Why Even Atheists Should Applaud the Ten Commandments

Audio lecture, Bradley Lecture, American Enterprise Institute, January 12, 2009.


‘The Ten Commandments embody the core principles of the way of life of ancient Israel and of the Judeo-Christian ethic. Even in our increasingly secular age, their influence on the prevailing morality of the West is enormous–albeit not always acknowledged or welcomed. Today, the Ten Commandments provide a major symbolic battleground for America’s culture wars, assailed by relativists and atheists as the merely parochial teachings of an Iron Age tribal religion. Yet, despite its notoriety, the Decalogue is still only superficially known, in part because its very familiarity interferes with a deeper understanding of its teachings and its moral and political significance. This lecture, a fresh interpretation of the biblical text in Exodus 20, aspires to such an understanding. It is informed by the belief that, if rightly understood, the Decalogue would command universal applause, even from atheists–and not only for its opposition to murder, adultery, and theft.

American Enterprise Institute