When we were little children, we had to obey our parents. Conversations like this are common:
Child: "Why do I have to clean my room?"
Parent: "Because! Now go clean your room!"
Religious fundamentalists haven't progressed out of this child-like authoritarian morality. If God or a representative of the Big Man Upstairs (such as a guru, preacher, or whoever) says to do such-and-such, that's the end of the story.
Obedience is valued above ethics. And that's weird, as evangelist turned atheist Dan Barker says in his book, "Godless."
When someone tells you to do something it is natural to ask, "Why?" Why remember the Sabbath? The bible tells us that we should remember the Sabbath "to keep it holy." The word "holy" means "set apart," "sacred," or "clean" and has nothing to do with "good" or "right."
In other words, this commandment does not deal with ethics; it deals with the superiority of God. When true believers say that something is "wrong," it is because it has been decreed wrong by a "holy" deity, not because there is a good ethical reason.
The child asks, "Daddy, why can't I do this?" and Daddy responds, "Because I said so!" If the commandment is violated, it becomes a crime of disobedience -- the authority figure should not be offended.
For over thirty years I didn't drink alcohol because the India-based religious organization I was a member of said that was a no-no. As I've noted before on this blog, one evening I saw a fellow initiate at a gathering with a glass of wine in his hand.
My judgmentalism got fired up at one glance. "Oh my God! He's gone to the dark side! He's disobeying the command of his guru, who is god in human form!"
Now, I drink a glass of red wine myself most evenings.
At first I felt a bit deliciously devilish. Presently I just feel like I'm drinking a glass of red wine. No big deal. I haven't turned into an alcoholic. My meditation is unaffected. But my HDL (good) cholesterol has gone up a few points, likely because of the wine.
For a long time I didn't ponder the pros and cons of drinking alcohol. I just didn't do it because I was obeying an authority figure. When I started to think for myself on this matter, I decided to uncork the bottle -- along with my mind.
Here's some more quotes from Barker, additional food for thought for those who still believe that whatever Daddy says is what has to be done.
To the theist, punishment is administered by the offended Daddy. Whoever "reproacheth the Lord" shall be chastised. To the humanist, however, consequences, not punishment, happen as a natural effect of the behavior itself. This does not mean that a humanist parent will allow a child to run into a busy street; it means that the moral basis for restraint is found in the traffic, not in the "Word of Daddy."
...We don't send jaywalkers to the gas chamber, or hang children for stealing cookies. Unless... unless you argue from authority and the authority figure decrees, for no good reason, that such an action offends Him. People who believe they are living under the thumb of such a vain and petty lord are not guided by ethics; they are guided by fear. The bible turns out to be not a moral code, but a whip.
...Whether or not you assume the bible to be morally acceptable, the important question to believers is whether or not you accept its authority. In the minds of Christians, authority equals morality. God is sovereign.
...Besides being childlike, the morality-as-authority argument is dangerous. People who do not question authority become easy prey to dictators. Cult leaders can manipulate followers who give them blind obedience.
...Suppose a man were to say to his wife, "Prove how much you love me by helping me rob a bank. And if you don't help, I will beat you." We would call such a bully abusive and criminal. Yet this same bankrupt chain-of-command mentality is taught in the bible: God decides what is right and wrong and if you don't play along you are punished in hell.
Speaking for myself, if the biblical heaven and hell exist, I would choose hell. Having to spend eternity pretending to worship a petty tyrant who tortures those who insult his authority would be more hellish than baking in eternal flames. There is no way such a bully can earn my admiration.