Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Big Ten

A few days ago, I was reading in the paper about some court battle over keeping the Ten Commandments outside a local courthouse. Setting aside the whole church and state issue (and that's a big thing to set aside), I was wondering why this has become such a hot-button issue. I mean, why are the Commandments put in front of courthouses in the first place? It's not like they're the foundation of our judicial system. In case you've gotten rusty on your Old Testament, here's a rundown:

The Ten Commandments

1. I am the Lord thy God
2. Thou shall not worship graven images
3. Thou shall not take God's name in vain
4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy
5. Honor thy mother and father
6. Thou show not kill
7. Thou shall not commit adultery
8. Thou shall not steal
9. Thou shall not bear false witness
10. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife or home

Even conceding that adultery is technically illegal in certain jurisdictions, that's less than half of the top ten that are actually a crime in the United States.

It's not even like our judicial system is based on any sort of Judeo-Christian principles. The Code of Hammurabi, the first written rule of law, was devised by a Babylonian priest-king in about 2342 BC, while the jury system dates back to ancient Greece. From my admittedly spotty remembrance of Hebrew school, the Old Testament laws mostly involved "eye for an eye." The idea was that if you killed your neighbor's goat, you had to buy him a new one. Same thing if you killed his slave. Nomadic people aren't too big on jail time. The death penalty, of course, was quite popular—for everything from murdering your neighbor to sassing your parents. Not exactly on par with the modern American judicial system—except maybe in Texas.

You have to wonder why people say we live in a Judeo-Christian society at all. Our governmental system comes from ancient Rome. Math and science from Egypt. Popular music? Africa. Even our language is a mish-mash of Latin and Teutonic tongues.

In fact, the way I see it, the only thing we inherited from Christianity is a bloated sense of entitlement and self-righteousness.


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