Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Commandment #3 of 10

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.  Exodus 20:7

On to number 3,  god still seems majorly concerned with his how people view him.  Considering he is now 3 for 3 he seems to have a major preoccupation with himself.


The main thing to note here is that this commandment referred to a use of god's proper name, of course which proper name is a debate in and of itself.  One that can, and has, filled entire books on ancient Jewish religion.  God was referred to by many names in the Christian Old Testament, especially the earlier parts which has caused some scholars to speculate on whether early Judaism might have been polytheistic.  I don't personally have an opinion on this as I am not well versed enough in the history, nor do I really care, polytheism is no more rational then monotheism in my book.

Modern Spin:

Most modern Christians spin this to speak about using swear words, specifically things like "god damn it" or "god is a fucking asshole."  Christians always hate it when I say that last one for some reason...


Well, for one, its a threat.  God doesn't really say what his is going to do, but considering some of the other stuff he does in the bible it probably won't be good.


Now we reach the first commandment to actually make it into American law in some form.  I speak, of course, of blasphemy laws.  Of course the federal government never had such laws as they would have violated the first amendment.  However state governments often have had such laws.  Though as far as I know no one has been successfully prosecuted for them since the 14th amendment extended the effects of the bill of rights to all levels of government.

I would say that  the 1st amendment puts our law, in a philosophical sense, in a rather strong opposition to this commandment.  The government, unlike god, choose to not criminalize what people say in and of itself.


  1. Yes, God is ultimately concerned with His own glory. God is God-centered (not man-centered) because He is the most worthy; the sole one who deserves worship. This makes sense if He is, as philosophers, say "the highest good".

    No swearing is a very limited application of this commandment. The fuller idea here is God's people are to refrain from using His name in any way they are not "serious" about. It prevents a casual use of His name. This is because we should not take His character and majesty lightly.

    In a more broad application, every time I as a Christian sin against Him, I am taking His name in vain because I name the name of Christ as Lord. When I sin, though, I am betraying that and dragging His name (reputation, even) through the mud, in a sense.

    As far as laws go, this commandment is primarily directed at God's covenant people. Any kind of blasphemy law is an unwise regulation in my view.

    Just some thoughts from a Reformed apologist.


  2. First, I appreciate the polite tone of your comment. Most Christians are far less polite when discussing religion.

    2nd when you say reformed are you referring to Calvinism? Just to be clear on where you are coming from. I knew many Calvinists back in my religious days.

    I do want to mention as someone who was once deeply involved in Christianity, and apologetics for many years and I was previously aware of all of the points you bring up. My statements were not meant to be taken as speaking for the entire spectrum of christian theology. My post would have been much longer had I tried to do that.

    I was generally just mentioning a particular spin that I have seen Christians use which seems a particularly bad interpretation given the historical context of the commandment.

    However, I have always found it strange that Christians talk about the self-centered behavior and antagonism towards free speech in god as if it were a good thing.

    In terms of science for instance, it is always the pseudo-scientists who are most afraid of criticism. Scientists at their best welcome criticism. Those that hide from criticism are usually trying to cover up for their failure to demonstrate their claims, homeopathy, acupuncture and psychics all have this in common.

    Why is something that we find so abhorrent and dishonest in humans suddenly a virtue when a god does it? How can one rationally refer to god as good as defined by our dictionaries when in human terms his behavior is more similar to that of a tyrant, threatening punishment on any who do not respect him?

    I do appreciate that you seem to understand the importance of church/state separation and the need to refrain from codifying religious laws into American law.

    The main point I am making with these posts is to show that the 10 commandments are not in any serious way the basis of American law as it often said by people like Texas Governor Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann.

  3. Yes, I was referring to what is commonly called Calvinism. I do prefer 'Reformed' (Calvin wasn't the only reformer) but either one is fine.

