Author Topic: General musing about Christianity and idolatry  (Read 2495 times)

Offline widdershins (OP)

General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« on: November 23, 2016, 05:42:35 PM »
Everyone piles on the Catholic church about idolatry, but I just realized today that all of Christianity has deep roots in idolatry, even back to the times of the Bible, though most idols are not as obvious as the ones in the Catholic church.

We've all seen vampire movies or The Exorcist or something similar where the "evil" is driven back by a cross or crucifix.  That symbol is a form of idol.  Christians believe the shape itself to have power.  It is a "holy" symbol.  And at the front of most churches you will find an altar, as the Bible mentions were in the tabernacles of the day.  That altar is a form of idol.  It is a physical thing which links people to their deity.  Hell, the Bible itself is an idol.  Mention that you wipe your ass with its pages and you may get your ass kicked in the wrong company.  I remember I once hit a Bible which was dusty to show how much dust was on it and got chewed out about it (apparently me striking the idol was a far worse offense than its owner leaving it untouched for months on the dash of his car).

The idols of general Christianity are not in the shapes of people or God himself (except for the crucifix, which portrays Jesus), but every Christian church I have ever been in has some idol in it, not even counting the Bibles or the altar.  My old Pentecostal church had a portrait of Jesus for a while until they decided that was to "idol-y" and removed it.  For a long time they had a cross with a crown of thorns placed on it until they decided the cross was too "idol-y".  Last I knew they had just the crown of thorns on the back wall, likely because that item was so unusual that the "upper management" never thought to specifically spell out that, also, was an improper object of worship.

When you think about it, that is actually a running theme in all the Judeo-Christian religions, as well as others.  Catholicism is by far the worst at it, of course.  They need a new idol in the form of a "saint" every few years, but they all seem to feel the need to have some physical object to connect them to their deity.  Muslims have the meteorite that they pretend current understanding doesn't explain.  Jews practically invented the altar in the Old Testament.  Hindus have depictions of their various gods.  Buddhists have their Buddha statues.  Wiccans have their various magical instruments.  Catholics have...well, most everything on the planet.  Even native Americans have various animals and devices of worship such as dream catchers and medicine sacks.  Hell, I can't think of a single religious belief system which doesn't have some form of physical thing which is revered as somehow being connected to the particular magical thing they believe in.  All of these things could arguably be called "idols".

I just found the thought interesting.  Even more so as I was typing and realized that when you look at it this way the only thing which really sets any given religious or spiritual belief system apart from any other is when, as in the Catholic Church, the sheer number of physical connections they need to their object of worship grows to ridiculous proportions.  It seems to be a running theme throughout history, too.  Ancient Egyptians were buried with their magic spells.  Simply "casting" the spell wasn't enough.  They needed a physical copy for it to be "real".  It makes me wonder exactly what's going on in the mind to cause this strange effect, to fuel the need to have some physical thing to connect people to the spiritual world.  They accept the pure spiritual nature of their particular object of worship only in concept, not as an actual reality.  They need some physical thing that they can see and touch to feel connected to it.
This sentence is a lie...

Offline Baruch

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2016, 06:46:26 PM »
To materialists .... nature has no spirituality.  There isn't any point in connecting what is to what is not.

Idolatry in Christianity has always been the pot calling the kettle black ... also in Judaism and in Islam.  Iconoclasm is a universal phenomena ... as is idolatry.  It is rhetorical not serious.  It is no more possible to stop that than to stop breathing.  One of the mis-understood aspects of Christianity is the notion that G-d is incarnate.  But ancients mostly took non-human objects or animals and plants, as idols.  In that sense they were anti-humanist in a way the Christianity isn't.  And idolatry was primarily directed against non-human objects (a statue might look human, but it isn't).
שלום

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2016, 10:20:25 PM »
Everyone piles on the Catholic church about idolatry, but I just realized today that all of Christianity has deep roots in idolatry, even back to the times of the Bible, though most idols are not as obvious as the ones in the Catholic church.

