Friday, November 19, 2010

Intolerance for All

About a third of the way through Deuteronomy, Moses ends his history lesson/pep talk/fear-God speech, which included reminding the Israelites that they may be chosen by God, but they are not special in His eyes. Now, Moses begins to repeat all of the laws and commandments which God wants the Israelites to obey. So we begin again to learn what we can about this most-righteous lawgiver known as God.

Intolerance for All
How should you deal with religious pluralism? How tolerant should you be when you happen to know that you have the one true faith? Generally speaking, Christianity is tolerant of people with different beliefs, but mostly from the perspective of viewing them as targets to proselytize. That may be how God, the Son, Jesus, does business, but God the Father is of a different persuasion.

Moses begins to tell (most of) God's laws and commands to a new generation of Israelites in Deuteronomy 12. (God had forgiven, and then slowly killed the previous generation for expressing doubt and fear.)

First, Moses tells them to obey the list of God's laws and commands (Deuteronomy 12:1).

The list begins with the command to completely destroy all emblems and implements of worship of other gods from the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 12:2-3).

Whereas the pagan religions had set up altars and shrines all over the place, God then instructs that the offerings (including tithes) to Him must be given at the prescribed locations under the direction of the priests, which would naturally be more financially beneficial for the priests (Deuteronomy 12:4-28).

The chapter draws to a close with the message of censorship and restriction, as Moses instructs them not to inquire about other gods or the worship practices of other religions, because they do detestable things (Deuteronomy 12:29-31).

God, through Moses, ends the chapter with these notable words in Deuteronomy 12:32:
“See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.” NIV
The message of censorship and restriction take a more violent turn as Moses continues in Deuteronomy 13.

In Deuteronomy 13:1-5, we find that God practices entrapment, encouraging the Israelites to sin through worshiping other gods, by sending them miracle-working false prophets. So if a prophet, perhaps a prophet named Jesus, were to give sight to the blind and walk on water, you should still not listen to him if he suggests anything other than following God's laws and commands. In fact, you should kill such a prophet because it is a test from God.

Then, in Deuteronomy 13:6-11, God's Law commands that if anyone, even the dearest person in your life, suggests that you should go worship other gods, that person must be stoned to death, and you must be the first one to throw a stone.

Finally, in Deuteronomy 13:12-18, if you know of an entire town which has been lead astray from God, you are to send elders and priests into the town to consult with them to win back their hearts and minds for God. No wait. I was confused. Actually, God commands the wholesale slaughter of every living thing in that town, including babies and livestock, followed by the burning all of the plunder of the town as a burnt offering to God. Oh, and the town is never to be rebuilt. Then, God will have mercy on you and bless you, because, as Deuteronomy 13:18 puts it, you are “doing what is right in His [God's] eyes.”

So God the Father commanded absolute intolerance for any other religion. Seek out and destroy it from within your borders. This was the law for the Israelites who would become the majority in the Promised Land. This was God's will for the Israelites, and He probably would have been happy if the entire world did the very same thing.

God the Son, Jesus, on the other hand, was softly tolerant of other religions. In fact, Jesus' biggest gripe was with the contemporary Jewish religion of the time more than any other pagan religion. There is hardly a reference to other religions beyond the vague Matthew 24:15/Mark 13:14 line about “the abomination that causes desolation,” and the meaning of that phrase is debatable. That makes sense, because a minority cult like the beginning of Christianity could not survive very long by attacking the majority forces around them, but they could tap into the frustration of the common Jew in the apparently hypocritical and corrupt Jewish religious system of the time to garner support for their fledgeling movement.

On a final note, it is interesting that there is no provision in God's Law for atheists. The concept just did not exist at that time.

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