Atheist Ten Commandments

by Matt Slick
12/26/14

In an article on the cnn.com website dated Dec. 20, 20141, atheist authors Lex Bayer and John Figdor polled their godless compatriots and compiled a new list of 10 Commandments.  How did they do it? They polled their lack-of-god accomplices then collected, collated, and condensed the submissions and 13 judges then decided on the top ten.

"Lex Bayer, an executive at AirBnB, and John Figdor, a humanist chaplain at Stanford University, delivered their own 10 "non-commandments" in a book they co-wrote: "Atheist Heart, Humanist Mind....in which atheists were asked to offer modern alternatives to the famous Decalogue. And, to sweeten the pot, the contest offered $10,000 in moolah to the winning would-be Moses...The contest drew more than 2,800 submissions from 18 countries and 27 U.S. states, according to Bayer and Figdor...A team of 13 judges selected 10 of the more sober and serious submissions, and announced the winners Friday...Bayer said humans are hardwired for compassion, and the scientific method and wisdom of crowds -- or the tribes that gather online each day -- will weed out bad ideas. In other words, this is an open-ended, and hopefully progressive, process, he said."2

Following is the list of these commandments quoted from that article.

  1. "Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
  2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
  3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
  4. Every person has the right to control of their body.
  5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
  6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
  7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
  8. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.
  9. There is no one right way to live.
  10. Leave the world a better place than you found it."

Let's take a look at these in more depth with an analysis of each one.

1. Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.

What "open-minded" means is not defined.  Does it mean that you must conclude that God does not exist? Or, does it mean that you must be open-minded about his existence and that Christians can be right about him?  And, why is "evidence" the criteria for validating something? What kind of evidence? Is logic sufficient to be considered evidence as well? Or, is it presupposing a scientific kind of evidence and thereby restricting the knowability of God to the physical realm?  Nevertheless, it is good to suggest that people be willing to alter their beliefs with new evidence and reason. I hope that evidence includes rationality since not all truths are discovered via the scientific method.

2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.

What is the methodology for discovering what is most likely to be true and what is truth? What's most likely to be true for one person might not be the same for another person. This is way too subjective and therefore useless. Is what's most likely to be true based on physical evidence, philosophy, logic, intuition, or what? Perhaps in their book they've discuss these things, but I have not read it so I don't know. Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder if the atheists are guilty of breaking this second commandment by wishing that God did not exist because the great majority of atheists I've encountered not only believe that God does not exist, but do not want him to exist.

3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.

This is begging the question. In other words, the scientific method is a philosophical approach to learning about the world. It presupposes the validity of the laws of logic and the continuity and regularity of the natural world. Each of these cannot be demonstrated to be true by using the scientific method without first assuming the validity of the scientific method. So, the third commandment is a belief system. It is a dogma.  Furthermore, the scientific method is designed to deal with the physical world, not with things like compassion, justice, mercy, morality, etc.

4. Every person has the right to control of their body.

The fourth commandment starts with an assumption that is shortsighted. What about abortion? The atheists routinely say that a woman's body is under her own control and so she has the right to kill the baby within it. But of course, the baby within her is not the same body as hers; otherwise, she would have two heads, four arms, and four legs. Also, what about drug use like heroin, cocaine, meth?  Is it okay to use these if it is just a right to control one's own body? This shortsighted commandment is insufficient.

5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.

How do they know that God is not necessary to be a good person? Furthermore, how do they know what is good and not good? What standard do atheists have by which they can determine what is good and meaningful without being purely subjective?  If they appeal to subjectivity, they cannot assert the universal negative that God is not necessary to be good without being inconsistent with her own subjectivity.  What is good to one person might not be good to another. Who's to judge? Are the atheists going to vote on what is good and what is not good? If so, then that is the fallacy of the argumentum ad populum. Something is not true because the majority of people believe it's true. Likewise, something is not morally good simply because the majority people believe it's morally good.  Additionally, a full and meaningful life is subjective. For me a full and meaningful life includes refuting what atheists assert concerning their "lack of belief" in God's existence and their man centered, inconsistent, and subjective 10 Commandments. But to do this I need God since it is from my belief in him that I justify refuting atheism and it is from him that derive a meaningful life.

