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2011-12-12

The prohibition on idols is the second commandment to Jews and most Christians, but still part of the first commandment for Catholics. If I may play child-molester’s advocate, I can see why Augustine combined these three sections (I am your god, no gods before me, no idols) into a single commandment—they all pertain to the same thing: monotheism. Is there really a big difference between worshiping a different god and worshiping an idol of that god, especially when people of this time didn’t really differentiate between an idol and what the idol represents?

In fact, when you read all of Exodus 20:1-6, it really seems like the whole thing fits together as one. There is a preamble, prohibition, and a closing explanation. In this case, I think the Catholics have it right.

Of course, most believers don’t look too carefully at this commandment, and for good reason. Sure, they’ll see the part which tells them not to make any graven images, and they may even come up with a weak excuse about how God can call himself jealous and still be perfect, but they always dance around the part where God says he will punish four generations of people if they dare disobey this commandment because they realize the severe immorality of it! You’ll find monuments to the Ten Commandments all over the place, but they wisely excise this part. Want a fun way to really anger the Lord? Worship an idol, but never have kids! Oooo, he’ll be so pissed that he can’t torture your great-grandchildren!

Interestingly, God’s clarification that you can’t make idols of anything in the sky, on the Earth, or in the water doesn’t exclude idols of imaginary creatures (like gods, angels, demons, unicorns, chupacabras, etc.), since none of these things live on Earth! Of course, I, like most people, interpret this to be a merism. In the same way, if you’re told to search someone “head to toe,” it doesn’t mean you can should the arms because they’re not on a direct path between the head and toes.

Finally, God ends by saying that those who keep his commandments will be shown mercy and receive love, which implies that who don’t keep his commandments will not be given mercy or love. So much for a forgiving god.

I have broken this commandment in the sense that I think a pair of worn-out socks is better than God.

 

Comments

someguy writes:

 

aren't all the crosses, paintings, holy symbols, stainglass, etc graven images and or idols?

maybe that's why there are hurricanes! (bachman ftl)

Baughbe writes:

 

Yes, the crosses et al are all idols, but they are idols worshiping him and his many undergods (The Big J, various prophets, Mary, different angels, etc). Interestingly enough, Christianity has a lot of gods for a montheistic religion. The exisitance (rumored) of Christ himself breaks that.

Samael writes:

 

Don't forget the saints, who conveniently take the place of any god under Zeus for those of us who converted when Rome was still the big thing. :D

Although it is overlooked for the sake of, well, not overcomplicating things... most Christians, if pressed, will generally tend to admit that crosses (especially those bearing an idol of Christ -- see what I did there?) and the many other symbols associated with the faith are a form of idol. However, despite several versions of the religion specifically prohibiting worship-by-proxy of these idols, that doesn't stop their practioners from crowding into buildings every Sunday to compare clothing and torture themselves with sweet guilt by staring at the bronzed blood trails captured in their oozing from the crucified figure up on the wall.

Morbid, isn't it? Much rapturous joy as it's said to bring to its followers, I still adhere to my belief that religion is not healthy once it goes past the sweet and cuddly image of the all-loving father who secretly supports you from on high. I swear it's a kind of Stockholm Syndrome where believers are first inducted into the faith on the syrupy sweet grounds of the forgiving Christ and supportive father-God and then they're willing to overlook all the parts about rape, murder and disfigurement which abound in the Bible.

Or maybe it just involves not thinking very hard about it. Kinda like being a Republican. :P

tussock writes:

 

typo in rant: can should the arms

Willy Galleta writes:

 

Here in Spain there are images of saints and madonnas/virgins (?) everywhere. They're idolized over that god often. Miracles are attributed to them and apparition reports were very common on the 90s. I guess god cursed us with bad politics?

Yeshivakid writes:

 

@Samael: Stockholm Syndrome is the perfect way to look at it. Thanks for the analogy. I think I'll be using that to describe organized religion to people from now on.

 

Oh the irony!