23 April 2007

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

The Deseret News is doing a series on the ten commandments in their religion section. The idea of monotheism, according to the first article (about "Thou shalt have no other gods before me"), was radical at the time the first commandment was given to Moses. Most cultures had gods for all sorts of things.

Leonard Shlain has written several books that sound quite interesting to me. In the article by the Des News, his book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess is claimed to argue that monotheism might be dangerous. "People who believed in many gods, he argues, respected the gods of other people and expected their gods to be respected in return. But to believe that only one God exists, an abstract God that different people might perceive in different was, 'loosed into the world an odious impulse,' the question of whose perception of the one deity is the correct one 'has goaded monotheists to wage war with an intensity and purpose never witnessed in polytheistic cultures.'"

It sounds to me that Shlain thinks diversity is not appreciated by monotheists. Interestingly, Elder Marlin K. Jensen spoke about this at the institute a few weeks ago. He said that we should allow people their agency, that we should celebrate diversity, but not to the point where we allow moral truths to be overrun. He read an article by a Harvard student wherein the girl almost gets to the point of saying that the happenings on September 11, 2001 were morally wrong, but she gives up at the very end and says that we can't judge between our religious opinion and others'. My notes from Elder Jensen say, "In modern newspapers, anyone's opinion is as good as anyone else's. We stress tolerance. This doesn't work in physics or medicine. Our responsibility is not to overlook our flaws, but to overcome them. Draw the line where it belongs. Don't be afraid to judge (morally). As Mormons, we won't have to believe anything that isn't true, because we have personal revelation."

I admit, the tolerance that is stressed in the world today has had an effect on me. I tend to give others the benefit of the doubt instead of sharing my own known moral truths.

The article also states, "The First Commandment, then, is a reminder: Don't take morality into your own hands. 'The one who defines what is right from what is wrong is only God and nobody else other than God,' Rabbi Zippel says." It sounds like the rabbi pretty much agrees with Elder Jensen.



  1. Reminds me of this article by Orson Scott Card:

  2. i wanted it to be a live link, but oh well