The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

The Ten Commandments: Not Freedom-Friendly

Temporarily
weary of addressing ongoing issues, I decided, for my own amusement, to vent my
satirical spleen, at the risk of inviting charges of “hate speech” by
the likely suspects.
One
of the most infuriating things about conservatives who claim that the U.S. was
founded on Biblical morality and the Ten Commandments is that, like Muslims,
their minds are closed to any arguments to the contrary. They slam shut so hard
you can feel the draft.  So, let’s
examine the Ten Commandments and see if any one of them has anything to do with
our vanishing freedoms. I have used the Commandments as published by the ultra
religious conservative group, Politichicks, in Lydia Goodman’s December 18th
column, “How
Many Laws Does One Country Need? God Says Ten
.”  Their exact wording is not as I remember
them, my having been exposed to them in the Catholic Church in the 1950’s, but
that is a minor point. 
The
10 Commandments
1
–  And God spoke all these words,
saying: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out
of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.
No
problem. There are no other gods before him. Not even God. There’s no queue
outside my door.
So,  Moses parted the Red Sea and talked to a
burning bush, and suddenly hefted a pair of very heavy stone tablets on which were
chiseled the Ten Commandments and which he had to lug back down the mountain.
These are apocryphal fairy tales akin to Mohammad riding a winged horse to have
a personal huddle with Allah and having an angel whisper into his ear Allah’s
own fifty dozen commandments.  There really
isn’t any reason why any rational person should take this Commandment
literally. Especially if he doesn’t subscribe to the notion of the existence of
a supernatural entity that knows all and can do all, and knew what you would do
billions of years before you were even born, but still imbues you with the
“freedom” of choice. Which doctrine should believers believe in:
Predestination, or volition? I’ve never heard an argument that made any sense,
because, among their other faults, fast-talking preachers and priests all try
to reconcile man the hapless pawn of God, with man the being of volitional
consciousness.
But,
theologians and believers will retort: God is above human understanding, beyond
reason, except in one’s heart, and in one’s faith. To know God, one must suspend one’s
mind, because an inquiring mind is an obstacle to belief. And that retort is
largely a legacy of Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant, who wrote reams and
reams of paragraphs in an attempt to save religion from the Enlightenment.
(Kant wasn’t the only one, just the best known.) Trying to defend religion from
reason, he invented a “pure” reason that would explain and justify
the unreasonableness of religion, or why it was so reason-proof and rebuffed
the evidence of our senses in his Critique
of Pure Reason
, by which we have an a
priori
grasp of God that has nothing to do with mere, mundane reason. Here
it is from the horse’s mouth:
HUMAN reason has this peculiar
fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, as
prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but
which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer.
That’s
just in Kant’s 1781 preface.
It more or less encapsulates his theme and subject. He could be brief when he
wanted to. Read the balance at your own risk, but be sure to have a bottle of
Tylenol handy. His oft-interminable sentences are sure to give you a throbbing
headache.
2-
 You shall not make for yourself any
carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is
in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not
bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth
generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who
love Me and keep My commandments.
First
off, this sounds too much like the Islamic prohibition on representations of
Mohammad. However, artists of the Judeo-Christian creeds have played fast and
loose with representations of God. Witness Michelangelo’s rendering of God.
It’s an old fellow with an untrimmed beard and garbed in a nightgown.
Secondly,
I’m guessing that God exempted himself from his own Commandments, because
jealousy is a venial sin, a minor misdemeanor, and forgivable. Very big of him.
“Do as I say, not as I do”? This Commandment is particularly
extortionate, because it reads like a Mafia curse. His iniquity will be visited on
the guilty, and on the guilty’s descendents. The notion fits right in with the
doctrine of Original Sin,
in which one is burdened with sin before one is even born. Adam originated the
sin, and we’re his heirs. Spiffing.
When
I was a young, ignorant kid, I thought that a sin manifested itself as a black
spot on one’s belly. I was continually looking for one, or what resembled an
ink stain, because I was constantly sinning. One never appeared. I have a mole
there, but it’s brown. It’s just a collection of chemicals.
Now,
was God “born” old, or did he “age”? Has anyone ever
attempted an image of God as a Young Man? But, how could he “age”
before he invented time? According to the Big Bang theory, it was just him and
that dimensionless ball of glop that he caused to explode. Was that the
beginning of eternity, or the end of infinity? Go figure. Picture a
consciousness, form and gender unknown – or was there a gender? – floating in a
void in immeasurable time, with only the ball of glop for company. It’s a
prospect and a premise that puts all the recent CGI-rich science fiction films
to shame.
And
whoever said God was male? The feminists have had problems with that
presumption. They have been busy subjecting the Bible to Critical Theory
analysis, trying either to find a semantic or linguistic loophole in Genesis which
claims that God made man in his own image and likeness, or to deconstruct it to
shreds in a revolt against patriarchic sexism and producing some very vitriolic
screeds.
Finally,
to return to Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, what has God got against art,
that is, against making likenesses of things on earth and in the sea? Some of
the greatest art was created in his glory. Surely he couldn’t object to that? (Off-hand
remarks here about Michelangelo, or “Big Mike,” are not meant to be
deprecatory of his greatness as an artist.)
3
– You shall not take the name of the
Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His
name in vain.
Well,
why not? It’s just about the only time an atheist or even a steadfast Christian
will remember God, by taking his name in vain, or in anger, or in frustration,
and curse like a sailor. Further, unlike God, I wouldn’t be offended if people began taking my name in vain. If anything, I’d be flattered. Please, take my
name in vain, as often as you wish.
4
– Remember the Sabbath day, to keep
it holy.
I
remember the Sabbath only because my bank and favorite restaurants are closed.
5
– Honor your father and your mother,
that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
I
can’t honor my parents. They always voted the straight Democratic ticket, and
for Obama, twice. Further, it’s a confusingly worded Commandment. What exactly
had God given me? Democratic parents, or the land and the long days? Will
honoring my parents add years to my life?
6
You shall not murder.
Well,
why not? Give me a reason. Is it because another person’s life isn’t another’s
to take – that is, the person owns his own life – or is it because it’s assumed
he’s God’s property, and taking his life would amount to really serious larceny
and put the kibosh on God’s own plans for the person?  God notoriously does not tolerate interference
with his divine plans. He can be very, very wrathful.
7
You shall not commit adultery.
Again,
why not? If your spouse has turned into a prune-faced anchorite utterly hostile
to divorce and about as romantically exciting as Norman Bates’ mummified mother
or Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera, where else is there to turn?
8
You shall not steal.
And
not steal what? The limelight? The scene? The ball? Someone else’s real
property? Commit plagiarism? Please, someone give me a reason other than God’s
officious, persnickety say-so. This and the other Commandments come out of
literally nowhere, from the void of faith and belief. Has the Federal government
heard of this Commandment?
9
You shall not bear false witness against
your neighbor.
I
guess this is God’s dictat against lying. But why limit it to neighbors? How
about unneighborly tax collectors, criminals, and feminists? I say bear as much
false witness against them as the traffic will carry. Has Barack Obama heard of
this Commandment? There are forms of this Commandment in the Koran, but maybe he just skipped over
them in Indonesia.
10
You shall not covet your neighbor’s
house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his
maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

