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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Atheists' Ten Commandments

I'm not an atheist, and as you can see from my recent post, Sick Bastards at the Taliban, I actually think religion may be a necessary evil.  We just need to make sure that everybody agrees on some universal principles.  And maybe that's the difference between me and atheists.  In that post, after remembering that my initial instinct -- Thou shalt not kill another human being -- was refuted by a 1989 Dilbert cartoon, I scaled back my ambitions to "Thou shalt not kill a child."

I now see that the atheists themselves have announced their own set of Ten Commandments, or, as they put it, Ten Non-Commandments.  These have resulted from a web-based contest put on by the authors of "Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart" (Lex Bayer and John Figdor).  The contest received about 2,800 entries from 18 countries and 27 U.S. states.  That's a pretty pathetic and probably non-representative sample, but I guess they have to compete with other atheists for attention.  Still, crowdsourcing this question has produced a pretty good list:

1. Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
4. Every person has the right to control of their body.
5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
8. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.
9. There is no one right way to live.
10. Leave the world a better place than you found it.
So that's a pretty good list for atheists and other enlightened people.  The problem, however, is that there are billions of people who are trapped in lives of permanent despair in this world.  The perfectly sensible point about the scientific method might not exactly resonate with a starving person in India, an ebola survivor in Africa, or Muslim child orphaned by collateral damage from a U.S. drone attack.
For people like that, the thought of another, better world is a great and perhaps necessary comfort. And one can't exactly blame them if they end up succumbing to "religious" beliefs that consign their tormentors -- whether the direct killers of their parents or merely the rich and arrogant citizens of a distant nation run by corporate greed -- to hell or worse.

Don't get me wrong, I like what the atheists are trying to do.  If everyone in the world followed these principles, the world would be a much, much better place.  Parents should work hard to make sure that their children understand and absorb these principles.

(But I have a feeling that even in an atheist world, corporations would still run things, and subscribers to these commandments would be powerless to stop them, simply because the profit motive is so strong.)

My point is merely that it's unrealistic in this day and age, and in this state of the world, to hope to convert everybody to atheism.  Religion is too important.  That's why we need a "super-religion" that would be consistent with all existing world religions, and yet would make a few additional points.  Maybe some of the points could be those of the atheists.  But the biggest one for me is still:

Thou shalt not kill a child.

n.b.  I tried searching for my own blog using the search term "sick bastards Taliban."  Turns out that's not a good way to try to find this blog.


Atheist Heart, Humanist Mind Site -- displays all 2800-plus entries, and allows you to still add your own.  Many of the entries are very good -- just like the commandments -- and principles that one should attempt to instill in one's children.

CNN report on atheist ten commandments

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