The Tiresome Ten Commandments

217 years after the Bill of Rights was finally ratified and became the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, a significant percentage of the population doesn’t seem to understand, yet, what Separation of Church and State actually means. Most people understand the “Freedom of Religion” aspect of the Amendment (which doesn’t actually use that exact phrase) to mean that they have the freedom to impose their particular flavor of religion on everyone, especially on the courthouse steps. So once again, we have another bunch of probably well meaning but misguided religionuts up in arms about having another set of stone tablets removed from the front of the Haskell County (Oklahoma) Courthouse, by order of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Actually, the case was simply sent back to the District Court to enter an order consistent with the Appellate Court ruling, but the bottom line is that the Ten Commandments are, again, a governmental no-no.

[EDIT: Here’s the opinion, in case anyone wants to read it.]

This is really getting old. As usual, the ignorant elected officials, who think their religion is the cats pajamas, just can’t fathom why anyone in their right minds are against the Ten Commandments, which they say they follow, but rarely do.

The latest ruling prompted Haskell County Commissioner Mitch Worsham to say, “Whoever was the judge in this, I feel sorry for him on Judgment Day.”

Of course, Mr. Worsham is one of those religionuts who doesn’t understand that his “Judgment Day” may not be observed by any number of people who want to use the Court House every day. His viewpoint, like that of most fundamentalist Christians, is narrow, condescending, and exclusive, and as the 10th Circuit noted, the imposition of those tablets “has the primary effect of endorsing religion.” His religion in particular, but also religion in general.

We’re not talking about  a small plaque on the wall next to the entrance, or a bronze tablet in the garden. No, what Haskell County tried to erect was an “…8-foot granite slab planted in the Haskell County courthouse lawn [which] makes the Ten Commandments easy to read and hard to miss from the state highway that doubles as this town’s main thoroughfare.” (Why is it that Christians always have to do things so BIG?)

And apparently the Buckle of the Bible Belt has recently passed a law that authorizes a privately funded erection of a Ten Commandments monument on the lawn at the state capitol. In light of this 10th Circuit decision, they will be looking at that a little more closely, as will the ACLU.

Like the Evolution/Creationism/Intelligent Design issue, the Ten Commandments issue has a way of evolving in order to try to skirt court rulings disfavoring it. The Courts have consistently ruled that if there is a religious intent behind the monuments, then it is a violation of the 1st Amendment to erect them. So, the proponents  have taken to a new tactic of de-emphasizing the religious nature of the monuments, in favor of their “historical” significance, arguing that the Ten  Commandments have played a huge role in the shaping of our laws.

That’s the rhetorical equivalent of claiming that the Intelligent Designer of all creation was an alien from another planetary system – not god. It’s a red herring, in other words. We all know that the Ten Commandments arise out of the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, and that our laws presently derive little from them. Let’s be serious. How many state, local or federal laws contain requirements that you worship only one god, or admonitions against taking the Lord’s name in vain, as the First two commandments require? Since when is it illegal to covet your neighbor’s wife or his possessions, as the last two prohibit? Dishonoring your parents, not keeping the Sabbath holy, committing adultery? All legal, last I looked (though a possible grounds for divorce with regard to the last one).

That’s 70% of the commandments that have little or no bearing on our laws, and in fact at least three of them specifically force religion on you. The remaining three are based on common sense, and certainly existed long before the first book of the Bible was written. Don’t lie, steal or murder. What society would survive without those three? You don’t need Moses to come down from Mt. Sinai to tell you those three are not conducive to a stable society. What? Did the Jews, and everyone before Moses, really believe those three were OK before Moses showed up with the other seven?

The bottom line is that when god-fearing Christians decide to spend my tax money, or even spend privately raised funds, to place 10 religious based admonitions on my tax funded and maintained property, then that clearly has the primary effect of endorsing religion, because there’s really nothing else it’s endorsing.

I wish some of the local and state officials that come up with these rationalizations for forcing their religion on us had the attitude that one of the commentators to the first link had:

From a legal standpoint, I agree with the judge. It is not the job of the state to promote religion.

As a Christian, my faith in God is strong and a constant driving force in my life. Without him, I am nothing.

As an AMERICAN (and human being in general), I support the rights of others to believe as I do, believe in something else or believe in nothing at all. I will have a VOLUNTARY religious discussion with someone, but will not attempt to convert him/her OR prove the existence of God or any other deity.

