A humanist chaplain at Stanford University and his co-writer on “Atheist Heart, Humanist Mind” have crowd-sourced the 10 Commandments — for atheists. The result is a philosophically-convoluted mess.
CNN reported Dec. 20 that John Figdor and Lex Bayer gleaned the Atheist 10 Commandments from 2,800 submissions from 18 countries and 27 U.S. states.
The “commandments” are:
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.
If “there is no one right way to live,” then why should anyone “be willing to alter” their beliefs? If there is “no one right way to live,” then why do we have “a responsibility to consider others”? If there is “no right way to live,” then why should a man consider the perspective of others? If there is “no right way to live,” then it can not be wrong if one man decides that his “right way to live” includes controlling the bodies of those around him.
This is the conundrum atheists face: if we are all just cosmic accidents and God does not exist, then no man has the moral authority to tell another man how to live. If we are all just sentient space dust with no soul, then there really are no objective truths — right and wrong are relative — and there is no valid argument against those whose sole existence is based on taking advantage of their fellow man.
Even the authors seem to realize this. They told CNN about the inspiration for writing their book:
“A lot of atheists’ books are about whether to believe in God or not,” he said. “We wanted to consider: OK, so you don’t believe in God, what’s next? And that’s actually a much harder question.”
“What’s next?” is a very hard question, indeed. Perhaps the reason why so many atheist books concentrate on “whether to believe in God or not” instead of “What’s next?” is because it leads to “There is no one right way to live.”
On another level, it is incredibly telling that with limited real estate, atheists would use one of their “ten commandments” to emphasize the importance of not believing in a non-existent god. Try as he might, the atheist can not escape God. Perhaps for their next book, Messrs. Figdor and Bayer could write “Atheist Heart, Humanist Mind: We Can’t Escape God No Matter How Hard We Try.”