Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ten Commandments for Atheists

     Well, well, evolution really does work. The Atheists now have a set of Ten Commandments, aka “The List for Life.”  Apparently, the virtuous gene has replicated itself enough times that atheists are ready for something akin to Judea/Christian rules for behavior.

     Evolution works a bit slower than God, however, since this set has arrived over 3,500 years after the original God gave to Moses.  They weren’t even placed on clay tablets but at least there are still ten of them. I’m not sure that the number ten was arrived at through natural selection or if it was blatant copying from God, not that atheists would ever admit such a thing.

     As reported in the Sidney Morning HeraldThe writer, philosopher and pillar of the Fourth Estate, Alain de Botton, has just published a set of 10 commandments for virtuous atheists.” They are being touted as a potentially positive influence on modern life. Something, like umm, Christianity, where treating others like you want to be treated is considered a good idea. 

Alain de Botton
     Let’s see how the atheist’s ten stack up against the real deal—the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai. 

Alain de Botton's “List for Life”

1. Resilience: Keeping going even when things are looking dark.
2. Empathy: The capacity to connect imaginatively with the sufferings and unique experiences of another person.
3. Patience: We should grow calmer and more forgiving by being more realistic about how things actually happen.
4. Sacrifice: We won't ever manage to raise a family, love someone else or save the planet if we don't keep up with the art of sacrifice.
5. Politeness: Politeness is closely linked to tolerance, -the capacity to live alongside people whom one will never agree with, but at the same time, cannot avoid.
6. Humour: Like anger, humour springs from disappointment, but it is disappointment optimally channeled.
7. Self-awareness: To know oneself is to try not to blame others for one's troubles and moods; to have a sense of what's going on inside oneself, and what actually belongs to the world.
8. Forgiveness: It's recognizing that living with others is not possible without excusing errors.
9. Hope: Pessimism is not necessarily deep, nor optimism shallow.
10. Confidence; Confidence is not arrogance - rather, it is based on a constant awareness of how short life is and how little we will ultimately lose from risking everything.

     By taking God out, the ten suggestions are more about genteel living, and sacrifice is more of an art than a calling. Tolerating others is about self—things just go smoother that way. And there is nary a “Thou shalt not” since self denial is not on the top ten evolutionary chart. This list merely points out ways to develop traits that will be helpful in this world and since this is the only world an atheists acknowledges, why not develop them?
     While God-believing people reach deeper—all the way to their souls—and higher--seeking heaven--at least now the atheists have something that scratches just below the surface. Without God, it really is an ambitious list:  a bit of sacrifice and love for others, a touch of hope thrown in (although limited to this world) and even forgiveness.
     I give the atheists credit for trying to come up with a template for virtue, something already written on the hearts of man--by God. For love of fellow man and virtues beyond reason are not given to us by evolution. Even in this shallow form, it is a good sign that atheists want something more.  Let us pray that they keep on looking until they find the real thing.


For more inspiration, check out Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families. Your children will laugh while learning big spiritual lessons with Dear God, I Don't Get It! and Dear God, You Can't Be Serious. 

         Follow Patti at Twitter and like her Facebook pages at Dear God Books,  Big Hearted Families and  Catholic News & Inspiration on Facebook.  


  1. So atheists are not able to come up with any moral guidelines without you saying that they are 3,500 years to late? Do other religions/belief systems have a right to lay down a code of conduct or a moral code without the more dated religions saying evolution is behind? The ten commandments brought nothing new to the table, are redundant, include things like not working on the Sabbath, and a redundancy of not coveting another person's property, and considered a person's wife a property.

    If evolution is 3,500 too late, then god also underestimated the fact the there would be a time where he couldn't go around making rules about women as if they were property, which his ten commandments presuposes.

    1. Evolution would dictate that humans follow the survival of the fittest operandi. Compassion, love, humility, morality...none of that has a place in evolution. If I find a wallet with $1,000 in it, then why wouldn't I enjoy the personal gain rather than return the wallet? But because I believe in God and know it is stealing, I would rather return the wallet to the owner than to keep it.

      According to the way evolution works, such an action does not make sense. Nor would it make sense to help the poor, the old, the sick, or any needy group. They are of no personal use and only hold us back--that is if there is no God and no soul. But because there is a God and because we possess souls, the weak among us are of eternal value, They are opportunities for our charity and through loving and helping others, our holiness progresses and we grow closer to God. Why? Because God is love and through our love of HIm and others, we unite ourselves to Him.

      Jesus gave us two commandments that summarize everything covered under the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." A creature that evolved from animals and has no soul, would have no reason to follow such commands. Many atheists are moral people, but morality is written in our hearts by God who made us.

      As for the language of coveting--coveting your neighbor's wife applies to women coveting husbands. The fact that the language and customs of the day are reflected in the language of the time, does not negate the truth nor the eternal wisdom these Divine directives impart to us.
      Thanks very much for your comments.


You comment is awaiting moderation. Thanks for visiting. God bless you.