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Ralar

Penn Jillette's 10 Commandments for Athiests

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Ralar

In his book, "God, No!" (2011) atheist magician Penn Jillette tells how he was challenged by conservative radio host Glenn Beck to come up with an atheist's version of The Ten Commandments. Here's his list:

 

1. The highest ideals are human intelligence, creativity and love. Respect these above all.

 

2. Do not put things or even ideas above other human beings. (Let's scream at each other about Kindle versus iPad, solar versus nuclear, Republican versus Libertarian, Garth Brooks versus Sun Ra— but when your house is on fire, I'll be there to help.)

 

3. Say what you mean, even when talking to yourself. (What used to be an oath to (G)od is now quite simply respecting yourself.)

 

4. Put aside some time to rest and think. (If you're religious, that might be the Sabbath; if you're a Vegas magician, that'll be the day with the lowest grosses.)

 

5. Be there for your family. Love your parents, your partner, and your children. (Love is deeper than honor, and parents matter, but so do spouse and children.)

 

6. Respect and protect all human life. (Many believe that "Thou shalt not kill" only refers to people in the same tribe. I say it's all human life.)

 

7. Keep your promises. (If you can't be sexually exclusive to your spouse, don't make that deal.)

 

8. Don't steal. (This includes magic tricks and jokes — you know who you are!)

 

9. Don't lie. (You know, unless you're doing magic tricks and it's part of your job. Does that make it OK for politicians, too?)

 

10. Don't waste too much time wishing, hoping, and being envious; it'll make you bugnutty.

 

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-10-28/penn-jillette-ten-commandments/50978982/1

Edited by OnceUponATime
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debrand

Interesting exercise but I don't like the idea of making absolute rules for morality. There are too many times when the moral thing to do is break the rules. The most obvious example is lying to protect someone's life like protecting Jewish people during the Nazi era.

I like the Wiccan rule about doing what you want as long as you don't hurt anyone else. That seems to sum up most of the best in religious thinking.

My suggestions-not rules- would be

1 Live honestly. This doesn't mean just don't lie but try to always examine yourself and your motives.

2. If someone isn't hurting you or others, mind your own business

3.Admit your mistakes

4. Don't be an obnoxious jerk

5. Stick up for what you believe is right

That is all I have.

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Happy
PennySycamore

I like both Penn Jillette's list and debrand's reasoning (I don't like absolute rules either) and suggestions. It's very common for atheists to painted as having no moral ground when that's just not true.

I try to follow the Buddhist Eightfold Path which aren't commandments nor are the Precepts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eightfold_Path

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Marianne

I don't like this. It seems like trying to make atheism a new religion.

I have a "moral code" which was also sent to me by an old man, in the resistance during the war, interned in a concentration camp, which was a great help. It's this :

a) From the Nazi to the child rapist, you have to consider all human being as human being. Therefore, killing a man is never, never, NEVER an acceptable thing. (see philosopher Emmanuel Levinas)

b) First, look. Second, learn. Then, try to understand. And just after that, you can criticize.

c) The day you'll have monney to live comfortably, stop spending your monney in things for your comfort. Becoming and staying rich is not a good thing. There is too much poor to pay for unnecessary things.

d) Learn all your life. Read philosophers, economist, historian, but you can't vote if you don't try to learn.

That's not a lot of things but have been very important for me.

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slh12280

I kept thinking: "but there are exceptions!" Such is life. But I do respect the general principles and ideas behind it. Use your compassion, empathy and intelligence to make moral and ethical decisions. I think it is impossible to come to ethical decisions without both emotion and reasoning as they balance each other out. But I totally concur on the not putting ideas or things above people, in fact, I think that is the whole problem with fundamentalism.

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debrand

A couple of more interesting questions would be to ask first why the Ten Commandments are even considered good rules to follow in the first place. Second, did the biblical deity mean for them to be absolute rules anyway? He breaks them pretty frequently. For example, in Exodus 1, he rewards the midwives for not telling the truth about the fact that Hebrew male infants were born alive. Granted, that seems like a positive thing for the two women to have done but it still involves dishonesty which goes against the Ten Commandments.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor

This particular rule always bugged me. It sounds as if the only reason not to sleep with a man's wife is because she is among the objects that he owns. Maybe that is not what the text actually means but that is how it has always sounded to me.

Every moral rule can be deduced using logic. The only traditional rules that don't make sense are sexual ones involving consenting adults who aren't being manipulated into having sex or breaking any type of monogamy promise to someone else.

Take the commandment to not lie. It doesn't require a set of rules to realize that being honesty is better for the individual in the long run. It takes a lot of energy to lie.The truth might be painful but usually the pain from being truthful is short lived. Being dishonest often just postpones the inevitable. Also, keeping track of lies is exhausting. Many people who catch others in lies don't call out the liar; instead they just avoid trusting the person. A good example of this involves my son and his cousin. The cousin was looking for a job but he had a problem with honesty. He and my son had gone in unproductive circles where the cousin would tell some strange unnecessary lie and my son would try to get him to admit the truth. When my son was asked who should get the job, he mentioned his friend not his cousin. He didn't want his name connected with someone who lied. My nephew probably had no idea that being dishonest screwed him so badly in the long run because it was too frustrating to listen to him make excuses when he was confronted. In most cases, honesty just makes sense.

