In this post, Dennis Prager argues that the worst sin is when people who claim to have allegiance for God perform evil acts, thus bringing God’s reputation into disrepute.
I found a Prager University video on the same topic:
The worst sin is committing evil in God’s name.
How do we know?
From the third of the Ten Commandments. This is the only one of the ten that states that God will not forgive a person who violates the commandment.
What does this commandment say?
It is most commonly translated as, “Do not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. For the Lord will not hold guiltless” — meaning “will not forgive” — whoever takes His name in vain.”
Because of this translation, most people understandably think that the commandment forbids saying God’s name for no good reason. So, something like, “God, did I have a rough day at work today!” violates the third commandment.
But that interpretation presents a real problem. It would mean that whereas God could forgive the violation of any of the other commandments — dishonoring one’s parents, stealing, adultery or even committing murder — He would never forgive someone who said, “God, did I have a rough day at work today!”
Let’s be honest: That would render God and the Ten Commandments morally incomprehensible.
As it happens, however, the commandment is not the problem. The problem is the translation. The Hebrew original doesn’t say “Do not take;” it says “Do not carry.” The Hebrew literally reads, “Do not carry the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
This is reflected in one of the most widely used new translations of the Bible, the New International Version, or NIV, which uses the word “misuse” rather than the word “take:”
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”
This is much closer to the original’s intent.
What does it mean to “carry” or to “misuse” God’s name? It means committing evil in God’s name.
And that God will not forgive.
When an irreligious person commits evil, it doesn’t bring God and religion into disrepute. But when a religious person commits evil in God’s name he destroys the greatest hope for goodness on earth — belief in a God who demands goodness, and who morally judges people.
The Nazis and Communists were horrifically cruel mass murderers. But their evils only sullied their own names, not the name of God. But when religious people commit evil, especially in God’s name, they are not only committing evil, they are doing terrible damage to the name of God.
Sean McDowell has a post about Dennis Prager’s view, and he says:
Given this context, an obvious example is Muslim radicals killing innocent people in the name of God. But the most recent example, which is rightly a prominent story in the news, is the rampant sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. The story runs deeper than most people could have ever imagined, involving the systematic cover-up of over 1,000 cases against children by 300 priests in Pennsylvania alone over the past seventy years. The individual stories are harrowing, heart-breaking and infuriating.
Sadly, these horrific actions don’t merely reflect on the individual priests, but on the Catholic Church, the entire Christian faith, and religion in general. And rightly so. Can we really blame people who abandon God when his “representatives” commit such abominable crimes?
As Prager has sadly, but correctly, observed: “No atheist activist is nearly as effective in alienating people from God and religion as are evil ‘religious’ people.”
Now, I don’t agree with Dennis on his ranking this sin as the worst. I would put carrying the Lord’s name in vain lower, and say that rebellion against God is the worst sin. That’s what I would say intellectually speaking. Emotionally speaking, I think that attacking people for their allegiance to God is the worst sin, like when gay activists go after Christian business owners for trying to take the Bible seriously about marriage, for example. Just don’t get in the way of a Christian and their relationship with God, you atheists. You’re doing something absolutely horrible when you make it harder for a Christian to follow Jesus. You might disagree with Christianity, but it would be wise not to persecute Christians, just in case we’re right about what is true.
Dennis is Jewish, so he believes that religions should be judged based on whether they produce good or not, rather than whether they are true or not. I try to listen to Dennis’ radio show as often as I can, and although he does like to discuss what we can know about God from science and history, he doesn’t think that getting the right answers to theological questions is as important as doing the right actions. I think that might be why he chose this one as the worst, because actions are more important to him. I agree with him that it is certainly very bad to invoke God in a way that makes God look bad.