A Revised Ten Commandments for Atheists June 21, 2009

A Revised Ten Commandments for Atheists

This isn’t new, but it worth sharing. It comes from IAmAnAtheist.com: a list of rights and responsibilities for moral atheists:

  1. Have no gods.
  2. Don’t worship stuff.
  3. Be polite.
  4. Take a day off once in a while.
  5. Be nice to folks.
  6. Don’t kill people.
  7. Don’t cheat on your significant other.
  8. Don’t steal stuff.
  9. Don’t lie about stuff.
  10. Don’t be greedy.

Nicely put. Let’s get that version up in a courthouse…

The theistic version isn’t nearly as helpful.

(Thanks to Jon for the link!)

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  • Jude

    I like these “Life Instructions in cartoon format” on an old blog post by Matthew Stibbe of Bad Language: http://www.badlanguage.net/life-instructions-in-cartoon-format

  • I like it.

  • This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 6/21/2009, at The Unreligious Right

  • TJ

    I like George Carlin’s take on it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkRYaMiP4K8

  • Gabemik

    Friendly Atheist writes,
    a list of rights and responsibilities for moral atheists:

    Shouldn’t that at least be,
    a list of rights and responsibilities for moral atheists:?

    They sound like a good set of guidlines to me.

  • I like them but I personally prefer contrapositive wordings of the “Don’t” statements.

  • We don’t need ten.

    Treat others with respect even when they don’t respect you covers the stealing, killing, cheating, lying stuff. Keep your religion to yourself covers the belief stuff.

    George Carlin said it best.

    You know what, most atheists I know have gone past the whole “higher moral authority” telling us what to do. We’re not idiots and we’re not sheep. Thank you very much. If the Christians still need that then they’re welcome to it.

  • I liked the theistic commandment

    Always ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” and then do what the church tells you to do.

    So true.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    What, no “Honor thy mother and father”? And on Father’s Day, too, Hemant. Shame, shame, shame. . . 🙂

  • To Jeff: “Contrapositives” would necessarily require prescribing behavior. That’s what religions do. Best way to control a powerful animal (like a bull, a human, or a society) is to give it a very big pasture. I prefer to work out the specifics on my own; I bet most people do too.

  • Richard Wade

    These are the five principles I practice daily (with the exception of my occasional lapses into impatience and selfishness.) They overlap and depend on each other, so there is no rank order:

    Treat everyone respectfully.
    Practice truthfulness.
    Practice kindness at every opportunity.
    Practice equality and fairness for everyone.
    Maximize freedom for everyone.

    To live by these principles conscientiously requires constant use of personal judgment, and taking personal responsibility for that judgment. For instance, they might conflict in a given circumstance, and there will not be a neat, clean and simple solution:

    “Do you like my new hairstyle?”

    The truthful thing would be to say “no,” the kind thing might be to say “yes,” and the respectful thing would not be to have the person look ridiculous, in your opinion, in public. So judgment, thoughtfulness, tact and trust come into play. The response could be different every time, given the many variable factors.

    Life gives us few situations with crystal clear solutions. We have to use our judgment and take full responsibility for the consequences.

  • I personally think you can replace all 10 with just one: Thou shalt not initiate force.

  • Kurt Cobain: “I’ve lost my mind many times, and my wallet many more. In the simplest terms:
    1. Don’t rape.
    2. Don’t be prejudice.
    3. Don’t be sexist.
    4. Love your children.
    5. Love your neighbor.
    6. Love yourself.
    Don’t let your opinions obstruct the aforementioned list.”

  • Chakolate

    Pretty good list, except that I’d say simply, ‘Don’t cheat’. Why limit it to your significant other?

    But mostly I agree with hoverfrog, that if you think for yourself you really don’t need any list except your own.

  • Instead of “Have no gods”… “Have no supernatural beliefs or superstitions”. And I know some polyamorous people that might want 7 to say something like “Don’t cheat on your significant other(s).”

