The Ten Commandments Were a Hopeless Failure: On Legalizing Marijuana in California

Eyeing a potential $1.5 billion a year in tax revenue, the state of California will vote this fall on legalizing marijuana, a move that’s a step toward recognition of the futility of legislating behavior that it’s impossible to enforce.

The Founder of Facebook has donated $100,000 to help the measure pass.

The religious right will see this as just another endorsement of decadence. The world over, religion has long been used to try to control people. Legalize marijuana and you greatly weaken this control.

You see the same phenomenon in the Islamic world, where sexuality is the big issue. The editor of the Indonesian edition of Playboy magazine was arrest in Bali this past week, wanted by the Islamic authorities to serve a two-year sentence for publishing indencency. The magazine was shut down in 2006 after the publication of only a few issues.

One hardline Islamic group in Indonesia called Erwin Arnada a “moral terrorist.” What they can’t see is that you can’t control people’s behavior, let alone their thoughts.

Daily in Tehran, Iran, strict Islamists ride vehicles specifically watching for women who aren’t dressed according to the code, for women who might be wearing makeup, or for situations in which an unmarried man and woman are alone.

What all of these thought police don’t seem to get is that people are going to do these things anyway, which is why enforcement is a never-ending task.

Religion has always failed to control human behavior for very long. And that’s a good thing.

The reason it’s good is that to live a spiritual life has nothing to do with being compelled by an external authority.

Spirituality is entirely something that must spring from within the individual.

Through our religiously-based moralism, as a species we have shriveled the spiritual quest for transformation of the finite by the infinite to an obsession with living by a set of moral laws. This is a gross distortion of what the spiritual journey is all about.

Doesn’t anyone realize that the ten commandments were a hopeless failure? They were ignored at every chance. The entire thrust of the Hebrew Scriptures is that you can’t impose a moral standard successfully. This is why a new covenant became necessary, one based on the heart.

As St. Paul stated so insightfully long ago in a letter to the people of Rome—a society that was obsessed with the rule of law, yet that nevertheless became utterly decadent—trying to enforce morality by using laws actually makes things worse.

The entire human race is in a state of arrested spiritual development precisely because we’ve got our understanding of how people become moral agents backwards. Doing the wholesome thing has to originate in our essential being, which is one with the divine, not in society’s rules.

Says the Catholic author Sebastian Moore, “In the spiritual life, the only motivational and inertia-shifting insights, the only ones that touch us in our indolence and so makea permanent difference to our lives, are those that have come from ourselves alone, discoveries.”

All the way back two to three thousand years ago, a handful of insightful individuals recognized that only when integrity arises from a heart level do we live lives that are whole and integrated.

The divine love has to be an internal impulse, not something externally enforced.

If people are to stop smoking marijuana, it has to come from a personal awareness. This is likely to dawn on them only as they face their emotional pain and integrate this pain in the kind of way Michael Brown explains in his recently released revised edition of The Presence Process.

Spirituality is an inside job, a matter for the heart. If the ten commandments failed to straighten a nation out, do we imagine our crusades against marijuana are ever really going to work.


About the Author:
David Robert Ord is author of Your Forgotten Self Mirrored in Jesus the Christ and the audio book Lessons in Loving–A Journey into the Heart, both from Namaste Publishing, publishers of Eckhart Tolle and other transformational authors. He writes The Compassionate Eye daily, together with his daily author blog Consciousness Rising, at
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