steal.
This one like the prohibition against adultery is obvious but hardly overwhelming. Killing and stealing and taking women as concubines from any outside group is not just frequently allowed but, at times, encouraged or even mandated. Doubt this? Read Samuel 15 and the God commanded Genocide of the Amalekites. Remember them? Or Deuteronomy 21, 10-14, the official guide on how to take conquered women as sex slaves. But those tidbits lie in the future.
Stealing, like adultery, causes conflict and hard feelings. Societies can only endure so much of these before collapsing and to reduce friction between men, families and clans, rules such as these are put in place. Don’t sleep with my wife. Don’t steal my shit. Any questions? Are there actually societies where these “crimes” are encouraged? They wouldn’t be societies for long. This is a given.
I’m also apologize about the male centeredness of this post but these dealt primarily with men. There wasn’t anything about coveting husbands so ladies… have at it. Just not his ass! But that’s later.
Nine: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Don’t lie. Don’t say your neighbor did something he didn’t. Same as before, this one is a conflict preventer within a small tribe, but a paradigm shift in jurisprudence, it is not. Were the Hebrews lying bastards before this commandment? Not likely! Like all the other people on earth, they told enough truth to keep the tribe together, but also like every other society, I’m sure fibs and fictions weren’t unknown, just discouraged. Hell, just look at the whoppers Moses told. Burning bush, my ass.
Ten, the coveting ban: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey (ass) or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
A prohibition against envy and jealousy while potentially admirable, is hardly the foundation of Christianity-dominated capitalism rampant throughout the western world today. Isn’t the very basis of our consumer culture that we want what our neighbors have, or even better, what they don’t have… yet? Isn’t every ad campaign centered on creating covetousness in its targets? You want this (insert product here). Yeah, Baby! You know you do! C’mon people! We live amongst the most covetous population that has ever existed and who are predominately Christian, yet here is one of the commandments strictly prohibiting what our entire world is based on. WTF!
We have Sarah Palin @ www.dumbbitch.com (Sorry ladies, I couldn’t resist) trumpeting the importance of the Ten Commandments and then swearing she will restart our covetous-rooted economy better than the other guys. Does anyone else see the bullshit laced throughout her and other’s arguments? Are not these opposite and contradictory goals? Has she even read these things? For that matter, can she even read? Hmm? The world does wonder. But who the hell needs to read when you’re so damned cute?
Rants against coveting smack of the Buddhist ideals of giving up greed and desire, and I have to reject this entire notion completely. not that’s it’s been twisted into violence the way that so many other beliefs have, but still. The very essence of humanity is to desire, and, may I say, covet. We work very hard to achieve that which we covet whether it be a toaster from Walmart or the Grand Unified Theory of Everything, the love of our wife or the look of our children. Many things can be beautif to covet. It is these desires that have driven our society upwards to better places, and coveting and desire in moderation are essential to our happiness. Giving up my desires and lusts and… covetations (is that a word?) is equivalent to surrendering my emotions. I’m not bloodly likely to do either, but I’m just as bloody unlikely to surrender completely to them. Moderation!
These flaws make us human and I’m unwilling to become something else at this point. Not that I’m in any position to choose right now… Even so!
Now to return to the big one, Commandment number six: You shall not murder.
Well, goddamn it anyway! I was just getting the rifle out too. Now my afternoon is pretty much screwed! I jest, of course, the rifle’s in the shop, but they gave me this beautiful machete as a loaner, though. More work but the exercise would do me good.
Now, in no way am I ever insinuating that this restriction is not a good and necessary part of legal jurisprudence. In truth, I wish we as a species followed this particular statute more closely. But! But! BUT! Let’s assume this entire fairy tale is true and God came down and handed out the Commandments just as written. It’s not like that law wasn’t already in place in every society on earth. It’s hardly an epiphany, people!
Holy Shit, Jim-Bob! You better put down that bloody-knife and read this! No! No! No! Stop chasing that neighbor boy. The little bastard’s off-limits now!
Thou shall not murder has been on our books long before there were actual books. It’d be quite difficult to build any kind of society in which members killed other members indiscriminately. One of the absolute, most-fundamental prerequisites of civilization is not to kill each other. Think about it! How long would a tribe last if the hunting parties sent out in the morning came back at half strength in the evening? And those survivors returned munching on the human remains of their brothers! We’d not only be uncivilized: we’d be extinct. Even with an intelligence far beyond ours, a species who commonly murders their own relatives would never advance beyond living in trees and killing each other with coconuts. It simply can’t happen!
