We have been around for 200,000 years and with the introduction of writing we have the written laws of our ancestors. Now on a daily basis one of the most discussed pieces of sophistry is the belief that morality was created by the Abrahamic Religion.
The absurdity of such a notion is of course refuted by any rational human being, alas we are not talking to a rational, well balanced individual when this subject comes up. Anyway as always I do take their comments on board and do some searching. The following is both a fascinating look into the pre-Judaic (Halakha) rules in their Torah and confirms what the rest of the world knows, morality pre-dates the Bible.
Starting with the oldest codes, we shall take a walk through the history of justice and the precepts of modern law :
1. THE CODE OF UR-NAMMU ( Mesopotamian circa 2100 – 2050 BCE)
Location : Istanbul Archaeology Museum
It is the oldest known code of law known to mankind surviving today, written on tablets in the Sumerian Language. The first two fragments were found at Nippur, and translated by Samuel Kramer in 1952. Further tablets were found in Ur and translated in 1965. It is three centuries older than the Code of Hammurabi.
It seems harsh penalties were considered unnecessary for the majority of crimes, as people were assumed to know how they should behave towards each other, monetary fines were most common.
The code is comprised of 40 paragraphs that state the crime and punishment to be administered. A few examples are:
- If a man commits murder, he shall be killed
- If a man commits a robbery, he shall be killed
- If a man commits a kidnapping, he shall be imprisoned and fined 15 shekels
- If a man sleeps with another man’s wife, the woman shall be killed, the man set free
- If a man divorces his wife, he shall pay her one Mina of silver
- If a man sleeps with a widow without benefit of marriage, he need not pay a fine
- If a man is accused of sorcery he must undergo ordeal by water, if he is proven innocent, his accuser pays a fine of 3 shekels
- If a woman is accused of adultery and the river ordeal proves here innocent, the man must pay a third mina of silver
- If a mans slave woman compares herself to her mistress, her mouth shall be scoured with a quart of salt.
These laws seem to have been effective as Ur-Nammu’s reign was a peaceful one and the region flourished. These laws created stability in the region and they realised a Sumerian Renaissance of culture.
2. THE CODE OF HAMMURABI (Babylonian circa 1754 BCE)
Location: Louvre, Paris
The code of Hammurabi is the code of law set down for the peoples of Ancient Mesopotamia, what we now know as modern day Iraq, extending from the Persian Gulf along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Hammurabi states in the prologue to his laws, the laws were given to him by the gods:
Anu and Enlil ordained Hammurabi, a devout prince to demonstrate justice within the land, to destroy evil and wickedness, to stop the mighty exploiting the weak, to rise like Shamash over the mass of humanity, illuminating the land
There are in fact 300 laws discussing a wide range of rules from murder, assault, divorce, debt, adoption, tradesmen’s fees, agricultural practices and mini disputes.
The code included many bizarre and gruesome forms of punishment. It is one of the most famous examples of the law of retribution, under this system if a man broke a bone of one of his equals, his own bone would be broken, the original ‘eye for an eye’ concept known later in the Bible. Capital crimes were often met with grisly death penalties; if a son and mother were caught committing incest, they were burned alive; if a pair of lovers conspired to murder their spouses, both were impaled. Even a minor crime could incur horrific consequence, for example if a son hits his father, the code demanded his hands be cut off!
For crimes that could not be proven or disproven with evidence , the code prescribed “trial by ordeal”.
The code also however includes one of the earliest examples of the presumption of innocent until proven guilty. Although notorious for its list of barbaric punishments it also set several valuable legal precedents that have survived to this day. It is one of the earliest legal documents to put the burden of proof on the accuser
After Hammurabi’s death, his system of laws became a classic in the ancient world and were copied as late as the 5th Century BCE, more than a millennium after his death.
3. THE CODE OF NESILIM (Hittite Empire circa 1650-1500 BCE)
Location: A transcript is available on line…
The Hittites were an ancient peoples who established an empire in modern day Turkey around the 18th Century BCE, it encompassed most of Asia Minor. Although the laws by now are similar to previous, a few did catch my eye.
- 98 – If a free man set a house ablaze, he shall build the house again. Whatever be inside the house, be it man, ox or sheep he need not compensate.
- 170 – If a free man kill a serpent and speak the name of another, he shall give one pound of silver, if a slave this one shall die.
- 190 – If a free man picks up now this woman, now the one the shall be no punishment they came together sexually willingly.
- 197 – If a man rapes a woman in the mountains, it is the man’s wrong, he shall die. But if he rapes her in the house, it is the woman’s fault, the woman shall die. If the husband find them and kill them, there is no punishment for the husband.
