There are four hundred or so comments currently on the story I wrote about earlier, but I’ll just pick on Hot Carl, since it suits the blog:
Therefore if an atheist believes any of the ten commandments to be true they are hypocrites. Do atheists have any morals because if you deny all religion you deny the values that make us human beings and not apes.
My response to that one:
We are apes. Human beings are apes. We may have stopped hanging out in the trees picking bugs off each other but we’re still apes. And even current day forest apes have some form of societal arrangement that benefits their group. I think they’re actually better off than we are in some ways. Since they’ve evolved differently than us, perhaps they lack the capacity to be as stupid as we can be and therefore don’t need to write down all the rules they expect their groups to follow.
I think the fact that we have to write them down and that we seek out supernatural reasons to abide by them is a failing in our species. And I suspect if we were all more like our cousins, there would probably be far fewer of us and the planet wouldn’t be deforested, hemorrhaging oil, or cut into for the pursuit of so-called “precious” metals.
There would still also be dodos.
In terms of commandments, you know there’s more than ten, right? Can anyone honestly say they follow every single one of them to the letter? A pile of them don’t even refer to people living today. They’re rules for the people of the time, dependent on the history of the time, the enemies of the time, and the beliefs of the time. Most of them can be completely and utterly ignored.
That said –
The bits about no idols and no other gods should be chucked – or at least reworded to remind people that worshiping anything that can’t benefit the society in any perceivable way (except counting time wasted) is a pointless endeavour.
Picking a day to rest from work is sensible; making it holy is unnecessary.
Honouring parents is one that probably should have more importance than it does, considering what some kids can get away with these days.
Lying to people can have its uses – would you really want a world where everyone tells the truth all the time? Holy crap. Yet, lying about people is still bad form and should be avoided. There’s a definite line between protecting someone’s feelings and outright libel.
A law against stealing is necessary in a group that insists things can and should be owned. People can’t be, though, so adultery as a punishable crime is out-of-date. People have stopped assuming they can own their spouses but guiding a society toward healthy and stable relationships is still worthwhile, especially if those relations improve the likelihood that offspring will flourish.
Coveting and envy are problems, whether it’s a person being coveted or a car, but it’s a pipe dream to assume some rule against it can be enforced. People always want and people always want what other people have. It’s the whole reason we’ve had an advertising industry to sell beer and cigarettes with billboards and TV spots showcasing good times and gorgeous women. It’s certainly not because the products they’re selling are good for us.
Finally, a law forbidding the killing of others is a good idea if a group plans on expanding its numbers. I think it’s also worth pointing out that you can pick any page of the Old Testament and read about people getting slaughtered. Clearly the interpretation of that particular verse never was “Be a pacifist” but was instead “Thou shall not kill those who agree with you but anyone else is fair game.”
Laws need to reflect the societies they’re built for. We wouldn’t have to continue using ancient religious ideas as the basis when it’s obvious the rules have benefit beyond support of that belief system. A lot of good ideas get set aside because of religiously inspired ethics. It’s far past the time we rely on a religion to tell us what’s right. Surely we’re capable of figuring that out ourselves.