Sunday, September 9, 2012

Once Again, It's This Stuff Again

So, the clowns in Georgia (yep. To quote Adam Savage: There's your problem) are setting up for a fight with the ACLU and the rest of the civilized world. They've set up the Ten Commandments inside of a court house (Why do they do that? Why; of all the places to put them, why blaspheme them by sticking them up in front of one of the most dysfunctional justice systems on the planet?), and to my knowledge, even passed a bill making it "perfectly legal" to do so.

The common argument I routinely here is that they're the foundation for American Law and the foundation for Western Law. Western Law I can't speak too, but I know they sure as hell are not the foundation for American Law; explicitly, the Constitution.

How so? A lot of atheists say that, but very few of them actually stop to explain the number of ways that the Ten Commandments violate the Constitution, expecting people to either know or go and look it up themselves. Well, I have some free time tonight (and an earache; the sinus infection wasn't bad enough, you know. I really hate living in this state, with it's unpredictable weather), so I'm going to lay out exactly how and why the Constitution, if it was inspired by the Bible and the Ten Commandments, as is so commonly claimed, it was as an example of what not to do in a system of law.

The very first thing you have to do when talking about this is decide which of the various versions you want to use. Exodus and Deuteronomy both give two versions with their major and minor differences, and each Christian sect has their own variation on the theme. There are some things that run in common, however, but they're not as many as you would think. When you think about it, the very concept of a "generic" list of 10 Commandments is offensive to at least some Christian sect somewhere, because "generic" usually means "dominate group", which in this case would be some form of Baptist. Because it becomes a theological clusterfuck trying to determine which set to use, however, I'm going to just role with whatever set is easiest for me to find - and because Wikipedia is there for me, and Exodus comes before Deuteronomy, that's the version I'm going to be using. I have no fetish for "original commandments" because, if you recall, Moses supposedly broke the original ones on the ground when he saw that the Americans were worshiping Adam Smith, money, and the golden idol of Capitalism Hebrews worshiping the golden calf, so I personally couldn't care less. I just need an example list to show you how wrong this is, so Exodus will do.

How the Ten Commandments would be illegal if put into law:
All verses taken from Exodus 21:1-17. I'm using the Philonic Division, since not only is it the oldest, but it breaks them up the cleanest and makes it easy for me to deal with them:

1.Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
How would you enforce this one? You're not supposed to have any Gods before this God, so any Pagans or Hindus or another polytheist group is just screwed. Before you trumpet your horn and say that's how the Godly are supposed to be, let me direct you to this little number, located within the Constitutional Bill of Rights, which were established to prevent the government from getting too much power:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The very first of your commandments violates that red, bolded, underlined text that I made easy for you to read. That right thar is the First Amendment. By making God the only God in the nation, and enforcing that amendment, you violate the freedom of religion for pagans, Hindus, and others who have multiple gods and goddesses.

You also violate your own religion. I mean, seriously guys. Do you honestly think that Catholicism will be allowed to stay in this country if the Protestants get power? You've been killing one another for centuries for power and the ability to punish each other. I'd rather not see that happen here.
2. (a)Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth | (b) Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;| (c) And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
The second commandment breaks down into three separate elements. The first part of that, (a), renders illegal all of the following: wilderness photography, MRI and surgical imaging, all art classes everywhere, statues, paintings, all deep space photography, all images of deep sea life and any television show period, along with anything else that is a picture (graven image) of anything in the heaven above, the earth beneath, or the water "under the earth". The good news, though, is that by taking this literally, the oceans remain free game. After all, they're not below the earth.

I challenge any fundie anywhere to tell me that I can't draw in my free time. I dare you.

That first part is a blatant violation of the freedom of speech for artists, both professional and amateur. Oh, I know what this is for; this is to keep people from making idols and worshiping them. But that's not only what it prohibits. Hell, your own crucifix is a violation of the second commandment.

And depending upon how you view that commandment, you can't even have any abstract geometric shapes, since they're "that is in the earth beneath" - a circle could be a representation of a star. A square could be a representation of a box. We better ban geometry, too, and trig, and architecture, because we have to take this literally.

B is a rehashing of the first commandment, because God loves to hear himself talk, and breaks all of the free speech laws associated with it. It also says that God is going to punish your children if you break any of these commandments - you know, like drawing anything, anywhere - because he's a just god like that.

C basically says I, God, am gonna love you if you do exactly what I say and don't make me hit you. Really.

