Friday, February 20, 2015

Kirk Hastings Sorta Responds

Kirk Hastings had dropped out of my consciousness. He'd shut down all his publicly avaialbe Facebook pages and, from what I could gather, cut off a bunch of people he knew online over ideological issues. If he hadn't gone full hermit, he was getting pretty close. I'd nearly forgotten about him when a poster on the Irreligiosophy Fan Group page asked, "Is Kirk Hastings haz died?" I found myself searching Amazon to link to his book, only to discover my modest entry, Answering Kirk Hastings: Examining the Core Claims of the author of "What Is Truth?" had a new review written by Kirk Hastings himself!

I was momentarily thrilled by this fresh nugget of Kirky goodness and Mr Hastings did not disappoint. He didn't actually respond to what I had written, but instead produced a short screed that condensed everything about Kirk that I found so intellectually amusing and philosophically delectable.

This review is from: Answering Kirk Hastings: Examining the Core Claims of the author of "What Is Truth?" (Kindle Edition)
This "book" (pamphlet!) is a pathetic attempt to "answer" MY book "What Is Truth?", and is written by a typical angry, intellectually threatened member of the extremely defensive internet atheist group called Irreligiosophy. (Even the title of his "book", and his posted description of it, is nothing more than a personal attack upon me -- not a real description of his book's contents.) My book is 197 pages long with copious footnotes, showing that I did my research before writing it. This book/pamphlet is only 49 pages long, with NO objective scientific research behind it -- it is only the drawn-out, narrow-minded opinion of someone who simply refuses to consider the evidences for the Christian faith, no matter how supported scientifically or plausible they may be. Matthew Miller is NOT an unbiased writer; he is a close-minded ideologue who couldn't write a full-length book, or even get it into print -- so he chose the short-cut Kindle route instead (who will publish practically anything!). The positive "reviews" of this book are also written by Irreligiosophy members (just as ALL of the negative reviews posted under MY book are!). Irreligiosophy members don't live in the real world -- they consistently make up their own "facts" in order to try to justify their irrational atheist beliefs, and then they simply ignore all the evidence that might contradict their own predetermined point of view. Don't waste your time with this piece of slanted atheist propaganda. If you want to read a REAL book on the subject of creation vs. evolution, then try mine! ... http://www.amazon.com/What-Truth-Handbook-Separating-Propaganda-Filled/dp/1608362981/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416157
I decided to unpack the review and take a closer look at it. The title is where Kirk makes his first error. I'm not an atheist. I'm more of a deist or agnostic. This is a topic I've discussed with Kirk on Facebook in the past, and he never seemed to grok the fact that there's a difference.

This "book" (pamphlet!) is a pathetic attempt to "answer" MY book "What Is Truth?"
Well, no, not really. The entirety of the book's contents are available on this blog under the Kirk Hastings tag.The vast bulk of the book addresses his short piece "Top Ten Questions for Darwinists." Kirk certainly came to my attention as a result of "What is Truth?" but it's not what I wrote about. His magnum opus "What is Truth?" is mentioned in the subtitle largely because his status as a sub-genre of Irreligiosophy fandom means it's a more recognizable criteria for identifying him than his past association with the defunct "Evidence4Faith" podcast.

and is written by a typical angry, intellectually threatened member of the extremely defensive internet atheist group called Irreligiosophy.
Irreligiosophy is a sporadically produced podcast with two hosts and the occasional guest. It's not an "atheist group." I'll let Kirk slide on this point however because he may be trying to refer to the Irreligiosophy fan base. The fans are largely atheist, but I'm at a loss to understand how he gets the idea that the fan base in general or I in particular are "angry." Given how thoroughly Kirk's arguments in "What is Truth?" were eviscerated by the Irreligiosophy hosts in their four part review of his book, I'm at an equal loss to understand how he gets the idea that any of the Irreligiosophy fans feel "intellectually threatened" by him. Quite the opposite. Kirk and Chuck had a delightful exchange in the reviews of Kirk's book where Kirk responded to Chuck's specific points not with refutations or counter arguments but insults. I particularly enjoyed the complete failure of Kirk to understand that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is an equation, and his equally epic failure to understand Chuck's efforts at giving him a remedial lesson in statistics.

