The Seven Laws vs Religious Freedom
On the internet, I have met a wide array of people, people of all sorts of backgrounds, making so many claims about life and how it is to be lived. For the most, this diverse group passes from my moment of attention and into oblivion. I don’t really have the capacity to hold so many people in my headspace. But there are the few that manage to hold my attention for that bit longer because of some oddity that I myself find to be overly and overtly contradictory.
I met such a person on my internet “travels”. This person adheres faithfully to the constitution of the United States and believes in the authority and goodness of its words, believing that the values espoused therein were not only the best values for his country, but simply the best values. On Facebook he would unfriend or disassociate himself from anyone that went against the values in that constitution. One such value he held aloft was that of religious freedom. What is religious freedom? It is the belief that people should be allowed to adopt any religion that they want without interference from anyone else. For a person who reveres the constitution this means that government and the judicial system shouldn’t be involved in a person’s choice of religion. In this worldview, all religions are protected.
Now a good many people will wonder what is so contradictory about that, possibly believing that these “American” pieces of paper held enough good value in them, or not knowing what those papers contained. The contradictory thing for me was that this guy also claimed to uphold Torah as a Jew. Not only that, he promotes this view to Gentile and Jew alike. I say again, he promotes the view of religious freedom and worship of the constitution to Jew and Gentile alike. That’s important when it comes to judging why this is so contradictory!
What’s the contradiction, David?
When I look at the Torah laws of the Jews and the Torah laws for Gentiles, and compare them to the concept of “religious freedom,” I see a sharp and abrupt contradiction. Spending as little time in the Jewish Torah law and principles as possible, there are blatant commands in there that forbid religions. In Vayiqra (Leviticus) 18, Jews are commanded to keep God’s statutes and “judgements”as opposed to those of the nations. Jews are forbidden from having other gods, from bowing to them, worshipping them, emulating the ways of worship of the nations. They were forbidden from adding to God’s law or diminishing from it. They were even forbidden from mentioning the names of other gods. Many of these laws carried the death penalty which showed how such acts went against the very purpose of a Jew’s existence. Others of such laws carried the penalty of excision and exile from the Jewish/Israelite community. In Torah keeping Israel and amongst Torah observant Jews, there was no room whatsoever for “religious freedom.” You worshipped God His way and kept his Torah or, one way or another, you were out! There is no such thing as “religious freedom” in the Torah for Jews.
Leaving that aside, let’s focus on my own area of Torah law, the Seven Commandments for the non-Jews and their ancillaries. The divine commandments are the bedrock basic standards for Gentiles. Going below these negate our very reason for our continued existence. One of the Seven Laws is the prohibition against idolatry, or, more properly, avodah zarah. The details of this law includes the prohibition against actively worshipping any entity other than the one true God as if it were a god. This bans the customary worship of other gods, bowing to them and other acts of worship, prayer to an entity in the way of expressing that thing as god over some aspect of life, or verbally calling that entity your god, amongst other things. This law in and of itself contradicts the notion of religious freedom. It’s always important to remember that the Seven Commandments are not meant to just be moral principles, but actually the basis of a legal system, to be upheld by the systems of justice amongst a people group. So a purpose of this law is actually to interfere with the religious freedoms of people by saying “No! That religious act is wrong and there will be legal and divine repercussions!”
A principle that seems to be connected somewhat to the prohibition against idolatry states that Gentiles are not allowed to create new religions, make up religious rites and practices, to claim that God gave other laws. It is overtly stated by various historical and modern commentators on the Torah’s principles for Gentiles that new religions are forbidden. So that would forbid any religion, even if those religions are based on the Seven Commandments (as the commandments are about law and action, not primarily about faith). Even the notion that there is some new religion called “Noahidism” would go against this prohibition.
These laws and principles show that the Seven Commandments are not for “religious freedom” where everyone can serve their own god undisturbed. These laws even speak against a legal system or code that protects idolatry such as the constitution of America or different declarations of so-called “human rights”.
Some people would put forward the argument that those freedoms allow then to “practice their religion,” whatever they believe that religion to be. They would ask how I could argue against the very “freedom” that allows me to even hold the views that I do. In one way, one important way, it’s very easy to answer this argument. Principles are more important than comfort! Think about it! The societal systems break the seven laws and render them null and void. It’s by breaking the seven commandments that people are allowed to not only do the right things, but to do very wrong things. Although such a society may give you such freedoms, it doesn’t mean you should praise or support breaking the Seven Commandments. Whether a government system allows the freedoms or not, the main issue is whether God’s standards are being met.
