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Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me


stopman
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Quoting one of the ten commandments - thou shalt have no other Gods before me - a preacher spoke last Sunday against accepting people who follow Buddhism, Islam, etc. I was so disappointed. When will we learn that other people value their leaders just as much as we value ours? When will we learn that Christian conversion is a matter of the heart, and that you cannot force a person to have a change of heart, and that if you attempt to force a change of heart, all you succeed in doing is forcing a person to mouth some words, rather than actually changing their hearts. We need to respect everyone's right to look up to the people and to the Gods that make their world go around. How would we like it if someone tried to take that right from us? Would that bring about the kind of world where the God we worship could flourish? It would not. It would destroy the leadership that guides us just as we would destroy the leadership that guides others.

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Actually, people really have no choice but to follow their own leaders, because otherwise they could not function. Trying to prevent people from following their own leaders would be like trying to prevent them from speaking their own language. The world just doesn't operate like that. And when you try to prevent a person from speaking her own language, what is the reaction? She tries to prevent you from speaking yours, and chaos ensues. This is not the will of a loving, fair, and compassionate God.

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I think it's a shame that people such as the preacher you mention Stopman, can only see God as a superhuman person, as opposed to the ingredients that make for a loving, compassionate and peaceful life. If more people were prepared to consider God as an unknown other than a force that points us toward these qualities, then there'd be no issue about 'other Gods'. The 'other Gods' would simply be those ideas and actions that detract from a loving, compassionate and peaceful life. I'm all for distancing ourselves from those Gods and putting love, compassion and peace (God) first.

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Christianity isn't the only way toward God, but is one that has evolved over the millenia with input from prophets both false and true. Buddhism, Islam, and the hundreds of other religions have developed and evolved the same way as we humans have wrestled with our reasons for being. It's too bad that we humans have decided to fight each other over beliefs rather than to try and live together and share the abundance that is our gift for becoming members of this human race. Perhaps our common mantra should be the "golden rule" rather than our individual "holy books".

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I suspect that the problem with our “holy books” is not the books themselves, but how we use them. Our sacred writings reflect conversations that we’ve had with each other in the past about our experiences of the Sacred, how we understand those experiences, and how we pass those experiences along to subsequent generations. In this sense, I think they are valuable as part of our history, a reflection of our spiritual journeys as humans. They show us how our ancestors saw things, struggled with things, sometimes resolved things, and, certainly, came up with more than one answer to the human dilemma. When we see our sacred scriptures in this way, they can be helpful in showing us both the insights and the misunderstandings we’ve had along the way.

 

The problem arises, IMO, when we “absolutize” our sacred writings and think that they are the Sacred to whom they point. The result of this is that people’s points-of-view rooted in the past are then considered to be God’s point of view for all time for all people. None of us experience the Sacred in exactly the same way. We are all individuals and, therefore, have our own perceptions and understandings of the Sacred. It is when we start to believe, “Your experience must be like my own” that we run into trouble. We turn our experience, which is subjective, into objective truth and then use that to judge others, who is in and who is out, who is more spiritual, who is less.

 

I find it interesting how Jesus took the “I am the Lord, your God. I am holy so you shall be holy” passage and transmuted it into, “God is compassionate, so you should be compassionate.” Jesus, IMO, counters the prevailing religious opinion of his day that God’s chief attribute is separateness. Rather, says Jesus, God is compassionate, “with” rather than “separate.” It is in Jesus that we can find “God with us.” We can even discover “God in us.” And this, IMO, is why the Golden Rule is important. We discover God in each other and recognize the sacredness of the other. That should be honored, imperfect reflection though it is. And I see our sacred writings the same way. They should be honored, imperfect though they are, as part of our journey. They reflect our past and may hold some hard-learned lessons for our future. But they are not the Sacred and shouldn’t be worshipped as such.

 

BillM

Edited by BillM
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  • 2 weeks later...

God said, don't have them before me, He didn't say don't have them at all. We can look and learn from them, but then we turn to God (being and love), and keep that central and above. We don't put Krishna (black) or Buddha (enlightenment) or Allah (the God) central, but that which God wants, most of all, and in the christian interpretation that means love. And love seeks to enrich the others, and God and Christ are our riches, not our shame, so we can give it, but we can also give our love, and actually God and Christ also do something on their own, which is precisely loving and enriching others, we're supposed to be good examples of what God and Christ made out of us through their love and enrichment and participation in our life. And, also, in a way the God that we worship can be seen as an inferior God too, just like Krishna or Buddha or Allah, at least in the way He acted in the Old Testament which was expressing love rather strangely. In Jesus, I think we find both tolerance and the possibility to accept Jesus as God, because we're allowed to see love as the service to God and the means by which to stay in Him. I have to add I don't actually believe that God is inferior, but the way to make Him truly superior is through Jesus and then love, in the faith that Jesus does this loving with me. That means allowing conversion and keeping that in mind, but it also means the tolerance of praying for others and yet saying to them, "Go in peace", if they want to go and not stay with you. But that must happen in the context of normal life, not as if we treat all of this as so terribly important for saving souls from hell. God loves all, we can't call other people fools, either by our thoughts, words or behaviors, because that brings the hellfire to us, like Jesus Himself told us.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I like Paul's comment. I believe God is beyond our knowing. I believe that many people who started
religions and belief structures did so to help them resolve the situation of
not knowing. In order to resolve the not knowing I believe they formed constructs
about how they saw God. What is often missed (IMO) is the recognition that
these constructs are constructs and not the same thing as God. I believe one
can see many of these constructs in the Bible. The Bible describes God in
differing ways. God is a Jealous God,
God is an angry God, God is vengeful, God is merciful, God is compassionate and
God is love. How one sees God I believe depends on the mind of the person
choosing their constructs about God.



