The second commandment

We have thought for some time that the interpretation given to the second commandment when we were kids learning the Catholic catechism was fatuous. Dennis Prager outlines what we think is the correct, and far more serious, interpretation:

[A]nyone who attaches the name of God to evil is not only committing an act of evil, he is subverting the only hope for spreading goodness on Earth — belief in a good God who demands goodness. If there is moral anarchy when God is removed from morality, imagine what ensues when God is identified with evil.

The textual argument: Only one of the Ten Commandments says that God will not forgive — usually translated as “will not hold guiltless” — one who violates the commandment: “Do not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain, for he will not hold guiltless whoever takes his name in vain.”

This is almost always understood as meaning, “Do not say God’s name when unnecessary” (such as, “God, that was some home run”). But this is most unlikely. The idea that God can forgive murder, for instance, but cannot forgive saying his name for no good reason is morally untenable. The literal Hebrew — “Do not carry God’s name in vain” — gives a much more reasonable understanding. It strongly implies that the great sin here is one who carries God’s name, i.e., talks and acts religious, but acts contrary to God’s will.

This understanding is further reinforced by Judaism, which has always held that the greatest sin is “desecration of the Name” (khillul Hashem), which means doing bad things while acting religious.

For these reasons, every person who believes in God and every God-based religion is hurt by the epidemic of Muslims murdering in the name of God. It reinforces every anti-religious stereotype and thus further alienates people from taking seriously any God-based religion. Bad religious people are far more destructive to the cause of religion than are atheists.

One Response to “The second commandment”

  1. Akweth Says:

    The harshest words in the NT by Jesus was against religious people who were not, calling them if I recall right, empty tombs.

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