The Ten Commandments Have Nothing To Do With Our Legal System!by jason on Jan. 29, 2012, under Arizona Families, Art & Culture, Biblical Inerrancy, Christian Self-Righteous Arrogance, Christianity, Clarity, Critical Thinking, Economics, Ethics, Faith, Fundamentalism, God & Bible, Government, History, Language, Logic, Lying G.O.P., Reason, Religion, Responsible Government, Sanity, Separation of Church & State, Supreme Court, Willful Ignorance
Here’s another interesting insight from Jim Wilson:
I have had members of my own family repeat the nonsense that this country was founded upon Christian principles. Often these are referred to as “Judeo-Christian principles”. Many politicians (more often than not Republicans) speak of bringing us back to these principles. This nonsense needs to be put to rest. There is nothing in the bible that comes anywhere close to prescribing anything like our system of government.
In fact, the American revolution was largely inspired by enlightenment ideas that came about after rejecting the religious dogmatism that governed Europe for the preceding centuries. Many of the founding fathers were actually Deists. All of the tyrannies our founding fathers were fighting against were justified through appeals to Christianity. Furthermore, the founding fathers took multiple opportunities to dismiss the notion of this being a country founded on Christianity. The first Amendment of the Constitution specifically protects against a government imposition of religion and Article six explicitly states “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Furthermore, Thomas Jefferson made it clear he wanted a “wall of separation” between church and state. To quote Christopher Hitchens “Build up that wall Mr. Jefferson.” Furthermore, the Treaty of Tripoli (signed by John Adams) shortly after the country’s founding explicitly states: “ the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
Still, the Christian nation mythology is a stubborn one and its crown jewel is the Ten Commandments. The mythology is often embodied by politicians erecting Ten Commandments monuments. Let’s walk through the commandments and see how many parallels to the American legal system are actually there.
The first four commandments:
- “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
- “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments. ”
- “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. ”
- “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
These have nothing to do with our constitution and it would be wholly unconstitutional to force Americans to obey them. They are entirely about what a petty, jealous tyrant this God is.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
Is also not anywhere to be found in the constitution and cannot be enforced. Furthermore it is a horrible commandment. Honor should not be unconditional. One should not honor parents, for example that physically abuse them.
“You shall not murder.”
Applied strictly to the other Jews in the bible, and God often commanded the killing of non-jews. But, at last we do have a commandment that is enforced by our laws in this country. The only problem is that all civilized societies have some sort of prohibition against murder, including ones that pre-date the old testament. Frankly there is no reason to claim this commandment is the source of the prohibitions against murder in this country.
“You shall not commit adultery.”
This is not against the law in the country either, though it may be admitted as grounds for divorce.
“You shall not steal.”
My comments on 6 also apply here.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
We have laws against this, but only in a highly limited context, and dishonesty in general is completely legal except in cases like libel, slander and fraud, where there is actual tangible damage.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
This a fundamentally dumb commandment, you really cannot control what you covet, and there is nothing wrong with coveting as long as this does not lead you to steal their possessions. Furthermore, coveting the wealth of those around you is part of what inspires us to work hard to get it ourselves. This is what many argue American capitalism is all about.
Also, keep in mind that in the bible the punishment for disobeying these and the rest of Old testament law was death by stoning. That is one area of Judeo-Christian tradition I am glad we abandoned. Also note that there is a whole different set of ten commandments given in Exodus 34:12-27, which includes instructions for sacrifices, and a commandment not to boil a kid in it’s mother’s milk. So, the question, “which ten commandments” needs to be asked? Anyway, very little of this and the rest of The Law have anything to do with our current system of law and as brutal as much of what is in the Torah, I think we should all be happy about this.