We've all seen vampire movies or The Exorcist or something similar where the "evil" is driven back by a cross or crucifix.  That symbol is a form of idol.  Christians believe the shape itself to have power.  It is a "holy" symbol.  And at the front of most churches you will find an altar, as the Bible mentions were in the tabernacles of the day.  That altar is a form of idol.  It is a physical thing which links people to their deity.  Hell, the Bible itself is an idol.  Mention that you wipe your ass with its pages and you may get your ass kicked in the wrong company.  I remember I once hit a Bible which was dusty to show how much dust was on it and got chewed out about it (apparently me striking the idol was a far worse offense than its owner leaving it untouched for months on the dash of his car).

The idols of general Christianity are not in the shapes of people or God himself (except for the crucifix, which portrays Jesus), but every Christian church I have ever been in has some idol in it, not even counting the Bibles or the altar.  My old Pentecostal church had a portrait of Jesus for a while until they decided that was to "idol-y" and removed it.  For a long time they had a cross with a crown of thorns placed on it until they decided the cross was too "idol-y".  Last I knew they had just the crown of thorns on the back wall, likely because that item was so unusual that the "upper management" never thought to specifically spell out that, also, was an improper object of worship.

When you think about it, that is actually a running theme in all the Judeo-Christian religions, as well as others.  Catholicism is by far the worst at it, of course.  They need a new idol in the form of a "saint" every few years, but they all seem to feel the need to have some physical object to connect them to their deity.  Muslims have the meteorite that they pretend current understanding doesn't explain.  Jews practically invented the altar in the Old Testament.  Hindus have depictions of their various gods.  Buddhists have their Buddha statues.  Wiccans have their various magical instruments.  Catholics have...well, most everything on the planet.  Even native Americans have various animals and devices of worship such as dream catchers and medicine sacks.  Hell, I can't think of a single religious belief system which doesn't have some form of physical thing which is revered as somehow being connected to the particular magical thing they believe in.  All of these things could arguably be called "idols".

I just found the thought interesting.  Even more so as I was typing and realized that when you look at it this way the only thing which really sets any given religious or spiritual belief system apart from any other is when, as in the Catholic Church, the sheer number of physical connections they need to their object of worship grows to ridiculous proportions.  It seems to be a running theme throughout history, too.  Ancient Egyptians were buried with their magic spells.  Simply "casting" the spell wasn't enough.  They needed a physical copy for it to be "real".  It makes me wonder exactly what's going on in the mind to cause this strange effect, to fuel the need to have some physical thing to connect people to the spiritual world.  They accept the pure spiritual nature of their particular object of worship only in concept, not as an actual reality.  They need some physical thing that they can see and touch to feel connected to it.
Most of the things you mentioned and the way they are supposed to be used is for remembrance and not exactly idol worship. For instance; I have at times revered nearly everything as being of GOD, and being thankful for such. This isn't idol worship. One can praise the sun or the rain as long as they understand that this praise is ultimately thanks to the One Creator GOD.

I must too say that the only thing dividing religions is the particular names used for the same GOD. That and greed, pride, and fear.


Just my opinion though.

Peace

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2016, 01:17:26 AM »
Most of the things you mentioned and the way they are supposed to be used is for remembrance and not exactly idol worship. For instance; I have at times revered nearly everything as being of GOD, and being thankful for such. This isn't idol worship. One can praise the sun or the rain as long as they understand that this praise is ultimately thanks to the One Creator GOD.

I must too say that the only thing dividing religions is the particular names used for the same GOD. That and greed, pride, and fear.


Just my opinion though.

Peace

Well, one of the commandments of God was not to make statues of him. So the Old Testament God doesn't seem to care for imagery, and probably would smite the person who decided to paint him as a naked old white man.

Offline Baruch

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2016, 06:54:53 AM »
Michelangelo got in trouble for his Sistine Chapel, because he made few concessions to modesty (God creating Adam).  But then he was homosexual and had a particular fondness for the male physiognomy.  His depiction of Last Judgement however, has the damned in the nude, but ashamed.  The Adam on the Sistine Chapel is innocent (a condition of deity).

