Part One: I Command THEE
- Exodus 20 (New International version): 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. Deuteronomy 5 (King James version): 6 I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.
- Exodus 20: 4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Deuteronomy 5: 8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: 9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, 10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
- Exodus 20: 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. Deuteronomy 5: 11 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
- Exodus 20: 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Deuteronomy 5: 12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. 13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: 14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. 15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
- Exodus 20: 12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 5: 16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
- Exodus 20: 13 “You shall not murder. Deuteronomy 5: 17 Thou shalt not kill.
- Exodus 20: 14 “You shall not commit adultery. Deuteronomy 5: 18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.
- Exodus 20: 15 “You shall not steal. Deuteronomy 5: 19 Neither shalt thou steal.
- Exodus 20: 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Deuteronomy 5: 20 Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.
- Exodus 20: 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Deuteronomy 5: 21 Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
* * *
Following are excerpts from an article by Jennifer Michael Hecht in the June/July 2023 issue of Free Inquiry magazine. I encourage readers to buy and read both the article and the magazine in their rich fullness. Hecht, a historian, author and poet, holds a PhD in history of science/European cultural history from Columbia University and is author of the bestseller Doubt: A History—a history of philosophical and religious doubt worldwide from ancient times to present. [My occasional comments through the excerpt are in brackets].
The Ten Commandments is one of humanity’s best-known ethical codes. It didn’t exist, as such, until the sixteenth century. Prior to that, the “commandments” (not yet so named) were in two places in the Bible, stated differently, in a different order, and mixed with other laws, claims, and cautions. The Jews had them as “Ten Sayings,” and in the Christian Tyndale Bible they were “Ten Verses.” Not until the Geneva Bible of 1560 do we find the name “tenne commandments,” and it caught on.
They have continuously been altered by theologians, translators and editors. Christians changed the prohibition on “graven images” to “idols” because people like pictures; the Jewish prohibition against visual art was never doable when the Jesus sect spread cross various cultures, each with its own historical relationships to images. Lutherans dropped the “make no graven images” law completely and got to ten by doubling up the rules against neighbor envy—one for house, one for spouse.
What do the Ten Commandments say? Three are accepted rules today. I’ve put them on top of this list, and they speak for themselves. I’d venture to say they help us to function: they help us to feel we know something true about right and wrong. I’m not saying we always walk north, but we can’t function without the sign. The rest are more problematic, and they follow with commentary.
Don’t murder , don’t steal , and don’t bear false witness . [i.e., don’t tell lies]
No pictures please.  [Nor any sculpture either, for that matter.] The law prohibiting graven images was originally meant to stop the habit of ancient Hebrews dabbling in the other religions of the region, which were idol based. Much later the no-images rule was used to show Roman emperors that Christianity was philosophical and not merely a dangerous cult feeding poor people impossible promises.
[Note: The monotheism that characterizes the New Testament had not yet taken hold in Old Testament times, wherein various Middle Eastern local gods were widely recognized as openly vying for peoples’ attention and devotion. Hebrew leaders such as Moses and Elijah seem especially urgent in their railings against Ba’al, the bull-headed god widely worshipped by the indigenous peoples of Canaan and Phoenicia and an apparently constant temptation to some Israelites. The Book of Numbers (chapter 25, 1-9) records as follows: 1 While the Israelites were camped at Acacia, some of the men had sex with Moabite women. 2 These women then invited the men to ceremonies where sacrifices were offered to their gods. The men ate the meat from the sacrifices and worshiped the Moabite gods. 3 The Lord was angry with Israel because they had worshiped the god Baal Peor. 4 So he said to Moses, “Take the Israelite leaders who are responsible for this and have them killed in front of my sacred tent where everyone can see. Maybe then I will stop being angry with the Israelites.” 5 Moses told Israel’s officials, “Each of you must put to death any of your men who worshiped Baal.” 6 Later, Moses and the people were at the sacred tent, crying, when one of the Israelite men brought a Midianite woman to meet his family. 7 Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron the priest, saw the couple and left the crowd. He found a spear 8 and followed the man into his tent, where he ran the spear through the man and into the woman’s stomach. The Lord immediately stopped punishing Israel with a deadly disease, 9 but 24,000 Israelites had already died.]
Go sit down and hush.  The mandate for rest one day a week can be happiness oriented, but the question is, What should “rest” look like? … compulsory rest is a joy for some and a prison for others.
Listen to your mother and father.  In the ancient world, “honor your father and mother” had a legal reality past childhood; in places, even full-grown men were legally under their father’s command until his death.
