Sunday, 5 January 2020
It’s hard work, all this moralising. I mean who is right and who is wrong and all that. What makes a good person and what makes them bad? And of course, in that simple concept which everybody must recognise is revealed the lie of equality. How can a murderer be ‘equal’ to a philanthropist? And so we get to the thorny business of moral equivalence, whereby your theology is equal to mine, or their culture is superior to ours, etc.
But it really is quite simple. The Ten Commandments might have no force in law but as a moral code they’re not so bad, are they? Would they work today?
You shall have no other gods before Me. Given that one culture’s omnipotent deity must, by simple logic, be the same god as that of all the other monotheistic religions, surely those who believe should embrace a common understanding. But as this seems to be problematic for one particular religion, perhaps they aren’t so confident in their beliefs as they insist. Maybe this could be revised to: “Worship who you want and don’t be a dick about it”.
You shall make no idols. Well what a boring world that would make. Not sure I could support that; no art, basically. Luckily the ancient world and Christianity ignored that one, then. Maybe the commandments are more pick’n’mix than prescription? How about You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Good god, no. That way lies the kind of blasphemy laws a certain culture would like to introduce to the modern world. Scratch that.
Keep the Sabbath day holy? Nope; far too much stuff to do. I wouldn’t be able to write this, for a start, which some may see as a bonus. Next? Honour your father and your mother. Yes, this is a keeper, although in the society which has been allowed to evolve, mostly through neglect, a great many have only a tenuous association with any father figure. We’re not doing so well with the first five, but the Old Testament saved the best ones for last.
Who could legitimately argue against keeping the prohibitions on murder, adultery, theft and coveting? Okay, I’ll confess that adultery is not the sin it once was, indeed in public life it almost seems to be de rigueur, but it’s not something to be encouraged. And all of this leaves us with: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour, arguably the sole purpose of social media. I’m not sure we will ever get a grip on this.
So where does that get us? A quick summary: Some people are better than other people, that’s an absolute fact. And while some cultures are better than others – another indisputable fact – all societies have some basis in law and tradition similar to the ten commandments. If we could all just crack on and heed the secular versions of these edicts - and not be a dick about it – the world might just spin a little more freely on its axis. I’m not holding my breath.