Taking The Name Of God In Vain

Ah yes, the Ten Commandments. A list of ten of the most important things you should or should not do. The ultimate list…that is ultimately lacking. Extremely lacking actually. It puts things like God’s vanity above other more immoral things that go completely unmentioned. Bill Maher mentions some here:

There are far worse things than building a statue or working on the Sabbath. However, the god of peace and mercy doesn’t agree. Instead, things like “Do not take my name in vain” are more important than don’t abuse children or enslave and torture other people. I could go on and on about all of the horrible things God seems to condone or ignore altogether, but my posts already tend to be quite long, so I’ll just focus on one thing: Commandment number 3.

The third commandment, “Thou shall not take the name of the Lord in vain”  is a warning not to commit a great sin. Theologian John Piper  in his book Desiring God says this: “Don’t take the name of the Lord your God in vain. The idea of vanity (and I think the Hebrew carries this connotation) is ‘Don’t empty the name’. So it doesn’t just refer to a certain tone of voice or a certain use of the word. It’s dealing with God and speaking of God in a way that empties him of his significance. This includes both throw-away words—like “God!” or “Jesus!”—as well as speaking about him in trifling and flippant ways. Not just swear ways but cheap ways, low and insignificant ways that just treat him like a commodity. And when you hear them you sense that there is no weight to that sentence, no corresponding emotion to that statement. It seems to have just been gutted.”

Basically what the third commandment means is to not dishonor or cheapen the name of God. Don’t throw it away. Don’t use it like it has no meaning. Like it is pointless. Like it has no power. Like it carries no weight whatsoever. Simply stated, do not blaspheme. Here’s the thing: Saying Jesus Christ as a curse word is not blasphemy. Saying God damn is not blasphemy. Saying Oh my God, God! Jesus! Geez, or even Jeezum Crow and Cheese and Rice is not blasphemy. These are only words. They have no inherent value except what we have attributed to them. They are just words. Just like blasphemy is just a word and sin is just a word. They are ultimately meaningless.

Using God-related words as curses is not the same as using them in vain. They are usually just uttered out of frustration. Really, I don’t see why we use those words anyway. It makes no sense for an unbeliever to ask God to damn anything, but it’s just part of our vernacular. It’s not done in vain, because there is no deliberate effort to attribute meaning or take away meaning from those words. “In vain” is when the words are said in a way that is meaningless, empty and just thrown away. It implies that there is intent. Do you know when God’s name is used like that? Do you know when meaningless, empty words are deliberately imbued with “power” and “meaning”? In scripture. In sermons. In prayer. There is a deliberate attempt to add meaning to words when there is no justification to do so.

To use God’s name in a way that adds divine significance to just another word is not only unjustified, but it also a waste of time. God is a throw-away word. Meaningless without action. Meaningless without evidence that there is more than letters on a page or the sound of the word God on someone’s lips. Believers deliberately attribute meaning and power to words that are just words. These words are completely and utterly powerless.

When you read about God in the Bible, the name of God and all of the actions associated with that name, you are just reading words on a page. There is no meaning unless you choose to add it. When you sit in a pew on Sunday morning to hear a pastor speak, the words he uses have no meaning…unless you choose to add meaning to them. When you pray, the name you pray to has no meaning unless you add meaning to it. Do you know why? None of the promises in the Bible have come to fruition. None of the prophecies are being fulfilled. The stories of Jesus, his father and the Holy Spirit do not exist outside those pages. There is no evidence that any of it is true. And when you pray, nothing happens. You can make any excuses as to why prayers aren’t answered, but they aren’t answered. God remains silent.

God’s promises of love given in the scriptures are given in vain; the words are meaningless. God’s promises to answer prayer given in the scriptures are given in vain; the words are meaningless. God’s promises of peace and comfort given in the scriptures are given in vain; the words are meaningless. These promises are empty words. Words that are given weight should have some sort of evidence to back them up. Otherwise they are merely words, and they are used in vain.

God is a name used in vain. It is merely a word without meaning, Without weight. Without evidence. It is nothing more than letters put together on a page. Using it as a curse word at least lets people have an understanding of the situation. They can see what you are feeling and why. Using it with divine attributes is confusing when there is nothing of substance to confirm that those attributes are warranted. Without evidence of God’s existence, sin does not exist beyond the letters that form the word. Blasphemy does not exist beyond the letters that form it either. Nor does Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Heaven, Hell or anything else in the supernatural world of religion.

God is used in vain every single day by those who believe in him. God is used in vain every single day in Bible studies, church sermons and on bumper stickers. Every time a disaster or school shooting happens God’s name is used in vain and sent to the victims and their families in lieu of actual help. The senders can then pat themselves on the back and praise the Almighty. Empty words and empty promises are used every day to condemn and control by accusing people of breaking God’s commands. How about instead of shouting “blasphemy!” and “sinner!” we instead provide some evidence of the divine? How about until thoughts and prayers heal the sick or rebuild cities destroyed by hurricanes and war, we instead send time, effort and money? Evidence is crucial to giving meaning to divine words. Without any, to Hell with it all.

If anyone is interested in the full Bill Maher clip, here it is:

13 thoughts on “Taking The Name Of God In Vain

  1. The one phrase that came to mind as I read this was “God is good”.
    Really? Then prove it!
    It’s crazy how many times I’ve been told this and agreed with it….just empty words.
    Another great post baby!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks. It’s sad that I feel like I need to write posts like this. But when things like “God is good’ or “God is love” are said, we should be able to clearly demonstrate that and we can’t. They are empty words that we as people give their meaning and power.

