NOW THAT'S, ER, CHUTZPAH: Christopher Hitchens is Fisking the Ten Commandments.
Frank Boosman also comments on the problem with the "Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me" commandment.

Like I keep saying, all of you "I only have one God, and my God is the best" people seem to be a bit insecure about your God. As Christopher Hitchens says, "The first four of the commandments have little to do with either law or morality, and the first three suggest a terrific insecurity on the part of the person supposedly issuing them."

As we Shintos like to say, you can put your god over there next to our other gods. While you're at it, why don't you get off your high horse and quit defining Good and Evil as Us and Them. ;-p

21 Comments

Actually, some shinto sects are closer to monotheism than you might think. It all depends on how you look at 'kami'.

Some sects believe that they are more like aspects of the one great creator of the universe, 'O-minakanushi-no-mikami'... Some think they are actually all separate gods...

A lot of the differences between religions are differences of perspective, IMHO...

Also, although I do believe in one God, it is not because I think my God is the best or something that puerile... In fact, comparing your God to other gods would imply the existence of more than one god anyway...

The reason I believe in one God is because I don't think it makes sense for there to be more than one incorporeal Mind existing in the universe. I think everything is part of that one Mind which is God. Many ways to look at it... ;)

Reading this article puts me in a pretty awkward position. I am all for the separation of church and state and believe Judge Moore should be suspended at the very least for defying the court order, however I find writing like this to be insulting, inflammitory, and just plain ignorant.
I was brought up Christian, and as such have read the Bible. While I have not actively participated in an organized religeon for many years, I do feel that I got much of my moral code from my upbringing. The attack on the precepts of the ten commandments however reeks of anti-religeous pandering and reactionism. Along the lines of churches banning Harry Potter for being devil worshipping.
If Mr. Hitchens had ever READ the bible he might realize that the 10 commandments were not the original ideas God is said to have handed to Moses, but a revision God passed down after Moses destroyed the original plates finding man too evil to accept the original law. The current 10 Commandments are the flawed, harsh laws given to a people who could not give up idolitry, debauchery, and sin.
If Mr. Reynolds had cared to research history furthar he might note that the so called 10 commandments have been lost for centuries (expect of course to fedora wearing archeologist adventurers) and all we have are records (including the Bible) that have been in the control of a religeous organization that has admitted to editing texts to increase influence and control the population through history. So again, IF the 10 commandments were written by God (a point I feel it is unecissary to comment on), then there is no way to know if this is what was in fact written orignially. On top of that, this was meant to help calm a wild society, not as an absolute law for all time (again a point that Judge Moore would have been wise to recall).
Either Mr. Reynolds is ignorant of all these facts, or he has simply pushed them aside as they are inconsistent with his goal, a thing facts have a nasty way of doing sometimes.
The reason I get irritated is that I might agree with Mr. Reynolds overall view of Christian influnece, but I find his approach to be heavy handed and ultimately counter productive. Fight ignorance with information, not more ignorance.
Note you can take this same approach for people who bash the Tal Mud, the Koran, or any other religous text or belief without first doing a little research.

-fe

If ever anyone defined things in terms of "us and them," it's the Japanese --IMHO.

Oops. I switch my attach on Mr. Hitchens to Glenn Reynolds for no particular reason. Didn't mean to do that. Never read anything by Glenn that upset me at all. So much for looking like I know what I'm talking about (^-^;)

Some of these fundamentalist christians have no sense of humor .. I posted a time honored 10 commandments from a different sort of religion (C programming) and have taken more than a bit of hate mail today.

http://tingilinde.typepad.com/starstuff/2003/08/10_commandments.html

__

It is very bizarre watching TV on this issue - you almost get the sense that the US is a christian theocracy.

Kakyou, I think the main point here is that you can't really reconcile "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me."

with

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . . ."

How hard is that to understand?

A lot of religions, being ancient, have their roots in tribal cultures.

And, one of the ways tribes have endured has been through winning turf wars against neighboring tribes, which wins of course happened because, in the ancient belief systems: their god(s) must be better than the other tribes' god(s).

A religion, in many dimensions, can be a tradition of political and social practices as well as practices that might be more specifically called "religious".

