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This article was recently shared in various Internet Newsgroups.
From: Eldon Goopnik
Subject: Fourth of July Special: The Seven Lost Commandments
Date: Thu, 03 Jul 2003 13:52:01 -0500
When fundamentalist Christians want to assert that the United States was founded as a Christian country, they must finally resort to the Declaration of Independence, which mentions a diety. From that Fourth of July proclamation they progress to insisting that our laws are based on the famous Ten Commandments found in the Hebrew Bible.
Since so many people who use the Ten Commandments as justification for extreme positions don't know what they actually say or mean, it's fitting on this Independence Day to review them.
The Seven Lost Commandments
"The Ten Commandments" has become a "hot-button" phrase in our country. One has only to utter the words to see people react like Pavlov's salivating dogs did when he rang a bell: "Western civilization depends on them...Our country was founded upon them...Without them, society will be destroyed...Yada yada yada."
Lofty sentiments, but the actual laws of civilized Western countries, and particularly of the United States, seem to be more in conflict with Bible's Ten Commandments than in agreement with them. That's not surprising, for Thomas Jefferson traced our laws to Anglo-Saxon pagans, and our Western civilization owes more to Greek pagans than to the Hebrew Bible. Our pagan fathers never heard of any Ten Commandments.
Now Russian psychologist Pavlov's dogs were trained to respond to a bell as a signal that food was on the way, and so they salivated at every sound of that bell, even when no food followed. The average American has been trained to believe certain things about the Ten Commandments, and so reacts in a certain way to their very mention. But is there any "food" in the famous Ten?
Take a moment, and consider what the Ten Commandments REALLY say:
Commandment number one is "You shall not have other gods besides me." Ignoring this, our government has not outlawed Hinduism. That's understandable, since the First Amendment directly contradicts the First Commandment. (And the Christian God, if one thinks about it, is not the same as the Jewish or Moslem God: No Jew will accept that Jesus Christ is God, and the Koran specifically says he is not. So, the Christian God being different from the God of the Ten Commandments, the Christian religion is itself the most flagrant violation of them.)
Next comes "You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain." We have repealed our blasphemy laws, which discriminated against non-Christian religions. Our free-speech laws directly contradict this Commandment.
"Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day." (Forbids work on the seventh day of the week.) At one time we banned some Sabbath work, but on the first day, not the seventh. (Jews, Moslems, and Christians can't agree which day is the Sabbath, but that's not surprising, since they don't worship the same God.) This is another precept our laws contradict.
"Honor your father and your mother." We all agree, but have no law directly enforcing this. (The Bible suggests one when it commands that children who curse their parents be put to death.)
"You shall not kill." This agrees with our laws, but flows not from the Ten Commandments, but from fundamental common sense, and is found throughout the pagan world among people who never heard of the Ten Commandments.
"You shall not commit adultery." Jesus connected divorce with adultery, but today so many people live in sinful divorce-adultery that our laws have been changed from condemning to protecting it. This is another commandment contradicted by our laws.
"You shall not steal." Another fundamental law flowing from common sense and found all over the world, including among people who never heard of the Ten Commandments.
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." While we do indeed have perjury laws to ban false witness, the original Hebrew Commandment forbids only false witness of one Jew against a fellow Jew, which is the correct meaning of the word translated as "neighbor." In other words, it's quite acceptable, according to the Ten Commandments, to bear false witness against a Hindu, a Moslem, or even a Christian.
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house." My dictionary defines "covet" as "desire enviously." Our laws don't attempt to control such thoughts.
Finally, "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass...." Even though this Commandment recognizes and protects slavery, nobody admits to wanting to re-introduce it. Politicians who regularly recommend the Ten Commandments as "good advice" simply don't know what's contained in them, and I'm happy to report that our laws ignore this commandment.
The bottom line is that:
* Our laws directly contradict 4 commandments.
* Our laws ignore 3 of them.
* Our laws agree with 3, but that is a coincidence.
Our laws are NOT based on the Ten Commandments.