(Even the title of his "book", and his posted description of it, is nothing more than a personal attack upon me -- not a real description of his book's contents.)
Since it's pretty clear he hasn't READ my book, his assertion that I failed to describe the book's contents remains unsubstantiated. That said, I will quote the book's title and description below so you, dear reader, can decided if the title and description constitute criticism of Kirk Hastings or a "personal attack."

Answering Kirk Hastings: Examining the Core Claims of the author of "What Is Truth?"

I first became aware of Kirk Hastings when he taunted the hosts of the Irreligiosophy podcast with a copy of his self-published Christian apologetic "What Is Truth?: A Handbook for Separating Fact from Fiction in a Propaganda-Filled World" The hosts replied with a multi-episode review of the book, picking apart it’s scientific errors, logical fallacies and overall poor construction.

Kirk’s response was embarrassing. He ranted and raved about atheist conspiracies and replied to his critics not with a rational debate, but with insults. Eventually he devolved into posting the same reply to multiple reviewers. A few months later, he went back and posted a Biblically themed word soup of divine revenge fantasy to all his critics in the Amazon reviews.

During all of this Kirk, or people acting upon his behalf, created a series of Facebook pages attacking his critics and defending Kirk.

There was a predictable pattern to the religion themed pages. At first the pages would get a flood of posts from people looking to engage Kirk, or the parties pretending to be him. After a few questions, they would get banned and their posts deleted. Their posts would then be described by the page moderator as having been profane, rude, offensive or some other adjective that would theoretically justify banning the person. The problem was, these insults were directed at just about anyone who posted critical content, regardless what they actually wrote. Eventually the page would consist largely of Kirk’s own comments, replies to posts that had been deleted. To anyone unfamiliar with what was going on, the pages came to resemble a madman talking to himself, posting replies to imaginary people. Given how divorced from reality his depictions of his critics tend to be, such a suspicion would not be far off.

That’s where this book comes in. Kirk’s endless stream of Facebook pages occasionally diverts from insults and hubris into asking or stating something deserving of a response. Since all the people interested in responding to him appear to have been banned from his pages, responding to him requires the conversation be taken elsewhere, someplace where he can’t delete the posts, and where he can’t claim someone was using profanity when they weren’t.

Back to examining Kirk's "review" of my book.
My book is 197 pages long with copious footnotes, showing that I did my research before writing it.
Now is as good a time as any to point out that Kirk's book retails for $24.95 on Amazon.com. That's a pretty steep price to ask for a 197 page paperback by an unknown apologetic writer best known for being discussed on a podcast hosted by an ex-Mormon.

I find it amusing that he lists the length of the book and the presence of footnotes as if it were an indication of the quality of the research contained within. David Icke's demented conspiracy theory book The Perception Deception is 724 pages long and heavily researched. The metric proposed by Kirk Hastings, length and footnote density, would make its conclusions superior to Kirk's, as it's longer and is based on a lot of research. It's also a better deal than Kirk's. $31.64 for 724 pages comes out to a shy more than 4 cents a page. Kirk's book is 12.66 cents a page. My book is the best deal however, costing a mere 2 cents a page. Pricing was key, as books about Kirk Hastings target a very small market indeed. My book contains a plethora of links to supporting content and references. If I were to publish a dead tree format version I would have to convert all those links into footnotes. If Kirk wants to get into a footnote-density phallus waving contest his book probably isn't going to fare very well compared to my modest collection of essays.