It was a Roman standard however, to portray deities in the nude.  When you see a statue of an emperor "in heroic nude" that is an object of Emperor worship.  In contrast, statues of saints are depicting them clothed, and even a crucifix shows Jesus with a loin cloth.  So it is still Roman in that way, implying that Jesus alone is divine.  Only a god can flout social convention.
שלום

Online Mr.Obvious

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2016, 07:12:15 AM »
Most of the things you mentioned and the way they are supposed to be used is for remembrance and not exactly idol worship. For instance; I have at times revered nearly everything as being of GOD, and being thankful for such. This isn't idol worship. One can praise the sun or the rain as long as they understand that this praise is ultimately thanks to the One Creator GOD.

I must too say that the only thing dividing religions is the particular names used for the same GOD. That and greed, pride, and fear.


Just my opinion though.

Peace

That's not a bad point. But I tend to agree with widdershins. Important to note is what constitutes idolatry depends on the person and the definition used.

The concept of idolatry being something inherently bad or sinfull Always struck me as a bit odd. Even back when I was still religious. It was wrong to pray to a statue of christ, but not to a cross or a rosary or even the bible? It's what you prayed to to strengthen your connection to God. You embued that object with the significance of a Deity, but did not necessarily used it to replace the deity. And whether it had a face or not seemed a strange line to decide what is right or not.

And your line on "One can praise the sun or the rain as long as they understand that this praise is ultimately thanks to the One Creator GOD." made me remember a discussion I had back then. I'd met someone who believed in a 'vague something' and defined himself as, I believe, an animist. Told me God or the life-force or whatever didn't need depictions of it to be praised. We could just praise nature and worship the universe and it's inherent soul. Or something. 
I remember thinking; wherein lies the difference between worshipping a tree and taking the same wood and taking the time, effort and devotion to carve it into a totem and worship that instead? Is it the act of transforming nature that devalues and perhaps even insults this 'life-force' or whatever it was? Was the totem less worthy? Was "creating, building and doing" rather than "letting be and accepting" what made this worship a problem? Culture vs nature, perhaps? (A division I've Always found ridiculous.)
Maybe I'm not making much sense. But I remember it and regret not asking those questions and going deeper into the conversation, rather than saying "that's nice".
« Last Edit: November 24, 2016, 07:13:57 AM by Mr.Obvious »
E = Mc²

In the end, we are all standing in the dark,
trying to figure out why we are here.
But let us not choose one direction
without proof of where it is headed.

Check your pocket for matches
so we can observe and learn together
as fast friends and relative idiots.

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2016, 09:12:57 AM »
Mr. Obvious,

You said it is important to note that the definition of idolatry is variable depending on who you ask so I will give my definition; idolatry is placing anything whatsoever before or above the Will of GOD.

I find it somewhat wrong to pray to or worship any thing created by the hands of man. This includes castings or crucifixes, rosaries, statues, and depictions. If you want to get technical; given the definition I have provided, I myself am an idol worshipper. Every morning, though I am painfully aware of the detrimental effects that smoking has on the life span of one with severe COPD, I smoke. What I'm trying to say is that daily, all day, I place my want of nicotine, at the cost of the literal knowing destruction of the temple of GOD, before the actual Will of GOD, which is of course for me to rob the temple of its potential.

Again; one revering a thing in recognition of GOD isn't idol worship. Calling any man or any object of man a thing worthy of worship as opposed to simply being an item or symbol used to reflect, or remember GOD, is too idol worship.

I don't know if I helped or not, but it is an interesting topic and I look forward to your reply.

