A humanist organization took upon themselves the task of creating a set of 10 commandments for atheists. They gathered together numerous peoples responses as to what should be in such a list, and crafted their top ten 'principles'. This is how it came out;
- Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
- Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
- The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
- Every person has the right to control over their body.
- Belief in God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
- Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
- Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
- We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.
- There is no one right way to live.
- Leave the world a better place than you found it.
As a Christian raised within a liberal Presbyterian tradition, I would have no problem endorsing most of the above. I couldn't help noticing how much they reflect teaching attributed to Scripture. I think particularly of words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 7:12; "In everything, do to others what you would want them to do to you. This is what is written in the Law and in the Prophets.” (See number 7)
I would question the observation that 'the scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world', if it means that insights of other disciplines, particularly spirituality, should never be taken into account. That would seem to contradict the first two injunctions about being open minded and striving to understand uncomfortable truths. I have real difficulty with the ninth observation. It just seems odd to suggest 10 right ways to live and include an injunction that says 'There is no one right way to live.'
Continuing with a series on 'Covenants of Grace' (last weeks sermon can be found here) this coming Sunday we'll be reflecting on the original 'Big Ten' that Moses brought down from the mountain (Exodus20:1-17). They have served humanity well for over 4000 years and if the example above is the best that folk in our generation can come up with, then the first draft are worth taking another look at.
And it does seem ironical that, when it comes to some of the ethical imperatives in the list above, the best these particular atheists can do is echo commands a person of faith would say were given by God! I know many of them wouldn't see it that way, but I try and keep an open mind :-)
Hard to find a song to go with this theme... but 'Mercy Me' have a quirky little offering called 'Ten Simple Rules'. Enjoy! And if you happen to be in the Ellicott City area hope to see some of you Sunday.
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.