'Performance Art' Testimony
I quoted Joseph Lewis' critical book on the Ten Commandments recently and after the fact I became skeptical of some of his charges, so I went to the King James version of the Bible for corroboration. I may be wrong, but I thought he claimed that there are thirteen statements of the "Thou shalt" type which were condensed by unknown persons into the ten we are familiar with today. I was unable to verify that. He also seems to criticize the differences between versions; the tables Moses smashed and the later replacement, as well as Protestant, Catholic and Jewish versions. While these are to be found to be sure, they seem to be largely trivial wordings and other nuances, which to me seem a weak basis for a strong condemnation.
Since I oppose the inclusion of any sectarian literature into governmental areas, and am interested in any viewpoints which support my opinion, I am somewhat chagrined at my hasty adoption of his arguments. In your opinion, am I missing something very important here?
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Monday, May 07, 2001 6:21 PM
The most important point is "Congress (any government) shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." This has been compromised in recent decades with the "Lemon" decision, which basically says, "Congress shall make no law allowing excessive entanglement with religion."
If they further obliterate our First Amendment, we still have logic and fairness on our side: Fairness demands that they stop insisting on the Protestant version of the First Set of Tablets, because other religions have different wording (and even different numbering) and even the Protestant Bible shows the second set to be profoundly different (in that the tenth commandment is, "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk").
As for there being thirteen statements squeezed down into ten, I saw this one as a kid: where do they get an Even Ten out of this? What they do is apply some of the commandments as subsidiary to the others, minor ramifications of major commandments. Though this is true, I don't think it is much of an argument. (Lewis tended to cover as much ground as he could, and did get a few minor facts wrong in this book, but this is not one of them. All the major premises, comprising the sub-titles of his chapters, are all right on the money.)
The big discrepancy is the way the three denominations list them so differently. This is the most potent argument against public endorsement of one or the other of the versions. For this, I would like to see the following "Performance Art" style of testimony before legislative bodies.
Cliff's 'Performance Art' Testimony Before Legislative Bodies:
Doing it one-by-one, in this order (Hebrew, Protestant, Roman Catholic) would most clearly show the discrepancies between the three. All these costumes can be rented for less than $100 each, almost anywhere. Even with a one-minute limit, you'd get well into the third and fourth Commandments before being cut off. But I think they usually give you three minutes (and perhaps, since there are four of you, you could work it out so that your performance counts for four people).
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