Given the fact that the Irreligiosophy podcast spent multiple episodes on the errors in Kirk's book and barely scratched the surface, his claim that "I did my research before writing it" tells us that while he may have done research, but he clearly didn't do it well. I highly recommend listening to all four Irreligiosophy episodes reviewing his paperback. 111: Kirk Hastings’ "What Is Truth?", 112: What Is Truth? II, 113: "WIT" III: The Reliability of the Bible and 114: "WIT" IV: The Case for Christ 

This book/pamphlet is only 49 pages long, with NO objective scientific research behind it
Since Kirk Hastings has already made it clear he's never even READ my 49 page pamphlet, he's not exactly in a position to comment on the nature of its contents. The section on the "Second Question for Darwinists" for example contains links to objective sources about the Second law of Thermodynamics.
 it is only the drawn-out, narrow-minded opinion of someone who simply refuses to consider the evidences for the Christian faith, no matter how supported scientifically or plausible they may be.
Quite the opposite. I used to be a hard core, deeply conservative Creationist. My movement away from that mindset was, ironically enough, the result of trying to find evidences for Christianity and Biblical Creationism. I was a big fan of men like Ken Ham, but I found their books to be poorly researched and amateurish. Kent Hovind was particularly embarrassing, as he contracted himself all the time. In the space of one sermon Hovind claimed the DNA for gigantism was gone, that gigantism was caused by increased air pressure from the pre-deluge waters being above the clouds, and that gigantism in fish could be induced by putting a fish tank under pressure. All of this ignores the fact that most deep-sea animals are quite small, while Hovind's arguments suggest they should have been made into gigantic beasts by the high pressure. The list of claims were contradictory and had no actual science to back them up. I decoded I could do better.

I started by trying to find sources for the claims made by the noted Creationist authors. I quickly realized there were innumerable problems with Creationist arguments. For example, the depiction of the Second Law of Thermodynamics in Creationist writing only functions if you ignore the existence of the Sun. One reason the Irreligiosophy review of Kirk's book resonated with me was because Kirk was reiterating all the same tired old arguments that I'd realized were bunk back in the 1990's."What is Truth?" was not so much researched as thinly plagiarized from Creationist works that were 10 to 20 years old.

I came to my agnosticism / deism by virtue of trying to prove Creationism. I did my research and let the actual evidence lead me where it did.

Matthew Miller is NOT an unbiased writer;
AH HA! An accurate statement! How refreshing, like finding a grain of gold in a bag of sand.
he is a close-minded ideologue
 Insert predictable "Pot calling the kettle black" joke here.
who couldn't write a full-length book
I wasn't trying to write a "full-length" book. I wrote a series of blog posts responding to Kirk's specific claims, and then collected them into an ebook. Then length of the book was dictated not by an arbitrary rule about what constitutes "full length" but by the content. I'd written what I had to write about Kirk's "Ten Questions for Darwinists." Drawing it out to reach an arbitrary page length would have been the kind of shenanigan I eschewed in my school days.
or even get it into print -- so he chose the short-cut Kindle route instead (who will publish practically anything!).
It's probably not worth the work for a book about Kirk Hastings. Producing a dead three format book would require me to take relevant content from all the linked articles and create footnotes, transcribe portions of the Irreligiosophy episodes dealing with Kirk's book and go through the hassle of formatting it all for print. The market for the book is too small to justify the effort of expanding into another format. Besides, as of February 20, 2015, my "pamphlet" is ALREADY outselling Kirk's "What is Truth?" on Amazon.com.

Answering Kirk Hastings: Examining the Core Claims of the author of "What Is Truth?" by Matthew Miller Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,262,128

What Is Truth?: A Handbook for Separating Fact from Fiction in a Propaganda-Filled World by Kirk Hastings Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,860,798

Ouch. Remember folks, lower numbers are better when discussing sales ranking.

The positive "reviews" of this book are also written by Irreligiosophy members (just as ALL of the negative reviews posted under MY book are!). 
That's because Irreligiosophy fans, (why does he keep calling us "members?") are the only people who CARE about his writing in any way. The only positive reviews of his book are from people who admit in the reviews that they are his friends. People must have an interest in a book before they'll purchase and review it. Nobody cares about what Kirk Hastings has to say about apologetic philosophy.