There are appropriate places for this display, but on courthouse grounds is not one of them.

One’s religious beliefs should be, and are, protected by the First Amendment.  A corollary to that is that those same religious beliefs, being beliefs, are personal to the individual, and should not be forced on the population as a whole.

Besides, we all know you have to be on drugs to believe that shit.

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23 thoughts on “The Tiresome Ten Commandments

  1. Excellent post. I agree that this Ten Commandments stuff is getting tiresome. The fundies are committed to their cause and they are persistent as hell. Those are usually positive traits, but, in the Fundies’ case, they are simply the characteristics of people who are unwilling adapt to changing social and political environments. I can only hope that inability/unwillingness to adapt will lead to the same conclusion for religious fundamentalism that it leads to for species.

  2. Funny how the violation of person is missing from the 10 Commandments. There’s no mandate against rape (except for women as property) or assault or abuse. I suppose those aren’t valid laws to these types of Christians since they don’t exist in this set.

  3. Even the three commandments that make sense don’t shape our laws seeing as how they only pertain to Jews, in Biblical context, ie don’t murder (any Jews), don’t steal (from any Jews), etc. Moses and his cohorts had no qualms about murdering Canaanites or other “non chosen” peoples.

    Great post.

  4. Hey sorry to post an unrelated comment, but I’m genuinely seeking your expertise here, should you be willing to share it.

  5. (Why is it that Christians always have to do things so BIG?)


    Excellent post. I seem to remember a courthouse in the Annapolis area (I may be wrong on this (I saw it back in the mid-1980s)) a small brass plaque with the ten commandments on it. It had been put up when the courthouse was built back in the late 1700s. That (and similar situations) are the only situation where a ten commandments display could be considered historic.

    If we use the fundogelical right’s argument, should we have a 20-ton granite sculpture of the Magna Carta? or Jefferson’s “The Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom”? Or any of the documents which actually have a clear historical connection with the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights?

  6. Dishonoring your parents, not keeping the Sabbath holy, committing adultery? All legal, last I looked (though a possible grounds for divorce with regard to the last one).

    Not anymore than, say, failing to keep the sabbath holy. At least not in California for the past 50 years. If you don’t get along with your spouse you just file irreconcilable differences and get divorced. I assume the rest of the nation has caught up by now. (I know, I know. Californians can’t get too pompous at the moment).

    The point is, adultery (like the other 8 of 10 commandments) is not illegal. Neither are most of the other of “god’s laws” as defined in other parts of the Old Testament. In fact, many of those laws, themselves, are both illegal and immoral in modern culture. I refer to laws regarding women, slaves and prescribed punishments.

    The Christian claim that we “get our morals from Yahweh and the Holy Bible” is simultaneously absurd and frightening.

  7. Barry

    Don’t you have these posted on YOUR front lawn?

    There you go! Now you’re getting the hang of it, Barry. Exactly. They belong on private lawns, not in front of public courthouses. There’s still hope for you yet, (even though you’re dead). 8)

    Better yet….a lighted one.

    Yes. Illuminated from on high, as they say. Maybe get a big star to light the way.

  8. Check the neckline. Plus have you ever seen me without clothes during my numerous public appearances when I was alive?

  9. Ever seen a picture of the commandments where they’re in English? Of course not. So they’re unAmerican and shouldn’t be posted anywhere in the country! Right? Right! And Charlton Heston was obviously a commie freak pushing that foreign stuff over here.

  10. Interesting. Maybe the whole ten commandments in English is made up. Gee one would think you MIGHT not be the first to discover that. Go figure.

    At present I’m sporting my faux collar in FL.

  11. That’s definitely faux Esperanto on the picture in Spanqi’s post, and the guy certainly looks like Chuckie H. Thus, conclusive evidence that Esperanto was actually invented several thousand years ago and morphed into Hebramaic, and also evidence that Chuckie was actually a cybernetic being, else he couldn’t have lasted all those thousands of years until his recent decommissioning.

    And isn’t the quality of the digicameras from those days amazing? Just look at that detail. Wow!

    Oh, damn, I missed my scheduled drug dose this morning. Nuts. Gotta start over.

  12. The pool of ignorance here is truly astounding. It is as if human history never occurred until you were born. You all have a horrific lack of understanding concerning the 10 commandments. It’s history in our nations founding and its influence on Western culture.

