"A belief in a supernatural source of evil is not
alone are quite capable of every wickedness." -
Premise: Christianity has developed and fostered new forms of idolatry to add to
the old. The modern Christian idolatry is more subtle than the ancient
forms and symbols made of wood and stone but nonetheless still
widespread and spiritually paralyzing.
What is Idolatry?
The dictionary definitions generally go something like this:
1. the worship of idols, icons, images, rites, ceremonies, etc.
2. the excessive or immoderate respect, attachment or veneration for some person or
Since the given definition is
described in terms of worship, attachment, veneration, and adoration we need a clear
understanding of what these terms imply. The first level of understanding is that these
terms all primarily refer to a STATE OF MIND that imputes some level
of sacredness to the idol, and only
secondarily to some action or behavior. It is the state of mind that always
distinguishes levels of worth and values. See
definition of worship.
There IS such a thing as proper worship and adoration. We are supposed to naturally
adore our family, friends and mates for what they are, to the extent that they truly
support us and enhance our lives. What the dictionary definitions leave out for
idolatry is the key implication of unworthiness for the entity being worshiped.
Of course, worship of God, when it is done without fear, would be proper; but when
symbols, icons, or ritualistic behaviors and even worship itself are thought of as being
virtuous to the extent of becoming sacred in and of themselves, then such worship
Most importantly idolatry implies that these persons or objects of worship are superior
in value to the human individual. Such false worship contributes to the debasement of the
human person, implying general or ultimate inferiority of worth and value in one of the
sons or daughters of God. This false deference would extend to unwarranted or
unmerited voluntary submission to the authority of some entity, person, or
organization, real or mentally constructed, to whom we feel inferior. We could also
include the state of mind that simply wants these entities to be under our control to
compensate for our feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.
In the wide realm of religious sentiment there is an understood connotation
in many individuals that
worship is a virtuous endeavor when it is applied to one's own current or "true" concept
of God, and "idolatrous" when applied towards any other concept of god that differs. In
this case, before this judgmental feeling is allowed free reign, one better be certain
that they have constructed the correct understanding of the "true" God, since by
definition all others must be false. For the Christian this choice may seem much simpler
than it actually is, and goes well beyond just proclaiming that the
J-person is the one true
Deity because he is the Son of God. There are many versions of Jesus out there, and in
a lot of them he wouldn’t recognize himself. By the above understanding, self-proclaimed
Christians have many idols and do engage in idolatry in various ways; some obvious, some
subtle, and some scarcely recognizable.
The Bible as Idol
It is hard to figure
which form of idolatry is first and foremost for Christendom, but for Protestantism it
is probably what is called Bibliolatry. Some "canonized" collection of
ancient writings has now become the word of God, usurping the authority
of the one person who was authentic. While only one of these books of the Bible is
a trustworthy eyewitness account of what the Creator did and said while
on earth, some of the rest of these writings are allegories, some are songs, hymns or war chants, some
of these are letters, some are stylized and redacted Hebrew history, some are ancient mythological
stories, and some are cherished cultural literature. We don't know who wrote most of them, or
under what beliefs or circumstances, and yet Protestant Christianity allows them
all pretty much equal weight and allows sentiments, statements and
claims from them to override the message and instructions of the true
revelation of God. How can this be?
Disciples and Apostles as Idols
Right alongside Bibliolatry is the idolatry of the disciples and
apostles. Christianity has put them in a special class of sainthood, and
assumed that they were "sealed in the truth". Although it is certainly
unwarranted, Christianity has authorized them to speak for God, going
well beyond just being faithful witnesses to what God said and did. How
can this be? The disciples never exhibited any real understanding of the
message of the J-person, they continued to squabble, and for the most part they
were ashamed or fearful to be associated with him during his
crucifixion. Even though he told them about it beforehand they were devastated by
his death, and wouldn't believe his resurrection until they saw with
their own eyes. After the resurrection and the ascension, their behavior
was still not in accord with the spirit of the J-person. Why then have they
And then there is the apostle Paul:
"That the apostle to the Gentiles was a towering figure
in primitive Christianity—indeed the real founder of the Church—is
certain. But the view that his letters and the rest of the New Testament
scriptures represent God's word is a crime against reason and humanity.
Studying them today should make us recognize that such thinking offers
no useful key to the future. Their image of God cannot claim the respect
of nonbelievers..." Gerd Ludemann, Free Inquiry, April-May, 2007
Church Organizations as Idols
The third major form of Christian idolatry concerns the "church". Instead of
seeing that an ecclesia is a group of people called out of their
situation because of oppression and determined to be responsible and do something about it,
Christianity has made the "church" into a sacred organization entity,
one so sacred that individuals are encouraged to sacrifice the energy
and productivity of their lives for it, along with forgoing even the
finest aspects or fulfillments of it, such as romance and having
children. Even those who do not go this far are expected to support the
church organization with tithes and offerings of time and money. Ultimately, they are
encouraged to offer their physical lives in exchange for it if need be.
The direct implication is that God loves the church more than
individuals, another sentiment that debases our worth. When the church
program or policy goes astray, even to the point of where the clergy members
sexually violate little children of both genders and where the church
covers up for and protects the culpable, we are not supposed to blame the church but
just the individuals. And what has happened? The churches have inexorably blossomed
into hierarchies of power and control, all justified by some level of doing good works
and having been authorized by "the Lord".
This cannot be what the J-person had in mind and was talking about!
Idols of Divinely Appointed Leadership and Hierarchy
The fourth form of idolatry is the divinely appointed leadership and hierarchy. Of course, for Roman
Catholics this would be the Pope and the Cardinals, all surrounded by
pomp, ceremony, and lavish accoutrements in their little fiefdom of the
Historically, this enclave was the center of power and control that even
included a much feared military capability. One that was used to subdue
with the sword recalcitrant cultures, nations, and disagreeable sects
and branches of Christianity. The Pope is even considered infallible
when speaking "ex cathedra".