I am in the camp of saying God is love because I believe
love is the higher moral position. If God is not love then I would not know why
I should follow God or why anyone would do so.
I believe God's presence is that of love and an aspiration and inspiration
that I seek. For me to put God first is to attempt to put love first.



For me, if one can see that religions are just constructs and
are not actually the reality of God then one is free to throw away the labels. As
Bishop Spong says God is not a Christian or a Jew or a Buddhist or a Hindu.



I would go as far as to say if a fellow is a seeker of
bringing love into the world and this is central to their faith then as far as
I am concern we share the same faith even if we do not share the same label we give to our faiths or constructs. I believe this is because they put love first
and in doing so they put what I believe to be God first.



Of course people are free to disagree but I have yet to find
a person who feels they can describe God to the satisfaction of all others and
I am sure I am not doing so either. It
is however, just my view and construct of my faith in God.

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I listen to a weekly podcast called "Reasonable Doubts" and they often run a segment called "God thinks like you" where they discuss a culture/society/tribe's particular God (there are hundreds of course). It is just so obvious how God always seems to represent the culture's mindset. I would say that this is nowhere more obvious than the God of the bible.

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PaulS........."I would say that this is nowhere more obvious than the God of the bible."

 

I agree. I have found it difficult to come to terms with the concept of a God who would condemn people to a drowning in Noah's time, destroy cities because a survey forgot some of the people in David's time, that taunted the Pharaohs by killing people in his kingdom and at the same time being prepared to die on a cross in order that none should be condemned by God and save people. For me this can only be reconciled if one sees it in the context of the aspirations of a culture's/societies/tribal's viewpoint. Constructs like eternal damnation, needing a sacrifice to forgive sin, insisting on one belief or be condemned, not seeing or valuing the love that is also in none believers, does little to promote a God with a higher moral perspective. I believe this is because the constructs cannot (imo) easily be said to originate from a position of love. It therefore appears to contradict (IMO) the message of the bible that is being promoted by many.

as Paul puts it:- in Corinthians 12:31-13:8

Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that
is better than any of them. If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels,
but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I
have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and
knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains,
but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess,
piece by piece and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without
love, it will do me no good whatever. Love is always patient and kind; it is
never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take
offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but
delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to
endure whatever comes. Love does not come to an end.

from:- http://www.organist.co.uk/newread4.htm

 

If this is true then what does it say about the said activities of God in the bible.

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  • 3 months later...

I would say Pete that it says less about God and more about man, particularly man of that age & culture.

I agree, it was man who said those things and did those nasty things in the name of God. Moses had to also use the fear of God to control the masses in the dessert. So the bible tells us more about man and how they viewed things and how they views and worshiped God.

 

I cringe when on the Christian message board with other Christians telling other how they are going to hell. I think when Jesus said we all need to be one, I think in my mind he meant all tolerant of each other and live in peace.

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Thank you, everyone on this post for insights. It renews my faith in Humanity that there are compassionate and intelligent voices of reason out there. It seems the more the fanatics of every religion try to pigeonhole the written theology, the sillier and harmful they come off. We live in an age and culture where our understanding of God and our religion (should we belong to one), must evolve, or slowly bleed its own death through clinging to its irrelevance by mostly black or white, either/or thinking. After much reflection and 5 1/2 decades in this life, I have evolved an aversion to literalist nonsense that I'm finally old enough to not even consider worthy of any form of legitimate debate. I'm enjoying the freedom of this honesty with myself and I'm conscious of not throwing the baby out with the bath water. Good health to all.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Agreed with the posts here.

 

This is just my view on the Commandment, but I've always viewed this as "do not place anything that isn't God above God Itself". As I believe that God is not a Christian, Jew or Buddhist, etc, all religions are not worshiping 'deities' but rather the same figure. And it light of that, placing anything whether it be a possession, person (religious figure or celebrity, etc) or even a hobby, to a position to be worshiped is against that Commandment. At least, that is my interpretation of it.

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  • 3 weeks later...

