4“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
That is the third commandment as found in the bible (Exodus 20:1-18). I am no religious scholar so I will not attempt to even pretend I know more than others on this subject. I know the bible is filled with parables, hidden meanings, hyperboles, metaphors, allegories, etc. If you add to the mix, the historical context, the language used to write the different books in the bible, the sometimes-faulty translation, you will find many interpretations of a single verse, text, or even book in the bible. It is complicated, complex and it is meant to be that way, otherwise, how would we ever argue about what God wants or doesn’t want?
The third commandment seems to be mostly about idolatry and the worship of other Gods, which are explicitly prohibited. Read that commandment again, you will see that the Lord is a jealous God. I find it quite funny that God has human feelings. Jealousy? Really? Ok. I am known as someone who judges people a lot. I will refrain from judging God for about 30 seconds, that’s all I can do!
Idolatry is prohibited in all three Abrahamic religions and it means “the worship of a physical object as a God, immoderate attachment or devotion to something”. The dudes that wrote the bible were primitive, but they understood a couple of things about human nature. They were mostly clueless about everything else, but they understood the power of idolatry. They simply chose to put that power in their own God, as any devoted believer would.
Back to the definition because the words “worship” and “immoderate attachment or devotion” really struck me. When you idolize, you suspend critical thinking, reason and you don’t require facts to believe something. Well, I cannot do that. I won’t lie; I always had a hard time with idolatry and worshipping. I never could understand how people worship other people, places, objects, deities, sport teams, concepts, political movements, etc. We are all different, I guess.
Idolatry is a timeless problem, as old as human nature. I mean, look at how people worship other people. We all know people who idolize celebrities, musicians, actors, political figures, writers, journalists, athletes, etc. I am not talking about liking them; I am talking about idolizing them to the point of lunacy. Yes, they have done great things and we should admire their achievements. Very few can have an impact as profound as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Beyoncé, Barack Obama, Oprah, etc. Yet, if we don’t find fault in things they do, then we are simply idolizing them. I am not talking about looking for faults and flaws for the sake of making them look bad, but we need to look at them objectively, in a manner devoid of feelings to get an accurate picture of who they are. Any person is the sum of the bad and good things they have done. If we suspend critical thinking and we are always emotionally charged, in a positive way when we look at a person, then, whether we like to admit it or not, that is idolatry. I am not saying in a religious sense but in a psychological way.
Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla, is a perfect example of a person who is idolized by millions of people. As soon as someone criticizes one of his crazy ideas which are usually filled with the arrogance of any billionaire who thinks he knows better than the rest of humanity, his followers viciously attack the critics. Sometimes, Elon Musk himself will attack someone on social media (he has 48.7 million followers as of today, the equivalent of Spain’s population). He has many great ideas, but he also has some preposterous, nearly idiotic ideas. When challenged, he snaps back, and his followers enjoy crucifying the critics.
I have seen people, way less famous than Elon Musk, with a near-cult following, who are applauded as soon as they tweet, post, write or open their mouths, especially on social media. We seem to simply applaud instead of analyzing what people say, write or think. Moreover, forget about asking questions when the subject is trending or explosive or taboo. Forget criticizing an individual’s actions and words because their cause is beyond reproach. Well, the cause might be noble, it doesn’t mean the people are! It is our duty to ask questions, to analyze, to think, to let things marinate in our heads, to ask for proof when the claims are simply unbelievable, and so much more. Idolizing a person doesn’t mean you make a statue of them and put it in your living room. It could simply mean you have suspended any critical thinking when dealing with them! NEVER DO THAT!
By the way, idolizing the men and women of God (pastors, priests, preachers) is as wrong as any other kind of worship. Go ahead and worship God but never those who claim, sometimes pretend to do His work, because sometimes, they are simply doing THEIR own work. I am not saying all of them are crooked, some of them are. Moreover, they don’t know everything, and they don’t all necessarily have noble intentions towards their flock. Question their intentions, push back when they don’t make sense, ask questions, basically, think for yourself. Ask for guidance if you will, but if the answer doesn’t make sense or if it goes against your own core values, just stop! Don’t do what they tell you because they simply said so. Think about the action and its consequences.
Idolizing people or things is dangerous, and it will always be. We must ask questions. We must find the will and power to criticize people no matter who they are or what they do. We must push back when people try to impose their will or narrative on us. We must speak up. We must use critical thinking. We have a moral obligation to not idolize people or concepts or ideas or anything! Idolatry is dangerous and puts us at a disadvantage. You have a brain and critical thinking; use both!
No one is above reproach or criticism. And for the love of all the Gods, do yourself a favor and stop idolizing things and people.
Just one man’s opinion.
Now smile and go on with your day!