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Brooklyn now has its own set of commandments

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Park Slope churchgoers stepped out of mass on Palm Sunday clutching their blessed reeds and wearing their pre-Easter finest, but little did they know a modern-day revelation at Mount Sinai was underfoot nearby.

The borough humanists at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture had gathered just blocks away to unveil a more Brooklyn-appropriate version of the Ten Commandments — not a “thou” or a “shalt” in the lot.

In fact, secular clergy leader Catherine Bordeau only came up with six rules — if you could call them that.

“I don’t really like to do lists,” she warned first, before offering up her commandments (printed in full below) in a scene that couldn’t have looked more different than Charlton Heston’s tablet-wielding tableau in “The Ten Commandmen­ts.”

The Brooklyn commandments are less clear-cut than the ones Moses brought down from the mount, which isn’t so surprising considering that the congregants at the church of reason on Prospect Park West — who can be described broadly but perhaps too simply as ethically minded atheists — work off of barely agreed-upon precepts rather than universal traditions.

Out go the clear-cut directives, including all the bits about killing, false idols, and the neighbor’s wife.

In comes a new emphasis on nature, a nod to evolution, a push for self-reliance and self-actualization, an increased value in the individual, and a big downplay of the big guy himself (or herself).

“There is no evidence that we receive support or guidance from any immaterial power with whom we might imagine exists,” the second Brooklyn commandment reads. “There is something to that.”

The new guideline makes no mention of the word “god” or “lord,” with the borough’s fifth commandment reminding readers that “Moral codes are made by humans.”

The revised commandments weren’t received without criticism: one attendee said they are too human-centric and instead should remind Brooklynites that people are just one creature of many.

But members of the humanist group, which meets every Sunday in a gorgeous church-like building with stained glass windows depicting boats instead of saints, seemed supportive of the human-crafted code, at least if the extraordinarily civil time for comment that followed the speech is any indication.

“The Gods have not spoken,” Bordeau said conclusively, wrapping up her sermon.

The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture’s new commandments

1. Humans are in every respect a part of nature. They are natural products of evolutionary processes.

2. We humans, like all other living things, must rely upon ourselves, one another, and nature. There is no evidence that we receive support or guidance from any immaterial power with whom we might imagine exists. There is something to that.

3. We are able to meet the challenges of life in constantly more satisfying ways provided that we are able to make fuller use of all of our capacities. How do we act in this world? Can we reach our best selves?

4. The meaning of life is that which we give to it. Happiness and self-fulfillment for oneself and others are richly sufficient life goals.

5. Moral codes are made by humans. Values and ideas grow out of the experiences of various cultures, societies, and individuals.

6. The supreme value is the individual human being. Each person, of whatever race or condition, merits equal concern and opportunity. Laws, governments, and other institutions exist for the service of men and women, and are just valuable only as far as they contribute to human well-being. Fundamentally, humanism is concerned that through intelligent cooperation, that we live good, humane lives. That we maintain positive relationships with friends, family, and community. That we lessen poverty, war, disease, male domination, and prejudice. And that we provide opportunities for, and sustain, young people while creating community — thriving community. The welfare of each of us is dependent on the welfare of all of us…. We do not have to believe the same things, but we recognize our common humanity, and the need to balance our lives with nature’s resources.

Updated 2:46 pm, March 26, 2013: Story updated because we got a little carried away with the Darwin stuff.
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Reasonable discourse

Mark from Maspeth says:
I'm sure the last 4 were left off by mistake...but here they are:

7. Donuts are the food of the god(s). Glazed or savory. What do you think the other commandments meant by keeping the lord's day holy? A bagel??
8. Bicycles are the transportation of the god(s). Gotta work off those donuts somehow
9. Scatter not your public subsidies among the real estate developers who will only drive you from your own home. 10. Likewise, close not any libraries, nor sell any land thereof when you can offer a long term lease and still get paid good money for it. Those who practice these abominations are foolish shills and those who allow it are shilly fools.
March 26, 2013, 10 am
BunnynSunny from The Hill says:
Next week, let's try a reading from the Bible I wrote.
March 26, 2013, 3:28 pm
scott from park slope says:
I don't have much argument with most of this list, but God is real. I was trained as a statistician, econometrician, and social scientist so I have learned that when something consistently occurs outside the confidence interval for randomness that another cause must be at work. So if you hit a home run and then win the lottery and run then table at craps, to put it in colloquial terms, you know something greater than luck is at work. I have experienced this, so I know to my own satisfaction that God is real. Others may not have, which is sad, because it is comforting to know that someone cares about you no matter what. But no matter where we all fall along the continuum of faith, I hope for neighbors who wait their turn in line, help old ladies cross the street, and lend a helping hand wherever and whenever it is needed, no matter the faith, race, or creed of the person needing help.
March 26, 2013, 4:39 pm
Jimmy from PH says:
The Humanist tradition doesn't exclude god. I'm sure many of the congregants at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture believe in god and many probably consider themselves Christian or Jewish or what have you. That's not the point of this sort of 'religious' organization.
March 26, 2013, 5:53 pm
Barb from Brooklyn says:
Nice work, Mark from Maspeth!
March 28, 2013, 7:30 pm
Joe from CG says:
Here's what our newspapers seem unable to say -- Happy Easter and Passover to your families.
March 29, 2013, 8:41 am
Jimmy from PH says:
Why would a newspaper say that in the first place?

I don't think it's unable (and your insinuation is crystal clear), it's just not the job of a newspaper to celebrate holidays -- religious or otherwise. Report on things related to the holidays, sure.
March 29, 2013, 9:08 am
allan feinblum from midwood says:
The bible directs us to action against poverty , war and economic injustice. Prophets such as Isiah would be at ease at a Sunday forum at Brooklyn Ethical Society. Attending Ethical Cuilture and being a Jew is not only not a conflict but one reinforces the other. The Jewish people believe in a world where each human being has equal rights and opportunities to progres to his or her maximum potential. Jesus was crucified because his revolutionary views brought Him into conflict wiith society and the System.
March 30, 2013, 9:16 pm

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