Quick, can you name the 10 Commandments? I'll give you a minute. … … Ok, time's up. If you're anything like Georgia's Republican Representative Lynn Westmoreland—even though he co-sponsored a bill to place them in public buildings—you probably can't. (Watch his hilariously infuriating interview with Stephen Colbert in the clip on the right.) Why is that? Because they just aren't relevant anymore and, despite what religious people profess, no one actually lives by them.
I watched Chariots of Fire again a few weeks ago and was struck by the (based on a true) story of one of the British athletes who competed in the1924 Olympics. He decided
As I begin my look at the Survival of the Fittest Philosophers, I recognise that it's questionable even to call Moses and his Ten Commandments a work of philosophy. Where's the debate? The dissection? The discussion? The nuance? They're just unquestionable rules shouted down from a mountain top and chiseled into stone as if they were rules for eternity. But since these are some of the earliest written forms of our moral beliefs, they are as good a place as any to start my review of thinking through the ages in light of our current understanding. So, let's get to it. In the first edition of my philosophy, I wrote:
Moses and the Ten Commandments (14th-12th, 7th, or 6th century BCE are the best guesses for their origin)
Thou shalt not: 7. Commit adultery; 8. Steal; 9. Bear false witness. These are required in a trusting, cooperative society.
Needs to Adapt
Thou shalt: 5. Honor thy father and thy mother. Thou shalt not: 6. Kill; 10. Covet. Don’t honor people that are wrong. Killing in self-defense or in defense of a just nation is ok because it leads to the long-term survival of the species. There’s nothing wrong with wanting things that others have. Just find your own. Don’t take theirs. And make sure you want the right things.
Thou shalt: 1. Have no other gods; 2. Have no graven images or likenesses; 3. Not take the Lord’s name in vain; 4. Remember the Sabbath day. The first four commandments are clearly not concerned with the survival of the species - they are concerned with the survival of the religion. They have no relevance anymore.
Basically, I have given these Commandments the same level of respect for nuanced thinking that they have given us. It was a crude start to philosophising, so it gets a quick and dirty analysis. Three survive intact. Three are right some of the time. Four have no bearing on our continued survival. This leaves us with about four and a half of the ten Commandments as still surviving…which is actually 1.5 more than the religious Congressman could remember. Do you agree? How many do you abide by? Think about that the next time you hear a religious demagogue shout about the unerring word of god. He's trying to stand on stone that has already crumbled beneath the marching feet of history.