Now, for what gets violated:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Like before, I've highlighted in red the part of the first amendment that gets violated. You'll note that God explicitly prohibits the worship of other religions, and the moratorium on all graven images is a violation of the freedom of speech (since symbols and pictures are a form of speech, as the supreme court has ruled in the past). So right there, you're batting 0/2 on "How the Ten Commandments Influenced the Constitution" chart.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
There's a lot of controversy about what this means. Some people think that this is redressing folks like me, who love to say "God damn it" all the time. Others think that that this is lying, and using God's name to justify lies (holy shit. You mean Christian Fundamentalists break their own commandments every time they talk about creationism or Barak Obama? Say it ain't so; my faith is now destroyed...). Clearly, I'm missing Commandment 0 - All of these shall apply to thy neighbor, but not to thee.

Anyway, regardless how this works, it's an abridging of the freedom of speech. I have a freedom to lie to you. You have a freedom to lie to me. It's my right to say "God damn it" and just like it's their right to lie about all things God-related. So, again, the part of the Constitution that this violates:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
We're 3 in now and we're  0/3. It's not looking good.
4. (a) Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.| (b) Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work| (c) But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:| (d) For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Overlooking that it's still violating Congress making a law that respects an establishment of religion (does this look like your list of 10 commandments? No? Why shouldn't we use this one, and saying that it isn't your isn't good enough. And now you see why this whole business of not respecting a religion is good; because when it's your religion getting shit on, you see the world in a whole different light), this one doesn't violate the first amendment.

What it is doing, however, is telling the government to get into your life and force you not to work on this day.

Now here's the fun thing: define "work". Go ahead. I'll wait right here.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews define work as "anything physical*". They even developed a certain type of elevator, since they believe operating elevators on the Sabbath is a violation of this commandment. You whine and kvetch now about the government telling you what you can and can't eat, but just wait until the government is telling you that you can't operate a motor vehicle on a Sunday without violating the Sabbath. Clearly, the very concept of a weak federal government was based on this idea that the government should force people not to do things during the Sabbath.

Which, by the way, is Saturday. Damn Roman heathen.

So this one right here violates everything you believe a government should be. It's the antithesis of small government. And while not in violation of the Constitution directly, I'm sure that it violates countless other laws that have been put in place to limit what the government can and can't do in your daily life. So we're at commandment 4 and we're 0/4, with the first 4 being illegal in some fashion or another.
5.  Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
First, the government owns the land, not God. Second, the government, through the banks, gives it to me. God has nothing to do with this, unless you want to reinforce the stereotype that yes, Christian Fundamentalists paint themselves in Jesus and throw themselves before Mammon. And I'm sure that children who are abused sexually, or abused emotionally or physically, by their parents want to "honor" them.

This is against the law of common sense, and it flies in the face of the very notion of a decent society. A government law forcing people to honor their parents would take what form, by the way? I trade barbs and insults with my parents in good humor, and I love them. That's clearly not honoring them, but is it wrong? And again, what about children who are sexually, emotionally, and physically abused? You're going to force them to honor their parents; their abusers?

Please, tell me again how you have the moral high ground, you pretentious monster. This law doesn't make any exceptions. Honor your father and mother. End of argument. It doesn't matter how many times you were abused growing up. Clearly, God neither cares nor thought to put an asterisk there that said (Exceptions including abused children).

It's hard to see how this is the basis for the Constitution, when it's not even the basis for the rhetoric of the people who push for this shit to be splattered everywhere.

0/5. The first 5 would be illegal, and the 5th would be utterly monstrous if enforced - proving once again that God is the last person who needs to be lecturing to us about morality.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
Holy shit we got one.

Six in, and we finally find one.

This one right here has been enshrined in our laws; in fact, we have different "levels" of killing to measure the intent - manslaughter, first degree, second degree, etc. - so yes, this one is right there in our laws.

Of course, that's murder. What do they mean by kill? And kill who? Are we not supposed to kill animals? It just says "Thou shalt not Kill". So if you're going to take this to literally, it means you can't kill period. That ant you just stepped on? You just broke the 6th commandment. The bacteria that you killed with the antibiotic, because you had an infect? You just broke the 6th commandment. This is why I laugh when people tell me they "take it literally". No they don't. You'd drive yourself nuts if you took it literally. You're using "literal" as a code word, to sooth your own cognitive dissonance because you don't have every answer to every little thing in the universe and aren't emotionally and intellectually mature enough to handle the consequences of that. It's the idea of the Bible, rather than the Bible itself, that they worship. This infallible document that always proves them right - because the document they're referencing certainly isn't the Bible.

