CNN carried an article in Dec 2014 on a contest organised by two secular humanists to select ten “non-commandments” for atheists, which resulted in more than 2,800 submissions from 18 countries and 27 U.S. states. The ten non-commandments selected by a panel of 13 judges are as follows:
- Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
- Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
- The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
- Every person has the right to control of their body.
- God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
- Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
- Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
- We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.
- There is no one right way to live.
- Leave the world a better place than you found it.
My first instinct upon reading these was to ask “In the absence of God, what makes these commandments binding on people?” A naturalistic worldview cannot provide a transcendent, objective foundation to make these commandments objective and binding, since moral values and duties are merely spin-offs of the evolutionary process. See also this article.
In fact, it seems as if the panel recognised the shortcoming of their worldview. The ten statements are presented as “non-commandments” and the organisers explain that these represent the beliefs of secular humanists. If so, then it follows that while a person who subscribes to them can certainly seek to convince others of their usefulness, he cannot pass moral judgments on another person who does not, i.e. such a person cannot say to someone else “You ought to follow these commandments.”
In this regard, these atheistic non-commandments faces the same problem as post-modernism and relativism, namely, what their adherents claim and how they live are inconsistent. Most post-modernists will claim that there is no objective truth but expect you to believe that the statement is true. Similarly, it is hard to see how an atheist who holds to non-commandment 6 would think that someone who takes no responsibility for his actions is not doing something objectively wrong. Yet this is not what many New Atheists hold to. In the “God Delusion”, Richard Dawkins argues that atheists can develop their own commandments which ought to apply to everyone, and gives an example of such a list. We ought to recognise the dilemma facing those holding to these ten non-commandments. Can atheists genuinely accept that those who reject these non-commandments are not doing anything really and objectively evil or wrong? If not, what is it that makes these non-commandments objective?
On the positive side, the first two non-commandments reflect a genuine openness to examine and follow the evidence where it leads. Christians can use that to share the various arguments and evidences for belief in God and Jesus Christ. The following are links to a number of powerful arguments for the existence of God and the truth of Christianity: