Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Idol Worship

Why are the world's major religions filled with idol worshippers?

(He's talkin' crazy talk again, Gladys)

No, really. All this talk of people in Afghanistan going nutso because somebody might have flushed a Koran down a toilet got me wondering What's up with that?. Really, offing 17 innocent people who were in the wrong country at the wrong time because someone might have used a stack of paper as a Roto Rooter.

There's more than one elevator not making it to the top floor over there. Someone doesn't have all his dots on his dice. The oil lamp is on, but nobody's home. Their camel is a couple humps short. A few dung bricks short of a full load. One tabouli short of a picnic.

This got me thinking (good thing something did), is Islam the only religion that worships manufactured goods to such a degree? I mean, sure, Tyler Durden pointed out that the Norse God Ikea claimed many western devotees, and you could certainly call Gotterdamerung Capitalism's devotion to consumerism a religion. Maybe we can term this Idle Worship.

But I'm talking about the Idol Worship of other more explicit theisms, like Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism, and the like.

What's that you say? There are strictures in each that explicity reject idol worship?

You're right! In fact, it would seem pretty clear.

Counting down to Number 2 on God's Top Ten List, we have
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them. (KJV - other modern variants here)
If you don't like old testament, Big Paul was pretty explicit too -
“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” (Rom. 1:25)

Although a bit more vague, Hindus too have similar admonitions...
“No one has grasped him above, or across, or in the middle. There is no image of him whose name is Great Glory. His form cannot be seen, no one perceives him with the eye. Those who through heart and mind know him thus abiding in the heart, become immortal.” (Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:19-20, trans. by Max Müller, Sacred Books of the East, vol. 15, 1884)


Then explain to me all the crosses and morbid bleeding Jesus statues that take center stage of most western churches.

Explain the Byzantine Icons,medallions, beads, prayer wheels, and other miscellaneous trinkets.

Explain the Buddhas, and the Shiva, Kali, Vishnu, Ganesh statues that populate the eastern world.

Explain the reverence for a pile of pressed wood pulp and ink. (And I'm not just talking somber, reflective reverence. I'm talking the vehement, righteous, screaming, fire-from-above, agree-with-me-or-die kind of reverence.)

The rationalizations from each of these religions would do a circus contortionist proud. From "sacred symbols" to "visual aids to focus", each religion attempts to rationalize how, even though there are gazillions of their representative icons/idols laying about, and even though they regularly bow down and pray to these images, they're not really idol worshippers.

Huh.

And I'm not really an asshole, either.

"I'm not really bad. I'm just drawn that way" - Jessica Rabbit.

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