Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Returning to Sinai

My triumphant return to the Motley Moose (I know many of you were concerned I had been KIA in a recent raid by Sarah Palin; these rumors were false, but we lost some good meese out there…)!

You can catch the full, original article (with one spiffy photo) here .

One of the central tenets of Christian and Jewish faith is the Ten Commandments, handed down from God to Moses atop Mt. Sinai (in present-day Egypt).

In truth, the Ten Commandments are a codification of the tenets of every faith (not just for Jews and Christians) and the highest levels of conscience (for agnostics or atheists). In other words, the Ten Commandments remains a very religious symbol, but the message and cause is one that all people (regardless of faith choice) are hard-wired for at heart.

How are you doing, personally? That’s a question that must be answered from within.

But how are we doing, as a people? Let’s simplify the language from Exodus and Deuteronomy and consider (in the opposite order the Commandments appear, for effect):

You shall not covet/take your neighbor’s wife…or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

I think the important notions here are the definition of “neighbor” and the definition of what “belongs to your neighbor.” In America, aren’t all citizens our neighbors? And further, aren’t our lives tied closely with those in cities and towns and mud huts all over the world? The message from this passage is that we are all neighbors.

The act of wanting, of desiring, has led us seriously astray–this is nowhere more apparent than in the great race for wealth. Remember the very true statement: “He who loves money never has money enough.We have made ourselves slaves to this desire.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

We can’t seem to shake the “Welfare Queen” myth, or the idea that one must attain a certain social or financial status before they are worthy of our attention.

On television our leaders call others “enemies” for their ideas or actions; Republicans and Democrats put on a vituperative face in the name of achieving political power.

On the floor of Congress, Representatives boisterously accuse the President, “You lie!” Yet who is really bearing false witness?

You shall not steal.

Ten percent of the people own seventy percent of the wealth. Vast inequality of income keeps Americans from fully exercising that “pursuit of happiness,” but the inexorable extension of this notion is that more than 2 billion men, women and children around the world live on less than $2 per day. This is a type of poverty that is unthinkable in the US. Yet the very wealthy–the modern-day “tax collectors” of biblical times–continue to soar in riches despite the harrowing reality of most of the world.

You shall not commit adultery.

Do I even need to elaborate on this one?

You shall not murder/kill.

War. Genocide. Capital Punishment. Terrorism. Preemption. Crime. Torture. Assassination. “Manifest Destiny.”

The text is very simple in both Exodus and Deuteronomy. “You shall not murder.” There are no corollaries attached. It is a simple rule. A natural law.

Honor your father and mother.

It’s tough to know how to honor your father and mother when father and mother oftentimes don’t properly honor progeny. Nearly half of all marriages in America end in divorce; millions of kids grow up in single parent households or foster care. The cohesive family unit–which reflects a cohesive society and the moral fortitude of a people–has been eroding for quite some time.

Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

Once again, “He who loves money never has money enough.” Why take time to consider the big picture and connect with family when you could be making more treasure (or employing others to do so on your behalf)? (That, my friends, is sarcasm.)

Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.

No, I’m not talking about swearing here. I’m talking about being untrue to the core principles of any faith or level of conscience, and then seeking to justify your betrayal. This includes holy wars (so a war to combat “Islamic fundamentalism” falls in here), intolerance of others for their way of life or beliefs (and justifying it because you are of a particular religion or belief group), or carrying yourself as a person of faith and subsequently breaking any of these Commandments without remorse.

You shall not make for yourself an idol.

You shall have no other gods before me.

These last two go pretty well together, and highlight our most egregious offense: We worship wealth.

We have created a false god and perpetuated it with political policies that hand people money to curry favor (no matter how rich they already are), economic policies that dupe so many into giving their lives in the pursuit of dollar upon dollar (“He who loves money never has money enough”), and a culture where bigger is better, we spend what we don’t have to buy what we can’t afford, and irresponsibility is glamorous (see McDonald’s, Mastercard & Lindsay Lohan).

Wealth can be a tool, but it is not the source of freedom. So many confuse an extra dollar with extra happiness, yet at whose expense does that happiness come? Our brothers and sisters who can barely afford ten grains of rice? The truth is, when we pass on from this life, it matters not whether you are buried in six feet of soil or a stack of $100 bills.

