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I am damned. I have stolen (porn). I have borne false witness (about stealing porn). I have coveted items belonging to my neighbor (his kitchen island but not his porn). I have not killed, not yet, but I have dreamed of it. Oh, how I have dreamed of it. Many, many men have tried to abide by the Ten Commandments for at least 2,400 years, and I am but one tiny example of our collective failure to live up to them. I am on my way to hell with a quickness, and, dear reader, I suspect I will be seeing you there one day. I hope they have decent tap water for us.
But really, is this fair? While the Ten Commandments remains, in some ways, a remarkably progressive document (there's nothing in there that advocates the use of violence or the repression of the gays), it is seriously unforgiving. This one time, I let a Goddammit! slip when I stubbed my toe—does that really merit an eternity inside hell's clay oven, with giant lobster demons flaying me with barbed clubs about the head and genitals? I say no.
There's no way something over two millennia old can be perfect, and Yahweh clearly failed to write these rules with the modern age in mind: Internet bullying, drivers cutting you off, people wearing Google Glass inside your local vegan tea emporium. Which is why I think they need to be refurbished—just given some light tweaks, really, so that the average decent human can avoid damnation in 2014. Ready? Let's beget some improvements.
OLD FIRST COMMANDMENT: I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
NEW FIRST COMMANDMENT: I am the Lord thy God. You know, if that's your thing.
I don't get why Yahweh has to be so harsh right off the bat. Before we even get to the stuff about not killing other people, He's demanding your loyalty and threatening you if you dare to spend a week hanging out with Ganesh. God is a poor tone-setter. Also, wars start when people try to enforce this commandment in foreign lands. My version is more inviting, more McConaughey-esque. It's a warmer way to get things started, like offering a tray of stuffed mushroom caps to guests when they come through the door. See, God? [Hit by blood red lightning bolt.]
OLD SECOND COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
NEW SECOND COMMANDMENT: Don't be a creep.
As written, the Second Commandment is terribly confusing, but what it's trying to say is that you cannot revere anything more than God. It's essentially a repeat of the First Commandment, which makes God seem like an insecure control freak. What we need is a commandment that restricts the use of rotten image-making: unwarranted surveillance, upskirt subway photos, and assorted Jimmy Kimmel prank Vines. Those need to end.
OLD THIRD COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
NEW THIRD COMMANDMENT: Don't say cruel shit to people.
The world's profanity police frequently use the Third Commandment to lord their superiority over normal people and to justify their one-star reviews of The Wire on Amazon. ("Such potty mouths!") This is a petty commandment that doesn't deserve to stand alongside the likes of "Thou shalt not kill," and it exists strictly to appease God, who freely admits that He is a jealous God. That is so weird. Anyway, there are worse things to say, like telling your wife you never loved her and your heart will always belong to the sea. How about we just try to avoid outright cruelty?
OLD FOURTH COMMANDMENT: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
NEW FOURTH COMMANDMENT: Love your neighbor, even if he sucks.
The Fourth Commandment is suitable for a Ten Suggestions document. Yes, it's nice to take a day off, relax, shut off your phone, and go to church to get a bit of meaningful perspective. But sometimes you have to fly that day. It happens. And what about people in our service and hospitality industries who have to staff the bar and serve me wings when the Vikings have a 4:15 P.M. kickoff? Are they to be roundly cast off? I asked Sam Laurent, Ph.D., a theologian in residence at the Episcopal Church of the Advocate in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, if this was an antiquated concept, and he told me, "The idea of a Sabbath day seems dated, but that might almost be an indictment of life in 2014."
True, but that's not my fault. (Note: It is partially my fault.) That's why we're ditching the Sabbath observation entirely. [Hit by second bolt of lightning.] Laurent notes that "in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives what's called the summary of the law. And the second commandment [of that] is you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Strange that this isn't one of the original Ten Commandments, no? Huge fuckup by Yahweh there. You should love your neighbor no matter what, right? You should take the high road even if your neighbor is a nosy, annoying prick who makes passive-aggressive comments about your hedges being overgrown. Then you can quietly let the dog piss on his stoop. That's the classy move.
