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America and The Ten Commandments
We are aware, most of us, that we have a great system. Partly, it’s because some wise early leaders decided to have a country which would operate by policy independently of religion and thus be able to have almost complete freedom with regard to how and whether each individual believed and worshipped.
Along with this great freedom, we also developed a freedom of speech. Together, they two almost form a freedom of thought and feelings.
Because we have freedom to speak our minds, there will always be some who want to speak an opinion that some of these freedoms ought to be regulated in different ways. In different kinds of extremes, we must probably, most of us, agree.
A religion, for example, that wanted to follow certain old scriptures with regard to sacrifice – might reasonably be stopped by we the people, the government – especially if the religion purported that human sacrifice was to be done. We would stop that. Our feelings, those of we the people, would likely run very strongly against such a belief and its exercise by a religion, and our desire to have freedom of belief would very quickly take a back seat to those feelings. We the people might go so far as to resort to violence in stopping such a religious practice. We would do this even if the one to be sacrificed accepted it as an honor and was a volunteer.
On the other side of this, religion and the power it wields among the people might try to influence the government, we the people, to conform to one or more of its tenets. An example might be to have laws regulating or disallowing a freedom to abort the support for the living fetus of a child. These feelings can run very strong also - and lead sometimes even to a motivation to violence. We’re aware of some of this violence in actual currency.
It may be interesting to note that each of the above is a feeling to stop what is considered an unacceptable killing – the sacrifice by a religious group – or the abortion by a non-religious person – or a person of differing religious belief. In both cases, it can mean a “justified” killing to stop an “unjustified” one.
Some of this second group have of late been supporting their positions by a statement that our nation was founded on religious principles, in particular, those from the Bible, and even more specifically, that it was founded on The Ten Commandments.
Let’s consider how true this may be:
Here is the first commandment:
I AM THE LORD THY GOD, THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.
Well – at least this one appears not to be in our law – nor in the intent from our beginnings. We are free to have any god we like – and any number of them – with no fear from the law.
And the second commandment:
THOU SHALT NOT MAKE UNTO THEE ANY GRAVEN IMAGE.
Not this one either – not in any of our laws. We may make any graven image we like – and we may worship it as we please. Our freedom to worship false gods is completely protected.
So - Here is the third commandment:
THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD THY GOD IN VAIN.
Well no – not this one either, we can curse any god we like. We hear it from good mechanics and plumbers and doctors and lawyers – and sometimes from you and me. None of us fear punishment other than social.
Ok – Here is the fourth commandment:
REMEMBER THOU KEEP HOLY THE SABBATH DAY.
Nope again – we have no law concerning a Sabbath Day – and nothing in the Constitution.
Here’s the fifth commandment:
HONOR THY FATHER AND THY MOTHER.
Good advice most of the time. But again, no laws about this. Most of we Americans would like to see an abusive parent not honored, and we have enough freedom to pull it off. Here in our country, we have a tendency to honor those who have earned it, not having a simple regard for the title, even if the title is parent.
And the sixth commandment:
THOU SHALT NOT KILL.
Yep – This one is in our law – that’s only one of the first six. Certain killings are legal, but some are not. This is in the laws of probably all countries – in differing formats.
The seventh commandment:
THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY.
Nope – All 50 states fail to fine or imprison for adultery. In very few states, this sin may be a part of the data in a settlement of a civil case for divorce. Some cases are still prosecuted in the military, where freedoms have been voluntarily divorced, but for the most part, adultery is 100% legal.
The eighth commandment:
THOU SHALT NOT STEAL.
Yep – this one is in our law – and the laws of every other country. In some countries, the penalties are much more severe for this one than they are in ours. Even countries which have disdain for religion still have laws to curtail theft. But at least we have two of the first eight commandments finding their way into our law to some degree.
The ninth commandment:
THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST THY NEIGHBOR.
Many lies are legal in our country. Prosecutors may lie to suspects, for example. I was taught to lie about government secrets under certain circumstances. When under oath in court, we may not lie, and we call it perjury. This commandment may not be about lying, however, but about such things as gossip – hurtful talking about a neighbor, even if true – or falsely testifying against someone. If this is the case, we have no laws other than civil (suable) offenses. It’s not reasonable to think this commandment has made its way via religion into our law.
The tenth commandment:
THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR'S WIFE OR GOODS.
Nope again – we may covet all we want with no fear of the laws of this land. In fact, many believe that coveting is part of what makes capitalism work so well. The ideology of Communism tries to make coveting illegal, but we all know it doesn’t work very well. The coveting still goes on, and certain leaders gain advantage.
Our freedoms are truly great – greater, perhaps, than they are anywhere else on this planet. Fortunately, it’s unlikely that religion in this country can have its way with us. We own it; it does not own us. We may use it to our advantage – or reject it all outright – with no fear of the law. We may curtail it if it is extreme. It may, because of its social power, also curtail government when we the people are extreme. Religion may also wield great power by the vote – when it is organized to a position. This is legal, and it is not trivial. An admitted atheist is not likely soon to be president, no matter how qualified or dedicated to the people. Our freedom is great enough to support the right, however, of any candidate to “pretend” a religion, and we are quite sure that many do just this.
Our country is most assuredly not based on Christianity or any other religion. It’s one of the greatest truths that make us great as we are. Our freedom of thought, which is born largely of the two freedoms – religion and speech, is the basis for all other freedoms. Some would say that we have been “blessed,” while others among us might simply say that we are “damned lucky.” We’re free to look upon it either way we choose.
- Chuck Borough
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