Many christians and many people who talk about “western christian values” like to say that the 10 commandments are universal: everyone can agree with them. So I checked that. I take them by their name: are they suitable as commandments? Not as a fuzzy general guideline, but as binding rules and a foundation for a shared culture?
(1.0) I am god who lead you from slavery in egypt → uhm, no?
(1.1) You shall not have other gods → uhm, why? I have pagan friends, so: no.
(1.2) You shall not represent me as anything which exists → that might make sense: don’t divide by different representations. But it did not work out, as now people picture angels, saints, and so on (and god, too). Also it’s part of commandment 1, so overally no to commandment 1.
(2) You shall not misuse my name → oh god, that really worked, right? no.
(3) No one close to you may work on sunday → and he went to the hospital and… no.
(4) Honor your parents → who might have abused you. No.
(5) Don’t murder → murder is defined nowadays as killing for low motives. So yes (with the right definition of low motives).
(6) Don’t break your marriage → if your wife/husband agrees, why not? So no.
(7) Don’t steal → if you would starve otherwise or the other one created monopolies for himself to oppress you: why not? So no.
(8) Don’t bear false witness → sounds mostly ok. Except if you want to save someone from a mob. So even this is not fit for a general rule. We even have laws which allow bearing false witness when asked illegal questions in a job interview. So no.
(9) Don’t desire the wife of another → why not? What if she desires you, too, and he does not mind? So no.
(10) Don’t desire property of others → be a nice little slave. Desire does not hurt anyone, and it can be a big motivation. So no.
Of the 10 commandments there is only one I agree with: Don’t murder (do not kill out of low motives). All the rest are either petty restrictions which aren’t needed in a free society or would be harmful if people actually always followed them closely.
Note that even for the one commandment I agree with, I only agree with the original version, not with what is currently taught (do not kill).
So the ten commandments are ill suited as a “foundation of western values”. The actual foundation of western values seems to take inspiration from them, but follows from much deeper values like preserving human dignity, valuing every human, being reliable, and only limiting individual freedom where the freedom of others begins.
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