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OLD FIFTH COMMANDMENT: Honor thy father and thy mother.
NEW FIFTH COMMANDMENT: Don't be a dick to your children.
What if your dad is an asshole? What if he left you at age 5 and then comes back every Christmas to beat you senseless? Must you really honor him? "I think honoring your parents doesn't mean allowing them to dishonor you," the Reverend Greg Jones of St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, told me.
The reverend went on to explain that the Fifth Commandment is about honoring the idea of mothers and fathers. You're honoring the Huxtables, basically. Laurent told me that fathers and mothers should "honor thy children," which I really like. If you honor your kids and do right by them, they'll honor you back. I think. I hope. Oh God, they could still grow up to be dicks, couldn't they?
OLD SIXTH COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt not kill.
NEW SIXTH COMMANDMENT: Don't kill. Don't torture. Don't rape.
The beauty of "Thou shalt not kill" is that it leaves no room for exceptions. It cuts off any excuse you might have to wage war or execute a prisoner or send Léon, THE PROFESSIONAL, to "clean" all the witnesses prior to your drug-trafficking trial. God pretty much nailed this one.
So no weaseling your way into a next round of Crusades, gang! In fact, we're adding torture and rape here. That's right. You thought you'd still be able to get a quick waterboarding in, didn't you? No dice.
OLD SEVENTH COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt not commit adultery.
NEW SEVENTH COMMANDMENT: Don't go cheatin' on a good woman.
It's worth noting that adultery once meant that a man could sleep with another woman if she happened to be a hooker. Can you believe that? Ancient Egypt must have been a swingin' dick's paradise. Our definition of the word—don't cheat on your spouse, ever—has actually helped keep this commandment fresh. But… what if your husband is an abusive drunk who beats you and refuses to grant you a divorce and you just HAPPEN to meet up with a sensitive biker fella who loves and respects you for who you are? Still adultery? I say, you go, girl.
OLD EIGHTH COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt not steal.
NEW EIGHTH COMMANDMENT: Don't steal, unless you're starving and you can't even afford a loaf of bread and some rich asshole has PILES of bread just sitting there on his porch for the taking.
Unlike "Thou shalt not kill," this law against theft needs a bit of wiggle room, so that little Oliver Twist doesn't suffer the same eternal fate as some big financial honcho who looted the national treasury. He's the real thief, God! OCCUPY THESE COMMANDMENTS.
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OLD NINTH COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
NEW NINTH COMMANDMENT: Don't lie maliciously.
What if the person you're talking to is a fat-ass, and they want to know your honest opinion about whether or not they're fat? You gotta know the terrain in that kind of situation. On the other hand, we live in an age where a guy can offer a cheap boast about "telling it like it is" to justify being a dick. That is a form of unnecessary honesty. "Hey, your tits could stand to be a little bit bigger, doll. JUST BEIN' HONEST." What we're looking for here is polite honesty.
OLD TENTH COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.
NEW TENTH COMMANDMENT: Try not to be a pig, will ya?
According to Yahweh, merely thinking about driving your neighbor's car is enough to bring down His wrath. Come on. Our whole economy is based on covetousness. And do you really expect me to exert full control over my jealous impulses? This commandment is tantamount to thought crime, and it's completely unrealistic.
While the Commandments dictate your relationship with both God and your fellow man, they offer nothing in the way of self-maintenance. That's why we're making the last commandment an edict to take care of yourself: Eat right, exercise, bathe regularly. Because other people have to live on this planet with you. We don't wanna pick up the tab for your diabetes medication. And that's really the most important thing of all.
So there you have it: a simple, elegant set of rules to help us look out for one another in a cold, cruel world. I daresay we improved upon God's handiwork here! (And don't worry! It's no longer a sin to say so!) The beauty of it is that we'll still probably find a way to fuck it all up.
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Drew Magary (@drewmagary) is a GQ correspondent and a staff writer for Deadspin.