I probably need not delve into the LACK of morality and ethics of various actions taken by God or commanded by God in the Bible (actions and commands that would stain even the devilʼs character). But I WOULD like you to take another look at some of the failures and foibles and misunderstandings of those who seek to "religionize" the world, including the little arguments from absurdity. There are no absolutely relative ethics unless youʼre unconnected with the pains and pleasures we all share as social and biological beings. Best, Edward T. Babinski (author of Leaving the Fold, available at AMAZON)
The Ten Commandments
In 1997 Henry Jordan, a “born again” Christian on the State Board of Education in South Carolina, tried to get a copy of the Ten Commandments hung in every classroom in the state. When it was pointed out to him that members of other religions might not appreciate having only the Judeo-Christian teachings on display, he replied, “Screw the Buddhists and Kill the Muslims.”
Screw and Kill? Lot of good knowing the commandments did for him.
- Skip Church
Everything, even piety, is dangerous in a man without judgment.
- Moral Sentences and Maxims, Stanislaus, King of Poland / Francois, duc de La Rochefoucauld
Also in 1997 the Charleston County Council of South Carolina unanimously passed a motion to post the Ten Commandments on a plaque outside the council chambers. Oddly enough, when a local reporter for the Post and Courier asked the nine council members to name the Ten Commandments, none could recall all ten. Two members refused to even try. Snapped Councilman Barrett Lawrimore, “I donʼt have time for this pop quiz.”
- Church and State
Teenagers can sniff hypocrisy quicker than a lit doobie eight blocks away. Thatʼs why it is counter productive for the U.S. Congress to favor displaying the Ten Commandments in every classroom. It will make teenagers sneer all the harder at “the law,” knowing that the folks who favor displaying the Ten Commandments are the same ones who disobey them. “Do not bear false witness?” Donʼt all Congress people “stretch the truth,” depending on which group of constituents or foreign dignitaries they are trying to woo or impress? I also suspect thereʼs some “Sabbath-breakers” and “adulterers” in Congress. And what percentage of Congress fully agrees with the command, “Do not kill?” And I wonder how many Congress people have “used the Lordʼs name in vain” after discovering that their prize bill (say a bill to display the “Ten Commandments” everywhere) did not receive enough votes to become a law?
“God” also “commanded” what the penalties were for disobeying his commands. But I suppose Congress wonʼt vote to display those, since the “death penalty” is mentioned so often.
- Skip Church
Preacher Pete: Without the Ten Commandments to lead them, people will wind up doing whatever they like.
Secular Sally: Most of us already do, but we like being liked, and hate being hated. In other words, most of us would sooner make friends than fill our freezers with heads, which, coincidentally, is a way to make enemies.
- Skip Church
“Thou shalt not kill” is as old as life itself. And for this reason a large majority of people in all countries have objected to being murdered.
- Robert Ingersoll
How many people have to flip through the Bible, going, “Jeez, I want to screw my neighborʼs wife - donʼt know if I should?”
- Rick Reynolds, Only the Truth is Funny
I give blood. I volunteer my organs. I donate to charities. I return my shopping cart. I never needed religion to puppeteer me through life and tell me how to feel about gays, abortion, and capital punishment or how to raise my kid. When people ask me what I am, I say Earthling.
- William P. OʼNeil, “Playing the God Card,” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 10, 2000
I do not believe that ethics “without the Bible” are “completely relative” any more than I believe that people do not feel similar pain when pricked, stolen from, or called a derogatory name. Nor any more than I believe that people do not receive similar pleasure when hugged, given a gift, or verbally praised. In other words, we each have all the “ethical authority” we need in our nerve cells (that sense physical pleasure and pain), and in our brains (that evolved from socially interacting mammalian species), and via lessons learned during lives of interaction with our fellow human beings. Hence it is our personal experience and recognition of similar physical (and psychological) pleasures and pains, hopes and fears, that generates ethics and morality. Neither is it easy for a man to turn to anti-social behavior if he has been taught from childhood to view other peopleʼs feelings and needs through the inner lens of his own.
