Make it better

by Grania

A number of people over the years have pointed out that almost anyone can improve upon the Ten Commandments with minimal effort; the original set of ten (or ten-ish) moral laws by which humans were purportedly to live their lives.

What appears in Exodus is so old that its ethics are more concerned with livestock, possessions and outward symbols of worshipping the right god. It’s not particularly concerned with the well-being of children say, or women or pretty much anyone who wasn’t an adult male Jew camping at the bottom of Mount Sinai.

Hitchens wrote a few of his own, I like the one about cell phones.

Harris also points out the lack of spiritual and ethical intelligence.

Here’s another attempt.


Click image twice to view enlarged


The point is that through no effort of our own and no failing of theirs, we live in a century where we are moral giants compared to our ancestors. We benefit from their failings and their flaws as much as from what wisdom they collated; and now we can do better without even thinking too hard about it.

Hat-tip: Steve


  1. Posted March 28, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    The Bible image is too small for me to read. When I click on it to get a bigger version, the RH side is obscured by the ad for WEIT, a good cause to be sure, but…

    I see this quite often. Can’t the wordpress theme be fixed to avoid that? Like making the columns variable or something. (I use wordpress, I don’t change it.)

    This is a minor quibble.

    • Paul S
      Posted March 28, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      A third click will remove the ad.

    • Posted March 28, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Try clicking through one more time.

      You could also right-click and save the image to your machine and view it there …

  2. francis
    Posted March 28, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Permalink


  3. Posted March 28, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Here’s Richard Dawkins on them.

    And the ones he lists in The God Delusion:

    Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.

    In all things, strive to cause no harm.

    Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.

    Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.

    Live life with a sense of joy and wonder.

    Always seek to be learning something new.

    Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.

    Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.

    Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.

    Question everything.

    He adds four more of his own devising:

    Enjoy your own sex life (so long as it damages nobody else) and leave others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none of your business.

    Do not discriminate or oppress on the basis of sex, race or (as far as possible) species.

    Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.

    Value the future on a timescale longer than your own.

    • Posted March 28, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      That just about covers it!

    • Scott Draper
      Posted March 28, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      Not a bad list; I think that “test all things” and “Form independent opinions” are a bit redundant.

      As for his four additions, I’d rather phrase them in a positive way, rather than “do not do”. The sex life thing could be univeralized into a general “let people do whatever they want as long as they don’t harm anyone else.”

      The “administering justice” seems dangerous, though; an open invitation to do almost anything.

  4. Paul S
    Posted March 28, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Be excellent to each other.
    ~Bill and Ted

    • Posted March 28, 2016 at 10:19 pm | Permalink


      • Posted March 29, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        This has always been special to me, ever since I realized “arête” (in Greek) is sometimes “virtue”, sometimes “excellence”.

  5. Brendan
    Posted March 28, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink
  6. Blue
    Posted March 28, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    This of Mr Hitchens’ just cracks me up.

    BETTER yet: right ‘round ~6:18, Mr Hitchens looks to me as if he is about to finally crack up himself !

    He doesn’t. He does not! Amazingly, he is able to finish without so much as a cricked ½ – cracked commissure; but it so, so looks — inside his eyeballs — as if he would t r u l y like to!

    Perhaps the hands behind his back or the hands bilaterally inside his pants pockets are his constraining ways with which to hold tight his thoracic ribcage from (what would be) its giggly bouncing — should he not succeed in such deadpan restraint and, instead, let the ‘ell loose !


  7. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted March 28, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Thou shalt not mount the bog roll so that the paper comes down next to the wall.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 28, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      Think differently. Stand the thing up on end.

      • Scott Draper
        Posted March 28, 2016 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        Clockwise or anti-clockwise?

        • Posted March 29, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

          counterclockwise, of course!

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted March 29, 2016 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

          I’m amphibious.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted March 28, 2016 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      It’s been over five hours since you posted this. I conclude that Diana is on vacation, and does not have internet access 😉

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted March 28, 2016 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

        I wondered! I was just trying to bait her!

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted March 29, 2016 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

        Diana is trapped in her inbox, debating with William the Eternally Moderated.


    • Posted March 28, 2016 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      “Thou shalt not mount the bog roll so that the paper comes down next to the wall.”

      Unless, of couse, you have a cat.

      *adequate stand-in for Diana??

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted March 28, 2016 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

        🙂 It will do, although I imagine Diana would mock curse me out for blasphemy.

  8. Posted March 28, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Leave wherever you go nicer than the way you found it.

  9. eric
    Posted March 28, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Do unto others as you would do unto your cat.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 28, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Then I would be restricting people’s diets so they were always thin and would love me just for the food I give them. That might actually be good for some people’s health.

    • Philip Elliott
      Posted March 30, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Except for spaying/neutering without consent!