- 199 – If anyone has intercourse with a pig or a dog, he shall die. If a man have intercourse with a horse or mule, there is no punishment. But he shall not approach the King or become a priest.
4. 42 NEGATIVE CONFESSIONS (Egypt circa 1250 BCE)
In Ancient Egypt, Maat was the goddess of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality and justice. At the moment of creation she set order from universal chaos.
The doctrine of Maat, one of the oldest recorded systems of human morality, is set out in the 42 Negative Confessions every Egyptian would have learnt by heart. They are as follows and may seem familiar from some of the Commandments set out 2,000 years later in the Bible. Roughly translated here they are:
- I have not committed sin.
- I have not committed robbery.
- I have not stolen.
- I have not slain men or women.
- I have not stolen food
- I have not swindled offerings.
- I have not stolen from God/Goddess
- I have not told lies
- I have not carried away food.
- I have not cursed
- I have not close my ears to truth
- I have not committed adultery
- I have not made anyone cry
- I have not felt sorrow without reason
- I have not assaulted anyone
- I am not deceitful
- I have not stolen anyones land
- I have not been an eavesdropper
- I have not falsely accused anyone
- I have not been angry without reason
- I have not seduced anyone’s wife/husband
- I have not polluted myself
- I have not terrorised anyone
- I have not disobeyed the law
- I have not been exclusively angry
- I have not cursed God/Goddess
- I have not behaved with violence
- I have not caused disruption of peace
- I have not acted hastily or without thought
- I have not overstepped my boundaries of concern.
- I have not exaggerated my words when speaking
- I have not worked evil
- I have not used evil thoughts, words or deeds
- I have not polluted the water
- I have not spoken angrily or arrogantly
- I have not cursed anyone in thought, word or deed
- I have not placed myself on a pedestal
- I have not stolen what belongs to God/Goddess
- I have not stolen from or disrespected the deceased
- I have not taken food from a child
- I have not acted with insolence
- I have not destroyed property belonging to a God/Goddess
5. THE DRACONIAN CONSTITUTION (Greece circa 7th Century BCE)
Until this time, blood feuds and oral laws which could be made up at any time were used across Athens and punishment was often carried out via vendettas.Draco was an Athenian statesman who formed the first written set of ancient Greek laws.
Known for their cruelty, Draco’s name became associated with unforgiving brutality.
Although impartial, according to Aristotle, the newly-recorded laws were so harsh they were written in blood instead of ink. Under Draco’s codes, even the most trivial of criminal offenses (i.e. stealing an apple) were penalized by death.
“It is said that Draco himself, when asked why he had fixed the punishment of death for most offenses, answered that he considered these lesser crimes to deserve it, and he had no greater punishment for more important ones,”
Despite its many flaws and violent punishments, Draco’s Code of Laws became the first in known history to differentiate between unintentional homicides, usually punished by sentence of exile, with intentional murders, in contrast, punished by the death penalty.
Only thirty years later, most of the Draconian Laws were abolished and replaced successfully by Solon’s reforms and new laws. Solon, widely considered the father of Modern Western Law, did not manage to fully pass legislation against the political and moral deterioration of his age. Still, he led Athenian society out of the dark and harsh “Draconian Era” and most historians credit him as the Athenian who laid the foundations for the city-state’s later “perfect” democracy.
You see dear religious morality police, what I see when you try to espouse the moral high ground and try to explain the chaos in the world without your sky fairy is this. I see a weak minded individual wth no moral decency or empathy to your fellow beings on Earth. I see a human who admits he would murder/rape/pillage, if he had no belief he would be punished after death.
You see all the problems we have in the world right now are down to idiots like you, who believe their sky fairy is the true sky fairy. There are people out there committing murder because they believe their god is telling them to do so. So when you tell me you can hear voices in your head and you pray and get answers, then that worries me. You have the potential to be the next killer and to say ‘god told me to do it’. In your head anything god tells you to do is ok, and you see, that is what all the religious terrorists believe too.
As I have shown, our morals and laws pre date your Abrahamic religions by a long shot. Even before the written laws were laid down, morality and knowing what is right has been handed down from our beginnings from generation to generation. It is how we have survived so far.
The difference between you and I is simply this. You have been indoctrinated with a fear of going to hell for an imaginary sin, that doesn’t exist. You see even if there was proven to be a god I wouldn’t worship him. If we take the description in the bible as what/who he is then he is a sadistic child, the type who would use a magnifying glass on a hot day to torture insects , and I want none of him.
So next time you want to try debating your moral high ground, take a look inside and see if you are found wanting…