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Standing Up Against Islamists

Reader comment on item: Islamists, Get Out

Submitted by Chris Chrisman (United States), Aug 31, 2005 at 12:14

You ask who will be the first to declare American-based Islamists unwelcome? Fortunately, there is a rising chorus. A recent essay by Dennis Prager may have kicked off the debate with a clear condemnation of those who do evil in God's name. This, I believe, is the key argument for rejecting the terrorists in our midst.

Why God hates terrorists more than gamblers By Dennis Prager

THE RECENT BOMBINGS in London once again raise an ancient question: What is the greatest sin? One common response is that all sins are equally bad in God's eyes. But this makes little sense.

Do Catholics who believe it is a sin to masturbate believe that God considers masturbation as wrong as murder? Do Jews who believe it is a sin to eat non-kosher food equate doing so with a Jew committing rape? Do Protestants who believe it is a sin to gamble believe that God views a night at the blackjack table as sinful as abusing a child?

It is particularly sad when religious people depict God in a way that renders him less intelligent than his creations: "Sure, we humans think that murdering a family is worse than taking a stapler home from the office, but God doesn't!"

God, however, is no simpleton, and on the hierarchy of sin the Bible seems to be clear: The worst sin is committing evil in God's name. God abhors evil — the deliberate infliction of unjust suffering on fellow human beings. There are some differences between the Old and New Testaments (e.g., on divorce), but they agree that God hates evil and loves goodness.

"Love your neighbor" is "the great rule" in Judaism and along with love of God (also from the Old Testament) is the central rule of Christianity. God did not destroy Noah's generation because it masturbated, ate forbidden foods or took home cheap objects from the workplace. He did so because it was violently evil.

So to discern what the greatest sin is, we begin with it having to do with evil actions. But that is not the end of it. Even among identical acts of evil, there is one category that is worse than any other: evil committed in God's name.

There are both logical and textual bases for this argument.

The logical argument: The Judeo-Christian position is that evil cannot be vanquished unless people believe that the creator has a moral will, makes moral demands upon all humans and morally judges each human being. Without a God-based moral code, morality becomes a euphemism for personal preferences and humanity sinks into moral anarchy.

Therefore, anyone 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.

Apparently fear or ethnic and religious solidarity prevents many religious Muslim leaders from confronting the damage Muslim terrorists are doing to Islam's name, Allah's name and God-based morality generally. But for those of us who take God and goodness seriously, the world is witnessing the greatest sin on a scale unknown since the early Middle Ages.

If Jews, Christians and Muslims cannot say this publicly, we who are religious deserve the contempt the secular world already has for us.
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