Last week Penn Jillette, devout atheist and half of the magic duo Penn and Teller, said he was challenged by talk show host/religious nut Glenn Beck to come up with an atheist’s Ten Commandments.
If I had to choose Penn or Glenn for my entertainment Penn would win hands down. However, I find myself forced to disagree with Penn’s take on the Ten Commandments. Here they are:
1. “The highest ideals are human intelligence, creativity and love. Respect these above all.”
The Bible says God is love (1 John 4:8); it further tells us that human wisdom begins with fearing God (Psalms 111:10), and that man was made in God’s image (Genesis 9:6). Penn, being an atheist, would have to believe that man was made in the image of a chimpanzee, wouldn’t he? Did man inherit his ideals of intelligence, creativity and love from chimpanzees? If not, where, Mr. Jillette, do you think these ideals came from?
2. “Do not put things or even ideas above other human beings. (Let's scream at each other about Kindle versus iPad, solar versus nuclear, Republican versus Libertarian, Garth Brooks versus SunRa— but when your house is on fire, I'll be there to help.)”
The qualities described here are Bible-based, not evolution-based. I would have expected an atheist’s Ten Commandments to be entirely self-centered, since evolution is based on such principles as Survival of the Fittest, Might makes Right, Manifest Destiny.
If Penn believes, as it appears he does, in love of neighbor and respect for the rights of others, he was taught that respect by a God fearing person.
3. “Say what you mean, even when talking to yourself. (What used to be an oath to God is now quite simply respecting yourself.)”
This, unfortunately, sounds very similar to his 9th (which see, below.) Come to think of it, this, and the rest of “his” Commandments, sound suspiciously like the originals:
4. “Put aside some time to rest and think. (If you're religious, that might be the Sabbath; if you're a Vegas magician, that'll be the day with the lowest grosses.)”
5. “Be there for your family. Love your parents, your partner, and your children. (Love is deeper than honor, and parents matter, but so do spouse and children.)”
6. “Respect and protect all human life. (Many believe that "Thou shalt not kill" only refers to people in the same tribe. I say it's all human life.)”
7. “Keep your promises. (If you can't be sexually exclusive to your spouse, don't make that deal.)” – (How is this any different from “You must not commit adultery”?
8. “Don't steal. (This includes magic tricks and jokes — you know who you are!)”
9. “Don't lie. (You know, unless you're doing magic tricks and it's part of your job. Does that make it OK for politicians, too?)”
10. “Don't waste too much time wishing, hoping, and being envious; it'll make you bugnutty.”
As I read these, I couldn’t help thinking of an old joke:
A scientist tells God, “Go away, we don’t need you anymore! We can create human life ourselves!” God says, “Really? I made man from the dust, can you do that?” The scientist says “Sure!” and stoops to pick up a handful of dust. “Wait,” says God. “Get your own dust.”