To give a frame of reference, this philosophy book has a better sales ranking on Amazon.com than Kirk's paperback:

What is Truth?: Second Edition by Matthew Wunderlich Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,253,674

Again. Ouch.

Irreligiosophy members don't live in the real world -- they consistently make up their own "facts" in order to try to justify their irrational atheist beliefs, and then they simply ignore all the evidence that might contradict their own predetermined point of view.
This entire kerfuffle started because the hosts of the Irreligiosophy podcast reviewed Kirk's paperback and found a number of problems with the content. Kirk has never addressed any of the factual errors in his paperback. Instead he has responded with insults and derision like the quote above. The Kirk Hastings response to criticism is comparable to a school child sticking his fingers in his ears and screaming "I can't hear you!" Don't take my word for it though. Read Kirk's replies to the reviews of his paperback. Decide for yourself if it's Kirk or the Irreligiosophy fans and hosts that are ignoring evidence and criticism in order to support an ideology.
Don't waste your time with this piece of slanted atheist propaganda.
Again, since Kirk Hastings never read it, he's not really in a position to judge if it's propaganda, or if it's humanist, atheist, deist, agnostic or even Christian.
If you want to read a REAL book on the subject of creation vs. evolution, then try mine!
Before you spend $25 on a 197 page paperback, I suggest you listen to the Irreligiosophy episodes where they read excerpts of the book. Regardless of if you take the criticism of the Irreligiosophy hosts seriously, they do read large portions of the book, letting you get a feel for its content before you spend your hard earned cash on it.
 
111: Kirk Hastings’ "What Is Truth?"
112: What Is Truth? II 
113: "WIT" III: The Reliability of the Bible
114: "WIT" IV: The Case for Christ   


Return to the Index

Monday, December 1, 2014

What are the Best Religious Movies?

What are the best religious movies?

It's December, which means it's time for the biannual invasion of lackluster live action sermons masquerading as entertainment. Christians are celebrating the birth of Christ. Setting aside the fact that he could NOT have been born in the Winter, that the holiday was scheduled to absorb assorted pagan and Yule festivals and the "celebration" is more "orgy of stuff" than religious remembrance, I choose to focus on mainstream entertainment that's actually religious.

The Charlie Brown Christmas Special is of course high on the list. While not a movie, it does an excellent job of touching on both the religious and commercial aspects of the holiday.

"A Man for All Seasons," is, in my opinion, one of, if not the best, treatment of faith by Hollywood. It deftly and intelligently examines the intersection of Man's Law and God's Law in a manner that's far more insightful and useful than just about anything said by anyone ranting about "Activist judges."

While I enjoy the original Robocop, and it's a very obvious Christ allegory, it really doesn't qualify as a "religious" movie unless you consider criticism of corporate dominance to be a religious topic.

What are your thoughts? What do you consider the best, or the most entertaining religious movies? Please, don't limit yourself to Christianity.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Honey Badger vs the Darkness

My six year old son had been having problems sleeping at night due largely to the typical childhood fears of monsters, shadows and vague noises. Remembering the fact that Honey Badgers are formidable animals, I hatched a plan where we watched a National Geographic documentary about Honey Badgers. When it was finished my son concluded that honey badgers were about as badass as animals could get. I ordered him a stuffed honey badger and he waited with baited breath for it to arrive.

When the box was opened we played with his stuffed animals a bit, including a sequence where he had to convince his stuffed cheetahs, lions and other fierce creatures to stop being scared of the Honey badger, because he was their friend.

That night when my son went to bed, he brought up his usual fears about scary things in the darkness.

"What time are Honey Badgers most active?" I asked him.

He thought a moment and replied, "At nigh. They're nocturnal."

"Exactly. Your Honey Badger is hunting when you're sleeping. He's on guard while you sleep. That's how he evolved."

My son smiled.