    The understanding of the establishment clause is woefully inadequate. Over the last couple of decades historical researchers have compiled impressive statistics and presented compelling arguments regarding the founders views on this issue. The result has been that the tide has turned even in our progressive court system. Progressive works like “The Real George Washington” have been thoroughly discredited. Progressive myths like the founders being deistic have also melted away. The truth is the founders practiced a very tolerant form of Christianity which permitted them to promote the Christian religion while being joyfully accepting of other religions including Catholics, Muslims, and Jews. They also set us on a course to end slavery these objectives were somewhat derailed as a more ignorant form of Christianity and Democratic populism supplanted the enlightened Republican form.

    For a basic primer on this read “The 5,000 Year Leap.” Then you will at least understand the arguments of the other side. Perhaps you will expand your vocab beyond “fundies” and “religiousnuts.”

    The 10 commandments are a summery of the rest of the law of Moses. Further explanation is given in the rest of the Decalogue. Concerning many of the issues raised above. I know it is popular with libs such as yourself to promote how outdated the Law is. The example of rape not being included mentioned. There are ways in which rape was dealt with in the Law but we normally would not appreciate the outcomes due to the age in which we live. You might is well ask why Moses didn’t develop rape kits and test for DNA. The law required guilt to be established by two or three witnesses. How then would you establish rape and get a guilty verdict? They didn’t bother making laws to which no establishment of guilt could be exercised. However a number of provisions were made to protect women from assault. The final commandment is the only one which could not be established in court. It was a matter of the heart. It is placed there to remind the people that all these greater sins against their fellow man really comes out of the heart.

    Your misunderstandings primarily stem from you incorrect understanding of human nature. The truth is that we are deeply flawed and cannot be improved through education alone. We are complex organisms and our entire system of education, incarceration, and the manner in which our government currently operates produce a worse result than they did back at our country’s founding. All these institutions today are guided by progressive principles and they do not work because they are based on atheistic assumptions.

    • That book is just fiction loosely based on history. It’s as accurate as Inglorious Bastards was. Perhaps Tarantino was even more accurate.This is a great look at the author, btw, and here’s a great quote about the book: “first published in 1981, is a heavily illustrated and factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology. As such, it is an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history. Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recast the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible rather than deists inspired by French and English philosophers.”

      Putting the book aside for a moment, how on Earth could the commandments be a basis for the US? First of all, which ones (there are 2 sets in the OT). Then how does having multiple ones insisting that everyone worship only the Abrahamic god either be of any value to the nation or have anything to do with our constitution and it’s protection of the freedom of religion and thought? It’s absurd, and you’re an idiot, Jason.

      Have a nice day.

    • The pool of ignorance here is truly astounding.

      An objective opinion if I’ve ever seen one.

      What you say, as pure opinion, is all well and good, but it definitely shows an ignorance of American history. It’s rooted in belief, and ignores reality. From a historical point of view, the 10 commandments may be all you say they are, but that has relevance only to the goat herding society of ancient Israel, not 21st century America.

      Take a look of Christopher Hitchens recent commentary on the 10 commandments.

      He makes far more sense, and is far more relevant to today, than the Bible even pretends to be.

  13. Oh, gee, okay Jason. I’m sure you have good sources for whatever nonsense you’re promoting, but just to cherry pick you, the United States has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, and that’s not due to progressive principles being in force. That’s due to Republican and Conservative ideology, coupled with the faux Christian theology practiced on the right. Lock ’em up, beat ’em down, and let private companies make a profit off the prison system, and that’ll fix everything. As usual, wrong, primitive, ideological. Oh, and torture, practiced by the recent Republican administration that was so high on Christian values, yeah, that was torture – illegal by our laws and international treaties to which we are signatories. But it was to be expected: after all, you Christians have a long history of brutal savagery towards those who disagree with your crap.

    And progressive principles are not based on atheism. But you’d actually have to understand them to figure that out.

    You are just another turd in the pond of superstition and arrogance, Jason, another evangelist of ignorance and irrationality.

    As for your 5000 year leap book, let’s face it, anything that nutbag ignoramus Glen Beck recommends is suspicious from the get-go. And wow, did you read all the reviews on Amazon? Sounds like all the wingnut conservatives and religionuts in the world collected ten bucks each to write stellar reviews without a single bad word anywhere. That’s realistic, eh?

    Sorry, fella, you’re full of it and it shows.

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