  • TJ

    1. Don’t use force unless force is used against you. (this one would bring world peace!)
    2. Question everything. Nothing is above criticism.
    3. Do whatever you want, so long as you don’t harm anyone else.
    4. Nobody has the right to not be offended. (addendum to number 3)
    5. No tangible evidence? It doesn’t get taught in schools.
    6. No child shall be indoctrinated into dogmatic belief systems by anyone.
    7. Equal rights and consideration for all, barring physical or medical limitations of course (blind people can’t drive for example).
    8. Being a part of an organization which believes in the supernatural should not exempt one from paying taxes.
    9. Believers should not be allowed to be in a position where they can make decisions that affect society as a whole. (Separation of church and state for real. Not that all of them do this, but it can still lead to bad things. Just nip this problem in the bud.)
    10. You want equal treatment? Prove it. Stop protesting atheist ads in public like the hypocrites you are. Well I guess this one should simply say “don’t be a hypocrite”.

  • Richard Wade

    Number 9 on your list is in conflict with number 7.

  • To Jeff: “Contrapositives” would necessarily require prescribing behavior.

    The contrapositives I was thinking of are more along the lines of what Richard Wade posted. Just general principles. No behavioral specifics.

    But as you, I’m not a big fan of making lists.

  • TJ

    Number 9 on your list is in conflict with number 7.

    Fair enough, but the people I described in 9 are the ones who would violate number 7.

    Medical limitations include mental limitations, which includes believers 😉

    There, that nailed it.

  • Richard Wade


  • Thilina

    I liked the theistic commandment

    Always ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” and then do what the church tells you to do.

    Every time i hear WWJD i remeber this http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1424

    Thank you SMBC

  • TJ… I might also point out that #1 and #8 contradict. Taxes, by definition, are an initiation of force. And if you don’t believe me, then don’t pay them… and see what happens. 🙂

  • jersey

    Only one commandment is necessary. Follow the golden rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.


  • GullWatcher

    By that reasoning, Spork, making any law would constitute “initiating force”.

  • Ashish

    You should check out George Carlin’s(RIP) routine – the Ten Commandments… it’s up on youtube.

  • They’re all pretty great, except for number seven. What does it mean to “cheat”?

  • Here’s my list:

    1. Forgive others their wrongs and focus more on the wrongs you have committed
    2. Show compassion, sympathy, and kindness at every opportunity
    3. Know that others have different views and try to understand them
    4. Help others when they need and will accept help; be willing to sacrifice for others
    5. Do not be arrogant
    6. Use reason: seek knowledge, question information given to you, and think for yourself; always allow for the possibility that you may be wrong
    7. Reign in your fear, anger, envy, greed, and jealousy; recognize them and do not act on them
    8. Take responsibility for your actions, and do not use the actions of others to excuse yourself
    9. Always try to work for the greater good, but first, do no harm
    10. If you must judge others, judge them by their actions alone

    Of course, the list need not stop at ten. One obvious omission I saw later is “one cannot avoid responsibility by doing nothing; inaction bears as much responsibility as action does when one has the ability to act.” I’m sure there could be more additions just as important.

    I wrote this in a blog post in which I made the point that as a moral guide, the Ten Commandments is pretty useless; half is about upholding the authority of the church, and the other half is mostly really obvious stuff which people would know anyway; it’s not like people would have seen the tablets and gone, “Oh, stealing is WRONG! All this time I thought it was moral and just!”

    The Ten Commandments, even at its best, is such a blunt tool that it’s useless in giving moral advice. How does “Thou shalt not steal” help when you are given the choice between stealing from people with excess or watching a starving child die?

    I found it amusing that when I wrote that post, a commenter responded, “You [sic] impromptu list smacks of chutzpah after millenniums of consideration by the best minds in religion….” So many things wrong with that statement, the typo not being one of them.

    Blog post reference–the preview choked on the link generated by the comment form, so I include it here: http://blogd.com/wp/index.php/archives/3273 (link

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