    I have a question in regards to your bemusement about how "Christians talk about the self-centered behavior ... in god as if it were a good thing" and it is this:

    If God is the only self-existent being and all things exist because of Him and if He really is perfect in every way, then who or what else should God focus on? Is there anyone or anything more excellent? If not, then who or what else deserves that level of exultation? If God's objective was anything less than to glorify Himself, then wouldn't He be guilty of violating His own command of "have no other gods before me"?

    God is not engaging in empty boasting when He explains His attributes and expects His creatures to recognize the truth of who He is; He is simply telling it like it is. I humbly submit to you that most self-identified evangelicals are offended when they realize God's world doesn't revolve around them, rather, He is at the center.

    I say that to say that I imagine many other people would share your frustration with God's preoccupation with Himself but if He is who He says He is, then it is only right.

    As far as the comparison of God to a tyrant ... well, it is true that God is Lord and King. Yet He is not a tyrant who is wresting control away from someone else. It is not as if He doesn't belong on the throne; He does. A human tyrant is a finite mortal who is demanding something he is not entitled to and does so by force. For the Creator, He already is in control and is infinitely worthy.

    Still, it is a common reaction for us as humans to loathe the idea that we are ultimately subjects and not kings. Yet when we stand before our maker, we realize this is true.

    On a different note, the questions of US law and the 10 commandments is interesting. It seems too facile to simply say YES, as if the founders - children of the Enlightenment that they were - had no other influences on them besides Scripture. Yet, it also seems a bit facile to say NO, as if the legal impact of biblical concepts was not felt by the Framers.

    Now if one is speaking of current US law, it is obviously less and less informed by any Christian concepts and will probably be less so as time moves on. The question to ask is this: by what basis does a society make laws when they do not actually believe in the idea of objective right and wrong anymore? The whole field of jurisprudence is futile when there is no:
    A) ultimate standard by which to judge and/or
    B) moral teleos


  4. First off, let me say that, as an atheist this is somewhat of a metal exercise for me. That is I believe in neither your god nor the gods of any other religions nor supernatural claims of any kind. I will continue to be skeptical of such claims until there is consistent testable evidence for them.

    You should know I have no problem "not being king" as you put it. I am well aware that I have very little control over things, our small little planet could be destroyed tomorrow and the universe would keep right on spinning as if nothing happened. It is a common misconception of Christians that Atheists actually know god exits but deny him because of a desire to set themselves up as top dog in their own minds. This is simply absurd so I won't waste time refuting it.

    My, theoretical, problem with your argument is that if god is perfect as Christianity claims then god doesn't NEED our worship or our attention. So, logically, he is either not perfect or his demands of attention are intended to help us somehow. Christians reject the first possibility, and the bible rejects the second one by the very actions it attributes to god. To the biblical god human life is cheep he orders genocides and slavery, he allows rape and human sacrifice to be done in his name just to name a few despicable actions he is attributed with. I have to agree with the founder Thomas Paine on this one. If there is a god the bible blasphemes his name far more than I ever could.

    As far as your last paragraph goes, I submit that you fall prey to a false dichotomy that is preached by Christianity. The idea that ether god orders us about or morality is simply up to the whim of the individual is absurd, there is middle ground. I personally believe that secular ethics, that is ethics in which we weigh the consequences of our actions using reason and science, is far superior to that of the simplistic divine command ethics offered in Christianity or just about any other religion.

    There are several books dealing with that subject, Sam Harris has a good one called "the moral landscape" I don't agree with everything he says in it, but by and large he gave voice to things I have said about this topic for a long time.

    I always find it odd that Christians talk about there religion offering "objective" right and wrong when their ethical system is actually the epitome of relativism. Objective means that its true independent of any mind, arguing that right and wrong are decided by a being, even if that being be god, is still ultimately relative, its just relative to god instead of humans.

  5. If I can just shove my way in here, a bit rudely, but that's how I do things. I just wanted to comment on a couple of things that Vocab said.

    "If God is the only self-existent being and all things exist because of Him and if He really is perfect in every way, then who or what else should God focus on? Is there anyone or anything more excellent? If not, then who or what else deserves that level of exultation? If God's objective was anything less than to glorify Himself, then wouldn't He be guilty of violating His own command of "have no other gods before me"?"