So, taking literally, this one is anti-life and obviously a violation of multiple laws. However, because nobody takes them literally, this one is not in violation of anything. In fact, it is a law that we have enshrined, and that has been in place since the Code of Hammurabi, the first set of codified laws to ever be put down.

I'm going to be generous here. We'll say 1/6.
7 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
There's no laws in place that ban adultery (or if there are, they're not enforced or they're selectively enforced). If there were, what would the punishments be? Jail? Our jail systems are already overflowing and crowded. Fines? The Bible recommends stoning, mind you.

What about swingers, and people who lead open life styles? What about them? You're going to have the government step in and tell them what they can and cannot do? Based on this law?  Okay, sure. You're violating the life style choices of others, mind you, but this isn't really against the law. So I'm going to say 2/7, but there's nothing in the Constitution about this, so clearly, it had no impact on the Founding Fathers (as it shouldn't have had - read up on Benjamin Franklin sometime. He was the original dirty old man).

So we're 2 for 7, in terms of "If this was put into act today, it would be illegal."
8. Thou shalt not steal.
Whoa, shit, we've got another one!

Theft, like murder, breaks down into different crimes based on how the theft was committed. You have larceny, grand theft, and other types.

Of course, this clearly wasn't the founding of our system since you're constantly accusing the government of "theft" all the time, and stand by while Wall Street gambles with your hard earned retirement funds - stealing it from you, mind you - and then turn around and applaud them because "that's how capitalism works." So while you don't abide by this amendment, it is a law, and is not a violation of the Constitution.

Thus, we're at 3/8.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
There's a lot of different interpretations of what this one means, and it's only like that because, you know, taking it literally makes too much sense (if you just said "but you can't take it literally," congratulations. That was what I wanted you to say). I'm not even sure what this means; I'm going to assume that it means you're not supposed to lie about your neighbor, so if your neighbor doesn't commit a crime but you lie and say they do because you don't like the fact that they're Irish Catholic Black Gay Atheist Barak Obama not like you, then you're in violation of this amendment.

By this interpretation, the this is legally known as "lying your ass off under oath" and that can get you in a whole hell of a lot of hot water. And it is illegal, by the way. The Judge can hold you in contempt of court.

However, I'm not going to award this one the coveted status, simply because there are so many different ways to interpret this. What does "false witness" mean? I mean, literally, bearing false witness means you're carrying a fake person to throw against your neighbor, but in the metaphorical sense? What does it mean? Lying to them? Lying about them in a court? Lying about them in the public? Lying about them period, no specific situations allowed? I can't get a solid grasp of what this one means, and any other interpretation violates freedom of speech, so no. We're 3/9.

Speaking of coveting:
10. (a) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house | (b) thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
Clearly, God doesn't want you having homosexual thoughts about your neighbor. After all, coveting his as... okay, okay. I'll get my coat.

God doesn't have the first goddamn clue how capitalism works. This one doesn't violate any law - I mean, you'd need ThoughtCrime, Inc. in order to prosecute people who break it, so it's absurd on its face to think this impacted the Constitution any at all - but more importantly, this one goes against the fundamental grain of Capitalism. If you're not supposed to want anything (that's what covet means), then you're not supposed to work to be just like your neighbor. Remember the whole "Keeping up with the Joneses?" Yeah. That drive to improve yourself, because you saw Jack get rich and you want what he's got? That's violating this commandment. God is gonna smite your unholy Capitalist ass. Clearly, the proper response to this is to give up everything including the desire to live, become an asetic, and take up Taoism since even a desire to end up in Heaven like Jesus is a violation of this commandment.

Of course, being literal, it only says his house, wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, ass, or anything is thy neighbor's. So if he has air and you're suffocating, you're violating the 10th commandment by coveting that air he's breathing (I love this whole "take it literally" approach. It's fucking absurd on its face how ridiculous it is).

No, this one clearly had no influence in this country at all. We're 3/10.

Of course, this isn't fair. Because, you know, that's actually 0/10, and I'll show you why. You're doing this not because this is the right thing to do. You're doing this in the name of your religion, because it's what your religion says. It doesn't matter whether your religion is right on this or not, all that matters here is that it's your religion. And the Constitutional Bill of Rights has something it would like to say to you:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Fuck off, Markuze.

    Wait... holy shit. My blog just got a comment from Mabus.

    I'm feeling all sorts of special now!

  3. Thus, the rationalist follows one Commandment:

    Thou shalt not take human life.

    I would add "Do unto others", but some people might like being dominated, humiliated and the like. Perhaps some iteration of Wheaton's law (Don't be a Dick) should be a commandment too...