Marriage is sacred.  If we recall that marriage here defined is meant to encompass all of one’s young adulthood, this rule is not going to be everyone’s cup of sex.
Don’t envy.  The only “thought crime” on the list is envy. A rule can’t stop a thought but can dissuade us from rumination.
“I am your God you shall have no other gods above me”  comes from the age of Hebrew “monolatry” (which means believing that other gods exist but worshipping only one), which predates monotheism. It reminds us that there are more possibilities out there. [Note: The thing I find most interesting here is that the god YHWH, which Hebrew leaders proclaimed as their one and only, himself recognizes the existence of other, competitor gods by virtue of his very utterance against worshipping them instead of himself. The Hebrew god of the Old Testament exhibits many all-too-human frailties, such as jealousy, anger/rage, and cavalier value on human life (see Note above)—a sort of “man-in-the-image-of-God” stood on its head—that are essentially absent in the evolved God found in the New Testament.]
Don’t take God’s name in vain.  [see Part Three] Seemingly the easiest to keep, this one is comically disregarded, omg. [MAGA-head: We’re gonna take the Goddamn capitol building on January 6—BE THERE!!]
The Ten Commandments have their own culturally distinct shape—the ups and downs of a Bactrian camel’s back symbolizing the rule of law.
Part Two: I Advise Thee
* * THE PHOENIX VALUES * *
- LIVE THE GOLDEN RULE
- HELP OTHERS
- ATTAIN KNOWLEDGE
- VALUE LIFE ABOVE ALL THINGS
- HONOR THE EARTH
- HONOR ALL THE PEOPLE
- ENSURE ECONOMIC RIGHTS
- ENSURE POLITICAL RIGHTS
- ENSURE CIVIC EDUCATION
- BE GRATEFUL
- LIVE THE GOLDEN RULE. Always treat others the way you would like them to treat you. Avoiding vain presumption of preaching that others must believe as you do, live in such a way that your life will be a beacon of hope, growth and goodness, and—by your lived example—many will see and be raised thereby.
- HELP OTHERS. Be ever mindful that your foremost reason for living this lifetime is to help other people become all that they can be, and that your own spiritual growth is advanced through thoughtful acts that help others in ways large and small. Your worth for helping others should not be underestimated simply because your reach is limited. If you help just one other person, that one may be the justification for your whole life—but your reach may also be farther, and touch more people, than you will ever know. Your intentions are as important as your acts.
- ATTAIN KNOWLEDGE. Your second-highest reason for living this lifetime is to Attain Knowledge as widely as possible and integrate it with other Knowledge… pursuant to Understanding … pursuant to Wisdom … so as to better help others and thereby advance your own spiritual growth. Honor and respect the elders, for only they have lived long enough to enable the possibility of deep Understanding and Wisdom.
- VALUE LIFE ABOVE ALL THINGS. Honor and respect all life upon the earth. Respect death as life’s final inevitability. Never take a human life except in self defense when there is no option but to kill or be killed.
- HONOR THE EARTH. Honor and protect the earth, its environments, its habitats and its resources on which we all depend for life sustenance. Never exploit the earth in excess of your adequate needs or your society’s adequate needs, or merely for profit.
- HONOR ALL THE PEOPLE. In all your actions pursue the collective best interest of all the people in your local, regional, national and international communities. Never permit any action that will privilege or promote some people at the expense of others, for rising above the norm is individual responsibility to be achieved on personal merit alone.
- ENSURE ECONOMIC RIGHTS.* Arrange your economic system with natural incentives to cooperate and to share national wealth so that every person is guaranteed a financial foundation adequate to attain basic Economic Rights throughout life. Ensure equally that no person is prevented from exercising initiative that may attain financial gain above and beyond adequacy so long as such attainment does no harm to the basic economic rights of others, and does not create gross imbalance of personal wealth.
- ENSURE POLITICAL RIGHTS. Ensure equal rights to every citizen by first ensuring all citizens’ understanding that political rights and economic rights* are two aspects of one freedom, and neither is secure unless both are secured. At all times rigorously maintain separation of powers with checks and balances designed to maximize economic and political freedoms under democratic representative governance. Banish immediately any organization, system, concept or construct that would harm any person or treat people with less than absolute legal equality.
- ENSURE CIVIC EDUCATION. Ensure that all citizens from preschool through adulthood are well educated of their great responsibility to maintain these Phoenix Values, and remain well informed of the status of these values in daily life. Always look for the third option when people needlessly consign themselves to bipolar opposing views.
