Better Commandments

Better Commandments July 2, 2014

Via John Loftus, I became aware of this list of ten commandments which Valerie Tarico offered as better than the more famous ten. What do you think of them?

  1. This above all shall ye take as my first command: Thou shalt treat living beings as they want to be treated. And the second commandment is like unto it:
  2. In as much as be possible, thou shalt avoid afflicting pain or sorrow, which shall be unto thee my signs of ill and evil.
  3. Thou shalt honor and protect all of creation, for I the LORD have created it that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
  4. Thou shalt have sexual relations with neither human nor beast who chooseth not freely what pleasures thou mayest offer.
  5. Thou shalt not beat the child, but by admonition and instruction with kindness shall teach both wisdom and skill.
  6. Thou shalt do unto members of other religions and tribes as thou dost unto thine own.
  7. I, the LORD your God, forbid thee to own other persons be they woman, man or child; neither shall ye subject any gender nor race one to another, but shall honor my image in all.
  8. Thou shalt not destroy the lands of thine enemies, nor poison their well, nor salt their earth, neither shalt thou cut their shade tree nor burn their vineyard, nor wantonly slaughter the beast of their field.
  9. Thou shalt wash thy hands before eating and shalt boil the drinking water that has been defiled by man or beast.
  10. Thou shalt ask the questions that can show thee wrong, so that through the toil of many, from generation unto generation, ye may come to discover the great I AM.

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  • Andrew Dowling

    Good stuff, but to push back a little . . in the harsh, war-torn desert environment that the original Ten Commandments came out of, I don’t see these commandments ever gaining much traction.

    • Good point – we often judge people of the past more harshly than is fair, and ourselves not nearly harshly enough.

  • Bethany

    Alas, the first commandment seems to mandate veganism, which would mean no feeding my cats and no eating yummy yummy beef and dairy products. So I think I’m glad Moses didn’t come walking down the mountain with that one. 🙂

    • Pearly1

      Maybe we need to go back to the original, ancient way of raising feed animals and slaughtering them humanely, in a way that honors the animal. And we all ought to remember to give thanks – in addition to God – to the animals (even the plants – they are living things too!) for sacrificing their lives and/or providing us with milk/eggs, fruit/nuts/vegetables, etc. to sustain us and give us life. Amen.

  • Michael Wilson

    By what authority doe this guy claim to speak for God? I agree that the commandments are updatable. The ones that we have were a humanistic modification of an older set of ten commandments that only dealt with how to worship Yahweh. Wen re-working these we need to keep in mind that it is glib to write a list of things we think a good and pass them off as God’s commands without explaining by what authority we make that statement.

    • Ian

      Valerie is a woman, nice assumption of gender there.

      By what authority did the authors of the first two sets of ten commandments claim to speak for God? A rhetorical question – people aren’t given authority to claim to speak for God, they do it, and if enough people decide they are speaking for God, they get away with it.

      Third, Valerie is not claiming to speak for God at all. She is demonstrating the problems with the two sets of ten commandments and offering these as a thought experiment of how things might have been different.

      • Michael Wilson

        Thanks Ian, I try not to put much thought in gender assumptions.

        Correct, so either someone makes the commandments somehow believing God inspired them or they are running a con. I’m not sure what the writers of the two ten commandments thought. What is Valerie doing? Basicaly why does she think anyone should do these things?

        I don’t doubt that the traditional ten commandments could be improved on, her’s could be to. The second set of ten, J’s ten, really are perfect. They simply state how God is to be worshiped, your morals and ethics are up to you. I can’t rationally challange that. Maybe I’d like different taboos and rituals but hey, I’m not a priest of Yahweh, what do I know? Now, I think the first list was a later invention, the writer of D’s. It subs the rituals with the morals and ethics and like Valerie and Jesus, its probably an attempt to make the commandments into a rational ethical moral system. Jesus’ 2 commands is a very good and honest attempt to rationalize the commandments, a comprehensive morality and his extensions (if you lust, you commit adultery and do forth) are insightful and honest interpretations of the Torah. Hers we all know are written in erasable ink. That is we know we are creating these with rational exercises and we should know new information can change these commands. Would the world be better if her commands were the ten? I doubt it, few bothered to keep the historical ten.

        • Ian

          What is Valerie doing? Basicaly why does she think anyone should do these things?

          You could read her article, it is linked above.

          The second set of ten, J’s ten, really are perfect.

          By what metric is the commandment not to cook a calf in its mother’s milk ‘perfect’ w.r.t. worshipping God?

          Would the world be better if her commands were the ten? I doubt it,

          You don’t think an explicit commandment against slavery in the ten would have saved anyone from being owned?

