Secular Ten Commandments Chosen From Thousands Submitted in Crowdsourced Rethink Prize Competition

Dec 19, 2014

By Marketwired

The winners of a competition to crowdsource an alternative secular version to the Ten Commandments for the modern age were announced today at www.atheistmindhumanistheart.com/winners. Running throughout the month of November, the Prize sought to open up for discussion what gives life meaning when secular culture is on the rise.

Over 2,800 submissions were received, originating from 18 different countries, including 27 U.S. states, and over 6,000 votes were cast by the public for their favorite submissions, said authors Lex Bayer and John Figdor, the Prize’s founders. Their book, ATHEIST MIND, HUMANIST HEART, (Rowman & Littlefield) guides readers through their process for establishing and testing principles for living a reasonable, ethical, and happy life without God.

“There is often a misconception that nonbelievers don’t share strong ethical values. In reading through the thousands of submissions in the contest it’s very clear that is not the case,” said Figdor, Humanist Chaplain at Stanford University. “The overwhelming positivity and overlap with traditional moral values shows that no matter where you are from, or what your faith tradition has been — or hasn’t been — there are some things we can all agree on as being important and vital to a rich and fulfilling life.”

The submissions were reviewed by a panel of thirteen judges. On the panel were notables such as 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.


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18 comments on “Secular Ten Commandments Chosen From Thousands Submitted in Crowdsourced Rethink Prize Competition

  • 1, 3 and 9 appear to be the same, albeit with different “why?” text added. Sort of falls foul of one of the flaws of the bilblical ten, which the first three being variations on “Believe in me and only me or else”.



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  • Hi paulmcuk

    Looks like it was a temporary bug on the page. If you refresh the page you should see all ten beliefs which are all different.



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  • I would love to change the sequence of these and put the “moral” later ones up front and the “truth” belief ones later. I would put No5 up front, the source of moral thinking, but take out God altogether as muddying the waters. God adds nothing, no thing whatsoever, to establishing a moral mode, only some carrot and stick obedience (not morality in any sense) and some unwarranted rigidity despite new evidence of harms.

    I would strengthen the “truth” ones by making them a moral necessity. Apart from not screwing the planet up but making it better, the one gift we have to hand on are truer truths.



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  • I basically liked all of them, but I feel uncertain about #5:

    V. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.

    Of course I agree with it; I just don’t know if it belongs in the list.

    To me it seems the idea of a secular Ten Commandments should be a standalone invention. Don’t waste time mentioning God because he doesn’t exist. It also seems to have a slight spiteful quality to it by referencing an outside belief system: “See! We don’t need YOU!”

    Other than that I applaud the effort.



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  • Interesting but finding #1 and 5 completely contradict each other. How can one be “open minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence”, yet also state firmly: “God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life”. Isn’t saying #5 actually showing that one is close-minded to a possibility they don’t want or believe in?? For someone who doesn’t believe in God or the possibility of him, Richard Dawkins & other famous athiests appear to think and talk about God more than most people I know who believe in Him… starting to smell closely like fearful denial with fingers plugged in ears not wanting to hear reality? I don’t believe in Santa and he never comes to mind, I don’t talk or think about him, nor do I research or try desperately to disprove him or have other people stop believing in him. … think about it. 🙂



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  • Sci_Guy_Bri Dec 21, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    I basically liked all of them, but I feel uncertain about #5:

    V. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.

    Without a clear definition of what is meant by “god” the claim is meaningless, but open to misinterpretation by theists who believe a default god can be assumed.

    V. – Tooth-fairies / leprechauns / hob-goblins etc – are not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.



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  • Odessa Dec 22, 2014 at 5:47 am

    Interesting but finding #1 and 5 completely contradict each other. How can one be “open minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence”, yet also state firmly: “God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life”.

    Weight of evidence of lives of Humanists, and the history of religious wars and persecutions, provide answers to these questions.

    Isn’t saying #5 actually showing that one is close-minded to a possibility they don’t want or believe in??

    Balance of probabilities, strength of evidence, and absence of evidence for asserted claims, are not faith-based beliefs.

    I reject “Flat-Earth Geography” and regard it as very unlikely that any new evidence for this will overturn the massive astronomical evidence of the structure of the Solar-System.
    An open mind, is not like a bucket with no lid, into which any nonsense can be poured and uncritically accepted.
    Science has no problem with refuting, debunking, and dismissing flawed claims.