"An you know what else?"

"What?"

"Do you think there's ANYTHING you're scared of that the Honey Badger can't take out?"

He laughed. "No Daddy." He then got very serious. "But what if there's too many for my honey badger to fight?"

"Remember the documentary?"

"Yes."

"Do you think your other stuffies could sleep through the racket of a honey badger fighting?"

He laughed again. "No Daddy."

"Well then, if anything scary comes by, your honey badger will take it out. If it has any trouble, it'll make so much noise in the fight all your other fierce animals will hear the racket and come to your honey badger's aid. By that point there'll be so much noise Mommy and I will wake up too."

"OK Daddy!" he announced, and flopped into bed, fiercely snuggling his new friend.

He still wakes up at night now and then, but generally because he wants to cuddle with Mommy or Daddy. His fear of dark things in the night has pretty much evaporated. He's even taken to venturing downstairs at night, so long as he has the honey badger and one or two other particularly fierce creatures in tow.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

@ksorbs Kevin Sorbo vs the Ten Commandments

I know, I know, examining the theological implications of a Kevin Sorbo quote isn't really fair, but it's fun.

I have always said, the ten commandments are basically pretty good rules to live by even if you are an atheist. - Kevin Sorbo



At first blush, that sounds like a perfectly reasonable statement, assuming your knowledge of the Ten Commandments is limited to "Well, they're rules we're supposed to follow, right?" Let's take a quick look at the Ten Commandments from the viewpoint of someone who doesn't believe in God and see if Mr. Sorbo is right.

To the Bible! Wait, There's More Than 10...

The first problem we encounter is that the Bible doesn't really contain the Ten Commandments as they're  traditionally presented in Sunday School. The "Ten Commandments" that keep cropping up on courthouse walls and monuments on public land are an edited fusion of selections from Exodus chapter 20 and Deuteronomy chapter 5. Adding to the complexity is the fact that the ordering and wording chosen varies from one religious sect to another. The Wikpedia article on the Ten Commandments has an excellent table showing the most common variations, reproduced here:

Traditions:
  • S: Septuagint, generally followed by Orthodox Christians.
  • P: Philo, same as the Septuagint, but with the prohibitions on killing and adultery reversed.
  • T: Jewish Talmud, makes the "prologue" the first "saying" or "matter" and combines the prohibition on worshiping deities other than Yahweh with the prohibition on idolatry.
  • A: Augustine follows the Talmud in combining verses 3–6, but omits the prologue as a commandment and divides the prohibition on coveting in two and following the word order of Deuteronomy 5:21 rather than Exodus 20:17.
  • C: Catechism of the Catholic Church, largely follows Augustine.
  • L: Lutherans follow Luther's Large Catechism, which follows Augustine but omits the prohibition of images[17] and uses the word order of Exodus 20:17 rather than Deuteronomy 5:21 for the ninth and tenth commandments.
  • R: Reformed Christians follow John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, which mostly follows Philo.
The Ten Commandments
S P T A C L R Main article Exodus 20:1-17 Deuteronomy 5:4-21
1 1 (1) I am the Lord thy God 2 [18] 6 [19]
1 1 2 1 1 1 1 Thou shalt have no other gods before me 3[20] 7[21]
2 2 2 1 1 2 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image 4–6[22] 8–10[23]
3 3 3 2 2 2 3 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain 7[24] 11[25]
4 4 4 3 3 3 4 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy 8–11[26] 12–15[27]
5 5 5 4 4 4 5 Honour thy father and thy mother 12[28] 16[29]
6 7 6 5 5 5 6 Thou shalt not kill 13[30] 17[31]
7 6 7 6 6 6 7 Thou shalt not commit adultery 14[32] 18[33]
8 8 8 7 7 7 8 Thou shalt not steal 15[34] 19[35]
9 9 9 8 8 8 9 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour 16[36] 20[37]
10 10 10 10 10 9 10 Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's house) 17a[38] 21b[39]
10 10 10 9 9 10 10 Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's wife) 17b[40] 21a[41]
10 10 10 10 10 10 10 Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's servants, animals, or anything else) 17c[42] 21c[43]

That's 13 commandments!

