Dennis Prager

There is one sin that may be worse than all other sins. And it is taking place on a large scale today.

There are some religious people who maintain that one cannot declare any sin worse than any other -- that a person who takes an office pen is committing as grievous a sin in God's eyes as a murderer. But most people intuitively, as well as biblically, understand that there are gradations of sin.

Having a background in theology and a lifetime of teaching the Bible from the original Hebrew, I would like to offer evidence for demarcating one sin as worse than all others. Indeed it may be the only sin that God will not forgive:

Committing evil in the name of God.

My basis is the Ten Commandments. The Commandment widely translated as "Do not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain," is imprecisely translated. The original Hebrew literally reads, "Do not carry the name of the Lord thy God in vain."

And, the Commandment continues, "for God will not hold guiltless (literally, "will not cleanse") whoever carries His name in vain."

As a strong believer that God (or whomever one credits with authoring the Ten Commandments) has at least as much common sense as I do, it seems inconceivable that God can "cleanse" (implying "forgive") a murderer but not someone who said God's name when he shouldn't have. Therefore, the Commandment about the misuse ("misuse" is the translation of the New International Version of the Bible, my favorite translation) of God's name must be about far more than merely using God's name "in vain."

I admit that I come to this conclusion as a result of my Jewish education. Every yeshiva student learns early in life that the greatest sin is khillul Hashem, public desecration of the Name (of God), and conversely, the greatest mitzvah (commandment, good deed) is kiddush Hashem, public sanctification of the Name. I well remember, for example, one of my rabbis in yeshiva telling us not to go to what were then called "dirty" movies, but if we did go, to take off our yarmulkes first -- to enter a dirty movie theater announcing that we were religious Jews would desecrate God's name.

Imagine, then, how bad committing atrocities in God's name must be.

Let me explain this in another way.

When a secular person commits evil, it is surely evil, but it doesn't bring God and religion in disrepute. When a person commits evil in God's name, however, he destroys the greatest hope for goodness to prevail on earth -- widespread belief in a God who demands goodness (ethical monotheism). There is nothing as evil as religious evil.

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”

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