      It is so obvious…yet billions are too indoctrinated to see it. I just try to point out the extra-obvious in hopes that someone who didn’t think about it before takes the time to ponder it now.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. “God is good” *Except when he kills every man, woman, child, infant, unborn baby, other than 8 members of the same family, in the biggest act of ecocide and genocide. The said 8 family members then have to repopulate the planet, erm, incest. Makes a great kids story according to my children’s bible when I was a kid. According to the bible, god killed 2,400,000+ people, compared to Satan who killed 10. Seems Satan should sack his Public Relations team.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. If God created all, and that is what is claimed, then he also created Satan and sin. Satan is nothing but a puppet and a scapegoat. God is pulling the strings.

        There is so much wrong with the story in the Bible. Things are said like “thou shall not kill”…unless you are God or his preferred people, then it’s not only okay, but encouraged.

        I didn’t know it when I was a believer, but I now see what a monster this character God actually is.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Well, when I say goddamnit, and I do more than I should, I do not refer to any particular god, so I suppose they can ignore me, or decide it was meant for them. I don’t particulaly care either way 😉

    For a god to have power over me, I have to give it that power. I choose not to. Mostly because they fail to meet any reasonable expectation of existence.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The name of god has always had a kind of magical power to it in most mythologies. Sometimes the name is hidden, secret knowledge known only to a few. Sometimes known but can never be said or written. It was often used to conjure with, used in magic spells, written down as magic talismans, that kind of thing. I suspect that the commandment steals some of those ideas from myths of the past and melds them into the whole ‘name in vain’ thing.

    A long time ago Arthur C. Clarke (I think) wrote a story called The Nine Billion Names of God. An odd religious sect in Tibet, I think, hires IBM to build a special computer for them. They believe that god created the world for only one reason, so that humans could write every possible combination of letters that make up god’s name according to certain specifications. But to write it all out by hand, which they had been doing, would take hundreds and hundreds of years. (I suppose it’s as good a reason as any for creating the world, certainly no more far fetched than a lot of others I’ve heard.) Anyway the company takes the job, send engineers over there, sets up a generator plant, builds the computer, and away it goes. A few months later the computer is finishing up printing the last few hundred permutations and the engineers are standing around outside looking up at the sky, wondering where they’re going to work next, and the stars start to go out.

    Words and how we deal with them has always fascinated me. Not just the god thing, but expletives in general. I still remember the gasp of shock from the audience back in the day when Johnny Carson said the word “bitch” on television. He was even using it in its proper context, referring to a female dog. But you could audibly hear everyone in the audience inhale at the same time. There aren’t many “forbidden” words left. Even “fuck” has become fairly commonplace, well, except on network TV, I suppose. I’m rather sad about that because if all of the expletives become common place and no longer shocking, what do we do when we really need to curse at someone? “Sexual intercourse you and the horse you rode in on!”? Nah, just doesn’t have the same punch to it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s interesting about being created only to figure out God’s name.

      Yeah, the origin of course words and just words in general is kind of fascinating. Swears are just letters put together and used for specific reasons in specific situations, but they are still only words. God is the same as any other word. Just letters put together. It has no power without us giving it power. Craziness.

      I guess that “horse you rode in on” insult doesn’t have the same effect without the traditional words attached.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Good write up, Ben, I love it.

    On some level I sense – or, maybe, fear – that we give this nonsense life by breathing air into and refuting or challenging it. Let’s keep in mind that this is nothing but mythology, regardless of how many people believe it. That doesn’t change the substance, or rather lack of substance to it. Everytime I contest this nonsense with a believer they inevitably end up challenging me to prove that it is mythological. To which I usually reply, “No, it is incumbent upon YOU to prove something exists, not me to prove that it doesn’t.”

    Another point is that much of the Hebrew Bible doesn’t really make much sense after the English translations are completed. For instance, the 5th Comandment, “Thou Shall Not Steal” makes absolutely no sense when followed by the horrendous acts of genocide God unleashes upon the poor occupants of Canaan, slaughtering every man, woman, child, every breathing thing,…..etc. which, of course, they did. The original Hebrew law is “Thou shall not murder” and, apparently, this applies only to other Jews, not anyone else regardless of age, gender, or anything else.

    But one of my absolute favorites is the 1st commandment. “I am the Lord, thy God. Thou shall have no other gods before my face.” Here Yahweh, or actually Elohim, acknowledges that there are, in fact, other gods which he does not want worshipped by his people, the Israelites. There was in actuality an entire pantheon of gods to which the Israelites were not only exposed but were actually already worshiping! This becomes more evident when one scrutinizes the Hebrew scripture and realize that there are multiple verses where Elohim speaks to other gods on the “council.” E.G., Genesis 1:26 “Let US make man in OUR own image…..” Again in Genesis 3:22 after Adam and Eve eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: “And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of US, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” How can there only be one god when god himself is found talking to other gods so often?

    This is all so obviously a mythology spun from centuries of oral tradition and eventually indoctrinated and forced upon the people of the area. We should not give it any credibility by contesting it with believers that will never acknowledge the specious and infallibility of it. They must come to the realization of its on their own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have thought that talking about religion just keeps adding fuel to the fire. But then I think about how I was when I was questioning my beliefs. I came across blogs that discussed things my church never did and they made me think about things I never had before. I hope that someone like me comes across what I write because it’s more for those searching for truth than for those set in their ways, unwilling to budge.


  5. I think this says it all …

    Ack, can’t insert the graphic. Oh well, the text associated with it is (Over a painting of Yahweh) “Could have banned slavery or shellfish … shellfish, he chose shellfish!”

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s