SOME THOUGHTS ON ETHICS AND RELIGION
“If God does not exist, everything is permitted” is attributed to Dostoyevsky’s Ivan Karamazov. Did he mean that it is impossible to have a moral code of conduct without believing in God? In fact, one could argue the opposite. True ethics exist only in the absence of an authoritarian and watchful God. For of what value is good behavior if it stems from fear of punishment or hope of heavenly rewards?
Ethics evolve when people have emancipated themselves from external diktats and internalized the values they have absorbed from their parents, teachers, mentors and other influential individuals in their life. That is what is meant by leaving childhood and becoming adults.
So then shall we reexamine the Ten Commandments in that context to see how much relevance they have today? They definitely need dismantling.
–Let us first get rid of the three in which an irascible and capricious God enjoins us to obey only him.
–Some commandments should become optional–Keeping the Sabbath and honoring your father and mother. That is up to each one of us to decide.
–Covetousness and adultery are certainly undesirable but not sinful.
–Killing, stealing and bearing false witness have now entered the criminal code and therefore are redundant.
Having smashed the tablets, we need to proceed to building our own set of values. I have identified six commandments for myself and would like to know what guideposts other people have decided on.
1. Thou shalt not be cruel and hurt others deliberately, whether humans or animals.
2. Thou shalt not betray anyone’s trust.
3. Thou shalt not force thy beliefs onto others.
4. Thou shalt not be greedy and accumulate wealth at the expense of others.
5. Thou shalt be solely responsible for thy actions and not blame thy parents, genes or environment.
6. Thou shalt get rid of the concepts of sacredness and blasphemy. No people, places or objects such as relics are sacred. All are subject to questioning.
These then are my six commandments. What are yours?