The Secular Hatred of the Ten Commandments
- Tuesday, September 02, 2003
The controversy over Alabama's now-removed Ten Commandments monument has exposed the secular agenda determined to evacuate the public square of all biblical symbolism and content. This secular worldview is encapsulated in Thomas Jefferson's concept of a "wall of separation between church and state" that has replaced the actual wording of the First Amendment in the public mind.
The Ten Commandments are all well and good, the radical separationists have argued, just out of place in the public arena. Now, as that controversy reaches a new phase, we can see that far more than church-state separationism drives the hostility of some secularists. They actually hate the Ten Commandments.
Harry Binswanger of the Ayn Rand Institute argues that the Ten Commandments represent a primitive conception of law and morality [that] flatly contradicts American values." As you might expect, the first five commandments draw Binswanger's hottest fire. The fact that the Ten Commandments begin with a declaration that, "I am the Lord thy God," offends Binswanger because this implies that "the individual is not an independent being with a right to live his own life but the vassal of an invisible Lord." What a concept! We cannot accuse Binswanger of misunderstanding the commandment, but of rejecting it outright.
Binswanger, a former college teacher, is now professor of philosophy at the "Objectivist Graduate Center of the Ayn Rand Institute." Never heard of it? Objectivism is the philosophical system proposed by novelist Ayn Rand, a Russian immigrant who exercised a considerable influence on the conservative movement in America. Her primary influence remains evident in the work of economists like Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who was very close to Ms. Rand and her movement. The central concept of objectivism is the primacy of rational self-interest above all other goods. In other words, the individual's highest purpose is to serve his or her own self-interest. Altruism is explicitly rejected, as is any supernatural morality or claim.
As would be expected, the sexual ethics of the movement undermined all traditional moral norms, and objectivist economic ethics stressed the freedom of the individual to maximize material gain. This last aspect was very attractive to some leading political and economic conservatives in the middle of the twentieth century, who saw the principle of a free market being threatened by massive government growth and intervention in the economy.
As conservative patriarch William F. Buckley, Jr. traces in his recent novel, Getting it Right, the success of the conservative movement in America required a break with Ayn Rand and her movement. Objectivists look at religious conservatives with disdain and pity.
Thus, Binswanger is objectivism's perfect prophet for the new millennium. The Ten Commandments represent everything he rejects in Christianity and any form of supernaturalism. According to his worldview, the human being is a "free, independent, sovereign individual who exists for his own sake," not for the glory of his Creator.
The idea of divine judgment is rejected as repressive. God's promise to punish idolaters to the third and fourth generation is "an impossible and degrading concept." The latter commandments simply state the obvious, Biswanger claims, but the first set of commandments "orders you to bow, fawn, grovel and obey." To Biswanger, "This is impossible to reconcile with the American concept of a self-reliant, self-owning individual." [see Binswanger's article]
In sum, 'The basic philosophy of the Ten Commandments is the polar opposite of the philosophy underlying the American ideal of a free society." Binswanger wants nothing to do with a God who has a greater claim on us than we have on ourselves. Hands off, he demands. The Ten Commandments are for pathetically weak and needy people.
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