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Idolatry

Father knows best
It starts even in families where children are not educated to believe in one simple fact, the truth, but one simple convenience, that dad is right

 

Ben M
March 14, 2006
iranian.com

When we say idolatry (botparasti) what usually comes to our minds, the Iranians and most Islamic nations, is something like what the pre-Islam Arabs in Arabia used to worship in Kaaba and at their homes or many other places. They were objects made of various materials. People used to believe in some magical powers that could protect or heal them and in order to have some kind of representation of that power, tangible and admirable, the pre-Islam Arabs had found a simple way, build something and hope that the respective god will hear you through that object. This was pretty much close to the symbolism in pre-Christian Europe as well where various gods used to be represented by various man-made objects, statues etc.

And most of us think of this as something that was part of history, which has been gone for a very long time, at least for the peoples of the Monotheistic world, Muslims, Christians, Jews and some others.

But is it really so? Has idolatry disappeared, or it has simply changed shape? One of the biblical Ten Commandments forbids idolatry "You shall have no other gods..." But trying to detach from cultural and personal prejudices we could really think of this practice, the worship of someone or something as God, a bit unconventionally and see that it is something that has never gone away, but simply evolved and adapted to new realities.

Idolatry comes from an inside weakness, which is quite common in human beings, and it shows itself in all shapes and forms depending on the person and the time. When someone is fearful of the surroundings, of the natural or unnatural threats, and, of course, of other men, then he or she finds it easy to seek refuge in the power and shadowing protection of someone or something (maybe an idea) that is or seems to be beyond those threats. Doesn't this sound a bit too familiar?

Let me give some simple examples from various peoples so that it is a bit more clear. Christians are known to be tolerant of different opinions and they do not have the religious obligation to murder someone who seems to talk about their religious figures, so I start with them (I admire this tolerance). Christians simply worship Jesus. They also build statues of the man-god, which are stunningly similar to the Athenian and Roman works of art before Christianity. Christians even worship a sort of female god, virgin Mary, build her statues too.

Christians seek refuge in Jesus Christ, believe in his return (so that this way not just the present but even the future has been secured) and pray for his forgiveness and thank him for his existence and protection. This seems to be something benign and nonthreatening in itself but the problem is that it has and does always open up the possibilities for abuse and corruption from those who pretend to be on God's side, or actually the living human idols (bot in Farsi) representing the gods.

Who are they? The clergy and all those in their various 'religious' hierarchies. They live comfortable lives, do no or little work, receive enormous donations, respect, and godly admiration and social status. Is there ample evidence of abuse? Yes, there is. Will it ever go away? Unlikely. Something (idolatry) that has been able to live, evolve and take all shapes and forms for thousands and thousands of years, as history suggests, is unlikely to go away for real.

But why pick on the Christians only! Let's see what is going on with Muslims too. Here I must say to those who are intolerant of 'unacceptable' opinions, please do not try to find and kill me, write to me and I am open to change, I can become a good devoted religious person. No harm meant. Just don't come to kill me, write me! Thank you!

So, back to the Islamic idolatry. Thank God Osama Bin Laden hasn't built his Caliphate yet, otherwise I must have thought twice even about mentioning his name. But don't you think there are more than 100 million Muslims who see Bin Laden as a human god? Why? Because he simply says that he is accomplishing God's mission. Is there any proof, does he have a note signed or stamped by anyone, any power of attorney or anything saying that God ever even nodded?? But as we can all see, as long as he knows how to do it, he doesn't need proof. There are so many extremely week and vulnerable Muslims out there (I am not talking about the reasons, that would take so much writing) that Bin Laden doesn't even need much clout. He's good at masses.

And the scarily funny Mr Ahmadinejad! He has pledged, as far as I have noticed, $30 million or somewhere near that amount, to rebuild the Imam Mahdi shrine in Iran. Imam Mahdi's return, Jesus's return?! You get the point. Iranians go to Mashhad, Karbala and Najaf with their millions every year and they would go many many more if they could. Why? What do they want to see? Do they really have this unexplainable love for some men who died 14 centuries ago, or they are just some selfish people who need help, who need heaven, who need to pour out their weaknesses? Even this seems not to be harmful, as it could simply be viewed as mass travel that actually binds various peoples and flourishes tourism.

But isn't there evidence that all of this faith in the all-powerful figures, the modern idolatry, has been and goes on to be abused in large scale? Aren't there a few who pretending to be God's earthly representations having a lot of earthly fun, leaving only the heavenly fun for the stupid? Yes, there is evidence. Who knows it? Few know it for real.

Why this terrible habit of belief in powerful men and objects (who are always represented by someone)? This is probably one thing that will never go away as long as there are earthquakes, hurricanes, poor and angry people, and various other normal threats that belong to the life on earth. It starts even in families where children are not educated to believe in one simple fact, the truth, but one simple convenience, that dad is right. Even if dad is not right, you can't object, because he's dad, who hasn't been so tough to be Saddam, but he's tough enough to rule his wife and children and be the person who decides arbitrarily what is right or wrong.

This is probably what starts it all in such a bad fashion in Islamic countries. It is not the fact, the truth, that is right, but what the little, the poor, the rich, or the powerful father says. The father, the king, the god, or the God's representative is always right. And this is what makes it all too often tragic for those who do not dare to question the 'right' imposed by one and seek the facts, the truth.

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