I’m not saying that the world can’t survive a little killing. It has and does. We’re resilient to say the least. It’s who gets killed that is most important. We seldom kill those who we regard as “Us” but regularly slaughter those we see as “Them”. Christians are forever hedging on the differences between murder and killing, but how else could a Christian ever support war or capital punishment of any kind? How could you have ever justified the mass slaughter of the infidels, so common through out all history, holding high a restriction on killing anyone? The difference between killing and murder is determined on where you draw the “Us” and “Them” line. It’s unthinkable to harm an “Us”, but a “Them”? Well…
In no way, shape or form am I implying that Christians are the only one who have done this. All humanity engages in this type of judgement constantly. We having varying degrees of both “Us” and “Them” and it can change on a daily basis. Islamic radicals blow up the World Trade Center and the whole Muslim religion slips further into “Them”. Certain nations helped us in our War on Terror and they slide closer to “Us”. This constantly shifting perspective lies both on a personal and a societal scale. Our societal consensus of who we see as “Them” is merely the cumulative total of all our personal scales.
If someone is kind they move closer to “Us”. If someone is mean or rude or cruel, they rapidly slide into “Them” As they go further from “Us”, it becomes increasingly easy to commit acts of aggression or violence against them. When a 6 feet 4 inch 240 lb. male breaks into our house at 2:30 a.m., they instantly slam to the far right side of “Them” allowing us to react in whatever way is necessary to protect our family. But at the same time, it has been difficult historically to add people to the “Us” group who are a different color, or who act, sound or seem different. It’s our nature to view differences as suspicious and “Them”. We don’t learn to be racist. We learn not to be!
We must always keep in mind that in spite of our bloody human nature, we need not be ruled by its dictates alone. We can progress, and the progress of civilization can be measured directly by the number of people we willingly place in the “Us” group. All of history could be viewed in these terms. As “Us” groups grow in size, civilization rises. As they shrink, societal progress reverses and we enter a “Dark Age”. One only need look at the rise and fall of the Roman Empire or any other empire or nation to see the truth in this. The very peak of civilization would be for us as a whole to consider everyone “Us”.
Where the hell am I going with this, you ask…? Uh…? Sometimes I do have to wonder myself, but I think this sums up the sixth commandment best. The ancient Hebrews viewed this not as a rigid commandment not to kill anyone, only as a rule to not kill other Hebrews. As with any people on earth, they killed plenty of others, vast nations of others, really. They put their victims into the “Them” category. In their defense, there are very few groups of people surviving today who have not done similar atrocities. It’s the reason they have survived. A little cussed meanness has been a benefit evolutionarily. The meek? Those poor bastards will never inherit the earth, and whoever thought they would is an idiot. Sorry Jesus, but the truth must be said. Without some serious assistance from the strong, the meek are going to have their asses kicked and be buried in forgotten unmarked mass graves… just like they always have been.
I know this is off topic, but I feel strongly here. You ever wonder how a religion based on peace survived all these centuries? You ever wonder why Christians don’t just throw out the Old Testament altogether? These are intricately linked questions. Christianity has survived because at its core is a message of peace to draw people into the “Us” camp, but at the same time it retained the terrible potential and rational for violence contained in the Old Testament. This dual and at times contradictory purposes gave it both the carrot and the stick. Draw some in with the love of the New and smack down those who stand against “Us” with the Yahweh of the Old. Between these two poles lie an unlimited range of action, a supreme flexibility. There is little that lay outside of these parameters for nearly anything can be justified. With this adaptability, it’s no wonder they’ve been around so long.
But strong doesn’t always mean right.
In the world today, our “Us” has grown greatly the last century but I’m not sure we have it in us to go the distance. It seems to me that the fundamentalist ideology, whether Muslim or Christian, stands in our way. They are separators rather than gatherers, destroyers rather than glue. Look at how their churches continue to fragment over such “contentious” (bullshit! (Oops! Did I say that out loud?)) issues as whether to allow gays to serve in clergy or to even be part of the church at all. Look at how Christian fundamentalists have used immigration, gay marriage and the war on terror to divide, not only our nation, but the world. Look at how fundamentalist Muslims have used terror and murder to achieve the same goal. They use hate and fear to divide, and it’s working.
We may be entering a dark age again.
It scares the shit out of me!