          I agree there were plenty of murders despite the commandment against it. But I’m not so cynical as to believe that having that commandment there didn’t contribute to at least a few murders being avoided. So I struggle to be so cynical as to think that a clear commandment against slavery wouldn’t have saved at least some lives from servitude, even if it may not have prevented the slave trade as a whole.

          • Michael Wilson

            A. I read her article, as best as I can tell, she seems to think that they’re self evidently good commands to keep. Some of them aren’t bad, but as someone mentioned above, they seem to be vegan, which raises a host of moral questions.

            B. Wouldn’t know, I’m not a Yahwhist. Their are things Freemasons on specific occasions, it would be silly for me, a non-Freemason, to suggest they replace their rituals with a moral code. The writer of the traditional ten was likely a priest and had some claim to authority to alter these laws and was also running a con as well. They seem to have meant well, and frankly theirs worked better then for their purpose than Tarico’s suggestions.
            C. A world where her commandments were accepted would be radically different from our own. It would be like asking if the world would be different if David governed using the US constitution. Their are concepts in her commandments no one had thought of. I suspect had someone offered her ten instead of the traditional ten, it would be as influential on world thought as her ten are now. They would have been forgotten. Further, necessity is big driver of human history, not abstract commandments fictitiously attributed to a God that doesn’t enforce rules. Despite the call to treat living things as they would want to be treated, I doubt many ancient Jews would stop burdening their ox and asses with heavy burdens and accept starvation. And once you justify bossing around animals, why not people you don’t like?

          • Ian

            B. I was addressing your claim that the second set of ten really are ‘perfect’. I asked on what grounds you claim that, and you reply that they were ‘well meant’. I’m beginning to wonder how you normally discuss, having not spoken to you before. Currently you seem… slippery.

            C. Right I agree, mostly. I think the subtext of her article is that we can’t look at the actual ten commandments as being in any way rooted in a law-giving God. I think the need to have a ‘ten’ is a bit silly, so I agree, once we see that the ‘ten commandments’ that we learned in school are “fictitiously attributed to a God who doesn’t enforce rules,” we can get on with trying to understand how morality should actually function.

          • Michael Wilson

            sorry, there is a bit of confusion. the ones that I thought were perfect were the second set given in Exodus. the one I call the traditional ten is the one given first in Exodus and also in Deuteronomy. Thou shalt not kill and so fourth. The second set of ten in Exodus was likely the original 10 and was not an attempt at some moral code given by God, but a set of instructions on how God was to be worshipped as voiced by his messenger/s.

            Deuteronomy I suspect was the first apperence of the traditional 10 and it was later redacted into Exodus. I think the writer is trying to do a bit of what Tarico is doing and trying to establish these chief commands as having a moral quality and not just ritual one. that seems to be a major focus of some circles of early Judaism, establishing Yahweh as a more philosophical, ethical force in the world and not just a material, elemental one in keeping with developing trends toward universalism and notions of morality.

          • Ian

            Sorry I must be being thick. The ones you say are “perfect” are in Exodus 34, right? That includes the (10th) commandment not to “seethe [i.e. cook] a kid in his mother’s milk”.

            So I’m still confused. Do you think these are “perfect”, if so on what criteria? Or do you think these are merely “well meant”?

          • Michael Wilson

            Yes, those are the perfect ones. Theres no criteria, they’re subjective. If someone wanted to celebrate their birthday vanilla ice cream and white cake it would be just as well as someone who celebrates with chocolate ice cream and devils food cake. I rather like those commands because then the central comands of the god becomes ritual rather than a moral code that can be analyzed or held up as an absolute. A ritual 10 commandments isn’t expected to he a guide for living. I understand the reasoning for the change, and like the thinking behind them, but as we see it becomes viewed as some sort of eternal constitution from God. Though to be fair I hear Jews don’t place as high a value on the 10 as Christians.

  • TomS

    How about a follow-up to #10, to help others to ask the questions, and to share the knowledge and lack of knowledge, even if they ask questions which are unsettling to you, or if they do not accept your knowledge.

  • Michael Wilson
  • Pearly1

    I think in the consciousness of Moses’ people in that time and place, “shalt not” was a much easier guideline to understand and try to follow. But I like the above list – definitely works for today’s consciousness — we’ve come a long way.

  • arcseconds

    I want to be treated like unto a king.

    Commence waiting on me hand and foot, my subjects!

  • Gary

    I can’t resist after seeing this rather amusing quote on Valerie’s site.
    “a young non-religious friend once came home from school with a bright green Gideon’s New Testament that she later touted as a reserve of fine rolling papers.”
    I had some friends like that back in the 60’s.
    “Thou shall not use a Gideon bible to roll joints. Instead, stay at a Marriott, and use the free Book of Mormon for thy purposes.”

  • Michael Wilson

    These are bit wordy as well. I like the terseness of traditional commandments.