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February 15, 2015


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Came back to your blog after a while, and enjoyed your new posts (and people’s comments).

As you observe, all of these ten commandments are nicely said. I think I’d add a crucial eleventh commandment to make the these ten really make sense :

Eleventh Commandment : We lay zero store by commandments (including these ten here) except in a purely jocular vein. In other words : Thou shalt not take these commandments too seriously.

Here’s why (in other words, hair-splitting time) :

1. As you point out yourself in the main post, the morality commandment is fraught with ambiguities. Including how you define “others”, and how you act when different groups of people have diametrically opposed interests and/or ideas of happiness.

2. The second commandment is very obviously somewhat lacking. It should read : “We HUMANS can perceive the world only through our human senses”, or else : “We can perceive the world only through our senses”. And it should be followed by a second sentence : “We realize that we humans are merely one of very many species of living beings on this planet”.

3. I realize this is an atheist manifesto, and that is why they chose to include that fifth commandment (which reads “There is no God”). But this particular commandment sounds very off-key to me, for two reasons. First of all, when we say “there is no God”, we take upon ourselves the responsibility of defining what exactly we mean by the word “God”. (I mean, you can hardly pronounce that there is no hmblxwrf in your kitchen garden if you don’t know what a hmblxwrf is, can you?) Do we really want to go down that path (of taking upon ourselves the onus of defining what exactly God is)? And secondly, this statement is something of a tautology, a redundancy, given the other nine commandments, isn’t it? If you take the other commandments as your key postulates, then given a particular context (say old man Yahweh peering down through eyes half-crazed with jealousy and rage), this particular “rule” can easily be reasoned out as directly following from the rest. This point is a direct and inevitable conclusion that can be reasoned out, and does not really need to be listed as a separate postulate.

Right. And let me suggest two more commandments to wrap the whole thing up properly.

Twelfth Commandment : Thou shalt not attempt hair-splitting these commandments except in a jocular vein. If thou findest thyself getting all solemn and serious when reading this, thou shalt attempt to reach within thyself to that ineffable thing called humor that resides within with each one of us (or at least, most of us).

Thirteenth Commandment : Thou shalt always say Thee and Thou and Shalt when coining commandments. Because they imparteth gravitas to the weirdest and craziest (as well as the most obvious and trivial) of pronouncements. Witness how seriously so many people have taken the original Commandments for so many years : it all boils down finally to some nifty penmanship (lighning-God-ship?) and the liberal sprinkling of Thees and Thous. (And if anyone finds themselves thinking “But the original commandments were in Hebrew or Aramaic or Egyptian hieroglyphics or whatever, weren’t they?” then go back—I mean to say, take thyself back—and spend some time contemplating the deep, rich and timeless wisdom that is contained within the Twelfth Commandment.)

The atheist ten commandments are reasonable, but I don't see why atheists have the need to proclaim their atheisity in a formal way and make a big deal about it. I guess it is good for the religious to understand that atheists aren't inherently evil for being a non-believer in god.

It's like, "as a member of the Atheist Club I think like this." Why not just go about your business. Just live and what works for you, works. Whether you function morally or ethically has never been a function of religious or club beliefs/tenents anyway. If a person is going to be ethical or a scumbag it seems to me they are going to be that way independent of whether they are religious or not. If they have scumbag tendencies then they will join a scumbag club of some sort, a gang. If they like being nice they will volunteer at a charity or the Rotary or something.

However, there is often this stigma attached to atheists like there is something wrong with them.."Oh, he/she is an atheist, should we invite them to the party? They might do something weird or bad. Maybe they'll scare the kids." But that is only because the atheist proclaims their atheisity. If they didn't announce it, it wouldn't much matter.

It's just that people like to be around people who think/believe like they do. It's natural. Vegans don't like to sit at a table with a roast pig as the centerpiece.

Now if some religious person asks the atheist what their religion is, then things can get dicey, especially if the religious person is an islamo-nazi-murderer. At that point, the atheist had best clear out fast or lie.

5. There is no God.

I would change this to: The theoretical existence of God does not assist in explaining real and observable phenomenon.

Also, I liked another post where you said "Thou Shalt Doubt", and I wish that made it in this list.

I think a stronger argument would be to move beyond the notion of rules, rather than coming up with an arbitrary list. Other commentators have already pointed out the flaws in the list, but just to comment on two that weren't mentioned:

4. All truth is proportional to the evidence.

Evidence does not exist "out there in the world." It is constructed from a particular subject position. My evidence for x could be your evidence for y, depending on how it is understood. Furthermore, this discounts the possibilities of truths for which evidence is unavailable to the human race.

6. We all strive to live a happy life. We pursue things that make us happy and avoid things that do not.

Not necessarily. Some people strive to make the world a better place, regardless of their own happiness. Moreover, avoiding things that don't make us happy can have the effect of limiting our growth and maturity.

I guess becoming an atheist probably means more to some people than religion does.

"We all strive to live a happy life."

Not everyone does. I don't strive to live a happy life. Sounds daft to me!

I prefer a life of meaning but then I suppose when I find meaning in something, that makes me feel happy.


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