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Like many of my articles here, they take on a life of their own as I am writing them. The twist at the end came about the other day while doing the outline for this in my head.

I saw this meme a while back and while I agree somewhat, I also disagree to a certain degree.

bibles in prison

So this meme to me implies that we should be teaching our children the morals inculcated in the Holy Bible, specifically the Ten Commandments. I would like to say that if I could get one moral lesson into our schools, my first choice would be the Beatitudes. Unless you have studied the Bible, or are Catholic, you probably don't know what the Beatitudes are. Or, you might have heard some of them but you don't know them by that name or their context.

When we talk about the Books of the Bible, remember that these were written by men whom we believe that were inspired by God. Second, this history started out as an oral tradition before being written down in Aramaic. Then you have translations over the centuries through several languages, filtered through the perceptions and agendas of the translators in order to get to the Bible we have today. Of course, there are also several “lost books” that were excluded as well, but that is something I am not qualified to speak about.

Just to give you an ear worm, when I get to talking about the Ten Commandments, I will be specifically referring to the Fifth through Tenth Commandments. The first four relate to the relationship between God and man. The last six are for how man is to treat his fellow man.

Back to the Beatitudes. The Sermon on the Mount is related in Matthew 5:3-12

Matthew 5:3-12
[3] Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
[4] Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
[5] Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
[6] Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
[7] Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
[8] Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
[9] Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
[10] Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
[11] Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
[12] Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

So there you have it. But wait, there's more!

You might want to read the rest of Matthew 5, because it expounds on the above. The caveat is, Jesus often spoke in parables. I certainly hope he did not literally mean to pluck out your eye or cut off your hand if you stumble (i.e., fall into temptation). Two mistakes and you're done!

Looking at Matthew 5 as a whole, it all has a simple message. “Be excellent to each other.” This message is reinforced in Matthew 22:37-40 where Jesus gave us the Commandments we should be following today.

When Jesus spoke of the meek and those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” does this mean that we should be totally passive in the face of those against us? I don’t think so, because in Luke 22:36, Jesus tells his disciples to sell their cloak to buy a sword if they don’t have one to defend themselves. Also, those who had not studied the Bible during the “WWJD?” craze were surprised and/or offended when someone said, “Chasing people around with a whip and overturning tables is one of the things Jesus did” as related in Matthew 21:12-13. So, maybe, the deepest message of the Son of Man was, “Do no harm, help others when you can, but take no shit.”

Now we can turn to the Commandments. The “man-to-man” commandments as handed down to Moses by God amidst the thunder and flashes of Sinai were,

Honor your parents (and by extension, your elders)
Do not murder
Do not commit adultery
Do not steal
Do not lie
Do not covet the possessions of another.

Six through Ten became the foundation of our legal system today. It was God’s way of saying, “Be excellent to each other.” I can agree wholeheartedly that these concepts should be taught and reinforced in our schools today, along with the Beatitudes above.

Our Colonial Ancestors were raised with a strong moral foundation. This foundation was taught to them in the home, school and church. Our departure from these ways and methods has likely been a major contributor to our current moral turpitude and by extension our enormous prison population.

Ready for the twist? That last-minute thunderbolt of realization? Because here it is.

I have heard atheists argue that we don’t need God to scare us into treating each other right and giving us rules on how to do that. They argue that “we would have come up with these morals on our own.” I have to disagree with that for this simple reason. Atheists in Western civilization have lived under this moral and societal framework for thousands of years because the majority of people who comprise Western civilization are inspired by the words of God and Jesus. Simply put, the way things are around you when you grow up will be “normal” to you, 99% of the time. Growing up around people who discuss and debate certain ideas will of course seem to be natural ideas when you’re on the inside of that structure.

God shows us the Glory we can attain by following His path and the consequences if we don’t. He gave us the free will and the choice to choose our own path. It is the religious institutions Man who tries to scare us into following God through the threat of fire, brimstone and damnation.

To see if man could have developed these morals independently of God we have only to look as far as the cultures “discovered” by Missionaries and conquerors in our past. Did any of those cultures have this same set of values? Maybe some of those cultures had a “social contract” that is incomplete or watered-down compared to the Commandments in question. I admit, I am no sociologist or anthropologist, but I cannot recall in all of my reading and research in a variety of subjects that there has been a society that had developed independently from the Western world and had a similar set of moral laws, developed by themselves or their Deity.

My point is, as children we are taught by our parents on how to talk, interact and treat with others with kindness and respect when we meet them. Without this structure, it’s a “Lord of the Flies” world. I make the case that God, our Almighty Parent, is preparing us for that moment when we meet Him or possible extraterrestrial cultures so that we can do it with kindness and respect.