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I am continually astounded by Christian claims to moral supremacy, that they somehow have access to a pinnacle of ethics that non-believers just don’t share.

When I point out that non-believers do a great deal of good in the world, I find myself mostly ignored by theists. Apparently atheist acts of love and charity don’t count. So I tried another angle. If the good-deed doing Christians were to suddenly give up their faith, would they cease their acts of good will? Not a chance. If they actually cared about their fellow humans (which, in most cases, I believe they do) then the belief in some external sky faerie would have no bearing on their desire to help out their brothers and sisters. Again, my point is most frequently met with avoidance. And so, as I cannot get anywhere by promoting the morality of the faithless, I will now try lighting the candle of enlightenment from the other end. In this post I intend to debunk the validity of Christianity’s cornerstone of ‘ethics’: the ten commandments.

When defending the morality of their faith, Christians claim that all a society needs is wholesome and is found in the commandments. Further (as discussed above) the Bible is the only place to find these teachings. The most often cited are commandments five through nine, so I will start with those.  Honour your parents, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, and don’t lie.  Christians will go on and on about how good these rules are and to how bad things get when they are not obeyed. Surely, they must be divinely ordained and we ought to worship the supernatural being that delivered these rules to us.  You catch that? Attribute an obvious truth to your deity and suddenly its THE god.  That just doesn’t work.

Let me explain.

Don’t murder and don’t steal are not revelations in morality.  Indeed, these have been laws for every human society for as long as there have been laws (and in case you’re not sure, the existence of laws does in fact predate Christianity). Further, these same laws have been observed in societies within the animal kingdom. Same with honouring parents. It’s an evolutionary strength found in a multitude of species. The young simply have a better chance at survival if they are close to their parents. What about that adultery one? Animals don’t get married, so that commandment is homo-sapien specific. Right? Oh wait. Marriage is just an extension of the ‘mate for life’ behaviour which IS displayed by a number of animal species (most at higher rates than us) including pigeons and termites. That’s right. Commandment number seven has been mastered by termites. Not really your typical image of absolute moral authority, is it? Not lying is a similar case. No society has every promoted duplicity between its members. These rules just aren’t that difficult for people to come up with on their own, and they certainly do not require some god to teach them.

So far the commandments are irrelevant to societal morality, as any society is perfectly capable of deriving these rules themselves. I will call this irrelevance “best case scenario”. To see how the commandments can fall short of this, we must look to the ones not yet mentioned. The first three are basically the same while the fourth is an extension of those three.

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