Idol Worshipper: Who is and who is not?

published on June 19, 2012

Some religions have strict codes against idol-worshipping, however it is not clear what is idol-worshipping and what is not. This article is written to stimulate discussion on this topic.

Padma Kappa in her Patheos article
wishes Hindus to distance from the terms “polytheist” and “idol-worships.” Her concern is to find a proper fit with monotheist exclusivist Christians, Jews and Muslims (Abrahamics) in America.

Idol or not?

As per descriptions in the Bible and Koran and also in many practical senses, Hindus are polytheist, idol-worshippers and pray to “other gods.” Actually, in my eyes, Christians are also polytheist (believing in the trinity; LORD God, Jesus as a Son-God and the Holy Spirit) and idol worshippers (wood and gold crosses, idols of baby Jesus, Mary, John, Paul, Peter, Santa and so on). If so, how are Christians different from Hindus? Why it is bad to use an “idol” to help focus on the God? Who is to decide that it is wrong to see the God in different forms?

Just like anyone else, I am a man with a wavering-mind and I need a focus point to pray to the God. When I visit any Hindu temple, I expect to take “darshan” of more than 20 idols (deities) and will bow to every one of them. It is not enough “idolatry” for me so I will also visit Jain and Buddhist temples and bow to many more “idols.” Further, I have bowed to Jesus and Mary’s “idols” and have eaten Jesus’ body (bread); thought I did not like the taste of the wafer! I have also

Why Muslims pray to the God only in the direction of (idol?) Kaaba?

prayed in a Mosque and in the direction of the Islamic “idol,” the Kaaba (Black Cube). I am disappointed at not finding a focus point in synagogues. However, I learned that Jewish people use a candle or David Star (idol) to pray at the Sabbath time.
The word idol can be defined very broadly. A Christian radio described “idolatry” as being “idle,” praying to the cross without faith, being alcoholic and drug addict and so on. If so, I am absolutely not an idol-worshipper. I rarely watch television and love to live very active life. Further, I prefer to spend time for betterment of society than into religious institutions trying to please the God, if there. However, to an intolerant Abrahamic who has an allergy to the word idolatry, I would certainly tell that I am a proud idol-worshipper.

Do Hindus pray to idols?

Hindus have complete liberty to pray the God in any and every ways that works for one. Mount Kailash, river Ganges, the monkey God Hanuman, the elephant God Ganesh, the Sun and Moon, the Mother Earth and many plants and animals are all sacred to Hindus. It is the feeling of reverence for creation that counts, not the names & forms or their labels.
During my childhood, I have seen my mother going every morning to several temples, putting flowers on some sacred stones, tightening a red thread around a Pipara tree trunk, watering to a holy Tulsi shrub; and while returning bowing and feeding a cow. Whatever her approach may be to connect to the God, I have certainly learned from her to respect any and every one, including the Mother Nature and animals.

The Hindu Namaste greeting means I see divine in you and blow to you, how beautiful! I am so proud to be taught Hindu Philosophy of seeing God in every one, be that my boss or servant. Respect to others and nature around us will certainly make this World a better place to live, rather than being an exclusivist or man-centric.

Worshipping the wall (idol) or the God?

By the law of association, the material image calls up the mental idea and vice a versa. That is the way we ALL use an external symbol when we worships. If someone can realize his divine nature with the help of an idol, would it be right to call that sin?
Swami Vivekananda had no reservation associating with the word idol. He has stated, “If such (his guru) Ramakrishna Paramahamsas are produced by idol-worship, what will you have – – the reformer’s creed or any number of idols? Yes idolatry is condemned! Why? Nobody knows. Because some hundreds of years ago some man of Jewish blood happened to condemn it? That is, he happened to condemn everybody else’s idols except his own.”

By reading the Bible and Koran, I learned that Abrahamic faith scriptures provided no tolerance for the believers in “other gods.” It is basically a war of “us” against “them”. The first of two of the Ten Commandments state that there is no god other than LORD God and if you pray to other gods, the LORD God will punish you for several generations (Exodus 20:3-5). The Bible states, “Our God is greater than all gods.” (II Chronicles 2:5) Jesus said, “Who is not with me is against me.” (Matthews 12:12) Further, He added, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

Is the wood cross an idol or God?

Jesus claimed that he is the Son of God (Luke 22:70), however, Allah (God) forbids that He Himself should beget a son! (Koran 19:34) Further, Allah said: believers, take neither Jews nor the Christians for your friends. (Koran 5:51) Reciprocating, Reverend Franklin Graham told, “Muslims do not worship the same God the Father I worship. I think Muhammad only leads to the grave. I don’t believe that you can get to heaven through a Buddhist or Hindu.” Recently, Richard Land called Mormon religion a cult. So, where will these “us against them” debates end?

To add to it, Lord Krishna also stated “I am the beginning, the middle and also the end of all beings” (Gita 10:20) and “As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects.” (Gita 4.11) Then, is Krishna’s message any less exclusivist than the Christ?

Scriptures cannot be changed now but we have to learn to interpret the scripture in its context and historical significance. It is possible Jesus may have said a few statements in his “parabola” to explain to a common man in a simple way but others may have over-interpreted him. Actually, Jesus himself never used the word “idol” or “other gods” in any of his direct messages. It is difficult to believe that Jesus, who changed the Second Commandment of jealousy and anger to – Love thy neighbor – (Matthew 22:39), will ever recommend to send Mahatma Gandhi to hell just because Gandhi was not Baptized or Gandhi did not endorsed that Jesus is the true savior.

Idol? Doll, for sure!

Are LORD God, Father God, Jesus as a Son (God), Allah, Krishna, Goddess Laxmi, Buddha, the Golden-Calf and many more just different incarnations of the SAME God, or are they different super powers? Whose claim on the God is right?
Is my idol better than yours? Is my Barbie doll better than yours? Instead of fighting, why not go and play with all dolls, if allowed to.

It is time to give up childish talk and be a true pluralist.

Readers, can you help make a list of “idols” used by different religions? Who is an idol worshipper and who is not? Express your views @

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