Peace
« Last Edit: November 24, 2016, 10:16:43 AM by popsthebuilder »

Offline aitm

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2016, 09:57:15 AM »
Humans are heavy into animism and superstition....probably genetic to  point. We need to hold or see things to attach an emotion to it, especially something as mysterious as mythology and spirituality.  I don't of course, I have risen above that lower level of humanity. Now excuse me while I go wash my truck, she is dirty and wants to be clean and shiny....
A humans desire to live is exceeded only by their willingness to die for another. Even god cannot equal this magnificent sacrifice. No god has the right to judge them.-first tenant of the Panotheust

Online Mr.Obvious

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2016, 12:56:41 PM »
Mr. Obvious,

You said it is important to note that the definition of idolatry is variable depending on who you ask so I will give my definition; idolatry is placing anything whatsoever before or above the Will of GOD.

I find it somewhat wrong to pray to or worship any thing created by the hands of man. This includes castings or crucifixes, rosaries, statues, and depictions. If you want to get technical; given the definition I have provided, I myself am an idol worshipper. Every morning, though I am painfully aware of the detrimental effects that smoking has on the life span of one with severe COPD, I smoke. What I'm trying to say is that daily, all day, I place my want of nicotine, at the cost of the literal knowing destruction of the temple of GOD, before the actual Will of GOD, which is of course for me to rob the temple of its potential.

Again; one revering a thing in recognition of GOD isn't idol worship. Calling any man or any object of man a thing worthy of worship as opposed to simply being an item or symbol used to reflect, or remember GOD, is too idol worship.

I don't know if I helped or not, but it is an interesting topic and I look forward to your reply.

Peace

I find it an interesting topic too. I spend some time pondering it a small decade ago.

Your reply helpful in clarifying what your interpretation of idolatry is. But I'm still a bit confused as to why praying to crucifixes, rosaries and the likes would then fall under that definition. I never saw praying to a statue as putting it before the will of God. They were more like beacons to channel your focus to and strengthen your communication with God. Aids for meditation of which I did not think they held any power of their own, but for the power I placed in them deriving from the creator God and my longing to feel His presence.

Is it because they are, as you say, created by the hands of man? And if so, is that sufficient reason?
When I was a believer, I believed we were created with many gifts. And to not use them was a waste. And one of the most wonderful gifts I thought there was, was that by creating us in his image, we were creators like him. Even now that I don't believe, I think it's humanity's greatest beauty. We craft, build and innovate. Culture is in our nature. And back then, to create in the name of God, but not in replacement, seemed a way to honor him as good as prayer. I figured it showed great devotion to him to create beauty in his name. To help build to his glory. To sculpt and paint his presence as a reminder. To help ourselves and others be reminded that he is with us and that he is there for us.




E = Mc²

In the end, we are all standing in the dark,
trying to figure out why we are here.
But let us not choose one direction
without proof of where it is headed.

Check your pocket for matches
so we can observe and learn together
as fast friends and relative idiots.

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2016, 01:45:31 PM »
I find it an interesting topic too. I spend some time pondering it a small decade ago.

Your reply helpful in clarifying what your interpretation of idolatry is. But I'm still a bit confused as to why praying to crucifixes, rosaries and the likes would then fall under that definition. I never saw praying to a statue as putting it before the will of God. They were more like beacons to channel your focus to and strengthen your communication with God. Aids for meditation of which I did not think they held any power of their own, but for the power I placed in them deriving from the creator God and my longing to feel His presence.

Is it because they are, as you say, created by the hands of man? And if so, is that sufficient reason?
When I was a believer, I believed we were created with many gifts. And to not use them was a waste. And one of the most wonderful gifts I thought there was, was that by creating us in his image, we were creators like him. Even now that I don't believe, I think it's humanity's greatest beauty. We craft, build and innovate. Culture is in our nature. And back then, to create in the name of God, but not in replacement, seemed a way to honor him as good as prayer. I figured it showed great devotion to him to create beauty in his name. To help build to his glory. To sculpt and paint his presence as a reminder. To help ourselves and others be reminded that he is with us and that he is there for us.
I agree wholly with what you say here.

And indeed as initially stated, using these things as remembrance for GOD or the will there of in ones own life is good and fine as long as it isn't a replacement for or revered as GOD in fullness. And you are right; based on my definition of idolatry, being of the hands of man doesn't instantly mean idol worship.