  10. sabre422
    Posted March 28, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    And unto him that smiteth thee with a micro aggression to one cheek offer also the other cheek

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 28, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Whose other cheek, and (how) do you intend to remove it from them?

  11. neil
    Posted March 28, 2016 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    i think i once suggested my “zeroth” commandment (a nod towards Asimov’s laws of robotics):
    “every day,i shall try to be slightly less of an idiot than i was yesterday”

    • Posted March 29, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      As I say, “I learned a new thing today, it’s a good day!”

  12. Randy Schenck
    Posted March 28, 2016 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Maybe the best thing on this subject would be to not have any “commandments”. Nobody needs commandments and the only place that really throws the word around is the military. Instead call it a list of things to live by. You do not have to follow to the letter or get specific with anything on your list. In fact, if a particular item on your list to live by requires strict compliance, you probably can throw that one out. Consider them goals and leave the commands for the dictators.

    Also, everyone could make up their own list just for them.

  13. Posted March 28, 2016 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Big news…. the FBI has managed to break into that infamous iphone…

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted March 28, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      And still the world turns. The sun rises.

      Apple really showed them…

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 29, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      “A law enforcement official said the FBI was successful in unlocking the iPhone over the weekend. The official spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to publicly comment.”

      In other words, the FBI figured they were going to lose in court so they bailed. Via an anonymous official leak.

      Next question – if they did in fact break in (I’d say about 30% chance of that being correct), did they actually find anything useful on it? (I’d say 5% chance). Unless someone does an unauthorised unofficial leak I guess we’ll never know.


  14. zendruid1
    Posted March 28, 2016 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    1. Live and let live.
    2. Don’t be a jerk.

  15. Wayne Tyson
    Posted March 28, 2016 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Don’t take my advice.


  16. Wunold
    Posted March 29, 2016 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    For many more, see Alternatives to the Ten Commandments.

    • Wunold
      Posted March 29, 2016 at 4:04 am | Permalink

      Okay, the url-Tag isn’t working here. Here the naked URL:

      • Posted March 29, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        Naked URL, sounds like fun! 🙂

        • Wunold
          Posted March 29, 2016 at 10:06 am | Permalink

          Maybe, but as I could see in the e-mail notification, WordPress ashamedly clothed it in anchor tags. 🙂

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted March 29, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

          Sounds like something the Victorians would have insisted be shrouded in ruffled pantaloons.

      • peepuk
        Posted March 30, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        I like that Kaczynski guy:

        1) Do not harm anyone who has not previously harmed you, or threatened to do so.

        2) You can harm others in order to forestall harm with which they threaten you, or in retaliation for harm that they have already inflicted on you.

        At least somewhat less boring.

  17. Posted March 29, 2016 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    AC Grayling has a take on it in The Good Book:

    Chapter 8
    1 . Shall we ask, by what commandments should we live?
    2. Or might we better ask, each of ourselves:
    3. What kind of person should I be?
    4. The first question assumes that there is one right answer.
    5. The second assumes that there are many right answers.
    6. If we ask how to answer the second question, we are answered in yet other questions:
    7. What should you do when you see another suffering, or in need, afraid, or hungry?
    8. What causes are worthy, what world do you dream of where your child plays safely in the street?
    9. There are many such questions, some already their own answer, some unanswerable.
    10. But when all the answers to all the questions are summed together, no one hears less than this:
    11. Love well, seek the good in all things, harm no others, think for yourself, take responsibility, respect nature, do your utmost, be informed, be kind, be courageous:
    at least, sincerely try.
    12. Add to these ten injunctions, this: O friends, let us always be true to ourselves and to the best in things, so that we can always be true to one another.

  18. Posted March 29, 2016 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    I’d add

    Thou shalt not give artificial intelligence power of its own destiny

    Thou shalt not post pictures of food on thy Facebook page

    Thou shalt evacuate the Canary Islands and the west coast of Africa on April 25, 2371

  19. Stephen Barnard
    Posted March 29, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Thou shalt install toilet paper the correct way, but verily I shall not tell you which way that is.

  20. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 29, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Thou shalt not smash tablets of stone in anger … unless thou ist prepared to hew a new set of stone tablets thine own self.

  21. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 29, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I enjoy these efforts by Harris and Hitchens.

    One of the traditional commandments that the religious right and Fox News in particular should give more heed to is
    “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

  22. Packard Baggins
    Posted March 29, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Thou shalt know when to hold ’em.
    Likewise shalt thou know when to fold ’em.

  23. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 29, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    How to improve on them with minimal effort? – drop ’em off a bridge. Most of the alternatives around are better.


  24. Posted March 30, 2016 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on My Selfish Gene and commented:
    The evolution of morals?

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