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Why the Ten Commandments are for atheists, too

The First Commandment

     There is a natural divide between the first three and the last seven commandments.  While seven through ten take aim at how people should treat each other, the first three are much more concerned with humanity's relationship with God. Because of this, these are commandments that atheists and agnostics would typically have little interest in.  However, after some reflection (even prayer), it becomes clear that these three can help lead anyone, believer or nonbeliever, in a positive direction.
     Let's have a look...

I, the Lord, am your God… You shall not have other gods besides me.
I live in Wilmington, Delaware. About ten years ago, there was a frightening pattern of violence in our city that had been sparked by drug deals and territorial strife. I opened the newspaper one Sunday and read an interview with a terribly depressed woman who had lost several of her relatives to the violence. Her words stunned me. “I don’t know what we can do,” she said. “Maybe Oprah will save us.”
As believers, we often look to the first commandment for guidance on avoiding superstition or putting too much faith in money or material things. We even sometimes extend this idea to remind ourselves that we should not put too much faith in people, who are flawed by nature. These may be celebrities, politicians, even family members. So can’t this same idea apply to nonbelievers as well? Can’t an atheist see the tragedy that afflicted the poor woman who was actually hoping for a talk show host to swoop in and help her? Of course, an atheist will tell me that I am equally naive for believing that God could do the same thing. I can live with that.
I come from an Irish American family that loves baseball, so superstitions abound: don’t spill the salt; don’t exit a home from a different door from the one you entered; never say the word “no-hitter” before the ninth inning. You get the idea. Sometimes superstitions are fun and can be used as a security blanket. But they can also get in the way of real worship. Should I put my faith in a rabbit’s foot or a strange ritual, or should I put it in the hands of the Almighty?
I should also note that, as a Catholic, I have often been chided by some of my Protestant friends for worshipping saints, especially the Virgin Mary. Some people fail to understand the difference between reverence and worship, and I can’t help that. As a Catholic I simply believe that there are certain holy men and women - I call them saints – that have a special relationship with God and that praying to them, and asking them to pray for me, can be extremely helpful. Not all Christians believe this; so be it.
As for my agnostic and atheist brothers and sisters, I think they can see the dangers of putting faith in the wrong place. And that is what that Commandment is all about, in my opinion.


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