    Let me turn this around. If God is, in fact, the definition of good and we are made in his image then shouldn't we be able to act in the same way that god does and not be seen as self-centered, egotistical, mass-murderers? Or is this a complete double standard?

    Because if it is a double standard, then clearly we are not made in his image. If we were then our morality and ethics would match up to those of God.

    Maybe I've got this all wrong, I haven't debated religion in a while. I've been up to my eyeballs in politics lately.

  6. Skeptimus:

    As far as the basic assessment of any given atheist, I take my cue from Romans 1. Of course, I wouldn't expect an atheist to agree with the biblical assessment of atheism.

    On Harris, yes, I am familiar with his line of reasoning on this. In fact, I discussed the book with some folks on a radio show I help host:

    This particular program even sparked a thread on

    You are correct in realizing He is self-sufficient and does not *need* our worship. Yet it does not follow that He can not make creatures designed to know and worship him.

    Lastly, humans did not create or give life, do not sustain themselves or the universe, do not have all knowledge, and do not judge perfectly. Then why would we think they have the right or ability to act as the final judge in the same way their Maker does?


  7. Right, and see this is one of the things that I often find very irritating about dialoging with many Christians, that is you assume many things about me based upon 2,000 year old writings while refusing to listen to what I actually say about myself. I am sure you can understand why having someone come to you and say, "I know you say you believe this, but you REALLY believe this other thing and I know so because a book written thousands of years ago tells me what you believe." Its belittling, and makes it impossible for us to really converse in any meaningful way.

    OK, I did, of course reason as you did for many years as regarding why god asks us to worship him. I came to see that reasoning as faulty for two different reasons.

    1. In the bible itself, as I have already mentioned god kills people for disobeying his commands, orders genocide, gives people clear instructions on how to own other human beings.

    If the reasoning god was engaging in was meant to increase our happiness then why is there nothing in the bible about equal rights for women? Why does god not tell anyone that owning other human beings as property is wrong?

    Of course all these things make perfect sense if the bible was merely written by men. Personally I think the bible looks exactly like what one would expect to find if a group of bronze age people tried to write a book of moral advice. A few good things, and a lot of bad due to the inherent racism, bigotry and intolerance that exemplified most societies at the time.

    2. It doesn't match realty, people like myself who live happy well adjusted lives with out worshiping anything of any kind is evidence that we were designed for no such thing, and if the main point of gods laws is to help us then why send us to hell? Why is is he nebulous and undetectable to the point when he seems non existent to people like me and then when I disbelieve in him entirely reasonable reasons he punishes me for that unbelief. None of this makes even the slightest bit of sense. which of course is why I abandoned my belief years ago.

    Of course humans do not have ultimate knowledge, but apparently you didn't understand when I explained how this works. Setting God up as the judge of morality is not in any sense a form of objective morality. You seem to make the typical mistake of thinking that all atheists are moral relativists, which is complete bunk. Most atheists I know value science and reason and as such on not in any way post-modernist in their thinking.

    Even by you're standards you admit that god is supposed to be setting up morality to make the quality of life better for us humans. Given that as a standard for what makes a choice moral or immoral it is not difficult to see how we can reason out which behaviors are better for that than others. It so happens that you're religion looses out big time when judging morality in such a way, since, as I just mentioned, many of the moral laws in the bible do the exact opposite of increase our quality of life.

    You see? its simple, and no one is attempting to act as final judge of anything, we simply, through trial and error, (you know the scientific method?) figure out what moral code leads to the sort of society that improves our quality of life.

  8. Also, I will leave it up to my readers to decided if you have been moving the goal posts in this discussion.

    You start by saying that it is completely reasonable for god to demand our worship and when I point out the Inherent logical problems with that suddenly god is only doing it for us.

    Also I know enough about Calvinism to know that you're theology doesn't really support the second position either. Double predestination completely destroys any notion that god is doing anything for our benefit.