$10,000 ReThink Prize Announced to Crowdsource Secular Alternatives to the Ten Commandments

Nov 6, 2014

The ReThink Prize is a competition to publicly crowdsource a modern alternative to the Ten Commandments, with prizes totaling $10,000. Prominent thought leaders on the diverse judging panel will include a popular TV personality, a National Medal of Science Winner, a Harvard University Chaplain, and the Executive Director of The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The goal is for the competition to spark a national dialogue around a question as simple and personal as: “What do you believe?”

Anyone can vote or submit their beliefs through the website www.TheReThinkPrize.com. The contest will run through November 30th. A panel of 12 judges will review the submissions and choose the ten beliefs they feel best address our lives today. The panel includes:

  • Adam Savage from the Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters”
  • National Medal of Science recipient, Gordon Bower
  • Harvard University’s Humanist Chaplain, Greg Epstein
  • Executive Director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation, Robyn Blumner, and
  • Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, Andrew Copson

The competition is being run in association with the American Humanist Association, the Secular Student Alliance, the Richard Dawkins Foundation, and the Global Secular Humanist Movement, among other organizations.

The results of the Prize will be announced on December 17th.


For more information visit http://www.atheistmindhumanistheart.com/
Contest rules can be found at http://www.atheistmindhumanistheart.com/competition-rules/

70 comments on “$10,000 ReThink Prize Announced to Crowdsource Secular Alternatives to the Ten Commandments

  • Er… I’m confused. Is it “Secular Alternatives to the Ten Commandments” or is it “the ten beliefs they feel best address our lives today”? These are not the same thing.

    Commandments are commands, rules, guidelines. “Ten beliefs” would be more like the secular version of the apostle’s creed or something, a list of beliefs.

    A secular version of the commandments, everyone should probably have. I wrote my own “code of conduct” last year, including things like be kind (includes a whole bunch of stuff), be responsible, be moderate, be learned, be decisive, be happy.

    But beliefs might be: “I believe what I can measure and test”, etc.

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  • I believe I should be good to all living things

    I believe all criminals should go to jail

    I believe the taxes I pay should be spent in better ways

    Etc etc etc…..

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  • It all depends how you define “beliefs”. The way a lot of atheists use the term it means things that someone believes on faith. In that sense a rational person doesn’t have beliefs. But that’s not a very standard definition. If you read much psychology or philosophy people use the term “belief” all the time and it just means something that you take to be true. I.e., if you believe something is true you have a “belief”.

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  • I’ve always thought the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a good starting point for a modern alternative: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ It’s a bit over long — not a surprise things like that done by committees usually end up being so but still I think it’s something most rational people would agree with.

    It’s amazing when you ask most Christians to name the commandments people get 2-4. So many of them have to do with the proper way of worshiping rather than behaving in a moral way to other humans.

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  • 1/ I am the Earth that made you. Look after me

    2/ Who or what the fuck are gods?

    3/ Abuse me and we both suffer

    4/ Work hard, but its not all about me. Have the seventh day to spend with your families. Go ahead, play with the kids.

    5/ Don’t forget to invite your parents

    6/ Don’t kill anyone

    7/ Leave the dudes wife alone or rule six might be violated

    8/ Put that down. It’s not yours

    9/ Don’t tell fibs

    10/ Be happy. Life’s too short.

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  • I entered my ten. I had eleven but one needed to deleted. I think if anyone follows ALL of them, they’d have a terrific life. They work as a group and not individually. Even children can follow them- though some consideration needs to be given for “choosing your words wisely…” Be sure to vote for me. Just look for my furry bespectacled face. meow, Kathryn

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  • First, do no harm.

    This is my guiding statement and all other decisions flow from this statement. You do harm by coveting your neighbours ass. You do harm by killing. You do harm by not being a nice person. You do harm if you destroy the planet that keeps you alive. And on and on ad infinitum.

