Ok, back to the Trifecta on the Ten Commandments. Remember we are using Dennis Prager’s videos on the subject, Laura Schlesinger’s book on the Ten Commandments and the Cold Reading Part is Penn Jillette’s book God, No! which is an atheist’s view of the Ten Commandments. It could be more properly said that Penn’s book is an atheist’s ten commandments but in response to the actual deal. Today what I want to do is simple look at ach one’s introductory material and offer up some observations.
Dennis Prager – his introductory video is mostly laying out some basic principles which he will get to later as he looks at each commandment in detail. The simply argument here is that the world created by the ten commandments would be very good. He also points out that the ten commandments do require God and that morality than becomes a system of opinion or belief and not actual knowledge of what is right and wrong. Ethics requires a higher authority or it becomes simply a matter of situation and belief and on this he is correct. We will see if he can however prove this conclusively as he goes through each commandment.
Laura Schlesinger – To be honest, the introduction to her book The Ten Commandments is not written by her exclusively but Rabbi Vogel chimes in at the end. Laura basically recounts her upbringing where she went from wrestling with personal choices and ethics based on a notion of good that was self-serving, to a better understanding what everything meant in a greater context. In many ways her journey took to a greater depth of meaning in discovering that she was Jewish and as such she had a covenant with God and that covenant was based on the ten commandments. It is a much more personal look at how she arrived there than Prager. Vogel chimes in at the end and as Rabbi that took his own spiritual journey to begin to look at things in a context of the Law of Moses. His journey is more spiritual in a way and offers us a look at a person who is uncomfortable with the idea of people saying they are the last arbiters of right and wrong and this may hint at something similar to Prager’s view of without a higher power morality turns into belief and opinion rather than actual knowledge.
Penn Jillette – A little background here. Penn originally wrote out an atheist ten commandments as a request from Glenn Beck. This book God, No! is an expansion of that idea and deals with each commandment that he wrote in detail. In large part his book is a mixture of thoughts on what he wrote, stories and interesting as well as funny things to think about. But at the end of the day you are thinking. His introduction boils to a simply idea that from his perspective the difference between an atheist and theist is that the atheist says ‘I don’t know” but the theist says “he does know”.
In that sense Penn is his way is showing the one weakness of the theist argument involving the ten commandments – that is while we claim as Prager does that morality has to be based on a higher authority to be true knowledge, we claim to know for sure who that higher authority is – namely God and at that point we back not to knowledge but belief ourselves. We believe in God so we know he is the higher authority. The problem is that this still starts with belief or opinion, maybe at a higher level in the ethical argument about the source of ethics, but still belief and opinion not knowledge that can be demonstrated to everyone.
Honestly when it comes to the what we know and what we believe the two sides both have their humility and their arrogance. The atheist claims and “I don’t know’ in ethics but it is predicated on his ‘belief or opinion’ that there is no God which he or she cannot prove. The theist does the same only he claims to ‘know what is right and wrong’ but does so in the arrogance of the claim “There is a god’ Which also cannot be proven conclusively. In the end ethics comes down to belief and finding some source of that belief. Is it humanity itself or God becomes a matter of belief.
Next: The First Commandment