A couple of things. First of all, since I was a child and first heard of the idea of NDEs, I've been intrigued by them. So I have read many books and accounts by people over the years who have claimed to have a NDE. (Now whether or not what they experienced is actually true, is of course, still a matter of debate.) But I'm going to approach this from the aspect that I believe these supernatural experiences were very real to them. And through all the accounts I've read, there seems to be an over-riding theme. No one goes to hell because they didn't "accept Jesus as their personal Lord and savior". People of all different faith, religious backgrounds, and even atheists have NDE and describe similar scenarios and going to another place. Call it heaven if you will. Many also report something called a "life review". This another common experience of the NDE phenomena. And if there is any judgment in heaven this is where it comes in. And people who had these experiences make it very clear that God isn't judging them, they are judging themselves. This judgment of themselves is centered around times in their life when they caused hurt and pain to others by actions or words. Mistreating others in some form seems to be the only "sin" that really matters in the spirit realm. So where does Jesus fit into this equation? Jesus's message was all about love, kindness and compassion to others. When Jesus says "follow me", I interpret that to mean follow my example of the love I have shown to others and what I have taught you about how to treat others. But there are many, many people of different religions who also practice love, kindness and compassion for others. How to treat others is a common theme all the major religions of the world. God may give us different paths to him, but I believe we are heading in the same direction. And by the way, I've known atheists who act more "Christian like" and more kind and loving than some people who themselves Christians.

 

On this thread, others have mentioned the laws or the rules of bible. I would like to weigh in on that too. First remember that the Jewish people were not a secular society like we are here in America. They didn't have a constitution or laws that were made by congress or interpreted by the Supreme court. Because they were a religious society they followed the "laws of God". So many of the laws in the OT have to do with behaviors for their particular society. Just the same as our laws here in America do. Our laws here in America (in other countries as well) are made so that we can attempt to live in peacefully in society. However, the Jewish people didn't have a democracy form of government. What they actually had was a theocracy form of government. One of their laws, being a religious society, was that people must follow their God.

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  • 1 month later...

What always concerns me about the OT references to other gods is the awkward position it puts traditional Christians in. So, Yahweh starts out as one god among many, since the tribes of old had their own pantheons, or god they worshipped. Then Yahweh became THE god as he seems to have beat up the other gods. Now, God is more inclusive as an idea to the western mind. At least some teachings of Hinduism are more clear about the idea of God, Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, who is manifested as the other deities, Indra, Shiva, Rama, etc. and figures like Krishna are incarnations. The Hindus saw that the spiritual and material worlds were one in the same. I can say that Buddhism is non-theistic, but that is not accurate. Buddha simply didn't want to address the issue of a deity and other matters because they didn't seem helpful. There are forms of Buddhism that see Gautama as an incarnation of Indra, or God. There are also devas, other buddhas, demons, etc. and other beings who are far more advanced than us in their spiritual realization.

 

So, I feel that if some Christians make the comment that Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhism worship other gods, then in their literal reading they are right. At the same time however, even orthodoxy and tradition dictates that those who worship "other gods" have a skewed view of reality and are mistaken. They worship "false" ideas. They conceptualize God in their conceptualizing "idols". Don't PCers do the same to some extent? I stick with Paul Tillich who sees God as being beyond Being, or being itself.

 

I personally find apophatic theology, which attempt to describe God by negation or "to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God." Paradoxically, God is and is not at the same time. No human language can describe or talk about God. When Christians point to Jesus, then, it is always in terms of relationship. Other religions talk about this too. Hindus have "bhakti", for example.

 

So, what other God is there? We are told that that other god is something that refocuses our attention from God. But that doesn't make sense, if one sees God as a thing, or as a subject, which Karl Barth does. For me, my evolution as a Christian involves doing away with all images of God, Jesus, the Cross, doctrine, and really trying TO BE the I AM. I can only do that in relationship with others.

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I think that when we speak about God, what we say is both true and untrue simultaneously. I think the most "effective" way to talk about God is in relationship. I see God in Jesus because Jesus was in full relationship with God and lived it (incarnated it). But, I am coming to realize that there is no difference between Jesus, myself, and God. Ram Dass talks about the relationship between the student, the guru and God. He says there is no difference between the three. There is no three. There is One. The guru's role is to show the student this. So, in a sense, Jesus was a guru. This nonduality makes more sense to me than the duality of good vs. evil, etc. I mean, scripture is clear in the Book of Isaiah that God is the source of all good and evil. So logically it makes no sense for the Adversary (Satan, Lucifer, whichever name applied), is anything more than God acting in a certain role. This thinking has evolved in me since I began to take my faith in Jesus more seriously, through all the things I experience and study as I expressed in my introduction.

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While I was listening to the 1 Year Daily Audio Bible podcast this morning after making the above post, the scripture reading really struck me as expressing my attitude about what I believe in God - in terms of one of many types of relationship.

 

The OT reading for the day was Isaiah 48:12-50:11

 

I encourage any reader to take the time to access the verses from any site or any translation they have in their possession so they can take the time to ponder it themselves. This is how I see God relating to us. This even before Jesus was incarnated. We can only express God in our language, feeble as it is, but it still conveys something about our relationship to the Divine.

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