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Reflections on Ethics 06
The 10 Commandments as a Basis for Morality?

A discussion has been opened on this Reflection. Comments relating specifically to a single commandment have been re-indexed and linked from the discussion on the specific commandment. To add your comments to any of the several discussions, please use the Contact form.

Reflections 7, 14, 19, & 40, Meditation 120 and Ask the Patriarch 32 and the ensuing discussions contain related material.

In August 2001, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court erected a monument to the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Supreme Court Building. He stated "To restore morality we must first recognize the source from which all morality springs."

Similarly, there is incessant lobbying by fundamentalist Christians in the US to post the Ten Commandments in every classroom to restore morality to schools.

And this raises the question: "Are the Ten Commandments a usable guide to moral behavior independent of any particular religious teaching." My intent is not to challenge the Ten Commandments as a guide to behavior for followers of any of the religions, denominations, or sects that include this set of rules in their doctrine, but rather to determine if there is any moral value for the rest of us.

This review will examine each commandment individually, and comment on the moral value. But this immediately raises another question: "Which set of Ten Commandments."

Not only are there two slightly different versions of the Ten Commandments in the Bible, in Exodus and in Deuteronomy, but out of these, three somewhat different versions of the Ten Commandments have been developed, representing the Jewish, Protestant and Orthodox, and Roman Catholic and Lutheran traditions.

The minor differences in wording of the two versions contained in the Bible are not all that important as the meaning is essentially the same unless an argument is being made about the inerrancy of the bible.[1] But that is not the objective of this review. But, which version of the Ten Commandments is it that is to be posted in courts and classrooms? And how do those pressing for posting their version plan to justify that choice to the followers of other paths in the Judeo-Christian tradition?

In any event, given that the pressure for posting this document is largely from the fundamentalists, I will use the Protestant and Orthodox version. It will make little difference in the assessment.

Click on the link below for a discussion of each commandment.



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