To put it another way, people recognize (regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof) that “joys shared are doubled, while sorrows shared are halved.” Such recognitions even form the basis for wanting to “double” societyʼs joys, and “halve” societyʼs sorrows.
Some people, of course, are not taught to focus on humanityʼs shared pleasures and pains, hopes and fears, but instead are raised to “fear hell” and memorize a list of “doʼs and donʼts.” Such people are liable to “fear what they (and others) might become” once such “external” moral threats and commands are called into question. Ironically, their “hell” does not exist to promote universal ethical behavior, but to promote belief in their particular theology - and if you do not share such peopleʼs particular theology, they are convinced you are going to hell. Of what use is the threat of “hell” in promoting good behavior in those who do not accept their particular theology? None. Naturally such people can only understand the idea of a “moral” nation as one that consists solely of “fellow believers” in their particular theology. Moreover, when morality tries to base itself (and impose itself on others) upon purely “external” religious threats and commands, it will break down when the religion supporting it is called into question.
To avoid such “breakdowns” it makes more sense for a nation, culture, or family to emphasize “internal” rather than “external” morality/ethics, just as it makes more sense to raise children to think and act in terms of how “they would feel if what they did was done back to them,” rather than teach them to memorize an endless list of doʼs and donʼts. All the worldʼs religions enshrine the principle, “Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself,” and, “Do to others what you would want done to yourself,” which assume in both cases that “you” already possess an “internal” window on moral/ethical conduct. So, there need not be any overt conflict between “internal” and “external” morality and ethics. However, stressing the “internal” variety has a greater chance of drawing society together, rather than tearing it apart.
“Internal” ethical recognitions preceded the composition of humanityʼs earliest law codes such as those of King Hammurabi, or the moral injunctions found in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, or the later but more famous, “Ten Commandments.” Such “internal” recognitions inspired the creation of all laws, and still do, and remind us that laws are but dust when people neglect to seek out what is best within themselves and each other.
- Skip Church
A manʼs ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.
- Albert Einstein
Commandments From Other Religions (Just To Show How Evil And Depraved The Souls Of Pagans Are)
May I be no manʼs enemy, and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides.
May I never devise evil against any man; if any devise evil against me, may I escape without the need of hurting him.
May I love, seek, and attain only that which is good.
May I wish for all menʼs happiness and envy none.
When I have done or said what is wrong, may I never wait for the rebuke of others, but always rebuke myself until I make amends.
May I win no victory that harms either me or my opponent.
May I reconcile friends who are wroth with one another.
May I, to the extent of my power, give all needful help to all who are in want.
May I never fail a friend in danger.
May I respect myself.
May I always keep tame that which rages within me.
May I never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things he has done, but know good men and follow in their footsteps.
- The Prayer of Eusebius (a pagan who lived some two thousand years ago, as quoted in Gilbert Murray, Five Stages of Greek Religion)
Do not return evil to your adversary; Requite with kindness the one who does evil to you, Maintain justice for your enemy, Be friendly to your enemy.
- Akkadian Councils of Wisdom (from the ancient Babylonian civilization that existed two millennia before Jesus was born)
Shame on him who strikes, greater shame on him who strikes back. Let us live happily, not hating those who hate us. Let us therefore overcome anger by kindness, evil by good, falsehood by truth. Do not hurt others in ways that would be hurtful to yourself.
- Buddhist wisdom (written centuries before Jesus was born)
More Buddhist Wisdom
In this world
Hate never yet dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
This is the law,
Ancient and inexhaustible.
- The Dhammapada
Return love for hatred. Otherwise, when a great hatred is reconciled, some of it will surely remain. How can this end in goodness? Therefore the sage holds to the left hand of an agreement but does not expect what the other holder ought to do. Regard your neighborʼs gain as your own and your neighborʼs loss as your own loss. Whoever is self-centered cannot have the love of others.
- Taoist wisdom (written centuries before Jesus was born)
People were Christian before Christ ever existed. People were humanistic before Humanism was ever organized. People were loving before LSD was ever discovered. I dug defecating before I ever knew it was a Zen thing to do.
- Timothy Leary, as quoted by Paul Krassner, “The Cynic Route from Crazy SANE to Loving Haight,” The Realist, 1967