    I don’t think we need ten, we just need one.

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  • Wil is quite correct. The ten commandments are a set of rules, not beliefs. Do the organisers of this competition want rules to replace them or beliefs? I’ve read the competition rules and they are silent on this point (but at least they are rules!).

    I’m afraid this is an example of the sort of woolly thinking that makes it so hard for us to pin down our theistic adversaries. More clarity is needed before I put effort into this.

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  • 13
    Stuart says:

    I got it down to 3, from the 11 “original commandments”. The 11th was my dad’s idea.

    Don’t kill
    Don’t steal
    Don’t get caught (from my Dad :-))

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  • 14
    Stuart says:

    My one rule is “Make things better”. The rest is details (although we probably do want to work out some of those details). If, for some reason, it isn’t possible to make things better, then we adopt a defensive stance instead, i.e. don’t make things worse, which in three words is “Do no harm”. Isaac Asimov’s laws of robotics come to mind.

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  • 15
    JeffVader67 says:

    Found this rethink of the ten commandments. I agree with many of the post above when they ask is this about 10 new beliefs or 10 new rules? There is a difference.

    Put the God of liberation first not the gods of slavery
    Dont reduce God to the manageable size of an idol, certainly not one made of wood and stone by human hands, and not one made of human minds of rituals and words, and certainly not one in whose name people are enslave dehumanised or killed.
    Do not use God for your own agenda by throwing around God’s holy name. If you make a vow in God’s name keep it.
    Honour the God of liberation by taking and giving everyone a day off. Don’t keep the old 24/7 slave economy going.
    Turn from self centeredness by honouring your parents
    Don’t kill people and don’t do the things that frequently incite violence including:
    Don’t cheat with others spouses
    Don’t steal others possessions.
    Don’t lie about others behaviour or character.
    In fact if you really want to avoid the violence of the old slave economy deal with its root source. Don’t let the competitive desire to acquire more, tempt you off the road to freedom.

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  • 16
    bonnie says:

    woolly thinking [ ] more clarity

    Too right, as woolly as the caterpillars now scurrying to find winter shelter.


    Very rarely do I say “believe” – for me it denotes religion/spiritual/woo, esp. as the word is copiously employed by tv church program folk.

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  • 17
    JeffVader67 says:

    The first 3 were a warning against man thinking that he is God or expecting to be worshipped as such.Hitler Mao Pol Pot and Stalin spring to mind. As for number 4 whats wrong with having a state sanctioned day off for everyone. Who needs 24/7 shopping?

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  • 18
    Mundus says:

    I am not eligible to enter as I am an Irish citizen. Allow me to put forward my suggestions, though:

    1) In all things strive to do no harm to other people, living creatures or the environment

    2) Educate yourself throughout your entire life and strive to ensure your views are always based on reason and empirical evidence

    3) Let compassion, empathy and reason be your priorities in all the decisions that you make

    4) Lead by example – do not just argue for your worldview, LIVE it

    5) Be tolerant of others who disagree with you, do not scorn or demonise them but work with others and seek agreement and compromise, wherever possible

    6) Consider those who are different; never succumb to any kind of hatred such as racism, sexism, homophobia or xenophobia

    7) Always speak out and fight for those who are the victims of injustice, discrimination or oppression

    8) Embrace moderation in all your appetites and desires

    9) Cherish children and young people – they are our future

    10) Find what you love to do and what you are good at doing – work as hard as you can to do these things to the very best of your ability.

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  • I prefer Ernest Callenbach’s ‘Earth’s Ten Commandments’:

    ‘Ernest Callenbach, American author of Ecotopia (1975) and other green books, has long been passionate about environmental issues and their connections to human value systems, social patterns, and the way we live our lives. He was ahead of most on the sustainability learning curve, and has good things to share as we begin to adopt 1 earth lifestyles.’

    The following are Callenbach’s non-religious words to live by.