For me personally, I do not worship material things really, but again, praising or using said things as a sort of reflection of the will of GOD or for remembrance of that will in ones life is okay.

Real idol worship as I defined it is the issue.

Peace
« Last Edit: November 24, 2016, 03:54:24 PM by popsthebuilder »

Online Mr.Obvious

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2016, 01:50:33 PM »
I agree wholly with what you say here.

And indeed as initially stated, using these things as remembrance for GOD or the will there of in ones own life is good and fine as long as it isn't a replacement for or revered as GOD in fullness. And you are right; based on my definition of idolatry, being of the hands of man doesn't instantly mean idol worship.

For me personally, I do not worship material things really, but again, praising or using said things as a sort of reflection of the will of GOD or for remembrance of that will in ones life is okay.

Teal idol worship as I defined it is the issue.

Peace

Can I  ask your thoughts on eucharist in regards to all this?
E = Mc²

In the end, we are all standing in the dark,
trying to figure out why we are here.
But let us not choose one direction
without proof of where it is headed.

Check your pocket for matches
so we can observe and learn together
as fast friends and relative idiots.

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2016, 04:20:52 PM »
The Eucharist is a symbol of the longsuffering and giving nature of GOD towards all creation, and even more so towards man. It too seems to symbolize many other things such as the giving of the spirit of life. That is the very same spirit that subsists or maintains all existence. It symbolizes the indwelling of the Spirit ,the sustenance that fills the empty vessel, that it should over flow unto others.

Though one must eat to live, the taking in of the spirit of life fulfills some void or absence from purpose or significance. It too is symbolic of the longsuffering and selflessness of the Christ, as though one takes of the symbolic substance of the Crist, it is in vain as it is not effectual and moreso a show for the eyes and appeasement for the wicked souls of the hypocrite.

I have not personally participated in such thankfully, though I wallow in my own detestable hypocricy. I equate such to an oath. And having made one in times past and not in any way held up my vow, really am grateful that I am not a practicing member at a church building that practices the Eucharist. I believe there to be a time for those things (baptism comes to mind), but that to do such in vain is wholly wrong. And like I said, I'm wrong enough and wish not to add any insult to my knowing sin by proclaiming purity via baptism or the Eucharist. Ultimately I cannot speak for others though as their understandings of these things very well may vary from my own, and due to my lack of surety in my faith and negligence in my duty, some understandings have been kept from my grasps.

Anyway, hope it doesn't sound too nuts.

humbly
peace

Online Mr.Obvious

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #12 on: November 24, 2016, 04:49:28 PM »
The Eucharist is a symbol of the longsuffering and giving nature of GOD towards all creation, and even more so towards man. It too seems to symbolize many other things such as the giving of the spirit of life. That is the very same spirit that subsists or maintains all existence. It symbolizes the indwelling of the Spirit ,the sustenance that fills the empty vessel, that it should over flow unto others.

Though one must eat to live, the taking in of the spirit of life fulfills some void or absence from purpose or significance. It too is symbolic of the longsuffering and selflessness of the Christ, as though one takes of the symbolic substance of the Crist, it is in vain as it is not effectual and moreso a show for the eyes and appeasement for the wicked souls of the hypocrite.

I have not personally participated in such thankfully, though I wallow in my own detestable hypocricy. I equate such to an oath. And having made one in times past and not in any way held up my vow, really am grateful that I am not a practicing member at a church building that practices the Eucharist. I believe there to be a time for those things (baptism comes to mind), but that to do such in vain is wholly wrong. And like I said, I'm wrong enough and wish not to add any insult to my knowing sin by proclaiming purity via baptism or the Eucharist. Ultimately I cannot speak for others though as their understandings of these things very well may vary from my own, and due to my lack of surety in my faith and negligence in my duty, some understandings have been kept from my grasps.

