UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
iStock.com/JohnnyGreig; iStock.com/jgroup (edited)

This new version of the 10 Commandments stresses positives over proscriptions

Strive to discover your own divinity, says this writer.

By Anne Bokma

The Ten Commandments may have been chiselled in stone, but plenty of people think the Decalogue is in dire need of a modern recarving. Certain individuals and organizations have attempted just that by retiring some of the “thou shalt nots” and replacing them with something more affirming. Here’s how the spiritual but not religious (SBNR) might offer up a new twist on the old Bible rules.*

1. You shall have many — or no — gods before me. There are many paths to the divine. If you choose to believe in a higher power, call it anything you like: energy, source, universal truth, ultimate consciousness, Gaia. As for graven images, a Buddha on the mantelpiece is no problem. Ditto for other spiritual bric-a-brac, including prayer beads, singing bowls and crystal healing stones.

2. You shall take a shortcut on the Sabbath. An entire day off to nourish your spirit? Impossible. But do carve out some devotional time with a 10-minute meditation on the Headspace app instead.

3. Honour your elders. Especially the Indigenous ones who taught that Mother Earth is sacred. (Also, consider karma — there’s a good chance that one day you, too, will depend on someone spoon-feeding you.)

4. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Refraining from murdering, stealing and lying are generally good moral principles. They fall under the golden rule advocated by religions the world over. You just can’t go wrong with this one.

5. Enjoy your sex life.
This is one of the “alternative commandments” devised by evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins, who added the proviso, “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.”

6. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion. “For every opinion now accepted was once eccentric,” pronounced British philosopher Bertrand Russell in his personal revision of the Ten Commandments, published in 1951. His words are a balm to believers in astral travel, reiki manifestations and chakra balancing.

7. Strive to discover your own divinity.
You might find it on a Camino trail pilgrimage, on a meditation mat or in an aerial yoga class. Sure, some people will accuse you of navel-gazing, but the important thing is that you do the inner work.

8. Live your life in a state of awe. Pay heed to the words of Mary Oliver, the patron saint of the SBNR, who wrote in her poem The Summer Day about the importance of learning how to pay attention, “how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields.”

9. Accept whatever comes at the end.
It probably won’t be heaven. It certainly won’t be hell. It might be reincarnation. And there’s a good chance it’ll be nothing at all.

10. Leave the world a better place than you found it. This is one of the top-10 winning beliefs of the Rethink Prize, a 2014 competition that solicited “non-commandments” for the 21st century. The contest attracted 2,000 entries from 18 countries. Another top-10 winner: “There is no one right way to live.” No doubt the SBNR — made up of agnostics, non-theists, humanists, freethinkers, seekers, the unaffiliated and the unchurched — would say “Amen” to that.

*Commandments are subject to change without notice. No punishment inflicted if not followed.

Anne Bokma is a journalist in Hamilton.

This story first appeared in The United Church Observer's December 2017 issue with the title "Spiritual But Secular."

To read more of The Observer's award-winning content, subscribe to the magazine today.

Author's photo
Anne Bokma is a Hamilton-based journalist. Her column, "Spiritual But Secular," appears monthly in The Observer.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!


Chris Pratt's church, while claiming to accept everyone, states in its doctrine of faith that marriage should only be between one man and one woman. (Photo: Chris Pratt/Instagram)

Celebrity megachurches need to clarify LGBTQ acceptance: pastor

by Emma Prestwich

Zoe Church, where actor Chris Pratt worships, may not truly "open their doors" to everyone, like he claims.

Promotional Image


The United Church Observer's editor and publisher, Jocelyn Bell. (Photo: Lindsay Palmer)

'The Observer' will soon relaunch with a new name and design

by Jocelyn Bell

Our magazine will be going through some changes, but we see blue skies ahead

Promotional Image


Meet beloved church cats Mable and Mouse

by Observer Staff

They're a fixture of Kirk United Church Centre in Edmonton.

Promotional Image


February 2019

Marriage problems: Is the ancient tradition worth saving?

by Pieta Woolley

Bitterness and boredom seem to define many mid-life marriages, but we might not have to settle for apathy ever after


February 2019

A Yukon artist and a Tlingit trapper create this stunning jewelry

by Amy van den Berg

The fur jewelry in Whitehorse boutique store V. Ægirsdóttir is creating a new possibility for future partnerships with the region's trappers


February 2019

Why white people need to stop asking, 'where are you from?'

by Mike Sholars

"...For all intents and purposes, Canada is the only home I really recognize or remember. But none of that matters if I look like I don’t belong, and that single question makes that abundantly clear every single time."

Promotional Image