This book is a sad attempt to write a new set of the original Ten Commandments that Moses said were given to him by God. It is a fair-minded attempt and does quote accurately Exodus 20:1-17. Usually a polemic piece will slander their opponent’s point of view from the onset, but this book makes a real attempt to be fair. The authors proceed with a reasonable attempt to create a method for approaching a modern morality, and the book is an attempt to justify the background arguments for their non-commandments. They call their list of ten moral suggestions …
- The world is real, and our desire to understand the world is the basis for belief.
- We can perceive the world only through our human senses.
- We use rational thought and language as tools for understanding the world.
- All truth is proportional to the evidence.
- There is no God.
- We all strive to live a happy life. We pursue things that make us happy and avoid things that do not.
- There is no universal moral truth. Our experiences and preferences shape our sense of how to behave.
- We act morally when the happiness of others makes us happy.
- We benefit from living in, and supporting, an ethical society.
- All our beliefs are subject to change in the face of new evidence, including these.
The problem with this list is that it is so weak, it has no attraction; it has no ability to unify a people into a coherent group that is willing to defend these principles. It is emotionally impossible to defend these non-commandments with action that can combat even the weakest established religious tradition. Religion means to bind people together into a functioning society of mutually recognized and co-supporting people. These non-commandments will generate no cohesion and no fear of violating these principles. Like it or not Moses’ Commandments generate cohesion and fear, and they give promises beyond the wimpy word happy. These non-commandments barely have the force of suggestions, and might be better thought of as passing thoughts that are basically good ideas. This new, supposedly religious foray into society reminds me of the Harvard professor John Rawls, whose philosophy is well-respected, but to my mind totally useless because it has no way to enforce its fair-minded ideals. In his philosophy people are expected to be good because goodness feels good. That’s wonderful, but in a world of inevitable short supply of desirable things there will be contests and contention that will inevitably generate friction between people. Those people who can most firmly bind themselves together into a coherent force will prevail.
The ten non-commandents may seem reasonable, and they are reasonable from the perspective of a person living in a safe, secular legal society, but if you look you will soon notice that even in a secular society there is compulsion to obey laws. Non-compliance with laws soon gets one into trouble. All of the non-commandments are already embedded within our American legal system, and are reasonable – except for “V. There is no God.” It is strange that they are so blandly reasonable about all of the other statements, and yet they state this one categorically. They can neither affirm nor deny there is or is not a god because there is no evidence for or against his existence. Their position is as rationally invalid as is an absolute atheist’s, or a true believer’s, but even an agnostic saying they don’t know isn’t satisfying. The only strong statement is that god appears to be totally outside of nature, and that we live totally within nature. Our universe came into being with the Big Bang, and so far as we know it is impossible for us to send information out of our Universe, and even if we could it seems unlikely they or we would benefit any conscious entity in any way. Also, even within our Universe any extraterrestrial contact is so remote in time and space that it is unlikely to affect our personal lives. I felt that the book Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart is a good read for questing college sophomore, but for everyone else a waste of time.
We would best serve our living forms by participating fully in what is available to us to the best of our abilities.
Why waste time and thought on things that will never affect our lives?