    Earth’s Ten Commandments

    Thou shalt love and honor the Earth for it blesses thy life and governs thy survival.

    Thou shalt keep each day sacred to the Earth and celebrate the turning of its seasons.

    Thou shalt not hold thyself above other living things nor drive them to extinction.

    Thou shalt give thanks for thy food to the creatures and plants that nourish thee.

    Thou shalt limit thy offspring for multitudes of people are a burden unto the Earth.

    Thou shalt not kill nor waste Earth’s riches upon weapons of war.

    Thou shalt not pursue profit at the Earth’s expense but strive to restore its damaged majesty.

    Thou shalt not hide from thyself or others the consequences of thy actions upon the Earth.

    Thou shalt not steal from future generations by impoverishing or poisoning the Earth.

    Thou shalt consume material goods in moderation so all may share Earth’s bounty.


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  • 22
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Thou shalt not send emails whilst drunk for thou will surely regret it the next day.

    There shall not be made any more episodes of The Simpsons or South Park, nor movies about Spider-Man or Wolverine. Enougheth already.

    Thou shalt not use the phrase ‘begging the question’ when what thou means is ‘raising the question’.

    Thou shalt clean thy sweat off the gym equipment thou hast been using when finished as to do otherwise is totally gross.

    Thou shalt know the difference between its and it’s, your and you’re, and their, there and they’re.

    Thou shalt be content with the smartphone/tablet thou has and not trade up to a nearly identical device just because it is slightly newer and thou art desperate not to be thought behind the times by thy equally shallow contemporaries.

    If thou art iTunes or Java, thou shalt come up with definitive versions of thy software and stop pretending the ‘new’ updates thou constantly ask if I wish to download are any such thing. It is very annoying, dost thou know what I mean?

    Thou shalt shut up about Game of Thrones.

    Thou shalt not talk on thy phone nor otherwise attend to social media commitments in the theater, it is super-rude. Thy tweeting can waiteth an hour.

    Permit not fear of a changing world to compromise thy essential humanity, because that never works out well, readeth a book. “Be ye neither a liberal nor a conservative; Be a fucking person.” – Chris Rock.

    Thou shalt thank whoever holds a door for thee, but not thyself hold one open if the person heading for it is too far away because it just makes them have to run.

    When faced with a moral quandary, ask this of thyself and the correct path will show itself.

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  • It would be nice if they had commentary on individual beliefs chained off that belief.

    For example one women suggested you should kill no living thing. This would be impossible. Vegetables are living things, bacteria are, stomach amoebas, lice, insects… This bars putting down your aged dog or shooting a horse with a broken leg or helping grandma avoid the suffering of terminal pancreas cancer.

    They were awfully woolly about just what sort of nuggets of wisdom they wanted.
    I interpreted it as a secular replacement for the ten commandments.

    But some seem to have interpreted it as “what I am pretty sure is true” or “a tip for gracious living”.

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  • You do harm by coveting your neighbours ass.

    Was that a typo? If not, how does coveting do harm?

    The whole economy is based on coveting, trying to get you to buy what your neighbours have previously bought, trying to convince you that you are unworthy if your TV costs less than the one next door.

    If you just coveted quietly, I don’t see the harm. The problem is with the gluttony of material goods.

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  • The things that other people do that drive me craziest mostly have to do with pronunciation:

    valley girl accent, especially when men and older women do it.
    Putting a question inflection on the end of every statement as if
    asking confirmation of truth.
    dropping ts, ds, gs. Pronouncing t as d. wadder for water
    axed for asked
    Febuary for February
    feud for food
    inform as a generic verb
    narrative as a generic noun

    If you write professional announcers about their errors they will tell you to bug off.

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  • Was that a typo? If not, how does coveting do harm?

