The Humanist Ten Commandments

I wrote the other day about Jerry Newcombe’s absurd arguments about the Ten Commandments and I included Christopher Hitchens’ well-known attempt at developing a secular version of those rules. And wouldn’t you know it, the American Humanist Association has a suggested list of their own:

1) Thou shalt strive to promote the greater good of humanity before all selfish desires.

2) Thou shalt be curious, for asking questions is the only way to find answers.

3) Harm to your fellow human is harm to humanity. Therefore, thou shalt not kill, rape, rob, or otherwise victimize anyone.

4) Thou shall treat all humans as equals, regardless of race, gender, age, creed, identity, orientation, physical ability, or status.

5) Thou shalt use reason as your guide. Science, knowledge, observation, and rational analysis are the best ways to determine any course of action.

6) Thou shalt not force your beliefs onto others, nor insist that yours be the only and correct way to live happily.

7) If thou dost govern, thou shalt govern with reason, not with superstition. Religion should have no place in any government which represents all people and beliefs.

8) Thou shalt act for the betterment of your fellow humans, and be, whenever possible, altruistic in your deeds.

9) Thou shalt be good to the Earth and its bounties, for without it, humankind is lost.

10) Thou shalt impart thy knowledge and wisdom gained in your lifetime to the next generation, so that with each passing century, humanity will grow wiser and more humane.

Seems like a pretty good list to me. What I’d like to see, as I’ve said many times, is a monument with a list of humanist precepts like this that can be proposed wherever there are Ten Commandments monuments on public property.

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  • Coming from a different background, I look to the Humanist Virtues:













    I think these get me to pretty much the same place.

  • matty1

    I wish people would drop the use of ‘thou’ in religious or mock religious language. Talking like you’ve just arrived from the 17th Century doesn’t make you sound more solemn it’s just irritating.

  • chilidog99

    11). Be excellent to each other. And… PARTY ON, DUDES!

  • Yeah, I could do without the bad early modern English. I mean, if you’re going to do it, at least refrain from the obvious grammatical mistakes.

  • reddiaperbaby1942

    Sorry, Matty: I taught the history of English (the language, that is) to unwilling college students for many years before I retired, and I’m so used to the second person singular forms I’d miss them if they weren’t there. Just think of Gandalf, declaring to the demon in the mines of Moria: “Thou shalt not pass!” It sent shivers down my back, at least partly because of the linguistic associations. Of course there were also the associations with La Pasionaria in the Spanish Civil War: “No pasaràn!” (My father, born in 1919, had many tales to tell of the Lincoln Brigade, many of them, I’m sure, greatly mythologized.)

    Then there are the Quakers (Friends), who at least when I was younger used the 17th-century forms, but only the “thee” form of the pronoun, not the nominative “thou”. If there are any Friends around on this blog, I’d be interested to know if this usage is still common, or if it’s dying out.

    In any case, I like these Humanist commandments, but I like Gregory’s virtues even better. Greg, do you have a source for these?

  • Wylann

    chilidog@3: Remember the 11th commandment, and keep it holy.

    ….dude. 🙂

  • cry4turtles


  • Alverant

    12) and Don’t Forget To Be Awesome (DFTBA)

  • “Don’t be a dick.”

  • scienceavenger

    Its a good list, although we need a new #8, it repeats #1. Don’t be a dick sounds good to me.

    At a Freethought meeting in Dallas we went on a quest to replace the Seven Deadly Sins with the Seven Sins of Freethought, and here’s what we came up with:








  • I think I see my next cross-stitch project. Think I can fit these on two tablets?

  • dugglebogey

    It would be a lot easier just to cross stitch this:

    “Don’t be a dick.”

  • dugglebogey

    Modus beat me to it! I bow to you sir.

  • iknklast

    Number 9 is too far down on the list. It should be at the top, since without it, we are all screwed.

  • dugglebogey

    I guess I’d like to see something like “Don’t be a dick to animals” in there, but I guess that’s included in #9, sort of?

  • timpayne

    Commandment #6 seems to consign the other 9 to the trash heap, which is exactly where all this pedestrian glop belongs. Humanists with brains must retch when they read stuff like this.

  • @reddiaperbaby1942 #5 – They came from me, actually; that’s one of the reasons I like them.

    I’m an aspiring author. One of the projects I’ve been working on is a science fiction story set about 350 years in the future. It follows a “future history” that includes the soon-to-start Century of Woe (really need a better name) which starts with a splash (a series of mega-tsunamis when an earthquake sends nearly 7 km3 of ice into the Pacific Ocean) , ends with a crash (an asteroid near impact, when a potential planet killer explodes on entry over Colombia and Ecuador) and is filled with several other natural disasters and world wars. This period spawns three religions that have an impact later, when the story is set.

    The Virtues come from one of those religions, Coadunationism (another name that needs work; it comes from a term in zoology that describes groups of migrating animals coming together to form larger groups.) It’s essentially an atheist religion that combines threads from Humanism, Buddhism and Wicca. Its theology is basically, “We have enough to deal with in our current existence; let’s not worry about any other.” Its main premise is that evil arises out of three separations: we have become separated from the natural world, we have become separated from one another, and we have become separated from what it means to be human. It’s approach to life is to end these separations through communion (with nature), community (with one another) and celebration (of our humanity.) These principles are exemplified through the Virtues, which is intended as examples, not as a comprehensive list. Different denominations (after three centuries of development, yes, even the atheist religion has its denominations) have different lists, but the one I gave is the most common one.

    The other two religions, in case you are interested, are the Holy Faith, which developed in northern India as a fusion of monistic Hinduism with various other monistic and monotheistic religions (imagine a Hindu version of Baha’i); and the Children of Gaia, which started as a fusion of Wicca and very radical environmentalism and, while never a large movement, has taken on the role of humanity’s conscience.

  • Michael Heath

    Fixed this one:

    7) If thou dost govern, thou shalt govern with reason, not with superstition. Religion should have no place in any government. which represents all people and beliefs.

    Also, the King James vernacular is not helpful.

  • Akira MacKenzie

    Morality and ethics are far too situational and complex to codify as 10 (or even 100 or 1000) statements. Perhaps we ought to spend more time teaching more nuanced approaches to proper human conduct than wasting it trying to parody our enemy’s glib Top-Ten-List.

  • scienceavenger

    @19 It was marketing then, its marketing now.

  • freehand

    timpayne: Commandment #6 seems to consign the other 9 to the trash heap,

    How so? This list neither forces these values on anyone else, nor precludes the possibility of other value systems or life choices working for other folks.

    which is exactly where all this pedestrian glop belongs. Humanists with brains must retch when they read stuff like this.

    Not my cup of tea either, but it seems harmless enough. Perhaps you need to spend more time in the Happy Hut?

  • wscott

    Just think of Gandalf, declaring to the demon in the mines of Moria: “Thou shalt not pass!”

    Umm…the line from the movie is “You shall not pass.” No fake olde tyme speechification, and no less awesome for it. The book was even less pretentious: “You cannot pass.”


    Sorry, Tolkien pedant is pedantic.