6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.

This is a good biblically based truth. We need to be mindful of what we do and be responsible for our actions. I can't argue against this one.  But the problem is, how does an atheist justify that this is the right thing to say? As a Christian, I can appeal to God's revelation in the Bible. Therefore it is objective. However, is the atheist community asserting that value six is universally applicable?  Or, is it a suggestion?  If it is a universally applicable truth, then it has transcendent value. But, how does a transcendent value exist in an atheistic worldview? On the other hand, if this is a suggestion that is based upon the subjective acceptance of any particular atheist, then it really is of no value.

7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.

This is another biblically-based truth. Again, how can we argue against the truth that comes from God?  Jesus said, "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you," (Luke 6:31).  It is reasonable, but with a Christian we know the truth comes from God.  But for an atheist, where does it come from?  Voting?  Common sense?  Again, is this value universal or subjective?

 8. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.

Why do we have the responsibility to consider others including future generations? On what basis are the atheists making this assertion? If they do it by vote, then they are committing the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum. Where are they getting these? Are they right?  Are they suggestions?  What are they?  If they are universally true, then they need to be adhered to. But how can you have universal moral truths in an atheistic worldview?

9. There is no one right way to live

How does anyone know that there is or is not one right way to live?  Again, this commandment is insufficient. Is being altruistic, loving, kind, forgiving, gentle, and seeking the welfare of others the right way to live? with any atheist say that this is not the right way to live for anybody else?  If it is the right way to live, then does it apply to everyone? If it did, then there would be one right way to live. But if there is no one right way to live, then the atheist would have to say that at least for some people being altruistic, loving, kind, forgiving, gentle, seeking the welfare of others is not the right way to live. Such blanket, universal statements tend to be self refuting particularly when they are moral statements. Furthermore, by what standard do the atheists way what is right and wrong in the first place?  f you don't have a standard to appeal to, then there can't be a right or wrong way to live for anyone.

10. Leave the world a better place than you found it

Again, what constitutes "better"? What standard is provided so that we can judge what is an improvement? What does the atheist offer as a definition and justification for the definition of what makes the world a better place? Again, the atheist is at a loss to offer any objective standard that we can look to so as to determine if the world is getting better or not.

Conclusion

The atheist community offers a replacement set of Ten Commandments. Notice that there is no condemnation of lying, theft, adultery, or murder. Of course, they might say that these things are implied in the Commandments. But, each of he atheist 10 Commandments can be interpreted according to the subjective preferences of any particular atheist. And, what is to prevent an atheist from rejecting any commandment because it is inconvenient?  If so, then why have a list of 10 Commandments in the first place?

Of course, I know that this is not a binding list upon atheists and that it is only a compilation of suggestions offered by them. But that's just it. It's a list of suggestions that any particular atheist may or may not want to adhere to based on his personal preferences, situation, circumstances, and desires. Not only are these commandments insufficient, but they're quite incomplete since they do not address more serious moral issues, not to mention that they can't be enforced.

Finally, in an atheistic world without God, a naturalistic explanation for existence must be offered. The problem with naturalism is that it amounts to one bag of chemicals arguing with another bag of chemicals about what is the "right" thing to do. When a bunch of atheistic bags of chemicals get together and vote on morality, they have about as much moral authority as one bag of chemicals preferring blue over green. But, this hasn't stopped the atheists from trying to supplant God and his authority and decide for themselves what is right and wrong.  The only problem is their suggestions are only suggestions, with no consequence, with no meat, and with no authority. 

  • 1. http://www.cnn.com//2014/12/19/living/atheist-10-commandments/index.html
  • 2. ibid.
 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.