    I was attempting to parody the religious “Covet” commandment combined with a touch of the sin of lust. I suppose it is a thought crime so you are probably right, but grabbing your neigbour’s ass, as a result of uncontrolled coveting does do harm, that is unless said grabbing is reciprocated, but then we head off into sins of lust and adultery, I guess. Do I get an elephant stamp for a good try.

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  • Just off the top of my head, and surely there is a ‘thou shalt not’ in that already:
    1. Don’t put it on indoors or you won’t feel the benefit
    2. Don’t sleep in the subway (baby)
    3. Do take it to the limit one more time
    4. Don’t Speak to me in that tone young lady/man
    5. Don’t distract the driver
    6. Do know when to stop (especially if you are the driver)
    7. Don’t pick it, it’ll only make it worse
    8. Twitter ye not
    9. In dealings with others remember that they are likely to be just as impatient, ignorant, opinionated, pig -headed and bigoted as you are so don’t keep on doing and saying all the things that would drive you crazy if the situation were reversed.
    10. Don’t deny it lest ye be deemed to have supplied it
    11. Some people are just bad, learn to deal with it and don’t keep looking for childhood traumas and psychobabble excuses for it as you are probably not qualified to do so (and I mean you, Mr Damon, that sort of thing can turn an excellent Patricia Highsmith novel into a so-so film).
    12. Don’t dream it’s over
    13. Don’t fear the reaper
    14. If you know nothing on a subject, try not to dominateconversations about it. Although this will give me endless entertainment, you, however, will not get invited to many parties.
    15. Don’t pull the chain when it’s in the station

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  • How about: “Thou shalt not believe anything told to you by lying preachers and apologists!


    Mormon church admits founder Joseph Smith had about 40 wives

    Wives included a 14-year-old and others already married to his followers
    Church had claimed for 200 years that Smith was monogamous

    The Mormon church has admitted that its founder, Joseph Smith, married about 40 women including a 14-year-old and others who were already the wives of his followers, having maintained for nearly 200 years that he was monogamous.

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  • I agree with Light Wave above when she says:

    How about …Thou shalt not Command !

    Commandments are part and parcel of an authoritarian fascist worldview that is perpetrated by religions. Why are we participating in this? Let the religio-fascists present the world as black vs white, right vs wrong. We can do better than that. We have ethics which gives us the ten ethical obligations that we can use as a framework to guide us when considering a difficult decision or situation.

    Ethics presents the world as one of various shades of gray instead of just blunt false dichotomies. Ethics requires that we understand that in any given problem, some of the obligations will be found to conflict with each other. We learn to assign weight to these obligations and come to the best possible solution in an imperfect world. Ethics requires us to think deeply while commandments require us to *obey. Here is the list of those ethical obligations:

    Ethical Obligations

    Justice: The double-barreled obligation

    (a) negatively, not to commit injustice

    (b) positively, to prevent future injustices and rectify existing ones.

    Non-injury: The obligation to avoid harming others

    Fidelity: The obligation to keep promises

    Veracity: The obligation to avoid lying (veracity and fidelity constitute kinds of fidelity understood as keeping faith – both 3 and 4 are faithfulness to our word)

    Reparation: the obligation to make amends for wrong-doing

    Beneficence: The obligation to do good deeds for others, especially to contribute to their virtue (goodness of character), knowledge, or pleasure.

    Self-Improvement: The obligation to better oneself

    Gratitude: The obligation to express appreciation for good deeds towards us.

    Liberty: The obligation to preserve and enhance human freedom.

    Respectfulness: The category of obligations of manner (roughly, of respectfulness.

    Justice, Liberty and Happiness are the three most basic values that such specific ethical principles as the ten in question must uphold.

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  • Those are really good Laurie. You’ve reminded me of “Keep your promises”. That’s a tough one and I haven’t always been able to live up to it 🙁

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  • 42
    Thank Evolution says:

    Yes it’s confusing for sure, as there are many interpretations of the word, “believe.” I believe that rock can up and fly away – delusional and not important. I believe I can defeat my enemy – emotionally important for inspiration and motivation regardless of odds. I believe a man lives in the sky and can read my every thought – delusional and dangerous. I just don’t know what to believe – normal and okay.