"You know that the leaders of the Gentiles lord it over them, and
their great men exercise authority over them. It should not be this way
among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant."
But for Protestants there now is really
very little difference. Some of the denominations are almost identical
to the church in Rome, but just without a titular pope. All of the major
ones have become corporations, and they all appoint official or formal
leadership with ceremony and much prayer, expecting God to mysteriously control the
process. Most all foster a culture of hierarchy and control from the top
down, with some retaining the power to shut down local churches that
allow too much heresy. And they all feature leadership that expects
special deference and privileges.
For both Catholics and Protestants
all of the above don't keep them from doing really stupid, banal, and sometimes really evil
things, nor does it keep them from major divisions and denominational
revolts and splits. The big and long view of all this is spectacularly underwhelming!
Rites, Ceremonies and Sacraments as Idols
The fifth form of idolatry is a category.
When it comes to the rites, ceremonies, sacraments, and penance most of
Christendom actually believes that these have some efficacy in and of themselves.
Let us define a rite as being different from a ceremony. Thus a
legitimate ceremony would be for the purpose of honoring and affirming
someone for something important and meaningful such as a birthday, and a
rite would be directed toward producing some kind of “magic” or
superstitious (unreal) action or benefit. Most rites are intended to
impress God and/or achieve something magical or unreal, such as
transubstantiation and its supposed efficacy.
Despite what even Paul said, they don't seem to have a clue that
these were ever and only symbols and unless the reality behind the
symbols is grasped, they are worse than worthless. Imagine the glorious
sons and daughters of God mucking around with these trappings and
thinking that they are glorifying God. Not so good, is it?
See: Rites and Sacraments
Temple, Cathedral Structures, Statuary, Icons, Artwork as Idols
The sixth form of idolatry is also a category.
Within the proper paradigm the physical iconography can all now be seen as pitiful, misguided,
materialistic attempts to glorify God, but they serve to fasten and hold
the attention of the religious acolytes on the mundane plane, the
organizational church and the whole business-as-usual religious program.
At their best however, they are at least a testimony to the creativity
and artistic ability of human beings.
Liturgy and the Music as Idols
Even these have generally taken on an undue sacredness, with categories
of liturgy and music substituting for real intimacy, fellowship, sharing and
commitment. However, sometimes the liturgy does include some spiritually
uplifting lectures, and sometimes the music is
able to transcend these strictures with valid inspiration.
A Few Words about Israelite Idolatry
According to the mytho-history of
the Hebrew culture, they made several forays into idolatry with
idols of wood and stone, groves, and attendant rites and
ceremonies. By the time of the J-person they were dead set against such
simplistic, blatant idolatry without realizing that their very temple and
associated ceremonies were idols as well. The serious seeker of
truth will understand that all ancient people were planet
worshipers, and that the imposing, glorious configuration of the
antediluvian Saturnian triune system of planets in the sky was considered to be
the chief trio of Gods. The Jews had their vaunted monotheism where they
clung to the idea that only Saturn—same celestial object as Moloch and Ra—was
the real God.
Over time, because of the polar alignment configuration, they somehow
wrapped up the three planets into one entity now called “Elohim” and
deny to this day that the word means the plural of god or gods, saying
instead that it means the plural of majesty. This hypocrisy flies in the
very face of the word being used as the plural of god in their
own Old Testament sacred literature when describing the multiple gods of other
cultures! Thus they thereby eschewed the other planets
as gods and felt morally superior to those cultures that
continued to indulge in the worship of the polytheistic pantheon.
But even at their best, the Jews
always considered “El Adonai”—Saturn the "Most High"—to be the
visible presence or "sign" of God. Despite all the
real, valid evidence—the miracles, his love mercy, compassion
and forgiveness—that he gave
them when he showed up, they wanted the J-person to give them this
"sign" of God in the sky. This, of course, he refused, and
remonstrated with them over their idolatry. See the testimony in the New Testament of
Stephen the martyr as to the Jews worshipping the objects "in
the sky". This testimony validates the idea that the Jews were
asking the J-person for the Saturnian "sign" in the heavens. How can we not see
that the real "sign" of God is his character with its
real life, public demonstration of love, forgiveness and healing, and a truly
compelling Good News?
Additional examples of Jewish idolatry would be their claim to
be God's chosen people due to Abraham being their "father", and
also their "law" ostensibly given directly by God to Moses, allowing them
to think Moses was their direct connection to the Supreme Being through
the priesthood of Aaron. Also circumcision continued to be
idolized (this really is hard to believe). At least Paul
denounced that one as being null and void and worthless.
Primary idolatry of Israel and Judah
We will just quote from the first chapter of
The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds by Donald Harmon Akenson:
...we must break through the subsequent belief (one that has been
normative for at least the last 1,500 years) that the Chosen People had
no idols. They did, but they did not denominate them as such. While
denouncing the iconic idols of their neighbours, the Chosen People
produced an aniconic idol whose dimensions exceeded those of almost any
religious artifact in ancient history: the Temple of Solomon.
It is clear that the Christian martyr Stephen considered the
Tabernacle, the tent of the presence, to be dedicated to Molech,
the planet Saturn.
Some Bible fundamentalist Protestant denominations, including Seventh-Day Adventists,
consider themselves as God's special people by being
"spiritual Israelites". These very Israelites called
themselves the "children of Saturn" and were never God's special
people except in their own mind and their mythology. When they had the great
opportunity to actually qualify, they first spurned and then even demanded
of the innocent creator. How utterly appropriate and how ironic for modern day
idolatrous Christians to identify with them!