So I recently had a bit of a debate about the propriety of having the ten commandments in a US courthouse. In line with my belief that we are and should be a secular nation to as much a degree as possible, I am categorically opposed to the ten commandments being placed in any courthouse in the United States. The argument for having such a document besides say the constitution or the declaration of independence is that it forms the historical basis for our legal system…I say nay. I think for a true discussion of the issue, some of you (especially the heathens out there) may need a refresher on the ten commandments themselves. I will take this from the roman catholic tradition (the commandments are numbered differently depending on your faith).


1.       I am the lord, and thou shalt have no other gods before me and thou shalt not worship false idols

2.       Thou shalt not take the lord’s name in vain

3.       Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath

4.       Honor thy father and thy mother

5.       Thou shalt not kill

6.       Thou shalt not commit adultery

7.       Thou shalt not steal

8.       Thou shalt not bear false witness

9.       Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife

10.   Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house


So lets just take a look at these and see where our legal code fits in. Of course, we have our own version of numbers 5, 6 and 7 but I would argue that it is really a reflection of an evolutionary required and rationally required law that members of the same species should not kill each other or otherwise subvert each other’s well being. Furthermore, the bible is definitely not the first time such  laws were passed down. In deed the Code of Ur-Nammu, predates dear moses by more than 700 years. Lets take a look at the others. Numbers 1 and 2 are specifically made moot by the 1st amendment that says not only can you worship whoever you want, but you have the freedom to blaspheme  everyone else’s gods too. Number 3 was pretty much done in when people couldn’t even agree which day was the Sabbath. Furthermore, modern grad students have no knowledge of the alleged weekend and thus are unfamiliar with the Sabbath in general. Number 4 is a nice thought, but I would guess that most people pretty easily toss this one aside whenever the situation suits them. Number 8 is pretty good, so I will give that one to the 10 commandments, though I have a feeling that it was probably around before moses. It does remind me though, that should I ever be put on the stand I will need to request another book (besides the bible) to pledge my sacred oath on. I’m thinking I might use the Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.” Something like, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you Dawkins.” As far as those last two go, I think they are un-American…what are we if not covetous of things…isn’t that why people get credit cards and the divorce rate is greater than 50%. If they were illegal, think about how many of us would be in jail. So in summation, we have exactly 4 commandments that are truly relevant to our legal system…of those, at least three were coined way before moses ever came off the mountain. Even if we take all four that’s only a score of 40% for commandment relevance…that’s not a passing grade.  Keep your commandments out of my court room. Patrick OUT!!!


1 comment:

Dan Ennis said...

Hi Patrick. I've enjoyed reading through some of your blogs, I'll have to remember to check in periodically. This one caught my eye, as I touched on this topic last year on a page I used to blog on (under the name 'Winston'). It's telling to see how many similar points we made, and frustrating that the problems are not apparent to a wider segment of the population. At any rate, keep up the good work!

Here's the link to my post, if you want to see how similarly we attacked the issue:

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