Tuesday, January 14, 2014

God's Quality Control 10.1: Yahweh's Priorities

Here I discuss my thoughts on the Great Disconnect—one might call this one the Ultimate Disconnect—between Yahweh's priorities, as indicated by the Ten Commandments, and what really matters in the world.

The Ten Commandments, Yahweh's first spoken announcement to humanity at large, are to be found in Exodus Chapter 20. What is Yahweh's first public utterance, the most vital tenet of morality that all humans must observe? Don't have any other gods besides Yahweh. Really. That's the big kahuna. But to adequately address Yahweh's emotional insecurity, we need three further commandments: don't make idols, don't misuse its name, and honor Yahweh by following its example of taking a day off once a week.

What really matters in the world? What really matters is suffering; the only useful basis for morality is the well-being of creatures that have the capacity to suffer. Certainly it is not Yahweh's neediness that matters. One might say that the command to take a day off has a nice ring to it, but its purpose is to further stroke Yahweh's ego. Human well-being is not even an afterthought; it's a coincidental side-effect.

Once Yahweh gave us the bedrock of morality, it moved on to the most vital tenet of morality concerning human interpersonal relationships: honor your father and mother. Really. That's the big kahuna. What's next? Don't murder. For Yahweh, your relationship with your parents is more important than not killing people. I have to give Yahweh some credit for having a sense of humor, admitting that one's relationship with one's parents can indeed lead to murderous impulse. Four more prohibitions round out the Ten Commandments, Yahweh's first and most important public service announcement of all time: don't commit adultery, steal, give false testimony against your neighbor, or covet.

Only two of these ten commands are unambiguously useful: don't murder and don't give false testimony. The command to honor one's parents doesn't allow for the all-too-frequent incidence of dishonorable parents. The word adultery emphasizes official marriage, leaving out unofficial but equally valid relationships. Stealing can often be justified, especially in a world where the rich have everything and the poor have nothing. Coveting occurs in one's own mind, and like everything else in one's mind, cannot harm others.

Two reasonable commands, four ridiculous, and four grossly inadequate as a basis for a functional society. Worse than the content is what has been left out. Why no prohibition against torture? Rape? Slavery? Sex with children? Plutocracy? Why no insistence on mercy? Compassion? Empathy? Introspection? "Love your neighbor" does finally show up, but much later. It doesn't make the top ten, or even the top thirty.

The Great Disconnect starts with the Supreme Being itself and its top priorities. Its main concern is to protect its fragile ego, which it demonstrates by introducing itself to humanity with four self-serving commandments. It then demonstrates its concern for—one might even say competence at promoting—human social harmony, by belching out a few ill-considered trifles, omitting myriad other ideas that could have made inconceivable positive differences to human history. That's 10.1. Thanks for watching.

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