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  • 43
    Thank Evolution says:

    The thing to remember is that the human species is an aggressive animal. Doing “no harm” is unrealistic. You cannot undue what is programmed in our DNA. If you kill a deer for food and I come along and take it from you because I am hungrier and stronger than you, I would say that is doing you harm, but it is also survival of fittest in the natural world. Not saying that is right in today’s society, but that instinct is in us for a reason, just like most all other animals – to survive and reproduce.

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  • I recall in an interview many years ago that Richard Dawkins said one of the challenges for humans was to try and become anti-Darwinian. I can’t remember if those were his exact words, but it was close to that. I think he meant what you are saying here; that we all have instincts that come from a different time. Of course, religion and many other things in life make our aggressive tendencies worse. Reason, science, and civilisation help to calm us down. Sport is really good at that too, it provides an outlet for our aggression that doesn’t harm anyone.

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  • If you kill a deer for food and I come along and take it from you because I am hungrier and stronger than you, I would say that is doing you harm, but it is also survival of fittest in the natural world.

    How would you overcome this terrible evolutionary imperative.

    I am of the view that a rational mind will be aware of this instinct, and will through reasoning, Do No Harm, because they’ve worked out that that is now a better evolutionary survival strategy than stealing puny Ugg’s deer. How can we get the whole world to move from being a stone age hunter and gatherer, which is where our brain currently sits, to a rational evidence based decision maker.

    It certainly isn’t going to come through religion. Ideologies like capitalism are just big Uggs stealing little Uggs deer. How do we become non Darwinian, and override our primitive instincts. Worldwide. And quickly. Sideline religion and ideology and make evidence base decision making the prime mover. Educate the entire world to a high level, again using rational evidence based forms. Move religion to the point where it is practiced by consenting adults in private. etc…

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  • Dogma? Seriously?

    Just run headfirst into the accusations the religiowackopaths make that atheism is a religion then. As soon as you espouse moral rules Dawkins you’re no better than Raymond Burke. Just better dressed.

    I know the wounded, recently enlightened ex church goer has a hole that needs to be filled, but there are very successful philosophies that have worked well for centuries. Confucianism. Buddhism. There’s more. This should be a personal journey. Atheism is personal – I’ve been there since my first WTF? reaction to the Kool Aide at nine years old. It requires some education to declare oneself atheist and it’s a simple matter for the educated to read some books and keep educating themselves. The uneducated don’t believe in growing rates as well but they never cared about those rules anyway.

    The rest? I suspect what they really want is a good Dominatrix. Somebody to keep the world small and safe.

    If you really need to post a moral code, rules for living, and become a cult, I suggest The Order Of The Jedi rule. Star Wars has been the temple of the young for thirty years now. At least it would catch on.

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  • I can see some potential problems with the scoring.

    Late comers get fewer exposures to attract likes. The score should be likes/total exposures to compensate.

    Late comers are also penalised since early comers have votes which attract more votes. You tend to look harder at entries that already have votes.

    Ideally entries should be scrambled every time they are listed so no entry gets the prime real estate near the top disproportionately.

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  • Seriously, not dogma.

    These collections of aphoristic wisdom are ways of discussing how to live. I won’t join the Humanists because that is putting too much structure around such ideas. Here we write lists, compare lists and agree on some. Next year we draw up changed lists having discovered some problems with what we thought earlier.

    But the lists are personal and their aphoristic nature makes them more portable and ready for use. It has always been useful to test if moral thinking can be so encapsulated and if it can to whatever limited extent, can it serve to speed up moral discourse and mutual understanding.

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  • Roedy Nov 13, 2014 at 3:24 am

    Ideally entries should be scrambled every time they are listed so no entry gets the prime real estate near the top disproportionately.