The actual passages contain more than 13 between them, even when you account for similar commandments, but the sad reality is the Ten Commandments are an editorial study aid created by church and synagogue leaders, not a literal list of rules laid out that way in the Bible. Since Kevin Sorbo never specified WHICH religious tradition he meant when claiming the Ten Commandments were a good set of rules for Atheists to live by, we're left with the following options:
  1. Pick a tradition and run with it.
  2. Evaluate Exodus 20 AND Deuteronomy 5.
  3. Evaluate Exodus 20 OR Deuteronomy 5.
  4. Go through the pool of 13 proto-commandments traditionally used to fabricate a list of 10.
From a Biblical scholarship standpoint Option #2 would be the better choice, but this article is about Kevin Sorbo's theological claims, which are already somewhat divorced from Biblical literacy by the mere use of the Ten Commandments as a baseline. To cover the bases properly, this article will go with Option 4, covering the pool of 13 commandments traditionally pared down to a Decalogue.

 I am the Lord thy God

Already we have a problem. An atheist can no more acknowledge Yahweh as their God than a Christian could acknowledge Jupiter or pray to Hercules to act as an intercessor with Zeus. Fortunately for Sorbo, this Commandment is really more God stating how he views his place in relation to humanity. It doesn't give an actual command. This is probably why many Christian sects drop it from the list.


Thou shalt have no other gods before me

This is what most Protestants and Lutherans think of as the First Commandment. While its predecessor above allows for a pantheon compatible with, for example, Hinduism and many forms of modern paganism, this one encroaches on this territory, demanding Yahweh get preferential treatment over other deities a person worships. This is particularly problematic for someone whose pantheon doesn't even INCLUDE Yahweh.

Needless to say, this commandment is right out for an atheist, as they don't believe in God to begin with.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

Often combined with the rule that precedes it, this Commandment also fails as a guideline by which a non-Christian could live. Atheists are going to follow this rule in an incidental manner. Not believing in any god, an atheist is not going to be making an idol. If they made an idol, an object intended to be worshiped, they would no longer be atheists.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain

This is one is bit more complicated than it appears at first glance. Most modern Christians see this as little more than a prohibition against using God's name while cursing. The older interpretation, and the one probably closer to what the original authors would have intended, is a prohibition against making oaths under false pretenses or that you didn't intend to keep. It takes the form of taking God's name in vain because it was common practice to swear in the name of your deity when you made a vow. Americans still do this by having people swear oaths on Bibles.


This commandment is the first one examined so far that is actually good advice. If you take it by the modern definition of "don't swear" it's a miss manners piece of advice. If you take it by the older, more accurate interpretation, it becomes a very foundational statement about maintaining your integrity and trustworthiness.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy

We'd have fewer arguments in this country about labor rights if this one was taken seriously by the allegedly Christian business leaders.The utility of this commandment to a atheist is going to depend upon what you mean by "keep it holy." If you mean "Go to Church or Synagogue" then the commandment is useless to an atheist. If you mean "rest and recuperate" then taking one day out of seven to relax is very good advice that will benefit most people.

Honor thy father and thy mother
After a long dry spell of ambiguous or useless commandments we finally get to one that has some undeniable value. This commandment is usually paired with a promise of long life if you obey it. Since Leviticus 20:9 and Deuteronomy 21:18-21 call for unruly children to be put to death, this was not an empty promise. In a Biblical context, the promise of a long life if you honor your father and mother is an unambiguous "Obey, or we'll kill you." In a more modern context, the promise is still applicable. A child who heeds their parents  when they tell them to look both ways when crossing the street or advises them on good gun safety practices is generally going to live longer than a kid who discards that advice.


