In all honestly, I think that rules are important within a set context and if that context is not applicable, are really not quite appropriate. I find that the true purpose of rules and regulations are to guide people to be considerate of things that they may not be aware of or may not know to do or not do. Rules aren’t set to cause harm or malice in an individual’s life, they are set to prevent an individual from causing harm to another person’s life. Rules are about a community of people; they force individuals to treat the external world with respect, generosity, forethought before those particular behaviors have been taught or understood, and in some cases, are never learned.
There has always been a disjunction between the authoritative role of rules and their adherents within any aspect of societal structure. Sometimes they are unjust, sometimes they make no sense, and sometimes they are created on false authority, but that doesn’t detract from the effect that rules have on our day to day lives. Rules give us a set of appropriate behaviors on how to interact with the external world, from the environment to other people. As children, humans tend to be idio-centric in terms of their thoughts and wishes, not being aware of the existence of another individual’s reality being different from their own. Some people grow aware of others, and some don’t, so what is the best way to insure that the fewest people get hurt and break out into full on chaos? Create some rules. Baselines of standard operation that cover your bases and create a mutually salient level of expectation of yourself and the world around you.
Of all the rules out there, I honestly believe the commandments in abrahamic traditions and neo-pagan rule of three actually offer a very smart baseline to keep people from really hurting eachother from ignorance. In the neo-pagan rule of three, similar to the concepts of karma, anything that you put out into the universe will be returned to you three fold somehow in your life. This rule is a practical guideline that requires a certain amount of self reflection and self analysis to really follow, which can be troublesome to use as a sure fire standard of conduct. Some people may choose that one harm is worth getting it three times in return (whether in terms of frequency or amplitude), but another person may not. The Abrahamic rules of conduct differ slightly from tradition to tradition and often within traditions themselves, but for the sake of simplicity I will look at the Catholic commandments in particular.
In terms of commandments, I’m not going to write each one out but analyze them as a whole. In general, these commandments give rules for people to follow that simultaneously simplify life, insure less drama and heartache, and allow for people to maneuver their day to day lives with a set template for introspection. In my opinion, sin isn’t so much the action itself but the risks inherent in the actions we take, which is why you aren’t held in sin if you genuinely don’t know any better. What I mean by risk is the cause and effect of your actions in terms of implications on the external world. If you lie, what are the possible implications for anyone else? Many! If you go having sex with just anyone, how likely are you to hurt someone? Very. If you don’t respect your neighbor, will you be safer or more fulfilled than if you don’t? Probably not. These rules are set there to control you, they are set to give guidelines to people while they learn how to be truly considerate to every aspect of the external world and reduce the likelihood of that person experiencing emotional or physical trauma by living by those rules. In church I don’t think it is the action itself that you are being judged on, but the awareness and unawareness of every possible outcome you choices and actions will have on the world around you. The commandments all actually cover all of your bases, so if you live by them completely (as improbable as that is) you won’t have to ever actually face the hardships that can come of those actions. When you break a commandment you are causing inadvertent harm to people in ways that I doubt anyone could ever actually fully map out and understand. So, in that sense, God is really just giving you the easiest route to fulfillment and a happy life right there on a silver platter: you don’t have to make the mistakes, get hurt or hurt others to learn to be careful and truly considerate of your actions and their consequences, they are all spelled out in the most simple list.