Anyway, hope it doesn't sound too nuts.

humbly
peace

No actually I don't think it's nuts. I mean it's not a secret we have opposite thoughts on the whole god-question. But in your stance, I think the least I can say is that you are consistent.
I find the Eucharist a strange concept in a religion that bans idolatry. As I find it to be the very same thing.

I find this an interesting conversation pops. One more hypothetical question comes to mind.

Can worshipping Jesus Christ be concidered idolatry? According to legend he was definitely not man-made. But if one believes he existed, is he to that person then not a physical representation and replacement of his/her god, in the material realm?
E = Mc²

In the end, we are all standing in the dark,
trying to figure out why we are here.
But let us not choose one direction
without proof of where it is headed.

Check your pocket for matches
so we can observe and learn together
as fast friends and relative idiots.

Offline Baruch

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2016, 06:19:17 PM »
Some substitute the Son for the Father.  Others substitute the Father for the Holy Spirit.  But only sin against the Holy Spirit (so it is written) is unforgivable.

I rather like the Native American view of our eating plants and animals.  It is a necessary violence ... that has to be justified (and that includes recompense).

Another view I like is the idea of incarnation.  I don't think that the Eucharist is limited to Jesus, but includes all living things.  From GoTh ...

 77)  Jesus said, "It is I who am the light which is above them
all. It is I who am the All. From Me did the All come forth, and
unto Me did the All extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am
there. Lift up the stone, and you will find Me there."
שלום

Re: General musing about Christianity and idolatry
« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2016, 07:00:47 PM »
Mr.Obvious,

To set a basis for where I am with these things; I was atheist and not indoctrinated and most definitely not gullible. A thing happened to me independent of my own doing that gave me my faith in GOD.

With that being said; the concept of the Eucharist in a traditional sense such as can be seen in more orthodox church buildings was initially appalling, and still now unsettling. I've had faith really since 2011 and only in the last maybe 2 years have delved into what the Christ is and or was. So again, my understandings are relatively limited and somewhat changing as in a process.

Your question is very sensitive and I have have pondered just that for quite some time....as in since 2011. There are many levels to ones beliefs or Faith. For instance; my most recent studies and life experiences have lead me to begin to grasp, yet again, ones own potential and responsibility. There is a standing theme in all scriptures I have read and that is the negation of self and obedience to the selfless conscience for the sake of existence as a whole is actually a means to connect to the very Spirit or essence of existence, that is to say, GOD. Jesus the Christ of GOD also taught these things. The Christ of GOD plainly stated that he was sent from the Father.

I'm going to stop. I could go in for days about that.
The answer is at least two sided and I am not certain as to what ultimately is the truth regarding it. I will say that I nearly take issue with those who say that the man Jesus was the utter fullness of GOD. It seems quite evident that people focusing on the possibility of the deity of the Christ contrary to his teachings, end up missing the point completely, which is the teachings. It is hard to catch for some, but the Christ is within and without. It is the manifestation of the spirit of GOD through GOD's creation. Christian scripture even alludes to the fact that the second coming will be of many yet will come from within.

Okay, so back to the simple answer; GOD is spirit as is Christ. To worship the man that was crucified is to worship the flesh and not the Spirit and can lead to exponential misdirection as can be seen by orthodoxy of the past. This however, is not to say that worshiping the Christ is idol worship as the Christ and GOD are one and the same as far as i can tell. Neither of them are a man. Man is creation and as such can reciprocate the lovingkindness and longsuffering of GOD or reflect other attributes of GOD, but that's just it....of GOD, not the fullness there of. Though the average Christian might demand that the man Jesus the Christ(blessed be his name)was the utter fullness of GOD, you will find from his actual teachings and example that all men are equal. And that he was humble and exclaimed himself that the least would be the greatest and him who wishes to be the greatest will be the servant of the least.


Ok I'm really done. I can't conclude this at this time. Feel free to go into a more specific direction with the conversation. There are just too many variables and potentials in this current topic. I do take my faith seriously and really wish to not speak wrongly of things I have yet to realize for sure.

Thank you for your understanding in advance.

peace