Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Christopher Hitchens on the Ten Commandments

Do you know what are the Ten Commandments? I remember them vaguely from religious education and one day decided to actually look them up in the Torah. I found more than one version and they weren't clearly ordered from one to ten. I also remember reading the Torah as a Law student and was shuddering as I thought of what I was taught was proper law and proper wording of law.

This experience is also expressed by Christohper Hitchens as he speaks on the Ten Commandments on TVO's podcast Big Ideas. Needless to say, with Hitchens as a speaker, this alienating experience about the Ten Commandments culminates in a tearing down of it. Hitchens deconstructs the text to man-made, inspired by conflicting politics, but mostly driven by an underlying world view that allows for genocide, child molesting and what other immoral acts he can find sanctioned in the Bible.

Unless you completely agree in advance with Hitchens, you may find this a bit of a cheap trick. One can take any text out of its historic reference and find fault with it by modern standards. Even if this is a foundational text that is still considered valid today, it can hardly be taken without the huge tradition of explanation around it. In so far this is just a reply to simpleminded believers who take the Ten Commandments as ruling law in itself. A deeper quality of the lecture lies however in Hitchens' observation that god is a creation of man and what entails that creation. To that end, the debunking of the Ten Commandments is merely an entry point, a didactic method, rather than anything else.

More Big Ideas
The empire,
Lawrence Freedman - Big Ideas,
New Learning - Don Tapscott on Big Ideas,
On Crime,
Why isn't the whole world developed?.