The Ten Commandments For Atheists (And Humans In General)

I was raised Catholic, but please don’t ask me what I think about the Pope’s recent resignation. I don’t know much about various religions, but I do know the 10 Commandments. And I know that when I was growing up, my Italian grandmother did everything she could to convince me to live by those ten rules (with the addition of dozens of sub-rules based around some sort of a spiritual guilt system…). Anyway, the point of this article is not to preach or even discuss religion. I believe what I believe, and part of that belief is that we all have the right to keep our religious beliefs personal.

But what do the people who are self proclaimed non-believers use as their guide? I’m not talking about people who aren’t fans of Justin Bieber, by the way (I said non-believers, not non-beliebers). I’m talking about atheists. Shall they kill? Shall they steal? Shall they commit adultery? Swiss/British philosopher and writer Alain de Botton has come up with a modern list of 10 Commandments for atheists to live by.

Separating the religion/lack of religion aspect out of this list, I think this guy has captured some decent values for just being a good person. Check them out.

  1. Resilience: Keeping going even when things are looking dark.
  2. Empathy: The capacity to connect imaginatively with the sufferings and unique experiences of another person.
  3. Patience: We should grow calmer and more forgiving by being more realistic about how things actually happen.
  4. Sacrifice: We won’t ever manage to raise a family, love someone else or save the planet if we don’t keep up with the art of sacrifice.
  5. Politeness: Politeness is closely linked to tolerance, the capacity to live alongside people whom one will never agree with, but at the same time, cannot avoid.
  6. Humor: Like anger, humor springs from disappointment, but it is disappointment optimally channelled.
  7. Self-awareness: To know oneself is to try not to blame others for one’s troubles and moods; to have a sense of what’s going on inside oneself, and what actually belongs to the world.
  8. Forgiveness: It’s recognizing that living with others is not possible without excusing errors.
  9. Hope: Pessimism is not necessarily deep, nor optimism shallow.
  10. Confidence: Confidence is not arrogance – rather, it is based on a constant awareness of how short life is and how little we will ultimately lose from risking everything.

This list may not be as specific or explicit as the original 10 Commandments, but I think there’s something to its simplicity. It kind of reminds me of the great song “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I think no matter who or what you believe in, the values on this list are a good guide. And also, don’t kill anybody.

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