Unforunately, we have these essentially archaic political and social practices to reinforce our own confinment within our tribes, our own fear of other tribes, and our own waging war with others outside our own perceived tribe.

We can't change the past tribal roots of religions, but we can choose in the present, if we are of a religion, to be religious about what is unifying rather than religious about what is dividing.

I think you missed my point. In no way do I defend Judge Moores actions. In fact I stand along side those who would fight what he tried to get away with. But as I read Mr. Hitchens article I wind only glancing references to this case. In fact I do fail to see how the main point of it was the concept of separation of church and state. Instead what I see is the bashing of a historical document without regard to context. Can we relate the Constitution to modern governmental policy? The Kosher laws to FDA guidlines? The Relationships of Confucianism to the ERA?
Judge Moore was wrong not for believing in the 10 Commandments, a right guareteed him by the Constitution, but because he broke one law, and flaunted the authority of his own court by disobeying another. You need to fight this type of ingorance with facts, not irrelevent comparisions.

True, there have been some weird froms of Shinto, but I do think Shinto is traditionally more decentralized than most singe God religions, especially the type of Shinto that Yoda talks about.

I agree Japan does do a lot of "us and them". I also agree that Japan is quite racist. I was just reacting to the "Good/Evil" high moral ground style "Us/Them".

Is there some authority in charge of registering new Shinto gods? I would like to register myself as God of Disco.

Don, darn, I thought you were the god of RDF.

Kakyou, excellent point -- Judge Moore brought this issue on himself, knowingly and deliberately. He broke the law, this has nothing to do with freedom of religion. As for the viability of the Ten Commandments, careful look throughout history will show that it wears many different guises.

Personally, I think this issue is the best thing to have happened for those who oppose the Fundamental Christian Right. Nothing riles the Silent Majority more then having religion shoved down their throat.

As for the Good/Evil Us/Them Sinner/Saint dichotomy -- any interesting culture transcends this black and white viewpoint. It's morally wrong, yes. More than that, though, it's dull, and boorish.

Extremely hasty PS

Wasn't including Japan in my last paragraph. From what little I know of Japan, it's anything but dull and boorish.

;-) No need to leave Japan out of it Shelley. We have our fair share of dull and boorish. Racists in Japan like to get on their "superior DNA" high horse instead of the "I am closer to God" high horse.

Sigh. It's all stories folks. How else communicate the uncommunicateable but through parable, allegory and metaphor (language)?

No need to go against what all of the world's mystical teachings give us and hate others.. or worse, kill them.

30,000 years and the one thing that sets us all apart, individuality, is still what tears us apart.

Since Koreans have even more superior DNA, we are also better at being racists.

Personally, I think all religions should set up sports team and battle out in a tournament for the right to have "Our God is the only God" status for a year.

If the extremists can be armed with knifes and kill each other in a controlled manner without affecting the majority of people who don't give a shit, I think the world would be a much better place.

We talked about Moore a bit in class the other day.

I don't think he actually broke any laws, and as far as I know there is no real prohibition on religion in government. The constitution prevents congress from passing laws with respect to religion, but that doesn't prevent the judicial branch from considering religion, or endorsing specific concepts associated with a religion, as far as I know at this point.

As to Moore's refusal of a Federal Court, this is not considered necessarily unethical if you realize that we have a federal system. The Federal Courts have jurisdiction over federal issues, and I don't know how much of a federal issue this is. Both the federal government and the states have a degree of sovereignty and the boundary there must be negotiated -- it's not always in the U.S.'s favor...

as far as I know there is no real prohibition on religion in government

Congress shall make no law...

The Federal Courts have jurisdiction over federal issues, and I don't know how much of a federal issue this is. Both the federal government and the states have a degree of sovereignty and the boundary there must be negotiated -- it's not always in the U.S.'s favor...

This is horsefeathers, on both moral and constitutional grounds.

cf. the jurisprudence of the 14th Amendment.

My personal benchmark of the balance between state sovereignity and the constitution is simply the Feds should weigh in on the side of constitutional and common-law individual freedoms whenever an individual state restricts them, but not interfere where individual states expand on them.

Eg. Medical marijuana laws, liberal gun ownership laws.

A state explicitly favoring one religion over the others is a horrendous breach of its authority, and is exactly what drove people across the Atlantic in the 17th century.

