In Goddess We Trust

One Suggestion for the 10 Commandments

by J. Devi

As the violence and religious tensions continue to rise around the world and in our schools, so do the calls to post the 10 Commandments in schools and other public buildings. Since we can count on the "Separation of Church and State" argument in response to these fundamentalist forces, I suggest we look at the whole issue from another perspective and consider this question: Given what we now know about human nature and how the mind works, does it make sense to post the 10 Commandments in schools?

Leaving all moral issues aside for the moment, let's examine the effect of that imperative method of address known as the ‘command.' Granted they work with dogs and computers with varying degrees of success. However, when it comes to controlling human behavior, just how effective are COMMANDS, especially those negative commands that repeatedly tell you what not to do?

Anyone who ever dieted knows how effective it is to stop thinking about chocolate, or French fries or some other gustatory delight. It's just as effective as telling little kids not to think about spotted elephants or the monster in the closet.

Divided Brain

The reason, according to 2oth Century brain research is that our "right brain" does not process negatives. That is to say, the more part of you insists, "I do not want a hot fudge sundae" half of your head hears only "I want a hot fudge sundae." As if that is not enough, the more energy spent on resisting, the deeper the impression on the mind, the stronger the craving becomes. It's one of the reasons double messages can be so crazy making. Younger minds are even more impressionable, and less able to discern between these mixed messages.

Knowing this about our human hardware, how wise is it to post "Do Not Kill" or "Thou Shall Not Kill" in the classrooms of America, especially as a response to killings in schools? Since half our brain is hearing "Thou Shall Kill" isn't that a bit like throwing gas on a fire? It is entirely possible these ubiquitous negative commands are as likely to exacerbate the problem as fix it.

I know that there are those who believe the commandments to be the written word of their deity, but they were written and translated and tinkered with by men, and men are by no means perfect when it comes to wielding power and pens.

After a thousand years or so maybe it's time for a rewrite. After all, just on the level of coding programs or DNA, religious commands are like keywords. Keywords can call up a whole range of information, actions and feelings associated with a subject. Commandments qualify as keywords. Why keep punching up keywords like "KILL, STEAL, BEAR FALSE WITNESS, ADULTERY, etc." Does it make sense to subject kids to these command/keywords 6-8 hours a day at least 5 days a week?

Unless the fundamentalist agenda is to create more generations of kids crazed by mixed messages then the 10 commandments, as they are now, should not go in schools. At the very least, if we are going to expose kids to encoding, lets use some common sense in how we phrase things. I believe that careful phrasing of this nature is what the Buddhists refer to as "speaking well, " the essence of Navaho prayer, New Age affirmation or Hindu Mantra. Imagine what a different effect it would be to read "Respect all Beings," or "Do Unto Others..." or perhaps a gem from every culture represented here.

We could think of it as an evolutionary opportunity, our chance for a more intelligent design, one that in many ways is distinctly American. As the planet's Melting Pot, we have access to the whole world's collective Guidance ingredients, the spiritual essences of all the worlds' religions, knowledge, wisdom and dreams. It is our nation's greatest untapped and unrefined treasure. If ever there was a good time to open our minds to what is right - and what is wrong - about each them, it is now.

revised 2003

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In Goddess We Trust - works by J. Devi