Saturday, 10 January 2015

Ten Commandments for a secular life

Bertrand Russell wrote his Liberal Decalogue  or ten commandments for a good life in 1951.

"The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:

1/  Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2/  Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
3/  Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
4/  When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
5/  Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
6/  Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
7/  Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
8/  Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
9/  Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
10/ Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness."

As I see it, these are still up to date and undoubtedly better than any of the versions of the ten commandments in the bible.  Yes, there are at least two radically different versions in the Old Testament, and a subset of them in the New Testament.

** Exodus 20: 2-17 and Deuteronomy 5: 6-21 are the basis of the common versions.  Exodus 34:12-26 replaced the first tablets after Moses smashed them but are very different.  In the New Testament it could be argued that only 5 or 6 commandments get mentioned at all.  (See Matt 19:18-19, Mark 10:19 and Luke 18:20)