Improving the Ten Commandments

How would you improve on the ten commandments? What would you change, take away, or add? Here is my own attempt at improving the ten commandments. I have modified the first ten, sometimes substantially, and I have added six more for what I’m calling a Humanist Hexadecalogue. These sixteen commandments have not come down from a deity, and there may be no divine punishment for breaking them, but they make good sense, and there will be consequences for breaking them. These consequences include unhappiness, ill will, social discord, and inhospitable environments.

#1: The Value of Human Life

Place no value before the value of human life. Remember that human life (or analogous sentient life) is the source of value. Respect this in both yourself and others, regardless of race, color, gender, age, disability, creed, sexual orientation, or other differences between people.

#2: Avoid Idolatry

Do not serve or worship idols. Do not make yourself a slave to any cult, ideology, person, or obsession. Do not place blind faith in any creed, book, prophet, or deity. Always think for yourself.

#3: Do Not Curse in God’s Name

Do not invoke the name of God to curse or condemn others. Never threaten people with eternal damnation in Hell. Never misuse the idea of God to terrorize people or to frighten them into submission. Never invoke God to justify hatred or intolerance.

#4: Make Time for Yourself

Regularly make time for yourself. Play, relax, and do things that are meaningful to you. Don’t live a life of slavery to work and drudgery. Take time to appreciate, enjoy, and celebrate your life, because its your life that gives value to your work, not vice versa.

#5: Respect Parental Dignity

Respect the dignity of your parents or parental figures. It is natural for them to love you and want what is best for you. As long as they do, honor their place in your life and treat them with kindness. Even if you must disagree with them, treat with respect the love they give you.

As a parent or parental figure, care for your children, and act in a way to merit their respect.

#6: Do No Harm

Do not commit murder. Do not abuse others or treat them with cruelty. Do not seek to harm others, whether physically, financially, or emotionally. As best you can, do no harm to others, and seek to minimize any harm you must do to protect yourself or others from harm.

#7: Respect Marriage

Marriage is a human sacrament that sanctifies the relationship between two adults who love one another and have chosen to commit to each other.

Do not engage in or acknowledge the validity of plural marriage, child marriage, forced marriage, or any one-sided marriage in which only one side consents.

Remain faithful if married, and always respect the marriages of others.

When needed, allow for divorce, but only when it can be shown that the marriage will not work.

#8: Do Not Steal

Do not steal. Do not cheat people. Do not pirate or claim ownership to intellectual property that is not your own.

#9: Be Honest

Deal with people honestly, and never lie to yourself. Be intellectually honest. Avoid sophistries, fallacies, and empty rhetoric. Do not defraud others. Do not bear false witness against others. Do not plagiarize others.

#10: Avoid Craving

Do not let yourself be consumed with cravings for what you cannot or should not have, or for what you may one day lose, for this will cause you suffering. Make yourself at peace with what you cannot change. Accept defeat gracefully. Love and appreciate without undue attachment.

#11: No Slavery

You may never own anyone as a slave. Never treat anyone as a slave, and do not force yourself on others. Always respect the autonomy of others, allowing them to live for their own ends and purposes.

#12: Protect the Commons

Protect the world we share in common. Avoid polluting and littering. Preserve plant and wildlife. Keep the environment safe and clean for others, and help preserve it for future generations.

#13: Do Not Patent Life

No one owns the code of life. Do not claim or recognize any intellectual property rights in DNA or anything else that is self-replicating. Do not sue farmers for planting the seeds from their own crops.

#14: Pursue Education

Pursue education. Develop your mind. Learn about the arts and sciences. Study the humanities. Seek after wisdom and knowledge. Learn to question and think. Encourage others to also pursue education.

#15: Pursue Virtue

Seek to be a good and virtuous person, for such people are happier and do more good in the world. Develop habits of doing the right thing. Avoid extremes and aim for the mean between them.

#16: Live Meaningfully

Live your life in a way that is meaningful to you. You may find meaning through love and service, through creativity, or through facing suffering. Live a life you feel really matters and counts for something.

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