The 10 Commandments: this just in

by Paul Phillips

No offence intended by what follows.

Much will be taken, of course. So let’s get to it.

1. Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me

Fair enough. Although if we take out the words ‘Other’ and ‘Before Me’, we might be onto something. As a cause of problems in the world, religion is way overrated. Communism killed more people in 70 years last century than Christianity has managed in 2,000 years.

But if the Islamist fundamentalists have their way, that statistic could be turned on its head anytime soon.

The Gods of our religions are societal constructs, so believe what you want to believe. Just don’t tell me that I have to believe the same, nor that I have to conform to your rules and behaviour.

2. Thou Shall Not Worship False Idols

Does that include Pop Idol? We’ve come a long way from what my Catholic nuns used to call ‘craven images’ (they meant ‘graven’, as in engraved or carved).

But through the ages, humans have worshipped all manner of stuff, from the sun (but not The Sun) and the moon to golden calves and even a frog man. Various birds and animals have been suffused with Godliness.

Truth is, we need something to look at that makes us think of something other than the crap inside our heads. What are Churches if not false idols? And as for all those statues of Jesus and Mary – the very definition of graven images.

So, we get the principle, but – to paraphrase Jesus himself – the spirit is willing, but the mind is weak. So not much traction for this one, I’m afraid.

3. Thou Shalt Not Take The Name Of The Lord Thy God In Vain

Christ! I’d forgotten that one. Oh. Whoops.

Still, silly really, isn’t it? Your God might not be mine, and mine might be Named Kevin. In which case, Lionel Shriver and The Undertones are in deep trouble.

Certainly this whole ‘can’t say the name of The Prophet’ thing is a bit ridiculous when the most famous man of the 20th century went by his chosen name of Muhammad Ali, and Mohamed is given to more people than probably any other name. Even Jesus (Ay-sooss) is a popular name in Christian countries.

4. Remember The Sabbath Day, To Keep It Holy

Yeah, well. If you could agree on which day of the week is Holy, we might get to it.

But, you can’t, so, well, fuck it.

5. Honour Thy Father And Thy Mother

Ah, right. Now this one would be ok if all mothers and fathers were keeping the Ten Commandments rigidly and honourably.

So, for instance, keeping number seven (below); and not indulging in gossip (see nine, below); and not becoming envious and dissatisfied when they see how the other half lives (number 10, below).

But it’s worth saying for the record that there are some people who should never have children in the first place. So what chance of them being ‘honoured’ by their own neglected children? Some species eat their young. Humans simply beat them (sometimes to death; but still, they stop short of cannabilism).

So, Commandment No 5? Non-starter really.

6. Thou Shalt Not Kill



Well, I hate to bring this up. But these Islamist fundamentalists take a slightly more ambivalent attitude. And since they believe their God is the true God, it kind of brings the whole ‘religion’ thing into question.

Not to mention David and Goliath and various other ‘smoting’ tales from the Old Testament.

Still, most reasonable folks would accept Commandment No 6 as a decent rule to live by. So we’ll keep that one.

7. Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery


Sorry. Is polygamy (a la Mormons, Muslims, Hindus and some Jews) not adultery?

Yeah, this one’s not going to fly.

8. Thou Shalt Not Steal

Again, gotcha.

Funny really that while it’s been ok to kill in the name of Christianity and Islam (and still is, in Islam’s case) stealing is universally unpopular.

So Commandment No 8 is a keeper, and probably requiring the least debate. We are a weird species, are we not?

9. Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbour

This is a truly honourable sentiment. So, if only…

But Celebrity Big Brother anyone? The Sun? The Daily Mail? Well, all modern media really.

We have strayed so far from the path on Number 9 and, sadly, the earth has not cracked open to swallow us. So it’s quite likely a losing battle to try, as Joni Mitchell said, to ‘get ourselves back to the garden’.

10. Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbour’s Wife, or Ass, or house, or…

Look, let’s keep it simple. Thou Shalt Not Covet.

Except, of course, we do. Personally I blame Dallas. Until colour television and Texas millionaires, none of us knew how poor we were, or – if you were fortunate – how rich you were.

But suddenly, here was an unimaginable world, coming into your own drab home every week.

And Dallas begat an enormous amount of coveting. And the coveting has grown exponentially ever since.

So the coveting rabbit is well and truly out of the hat, and it ain’t going back in.

Which leads me to conclude that only Commandments 6 and 8 could really survive any serious cull. Don’t steal; don’t kill.

Yes, feels about right.

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