Ask the eternal questions, but answer them as an individual.
The American promise to its citizens has always been opportunity for advancement and material gain, but freedom and equality are the antithesis of religious belief and dogma. A 21st C. democracy cannot thrive or survive guided by the cruel property rights enshrined in The Ten Commandments.
The Big Ten
The Ten Commandments have been presented as unique and absolute rules for behavior in any society, whether simple (tribal) or complex. This collection of instructions is regarded by Christians as the ultimate in moral sophistication, but Christians don’t know, or choose to ignore, that Jehovah handed down 617 more laws, known as the Midrash, which dictate the details of daily life for Hebrews; from what to eat, how to dress, how to use money, proper family relations, and how to deal with strangers. This type of law-based “religion” is normal among tribal people, who define themselves by body markings, clothing, and hairstyles as well as taboos and specific rituals and roles meant to distinguish them from other people.
The Ten Commandments are a lazy person’s version (American Christians are lazy) of these tedious tribal requirements. The world in which Christianity developed as a religion was Greek and had its own culture. Hebrew tribal identity had to be left behind if a new religion was to succeed in the heart of the Roman Empire – but the details of Jehovah’s extreme barbaric behavior were kept, because it allowed (indeed commanded) ruling males to terrorize and brutalize the human beings under their control.
As for the Big Ten, if Jehovah’s repeated demands for abject obedience are removed, what remains is a statement of male property rights.
Don’t kill, except when I command you to.
Obey your father and mother (right or wrong.)
Don’t have sex with a woman owned by another man. Do have sex with the women you own.
Don’t lie about another man’s deeds; or steal his house, wife, slaves, animals, or goods.
The Ten Commandments are not about ethical or moral behavior. They establish a hierarchy of rights, with Jehovah as Top Male, followed by “chosen” other males. (like the Puritans) The notion that mom appears to have equal status to her husband fades when we realize that she is property, and to insult her is to insult her husband. The commandment “don’t kill” reserves mass murder for Jehovah, who also demands that his people carry out murder and genocide on command.
It would be difficult to find a human group (outside criminal gangs) that actually promotes crime, or directs people to abuse their parents. The claim that this ordinary set of tribal rules establishes ethical and moral behavior is nonsense. It does explain why fundamentalists (and Americans generally) cannot deal with complex issues that require thoughtful examination and tough decisions.
It’s not that dozens of ethical and moral systems don’t exist, but American culture is about male domination, and a social hierarchy based on wealth and the unstable structure called capitalism, and on a religious system in which wealth and property are supreme. The Big Ten (Actually, The big Four) is a perfect fit. No empathy, compassion or spiritual conscience required. And – oh boy! Violence is the default response.
So, if you really want to know how to live, you’re on you’re own.