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Arete

There is nothing in the 10 Commandments that requires you be so honest that you cause a life to be taken. There is no such commandment "Thou shall not lie". There is "Thou shall not bear false witness", the interpretation I learned was you do not accuse someone of a crime you know they did not commit. The midwives lying to save human life is therefore well within the ethical standards of the 10 Commandments.

You shall not covet is an ethical teaching to illustrate that wanting what specifically belongs to another is destructive. Ancient people also understood things on multiple levels. They were not going to give up their children to death in order to maintain absolute honesty.

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SoybeanQueen

My suggestions-not rules- would be

1 Live honestly. This doesn't mean just don't lie but try to always examine yourself and your motives.

2. If someone isn't hurting you or others, mind your own business

3.Admit your mistakes

4. Don't be an obnoxious jerk

5. Stick up for what you believe is right

I think that pretty well covers most situations!

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louisa05
There is nothing in the 10 Commandments that requires you be so honest that you cause a life to be taken. There is no such commandment "Thou shall not lie". There is "Thou shall not bear false witness", the interpretation I learned was you do not accuse someone of a crime you know they did not commit. The midwives lying to save human life is therefore well within the ethical standards of the 10 Commandments.

You shall not covet is an ethical teaching to illustrate that wanting what specifically belongs to another is destructive. Ancient people also understood things on multiple levels. They were not going to give up their children to death in order to maintain absolute honesty.

Exactly. I just did the commandments with my confirmation kids. We talked a lot about how lying is okay in many situations--so that you don't insult someone or to surprise someone in a good way were two examples they came up with. False witness applies to things that we might not think of as outright lying--we talked about how repeating rumors can be bearing false witness as we usually don't know what is and is not true--and I don't think that is a bad ethic for middle schoolers to consider.

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kpmom

This particular rule always bugged me. It sounds as if the only reason not to sleep with a man's wife is because she is among the objects that he owns. Maybe that is not what the text actually means but that is how it has always sounded to me.

This is the Old Testament, so that's probably exactly what the text means. On a brighter note, it says nothing about not coveting thy neighbor's husband, so it looks like married men are fair game.

I never could stand Penn Jillette ever since he made a "joke" about Hillary Clinton in 2008, calling her a white bitch.

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ladyamylynn

Ugh, how about white dudes stop making rules for other people to live by? I don't care for commandments, it's one of the reasons I'm not religious. I'm a pragmatist who believes in taking a rational approach to questions of morality- I think long lists of rules inhibit people from developing a strong sense of personal ethics. But hey! As long as we're taking commandments from Las Vegas magic acts, I'd like to see what Siegfried and Roy have to say! Thou shalt be FABULOUS!

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Stephanie66

I love Penn Jillette in many ways, but he is an asshole in some ways, too. He is very much against public welfare, including Medicaid and Medicare. That's nice that he was able to pay for the absolute best medical care for his parents and sister, but not everyone can do that. He is an absolute idiot if he believes corporations and individuals would voluntarily pony up enough money to keep the poor, elderly and disabled warm, safe, fed, housed, and given exceptional medical care. If it were left up to the rich to care for the poor/disabled/elderly and especially mentally ill and drug abusers, you better believe they would be dying in the streets.

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mypsychoticself
A couple of more interesting questions would be to ask first why the Ten Commandments are even considered good rules to follow in the first place. Second, did the biblical deity mean for them to be absolute rules anyway? He breaks them pretty frequently. For example, in Exodus 1, he rewards the midwives for not telling the truth about the fact that Hebrew male infants were born alive. Granted, that seems like a positive thing for the two women to have done but it still involves dishonesty which goes against the Ten Commandments.

This particular rule always bugged me. It sounds as if the only reason not to sleep with a man's wife is because she is among the objects that he owns. Maybe that is not what the text actually means but that is how it has always sounded to me.

Every moral rule can be deduced using logic. The only traditional rules that don't make sense are sexual ones involving consenting adults who aren't being manipulated into having sex or breaking any type of monogamy promise to someone else.

Take the commandment to not lie. It doesn't require a set of rules to realize that being honesty is better for the individual in the long run. It takes a lot of energy to lie.The truth might be painful but usually the pain from being truthful is short lived. Being dishonest often just postpones the inevitable. Also, keeping track of lies is exhausting. Many people who catch others in lies don't call out the liar; instead they just avoid trusting the person. A good example of this involves my son and his cousin. The cousin was looking for a job but he had a problem with honesty. He and my son had gone in unproductive circles where the cousin would tell some strange unnecessary lie and my son would try to get him to admit the truth. When my son was asked who should get the job, he mentioned his friend not his cousin. He didn't want his name connected with someone who lied. My nephew probably had no idea that being dishonest screwed him so badly in the long run because it was too frustrating to listen to him make excuses when he was confronted. In most cases, honesty just makes sense.

There actually is no commandment not to lie. There's one that says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor," which is sometimes interpreted as a more general commandment not to lie, but actually refers to falsely accusing people of crimes.

As for the coveting, a woman was basically considered her husband's property.

That said, there are exceptions to these rules. According to Jewish tradition, one may break most rules in order to save a human life.

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elsabee

I'm pretty sure Christopher Hitchens did one of these too. If I remember right, it was pretty great (although he did look slightly drunk in the video version. Ah, Christopher.) Anyway, I think it's on Youtube somewhere.

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