Envy doesn’t necessarily lead to covetousness, or even to theft or illegal
appropriation or pilferage or shoplifting. Some dyed-in-the-wool Christians
argue that this particular Commandment is the sole foundation of capitalism. No
wonder Karl Marx was dead set against it. He was wrong, too. The foundations of
capitalism – indeed, of freedom of speech and of thought and of property – can
hardly be the arbitrary assertion of a ghost or even of a genuine mortal.
Of
course, Christians won’t give up trying to wed freedom and religion. A case in
point is a column, “Ayn Rand and Jesus: Do they teach opposing viewpoints
about economy?” on BeliefNet,
in which, incredibly, the writer asserts that there can be a moral
“overlap between an atheist and a Christian.”  
Among other things, there can be
overlap between an atheist and a Christ follower in discovering truth.
 Jesus would disagree with Ayn Rand that there is any morality outside of
God. He might tell her that she hasn’t traced her absolutes back far enough to
an objective reality.

I would like to have seen Jesus say that to Rand’s face and leave the room in
one piece. On the other hand, she was such a formidable and persuasive debater
that perhaps Jesus might have wound up an atheist.
Religion,
she noted, was (and remains) a primitive form of philosophy. In her March 1964 Playboy interview,
she said:
Faith, as such, is extremely
detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason. But you must remember
that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to
explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a
code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed
enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very
valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to
inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very—how should I say
it?—dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith.

By way of illustration, religion can be compared with the stick men children
first learn to draw; a fully rational philosophy, absent any form of mysticism
and reliance on unsupportable assertions, should then lead them to create the
likes of Michelangelo’s “David.
But modern philosophy has so failed men in their search for a “coherent frame
of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values,” that they are
doubling back to the primitive form of it because it seems to make more sense
than, say, Existentialism or Nihilism or Marxism. One can’t really blame them. Look
at what Existentialism has produced in the way of a representation of man:
there’s Rodin’s
“Walking Man,” and Giacometti’s.
Not much of a choice. One can sympathize with them, but not ally oneself with
them, except on an ad hoc basis.  
Faith
in the existence of the supernatural, and even in the
“extra-rational,” has been a stumbling block all throughout man’s
history. And it has proven dangerous. Faith in a supernatural giver of laws has
become faith in a statist and totalitarian system that promises paradise on earth.
But it can only attempt to deliver that paradise by employing faith’s necessary
partner: force.
And, as Rand so well put it:
I have said that faith and force
are corollaries, and that mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality.
The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is
the only objective means of communication and of understanding among
men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective
standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural
means of knowledge, no persuasion, communication or understanding are possible….And
more: no man or mystical elite can hold a whole society subjugated to their
arbitrary assertions, edicts and whims, without the use of force. Anyone who
resorts to the formula: “It’s so, because I say so,” will have to reach for a
gun, sooner or later.
No,
there is no “overlapping” possible between reason and faith. Any attempt
at it will result in the triumph of faith, as exemplified in the porous,
virtually tongue-in-cheek rationalizations one can read on BeliefNet, which is
no defense of freedom at all. Faith can give one the illusory comfort of a
comprehensible universe – or, more often than not, lead to the horrors in
history and those taking place in our own time.

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1 Comment

  1. Kizone Kaprow

    "Has anyone ever attempted an image of God as a Young Man?"

    Indeed, why are there no movies of Jesus as a teenager? "Jesus — The Teenage Years." I would pay up to eight dollars to see that film. That is, if the Perpetually Indignant did not first succeed in getting it banned.

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