I see that the Tower of Babel is becoming the focus of the current discussion (and thanks for the picture, BM), so let me also, like Mat, offer another interpretation to the famous story. First, here is the text, for those who don’t have their Bibles at hand (Genesis 11, 1-9; I quote from the JPS translation this time):
Everyone on earth had the same language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. And they said, "Come, let us build us a city, and a tower with its top in the sky, to make a name for ourselves; else we shall be scattered all over the world." The LORD came down to look at the city and tower that man had built, and the LORD said, "If, as one people with one language for all, this is how they have begun to act, then nothing that they may propose to do will be out of their reach. Let us, then, go down and confound their speech there, so that they shall not understand one another's speech." Thus the LORD scattered them from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because there the LORD confounded the speech of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
It seems that what the builders of the tower were trying to achieve was to create unity and avoid diversity. Their fear, in their own words, was that they might “be scattered all over the world”. Therefore they decided to build a city, with that huge tower seen from all around the plane, so no one will wonder too far away; the idea of reaching heaven, which became the focus of later interpretations and was considered as their sin, seems incidental (they were just trying to construct a skyscraper, not to challenge God in Heaven). Their real sin was in their avoidance of God’s earlier command to “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it” (Genesis 1, 28); and indeed, when God confounds their language he “scattered them from there over the face of the whole earth”, which is exactly the opposite of what they were trying to achieve. Even if we wish to avoid this connection with the earlier commandment, and view this story separately, we can still say that their sin was, first, that of cowardice (wishing to stay all together at home and avoid going out into the wide world, which is against human nature, at least in some respects), and, second, we can also say that they were laying the ground for Fascism: “one language, one nation, one motherland”. In that respect, God, who objects to their intentions, seems to be in favore of democracy, and certainly in favore of multi-culturalism (he also seems to have something against urbanism, but perhaps that too is incidental). In any case, to me the strong message of this story is that diversity is one of our most precious assets, and the more languages and cultures, the better. Unfortunately, we seem to be going back in the opposite direction, becoming more and more alike and using the same language, so God may have to intervene again at some point (but I do love this ability of using this specific language to talk with people all over the world! I only hope other languages will also survive, although some are dying almost daily).
What all this has to do with LC’s “apes” in this prayer? I’m not sure. I’m also not sure how he interprets the story, but I’m quite sure he’d be in favore of diversity.
Christine, thank you very much for your interesting contribution, and sorry for not responding sooner and in more detail. Please keep it up and don’t worry too much.