But you also have to think about the logic that is being employed by the person who defends this “religious freedom.” Remember, they are defending the fact that a legal system ignores or breaks the Seven Commandments and goes against the principles for nations of the world allows them to “practice their religion” whichever religion they think they’re a part of. [ASIDE: It’s kinda weird for a Gentile who keeps the Seven Commandments to think he’s part of a religion; but hey, what do I know, right?] So how righteous is this logic? It’s a bit like saying the government steals and I live off its stolen goods – it gives me the ability to buy certain things – therefore I support the theft. Or it can be that because the legal system is unjust, I get to live in freedom, therefore I defend the injustice of the legal system. It should be stated that this is not an argument based on morality, but rather it is an argument based on godless pragmatism, an argument interested not in what is right or wrong, but rather the practical means – putting aside God’s law – to one’s own relative comfort. If a person making this argument, if he or she claims to uphold the Seven Laws, in fact he or she undermines them. Some may say that in the world we live in now, the best thing we have is the freedom to allow everyone to go their own way. Even I can appreciate that it’s a practical way of co-existing with others. But I wouldn’t praise it.
But the fact is that it was a Jew, a supposed Torah observant Jew, who was defending this “freedom.” Think about the consistency (or lack thereof) of his position. He claims to uphold the Torah Law for Jews in his own life. The information in this Torah includes the fact that the Seven Commandments are fundamental laws for the nations of the world. Yet he will live in a land other than Israel, and in that Gentile land, he will support, defend, praise and with devotion affiliate himself to systems of government (in his case, certain ancient papers of America) that essentially invalidate the Seven Commandments. This is troubling for two reasons.
Firstly, it shows him to be treacherous to the Torah he claims to uphold. On the one hand he claims that God’s law and teachings are the central truth. And on the other hand, he glorifies the statutes of the nations that oppose the laws that God has given to the nations that are clearly shown in the Torah. Although it is understandable that Jews would fit into the lands of their exile to avoid persecution and to make life easier, to actually become so invested in these systems that actually conflict with the Seven Commandments and the principles of the Torah seems like something akin to assimilation. Understand that according to American law, the Supreme Court is the final interpreter of the constitution. That means that its rulings are by definition constitutional. Following from this, the recent ruling protecting homosexual marriage is constitutional. Yet the Gentile and Jewish Torah Law forbids such unions. So being a constitutionalist and claiming to uphold Torah is like saying it is ok to worship idols and it is forbidden to worship idols at the same time; it’s ok to kill a fetus older than 40 days and it’s forbidden to kill a fetus older than 40 days; it’s ok to uphold a justice system that breaks the Seven Commandments, yet it’s one of the most fundamental laws to create a justice system that upholds the Seven Commandments. What a life of contradiction!
Secondly, Jews like this are putting a stumbling block before the blind and encouraging non-Jews to go against Gentile Torah law. A friend of mine has repeatedly raised the issue that it’s against Jewish law to set a stumbling block before the blind (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Metzia, Folio 90b). According to the Talmud and its commentary, this law includes setting stumbling blocks before Gentiles. It even includes telling a Gentile to break any of the Seven Laws. This Jew’s praise and support of injustice according to the Seven Laws and telling Gentiles, both those who are ignorant of the core divine obligations and those who know, that it is praiseworthy to support a system that conflicts with the Seven Laws is definitely such a stumbling block. Any Gentile who is encouraged to follow this Jew’s example or to follows his advice to do so only adds to this Jew’s own sin before his God.
So-called “religious freedom” has no part in the Seven Commandments and in fact goes against them.
I can imagine the thoughts in the minds of some anti-Semites or constitution-lovers as I make a declaration against their beloved “freedoms.” The fear-mongerers amongst them will see in what I say oppression and draw comparisons between the Seven Commandments and Muslim Sharia law. I’ve seen this comparison made even by people who label themselves “Noahides.” Again, it should be stated that the Seven Laws cannot be imposed by force by some government or judicial system. It must be a grassroots change, from the people. It must be a choice made by an individual in the midst of like-minded individuals. Only then will there be a true change to righteousness. We are definitely not at that point in time right now.