In general, honoring your Father and mother is a good idea. Sadly, there are plenty of abusive and negligent parents. Because of them, a disclaimer would be advisable to allow children to, for example, not honor a parent who sexually molests them. Aside from the absence of this disclaimer this commandment is good advice for atheists.

Thou shalt not kill

This is by and large, good advice for anyone to follow, unless of course they're a soldier at war.


Thou shalt not commit adultery

The rise of Polyamory, open marriages and the fact that many Millennials aren't feeling the need to get married before combining finances or starting families makes the essence of this commandment good advice, but the wording outdated. The real essence of this commandment is to not violate the relationship parameters you've set with your partners. In Biblical times this consisted of a man agreeing not to have sex with a woman who wasn't one of his wives or concubines, and the wives and concubines in turn agreeing not to have sex with anyone but him. That rather simple man / property arrangement isn't really applicable in modern times. Despite the fact that some rewording is needed, this is still good advice for atheists. Since monogamous marriage is still the most common adult relationship structure, "Thou shat not commit adultery" still covers the vast majority of cases.

Thou shalt not steal


Again, good advice for everyone. That's why the idea was in the Code of Hammurabi.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
 

Kevin Sorbo curb stomped this commandment with his shameful and dishonest portrayal of an atheist in "God's not Dead." With that performance, he bore false witness against about 20% of Americans, according to recent research.

The key problem with this commandment seems to be how many people are perfectly happy to lie about someone who is a member of a group they're prejudiced against. Jesus tried to clarify who our "neighbor" is with the parable of the good Samaritan, but that hasn't stopped even allegedly religious men like Kevin Sorbo from a performance as insulting and hateful as if he'd smeared himself in black-face and sung "Mammy" between bites of watermelon.

The commandment is a good one, but it needs some clarification.

Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's house)
Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's wife)
Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's servants, animals, or anything else)


I vividly remember a high school religion class where the teacher had us discuss why there were two "thou shalt not covet" commandments and why they were broken up the way they were. It's a shame he never had us go back to the actual bible. If he had, we'd have seen the division we were puzzling over was an arbitrary one. Instead of two commandments with a theologically critical division, the actual bible verses are just a few lists with formatting and presentation no different than elsewhere in the Old Testament. The Old testament authors LOVED going into detail. A reformed rabbi I spoke to explained that she suspected the "Stiff Necked people" Moses was contending with were real sticklers for detail, constantly looking for loopholes and exclusions. This lead to a LOT of elaboration. The example she used was in the convoluted and extensive listing of who you couldn't sex with without committing incest.

Because of this, I'm going to treat the three of these as a single unit and say that not coveting is generally good advice. I'm particularity fond of how Louis C.K. phrased the idea.

"The only time you look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look in your neighbor's bowl to see if you have as much as them." - Louis C.K.


Kinda sounds like something Christ would have said, doesn't it?

The Commandments for Atheists

After all of that, we can cull the pool of 13 proto-commandments into a list that atheists can actually put to use in their daily life.
  1. Do not swear any oaths or make any promises you do not intend to keep. Do not break any oaths or promises you have already made.
  2. Take one day out of seven as a day of rest.
  3. Honor thy father and thy mother within reason
  4. Thou shalt not kill
  5. Thou shalt not violate the relationship parameters you've set with your partner(s)
  6. Thou shalt not steal
  7. Thou shalt not bear false witness against ANYONE
  8. Thou shalt not covet. The only time you look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look in your neighbor's bowl to see if you have as much as them.
I'm tempted to add a ninth commandment of "The bowl is a metaphor, don't take it literally" just to tease Creationists a bit, but that's drifting a bit from the article's topic.


Getting back to Sorbo's original claim, "the ten commandments are basically pretty good rules to live by even if you are an atheist," we see 8 out of 13 proto-commandments are good advice for atheists, If you make a few edits to disambiguate and modernize a few of them.  That makes Kevin Sorbo's comment 62% accurate, assuming you grant him the commandments that needed editing as whole commandments and not partial ones.