    I suppose there could be sort by, “latest. earliest, most popular, random”, a bit like the old site.

    However, “random” does kind of lose the thread of the reasoning and the sequence of replies.

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  • 58
    Lorenzo says:

    Well, I’m not a US citizen so my intervention here is mostly out of leasure. Anyway, I hope it is at least agreeable…

    For starters, commandments tend to be negative imperative “don’t do this”, “don’t do that”, and that’s always gonna be a problem because you’re bound to find yourself a situation were you will have to choose whether to bend your commandments or your reason. I may go even further down this slope and state that there will be such a problem with each and every possible imperative (commandment), whether it is positive or negative.

    Another problem I have with commandments, negative ones in particular, is that they seem to distrust humanity (intended as: the condition of being human, not the other name of the H.S.Sapiens species). And this distrust is a Leidmotiv of the three monotheistic religions (at least): they impose a god because humans cannot look after themselves, especially morally. Which is a concept that I absolutely reject.

    Lastly, commandments do not incourage the use of reason: something that’s call to direct a human life in a “moral” way must sponsor -even require- the human intellect to work at its best. I think absolute statements will always have problems on this matter. Thus, I think I won’t list ten commandments, but a more restricted set of directives which require the evaluation of a term relative to the circumstances, while suggesting what aspect of humanity should be prioritized in the evaluation.

    So, here is what I thought up:

    1) You shall listen to your empathy: you will have the most possible respect and do the least possible harm.

    2) You shall follow your curiosity: you will investigate the world and yourself at the best of your capabilities.

    3) You shall act cooperatively: you will share your knowledge and resources with the most number of people.

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  • This discussion thread demonstrates the old adage “there in lies the problem” where we have a small group that has a difficult time agreeing on semantics. Suddenly it all goes sideways. I am however very interested to read the outcome of the project as I think it must be a step in a different direction.

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  • When a contest is posted with ten thousand dollars in prizes for a group of atheists to create a collection of commandments, this is what happens. Why commandments? Why not sonnets? Why not Haikus? How about essays on interesting topics? Let’s raise the bar.

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  • 67
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Yep! I can go by that. Earth worship makes a lot more sense than the blind worship of some imaginary Saddam Hussein in the sky.

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  • 68
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Sport is really good at that too, it provides an outlet for our aggression that doesn’t harm anyone.

    Hmmm… I find that statement debatable. I tend to think that it does the exact opposite, especially in contact sports where the competition, the monetary stakes and the pressure to win are high. Like hockey for example. It’s become so much more violent over the past 10 years or so. And I’m not talking about fistfights. I’m talking about deliberate attempts to wound players to take them out of the game, sometimes ruining their career altogether.

    Also, fighting sports like wrestling and cage fighting are certainly NOT outlets for violence, they just blatantly cultivate violence. People who watch those events love violence and fights, that’s why these sports are so popular and generate so much income.

    And to say that sports don’t harm anyone is simply not true. Over the past 20 years, there has been a steady rise in the amount of concussions and brain damage in contact sports like American football and hockey.

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  • You are FAR too kind, RogerM – if I was phrasing them again the only change I might make would be to include a duty of care towards Senior citizens/the elderly as well as towards children. I kind of worry, also, about a clause in no. 1 about doing LEAST harm where ‘NO’ harm is not possible – but perhaps I am splitting hairs and becoming pedantic.

    I cannot (nor would I) claim to be any kind of moral arbiter nor am I an ethicist or moral theologian, but I do genuinely feel that if the world were to embrace the 10 suggestions I advocate (a somewhat grandiose claim, I know) that it would be a fairer and more pleasant place.

    Thank you, again, for your MOST kind feedback, I am humbled.

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  • There needs only one: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I know it is from the Bible, but it is in fact a truly secular one. It has also been seen across history from different culture and regions around the world. Because it is simple–it is empathy.

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