- BE GRATEFUL. Always feel gratitude when your basic needs are adequately met. Never covet more than adequacy, and if adequacy is exceeded feel grateful for the excess.
The Phoenix Values: If we fail to preserve this civilization, perhaps they will help a better one rise.
* * *
*The Eight Basic Economic Rights as necessary costs
- FOOD Essential cost for by every person to sustain life
- CLOTHING Essential cost for every person to sustain life
- SHELTER Necessary cost for every person to sustain wellbeing and life
- HEALTH CARE Necessary cost for every person to sustain wellbeing, productivity and life
- DEPENDABLE TRANSPORTATION Necessary cost for every person to sustain wellbeing and productivity
- INSURANCE REQUIRED BY LAW Cost imposed on every person who must drive a vehicle
- Young adults: College Education or Entrepreneurial/Life Startup Savings Life investment cost
- Seniors: ADEQUATE RETIREMENT INCOME Compassionate cost of a civilized people
Income and wealth above the cost of these minimum rights is not a right, it is a privilege of being an American citizen.
Notwithstanding any other consideration whatsoever, personal after-tax income shall in all circumstances be sufficient to purchase the eight basic living needs which are Economic Rights for every United States citizen. These eight rights include personal income not less than the cost of: 1) food adequate to ensure healthful nutrition; 2) clothing adequate for all seasons; 3) shelter, including utilities, of adequate size and quality for individuals and families, respectively as applicable; 4) preventive health care including dental, hearing, vision and mental health, medical treatment for physical and mental disorders including all needed therapies, and hospice care; 5) dependable transportation according to need; 6) insurance that is required by federal, state or local law; 7) Young adults: the cost of education or equal value of cash savings for entrepreneurial or life startup; and 8) Seniors: adequate retirement income.
Income and wealth attained beyond the minimum attainment of these eight necessities of life shall be recognized as privileges, not rights, and such privileged income and wealth may be moderated by taxation accordingly in the common best interests of all the citizens of the United States in mutual aid and support of each other. Recognizing that the costs of obtaining these economic rights vary in different regions and sub-regions of the United States, income tax scales—in consideration of after-tax remainders—shall logically correlate with regional and sub-regional living cost differentials for a single taxpayer, and for a spouse and family members as applicable, as annually recalculated for each U.S. region and subregion by the federal government, and such correlations shall be directly reflected in the Adequate Living Wage required by law to be paid to employees in each subregion.
Details concerning the eight basic economic rights,
and third options for fixing our economic mess, appear in the book Populist Corrections
(2021: Fixy Populist Publications, PO Box 1367, Frankfort Ky 40602).
More at https://fixypopulist.com
Part Three: There’s Only Us, The Best of Friends
We are the best of friends, God and I;
We walk together through green pastures
And, sometimes on quiet mornings, beside the tinkling still waters
Of Mink Run Creek, where God restores my soul.
God led me to these pristine acres, you know,
To serve as temporary steward, for a while.
* * *
We go to the very same church, God and I;
I found out about that when I said to God, I asked:
“Which church do you go to?” And God laughed at me;
Abashed, I asked: “Well then,
which doctrines are the right doctrines?”
And God laughed even harder – and not with me, but at me;
After a while, finally, I got it – about our one church I mean.
We’re in the same image, God and I;
Back before I understood that – all misled, foolish and vain –
I asked God: “Should I let my beard grow longer?”
Then God laughed hardest of all, and God said to me:
“Can you think? Reason? Feel emotions? Place love above indifference?”
Finally I got that too, the image-of-God thing I mean.
* * *
I whacked my ankle real bad as we walked, God and I,
On trash some fool had thrown down,
right where people would walk,
Thus did it come to pass: I asked forgiveness for
taking God’s name in vain:
“Do you presume to know what I want?” God asked,
and truthfully I answered “No”;
“Do you tell others what I want them to do?” God asked;
again in truth I answered “No”;
“Then forget it,” God told me,
“only free will choices and intentions matter.”
Then with my free will, in God’s image, I reasoned, and pondered, and I thought –
For quite a long while, too – not as good as God, but
the best that I could do;
At long last I realized Who I am, Where I came from, and – Purposefully – Why;
* * *
I/We Knew: stardust evolved, integral host,
materially enabling Me/Us a temporal while.
Gratefully, I/We overflow: Endless delight, Infinite Light,
Love Unconditional Is;
And now, Understanding – I/We Know: There are no fools.
There’s only Us.
OUR PURPOSE is Spiritual Growth:
1. Help Others 2. Attain Knowledge > Understanding > Wisdom