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)

Spiritual But Secular

The SBNR version of the 10 Commandments stresses positives rather than proscriptions

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.



Author's photo
Anne Bokma is a Hamilton-based journalist (www.annebokma.com). Her column, "Spiritual But Secular," appears monthly in The Observer. Her blog, "My Year of Living Spiritually," will appear every second and fourth Friday of the month. Sign up here to receive updates automatically and follow Bokma on her 12-month journey to living more soulfully.
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!

Features

Photo: iStock.com

What that recycling logo actually means

by Susan Nerberg

Contrary to popular belief, its presence doesn’t guarantee the product is reusable or recyclable.

Promotional Image

Observations

Jocelyn Bell%

Observations: Our magazine's plastic problem

by Jocelyn Bell

"While I can easily defend the use of a polybag on financial grounds, it would be unconscionable to deliver a cover story about plastics . . . in plastic."

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Features

April 2018

10 easy ways to kick our nasty plastic habit

by Susan Nerberg

It's not as hard as you think.

Features

April 2018

Tea bags and other surprising places plastics lurk

by Susan Nerberg

Hidden plastics rarely get recycled and often can’t be reused. Here we make some of the invisibles visible.

Features

April 2018

Drag queens help church raise money and awareness

by Darrell Noakes

The event, called “Take Me to Church,” after a popular song, was a fundraiser for LGBTQ youth in Saskatchewan.

Features

April 2018

10 easy ways to kick our nasty plastic habit

by Susan Nerberg

It's not as hard as you think.

Columns

April 2018

Why Canada needs a free-range parenting law

by Pieta Woolley

Faith

April 2018

4 science-trained faith leaders share what still gives them goosebumps

by Various Writers

"This greater knowledge amplified my belief in a mysterious God who still offers so much more for us to discover."

Promotional Image