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A wisdom greater than our own? - R.H. Joseph

It would appear Christian fundamentalists require a simple, graphic explanation of why the Ten Commandments should not be prominently displayed in the Alabama state Supreme Court building.

Consider the First Commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."

For the sake of argument, let us say the wisdom imparted by this commandment is to be found in its addressing humanity's predisposition to ascribe divinity to living beings (not to mention golden calves).

Recall it was but 60 years ago that the Emperor of Japan, Hirohito, was compelled to repudiate his divinity. Prior to this he and his ancestors had been perceived as manifestations of the divine by themselves and their subjects.

Were the Japanese collectively deluded, and if you believe so, why?

The Emperors of China had been perceived as manifestations of the divine for millennia, this perception prevailing until less than 100 years ago. Were billions of Chinese collectively deluded? If you believe so, upon what argument do you base your opinion?

Mayan and Aztec rulers were likewise perceived as divinities. Were these rulers and their subjects collectively deluded? If you believe so, have you a rational justification for your assertion?

The Caesars, the Pharaohs, the list goes on and on. It appears to be the way of humanity since the beginning of time.

Presumably, the infinitely wise author of the First Commandment was well aware of this propensity to attribute divinity to perceptible phenomena and sought to dissuade humanity from such impious behavior.

In light of this, consider once again the First Commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."

Though provocative, for the sake of making clear why Justice Roy Moore's stone replica of the Ten Commandments does not belong in the Alabama state Supreme Court building we might perceive the First Commandment as a repudiation of the divinity of Jesus.

In what way does the assertion of the divinity of this man differ from those mentioned above?

Clearly, like the rest, he is not universally perceived as divine. Were he, there would be no need for proselytizers, evangelists, missionaries.

Surely the sheer number of believers cannot affirm such a claim for if that is the criterion then the divinity of the Chinese emperors cannot be denied.

The same may be said of faith-based arguments in support of the divinity of Jesus. If an act of faith is required for an individual to be perceived as divine such an act perforce precludes any assertions of universality.

To be sure, acknowledgement of transcendent, unalterable truth is universal. Every culture on the planet celebrates this innate human experience. It is therefore reasonable to assert that this indisputable universality is precisely the point of the First Commandment.

Conversely, one would be hard pressed to aver those manifold belief systems embraced under the rubric Christianity may in any way be perceived as collectively universal. Could the inevitability of such an inherently sectarian belief system be precisely the point of the First Commandment's proscription?

Fundamental to Christian faith is the belief that Jesus and God are one and the same. Christian apologists offer an argument which asserts that in this particular case, the case that applies exclusively to them, the proscription of the First Commandment does not apply.

Is this a reasonable position or simply yet one more culture making the same predictable error, an error anticipated in the Hebrew Bible many years before the birth of Jesus?

If you say that in this particular case it is not an error, that a divine being walked the earth, what separates you and those like you from the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Aztecs, the Mayans, the Chinese, and the Japanese?

When perceived in this light, it is startling that fundamentalist Christians do not demand the removal of Justice Moore's insult to their belief system.

Like individuals representing any other belief system in America, Christians have an inalienable right to appear in a court of law without suggestions anything other than the merits of the case are influencing its adjudication.

In America Christians have a right to believe whatever they wish regardless of how their belief system is perceived by others.

Surely in a world set afire by those who would deny such freedom of religion Christian fundamentalists should be at the vanguard alongside the American Civil Liberties Union, vigilant in their efforts to prevent those such as Justice Moore from attempting to subvert that for which America stands.

R.H. Joseph is a longtime employee of the News Daily. His column appears on Wednesdays. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 252, or by e-mail at rjoseph@news-daily.com.