Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Good without God

The beginnings of civilization is in man's ability to understand the need for law and order. The earliest of societies had to develop laws in order to exist.  As much as it might surprise people, the Ten Commandments were not the beginning of law. They were a copy of the basic common sense laws already set by other civilizations, including Egypt where the Hebrews claim to have been held captive. Interestingly enough and not so coincidently...the only law repeated in the Ten Commandments is about adultery and coveting your neighbor's wife...not a coincidence in a Patriarchal society where men claiming women as their property would insist on their property not being touched by another man. The basic structure of the Ten Commandments is what makes it so effective. The Ten Commandments do not force consideration of class or rank, such as did Hammurabi's Code that was bulky and extensive .

The Ten Commandments have a basic structure that makes sense, especially in the ancient world where superstition ruled with an iron hand. 

The structure of the Judeo Christian Ten Commandments is simple, divided into three parts:

The first two commandments establish respect for the power behind the code. Regardless of you religious affiliation or the path of your faith, religion's rules and laws have to be based on fear, reverence and respect for the power that can enforce the code. In essence, the follower is clearly warned whom they will face should they fail to obey. Laws are useless without consequences and the first four laws clarify who is in charge.

The next two commandments are personal and internal. These laws are about keeping oneself in the mindset of obedience. These laws are about an internal recognition of the authority behind the code as evidenced by an outward continuing obedience in simple things that have more to do with recommitment and self control then actual societal laws.

The final six commandments are the meat and potatoes of this code and are basic common sense rules that are the underpinnings of a successful social environment.

For those of us that are of non faith we readily jump to the final six commandments with the understanding that mankind was following these basic common sense rules for society before the Ten Commandments and thus we believe that man has proven that he actually CAN be good with out the fear of divine retribution for failure to obey the code or the promise of divine reward for good behavior. We are good without god. That is, in essence, what it means to be a secular humanist.

On the other hand it is important for us as secular humanists to understand and acknowledge that religion does serve a purpose in society: control and order. While there are many bad things that do come from religion such as bigotry, holocausts, crusades, many civil wars and much death and violence for example, there is also a place in ordered society for religion. There will always be people, of faith and even of non faith, that use something as a tool or a compass in their life. If a person can maintain their faith without trying to force its rules on those around them and can follow it without being an asshole and it helps bring order to their life and serves as a moral compass in their behavior than who cares?

So why are us secular humanists against the Ten Commandments being posted on government property? The answer is simple. As much as we hear the conservative religious right talk about how this is a constitutional republic and how important the Constitution is you would think they would get it. Unfortunately, they don't get it at all.

The final six commandments are basic laws that are common sense and are part of the very fiber of society. The first four...not so much. The first four are an overt plug for a specific faith. The faith in Jehovah, "The Lord thy God." This faith is uniquely Judeo Christian. 

Our Constitution is written in such a way that no one faith is supposed to receive any special treatment, honor, endorsement or support. Our founding fathers were intent in getting away from the European Church States; governments that endorsed a specific faith making it a crime to follow any other faith.

If the Ten Commandments were all like the final six then there would be no reason to complain. But the first four make this code uniquely Judeo Christian and posting them on government property is a clear endorsement of ALL of the commandments, not just the final six. Like it or not the precious constitution prohibits such an endorsement.

Imagine the uproar if any part of the Sharia Law were posted on a courthouse or a legislature.  It would be no different. If that would upset you, if you would see that as an endorsement of the Muslim faith then you are also admitting that posting the Ten Commandments is an endorsement of Judeo Christianity and by your own admission is unconstitutional.

Are secular humanists better people than people of faith that have to have the motivation of judgement or rewards to do what is right? That is debatable but in the end it is irrelevant. Both have times they do not follow their own code of behavior regardless of its origin and regardless of the presence or absence of faith. 

I would argue that secular humanists' thought process is further evolved in the sense that they have moved beyond the primal instincts of fear and primitive myths of divinity and can proceed, via logic, to do what is right simply because it is the right thing to do. 

That is what it means to be a secular humanist. That is what it means to be good without god.


Kat said...

It's nice to see you back at the blog again! I have always thought that it is better to be a good person without doing so under the "threat" of being punished by any god. To me this is the very definition of "good person"; being so just because you are.

I agree with you that the Ten Commandments (or any other religous text) has no place on government property. Government is supposed to be for the people, of the people - all people.


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