Our truest commodity comes in our ability to advance the cause of humanity; to walk the road of peace for all time; to serve–not enslave–one another.

These are “the better angels of our nature.“It is easy for most folks to think, of the Ten Commandments,  “Well, if I don’t do these things, then that is good enough.”


A nation consists of individuals; it cannot exist without each one. The collective actions of that state reflect on every citizen; we must decide whether we allow our collective actions to be held to a different (and much lower) standard than the ones we choose for our churches, our families and ourselves.

Will we continue to believe that our governments and nations are exempt from these universal truths? This isn’t a call for the Bible or Qur’an to replace the Constitution; but rather, for the common-sense dignity, decency and behavior that all peoples throughout the world find in common. It’s time to practice what we preach.


  1. …It is certainly not.

    I don’t know a whole lot about the subject, but what I hope you’ll find in this piece is a call to everyone–no matter the religion or calling of conscience.

    The reality is, how you come to the truth is irrelevant as long as you are seeking it. That is my message going forward and one I hope to share with you here.

    But seriously, it feels good to be back.


  2. As you pointed out, these ‘rules’ are common to almost all human societies. Theft, murder, and covetousness are all harmful actions. That’s why there are laws against them, both in religious societies and atheist ones. The one commandment that is misinterpreted most often is “Thou shalt not kill”. This has always been interpreted to mean thou shalt not kill members of your own society, whether it be a small clan or a great nation. It is perfectly acceptable to kill the ‘other’ if you can come up with an excuse to do so. Members of society that break that society’s rules lose that protection, hence the acceptability of capital punishment.

    Anyway, I take what you wrote here as a call to our better natures, regardless of religious beliefs.

  3. Having written several dramas about religion, I’m with you on this. I’m a complete athiest, but I think religion (like art) contains many valuable insights and truths about our deepest natures. It is, in Marx’s words, the heart of a heartless world, and expresses our desires, visions of the future, our sense of justice and beauty.

    Therefore, unlike Ditchens and the strident atheists, I don’t think religion is a ‘delusion’, in the psychotic sense they mean. It might well be an illusion, but so is Van Gogh and the Marriage of Figaro.

    I just accept the conditional contingent nature of the religious myths.

    Most Anglicans I know do too: it’s the literalists we have to watch out for. The scientific ones too. Dawkins idea of curing people of their ‘delusion’ is by hitting them over the head repeatedly with his blunt scientific superiority – very therapeutic. And how does he explain that religious belief is ‘maladaptive’ when most human cultures have evolved it in some form?

    Sorry, end of rant. But I dislike the anti-God squad as much as the God-Squad (almost). Both groups are zealots, convinced of their own message. They don’t allow the most scientific premise of all: doubt.

    Briefly back to the Ten Commandments. The key thing I take away from it is the danger of idolatry. We’re all in danger of become fetishists to celebrity, commodities, wealth. So the line that always rings in my head, more than graven images, is

    Love the lord your God above all things.

  4. sricki

    and I’m about as anti-religion (most particularly anti-Christianity, due to my greater exposure to it and personal struggles with it as a child) as they come. It’s not that I dislike all of the messages religions try to impart to their followers (though I certainly dislike a fair few, across a number of faiths). It’s really that I dislike what followers do with some of those messages. And to an even greater extent, perhaps, the hypocrisy of a lot of people of faith. And of course, I think spirituality/religion is a personal thing, and don’t appreciate it being shoved down my throat by any religion’s followers.

    Not to get off on too much of a ramble, but I’ve been taken to task in the past for disliking Christianity so much because I dislike so many of its followers. The religion and its followers are, of course, not really one and the same. Maybe it’s unfair of me, but I think it’s human nature to make associations like that. Same with Republicans. I don’t have any particular feeling on Republican ideas other than that they’re incorrect or misguided. But I hate conservatism because of the way some conservatives behave. Same goes for my feelings on religion. Maybe I have some growing up to do — or at least some learning.

    But all that aside and back to the diary — taking a moral inventory of ourselves is always a good idea, and generally speaking the Commandments (the “big ones” of any religion really) are not a poor measuring stick.

    Long story short, if even I am happy to see a post like this on the FP of the Moose, then I’d say you did a fine job getting your message across in a manner that should be palatable to anyone, heathens and theists alike. 😉

    Welcome back, btw.  

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