- Published on Wednesday, 03 June 2009 13:07
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 2185
The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto is holding an exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls starting on June 27, 2009 and going till Jan 3, 2010. In association with that, they invited 3 authors to speak and answer the question "What new commandments would you add to the present ten?". The three authors are Christopher Hitchens, A.J. Jacobs and Camille Paglia. Visitors to this site will know Christopher Hitchens as the author of God is not great: How Religion poisons everything. The others give counter-views.
He gave his seminar last night (June 1st) and was in good form although he was accused of mumbling a lot. He described the Ten Commandments as "a blizzard of contradictions, simply pure nonsense that was man-made and not divinely inspired".
He pointed out that the Ten Commandments are "embedded in great slabs of prose" and in Exodus, they are "followed by ox goring and once goring gets boring it swerves off to 'thou shall not suffer a witch to live'".
Hitchens was reported to have said that Moses was not likely a real person but if he was it was more likely that he took the Ten Commandments from the Egyptian systems of justice and courts that had already been in place 1000 years before Moses.
He agreed that prohibitions against murder, theft, stealing and bearing false witness make sense but do not need to be divinely inspired to be innately understood by mankind. To make this point, Hitchens remarked (tongue in cheek as he likes to do) that otherwise the Jews walking through the desert for 40 years before the Ten Commandments were received by Moses on Mt. Sinai, would have all killed each other because up till then, no god had told them not to kill!
And the Tenth commandment is particularly bad since "it's the first recorded instance of thought crime. You can't do it and you can't think of it. It's totalitarian because it convicts you for what's in your head".
And his choice for additional commandments after retaining just four of the current ones? Add prohibitions against genocide, abuse of children and slavery.
The whole talk is available below (courtesy of the ROM) except that the long introduction has been edited out leaving just Hitchen's entertaining 37 minute talk.