The Worship of Idols

Recently, Citizen Tom of , err, Citizen Tom, put a question out there, in the comments of this post. For some extra context, it may be worth reading this comment from one ‘Ark’, and it may also be worth reading the comments left by Barabbas as well.

Tom suggested I look at the questions posed in the below comment:

You put the emphasis on Atheism. Since Ark is an Atheist, I won’t quibble about it. I will just observe that idol worship is something for which all of us have guilt.

Oddly, it seems you think idolatry is impossible for an Atheist. I find that a bit bewildering. So, I suppose I need to answer your criticism with a question or two. However, until we agree upon a definition of idolatry, the questions won’t make much sense.

So, let’s make certain that our definition of idolatry accords with the Bible. That is, what is wrong with idolatry? The most important commandment in the Bible requires us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The problem with an idol is that we put that idol before God, that is, we love the idol more than God. Therefore, as a purely practical matter, an idol is any person, place, or thing we love more than God.

That brings us to the first question. What do you think an Atheist loves more, God or stuff?

Is it the term “worship” that bothers you? We worship God by demonstrating our love for Him by glorifying Him in the conduct of our lives. Similarly, if someone loves stuff, they demonstrate that fact in the conduct of their lives by pursuing stuff with remarkable vigor.

That brings to a second question. If we were to examine the conduct of their lives, would we see more evidence of the worship of God or stuff?

Well, in terms of question one, atheists don’t even believe in God, so it stands to reason they would love other things more. ‘Stuff’ is quite open-ended. Would an atheist love their TV more than God? Well, insofar that one loves a TV, yes, by default, because to an atheist, God does not exist. If an atheist loves something even a little, in any sense, they would love it more than God. Of course, there’s a bit of a difference between saying ‘I love my wife’ and ‘I love my morning cup of coffee’ (at least, I hope there’s a difference!).

Connecting to that question, I dare say much depends on how you define ‘worship’. Christians worship God through the performance of various and regular rituals. Muslims worship Allah through various acts of prayer. The same is said of Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and the practitioners of any religion. Atheists do not go through any such rituals, they do not attend regular ceremonies or services. In that sense, atheists do not worship in the way religious people do, and most people would consider worship a religious act. Indeed, worship is defined as ‘the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity’. By that definition, atheists definitely do not worship.

That would mean the answer to the second question would be ‘neither’. Atheists obviously do not worship something they do not believe in. They do not worship stuff, as they do not treat ‘stuff’ as an object of reverence and adoration. Granted, there may be some atheists who hold certain things in high regard (a person, a place, an idea), but ultimately, by definition, atheists do not worship in a Christian/Muslim/Jewish manner.

I have no idea if my answers are clear, but there you have my take on it.

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