    For someone who doesn’t believe in God or the possibility of him, Richard Dawkins & other famous athiests appear to think and talk about God more than most people I know who believe in Him… starting to smell closely like fearful denial with fingers plugged in ears not wanting to hear reality?

    The reality is that the god-delusions have massive effects through the actions of the followers, – particularly the ones who challenge reputable science, and promote fallacious and circular thinking processes as a substitute for evidence based logic.

    The delusions are imaginary, but the effects on communities are real! – Hence they need to be understood and dealt with.



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  • I talk often of Quakers and their escape from the supernatural concept of moral authorship. They see moral authorship residing in humans perfectly equipped for the job. I may disagree on the precise mechanism for this but they in their dismissal of all dogma and trusting to their own moral sense do as impressive a job as any in the sphere of choosing the better moral path.

    You may finesse a God and put words into his mouth, interpret the written antique evils until it reflects today’s version of nice and civilised, underline the little nuggets of axial age humanity that were its true gold, though not its alone and get to Quaker’s morality. But ordinary godless folk can get there by simple discussion of harms reported or felt directly and the sharing of experiences. They don’t have the same task of picking out the dross and the poison in the dogma.

    The brute fact of human compassion is the only reason we are here. You may claim it for your God, but so what? Claim a thing more and harms abound.



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  • A disappointing list, IMO.

    It’s top-heavy with the virtues of rational thinking, just as the biblical version is top-heavy with the virtues of being faithful to the one and only god. No 7 is the crux, of course, with Nos 4,6,8,9,10 being worthty expansions of the theme. No 1 is an excellent unrelated tenet of life, but really renders No 2 somewhat redundant.

    Nos 3 and 5 don’t seem to me to belong on the list at all.



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  • Improving on the biblical commandments is setting the bar pretty low. You could add just about anything and make it better. But I think it’s a great exercise that helps to zero in on the fundamental tennants that would best suit us as social primates as well as more clearly defining our role in the natural world. These are the ones I came up with a few months ago…

    Thou shalt live each day with joy and without regret because it will never come again.
    Thou shalt be honest and make amends to those whom you have wronged.
    Thou shalt do no harm to a child.
    Thou shalt not kill animals needlessly.
    Thou shalt not own another human being.
    Thou shalt not impose your rights over the rights of your neighbor.
    Thou shalt not torture.
    Thou shalt be good stewards of the earth, its flora, fauna and resources for future generations and not behave as though they belong to the present generation alone.
    Thou shalt follow the evidence where it leads, and not lead the evidence to where you want it to go.
    Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.



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  • 14
    De angelo says:

    Why do we rally around creating a “10 commandments”? What are we trying to justify? Do we really need to compete? Our sense of morality is innate, is it not? Why are we trying to Turn our (non) beliefs into a religion. We truly understand morality.
    We are immitating those pulpit fools whom we truly despise!! Do we want to become another ship of fools?



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  • 15
    Graham L says:

    Well, the winners are a bit on the disappointing side, aren’t they? Booska’s list is better. An even better job was done by Christopher Hitchens (see the essay collection “Arguably”) – much more about being moral in the modern world – and surely “10 Commandments” are supposed to be about being moral – and much less about being a bit prissy about underlining how scientific and rational we’re supposed to be. You don’t have to “command” that, do you? These would hardly “catch on” by inspiring the modern world, rather than being a bit righteous and preachy (ironically).



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  • I too was disappointed with the list. Some were redundant and the whole list seemed too ambitious yet wanting at the same time. The insertion of “Commandment” should not be part of the exercise, and the one mentioning God should not have been included as the assumption was that the list was for those who understand no such entity exists to begin with. It might have been poor editing that contributed to my lack of enthusiasm, but taking in responses from the masses and weaving it into a literary stable is no easy task. I used to help the various divisions in corporations develop their mission statement, and it became quickly obvious that simply inserting managers’ statements on a list produced an uneven, hard to follow concoction of sentences. But one person could take the essence of what was said and weave it into something much more readable and understandable. The “commandments” offered should have been studied by a committee to extract the essence of each and then one excellent writer given the charge to develop a more meaningful list. Just my opinion, of course.



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  • This new set of ‘Commandments’ is a major disappointment – that’s what you get when you crowd source a vague question with no leadership – it reads more like a defense of atheism than a useful list of directions for life that would apply to all – surely a learned group of secularists using this list as a starting point can do a much better job.



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