Well, let’s see how the originals stack up.
- I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me
Well, that’s gonna have to be edited down to just “You shall have no gods”.
- You shall make no graven images to bow down to in worship.
If we’re dealing with atheists, we probably don’t really need to spell that out, but it can’t hurt.
- You shall not use the name of the Lord in taking a false oath.
Maybe just broaden this to “don’t take false oaths in general”.
- You shall honor the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
I guess the secular equivalent here would be something like laws limiting work hours and mandating overtime.
- Honor thy father and mother.
Well, even the original had small print letting you off the hook if your parents are real jerks, so with that caveat this seems pretty unobjectionable. We could maybe broaden the principle to a general social obligation to care for the elderly.
- Thou shalt not kill.
Again, we’ll probably need some narrow exceptions for this to be entirely practical, but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb for daily life.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Well, that sounds sort of judgmental. How about “You shall honor the terms of all agreements which you voluntarily enter into”?
- Thou shalt not steal.
Pretty good. Maybe add in a reciprocal obligation on society’s part to provide everyone with a sufficient income so they won’t have to steal in order to meet their basic needs.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Another one that holds up pretty well. Not wanting to be framed for crimes is an attitude widely shared by people of every culture and belief system.
- You shall not covet anything that is your neighbor’s.
OK, that one’s kind of weird. For one thing, it’s the only one which is commanding us to have a particular attitude, rather than to do or not do some specific action. And arguably coveting can be positive, if it inspires us to work hard to get what our neighbor has. Let’s send this one back to the committee to work on the wording.