Putting the boot on the other foot, eg. a state judge monumentalizing Sharia law as his court's moral compass, exposes the perniciousness of Moore's demagoguery.

A couple of points about the TC that are often ignored or overlooked: First off, a lot of Jews and some Christians view them as applicable only to Jews as God's chosen people, which makes perfect sense in light of the first commandment: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me." Most people are not descended from anyone who was held in bondage in Egypt, so right there you have a problem making the case that the commandments are directed at all humanity. Another point is that much of the Old Testament/Torah implicitly acknowledges the existence of other gods besides YHWH. Again, the first commandment implies not the non-existence of other gods, but the supremacy of YHWH for the Israelites. Shintoists are welcome to their gods, and Jews can acknowledge their existence, but must not worship them.

This in pretty stark contrast to modern christian readings of the OT, but that's what you get when you try to force a single coherent point of view on a set of documents written over the course of a thousand years or so and extensively revised to address the particular problems of their times. That's why you have weirdness like two creation stories, multiple versions of the ten commandments (the Judge Moore version is but one set, picked for theological convenience), and contradictory instructions to the faithful.

Troy --

I don't know much about constitutional law (yet), but doesn't "Congress shall make no law..." mean that Congress shall make no law?

I don't think it means that if religion were somehow to creep into the government that they must make a law to stop it. Wouldn't that be better covered under the 'equal protection' clause, if at all?

I don't think Moore is favoring one religion over another, really. I think he's just trying to say that some of the moral principles that our entire legal system is based on come from Christianity, and we shouldn't throw away that historical perspective.

Check this out, from Bird v. Holbrook 130 Eng. Rep. 911 (C.P. 1825), where a man set up a mechanical system to shoot trespassers with a shotgun without warning:

"It has been argued that the law does not compel every line of conduct which humanity or religion may require; but there is no act which Christianity forbids, that the law will not reach: if it were otherwise, Christianity would not be, as it has always been held to be, part of the law of England. ...it is the object of English law to uphold humanity and the sanctions of religion."

This sort of thought is the foundation of our common law system, and I don't think we have to forget about that entirely in order to maintain fairness today.

I agree with you about the second point Joi. I do however think that there is only one God but that he/she/it has many names. The key in my oppinion is personal spirituality and not organised religion. This way everyone can find their own path to God, call him whatever they want and acknowledge others experience of that reality with respect. I actually think that is the road to true peace as well

Leave a comment

7 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: The whole "there is only one God and my God is the best" thing....

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://joi.ito.com/MT-4.35-en/mt-tb.cgi/960

Joi says: Like I keep saying, all of you "I only have one God, and my God is the best"... Read More

Long day and I'm working on some things that will take me away from the weblog until next week. Not the least of which is wanting to attend the Japanese Festival at the Botanical Gardens this weekend, thanks to the tip from Jack Such in my comments. I ... Read More

Years ago, while waiting at a bus stop outside a Hungry Jack's hamburger outlet in downtown Sydney, I found myself standing next to a young Asian woman holding a thick Bible and wearing a badge on which was inscribed, in white letters on a black ba...

Read More

On God(s) from AKMA’s Random Thoughts
September 1, 2003 4:09 AM

It’s difficult to talk about various ways of faith without the risk of offending someone. And it’s probably not worth bothering to say the calculatedly inoffensive remarks that would be left over after you filter out all the possibly offens... Read More

AKMA reminds us (with special reference to the discussion going on among Joi, Jonathan, Shelley and various commenters) that as we generalize about Christianity, we're talking about him, a real human being with complex beliefs. This overall discussion ... Read More

One thing that I would like people to be careful about in the discussion about who believes in what, what it means for them to believe that and how right or powerful they are is the question of logic. Our typical ways of describing action, thought, int... Read More

On God(s) from AKMA’s Random Thoughts
December 6, 2003 10:54 PM

It’s difficult to talk about various ways of faith without the risk of offending someone. And it’s probably not worth bothering to say the calculatedly inoffensive remarks that would be left over after you filter out all the possibly offens... Read More

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Business and the Economy category.

Books is the previous category.

Computer and Network Risks is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index.

Monthly Archives