Talk:Idolatry/Archive 3

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I made a few changes to the first couple of pragraphs. Here's why:

I cut the stuff on the "finite." To be clear (especially to Sv): I have no problem with including this view in the article. But it is a contentious view so I do not think it should be in the opening paragraph, or used to define idolatry. Please incorporate a discussion of finite/infinite into the body, and make it clear that it is one view of idolatry among others.

I changed "pagan" to "henotheist" for two reasons. First, not all ancient religions were polytheistic, some were henotheistic. Second, those religions did not identify themselves as "pagan," I think pagan was first used as a pejorative. I have no objection to including a link to "paganism" but in the original context in the article it was anachronistic and I think ethnocentric. Finally, I deleted "ethical" as it modified "monotheist," it is another anachronism that at best oversimplifies -- and I think misrepresents -- the Bible. Slrubenstein

I don't want to delete it, because it would disprupt the flow of the article, but the passage on Hinduism being polytheistic is severely incorrect. Hindu polytheism is something that existed long ago, and in terms of worship it may still be said to exist, as many "gods" are venerated. However, Hinduism has had an understanding of these "gods" as aspects of a single entity (e.g., "the" god, brahman) for thousands of years, well before the advent of Christianity. This is evidenced by passages in the Bhagavad Gita which clearly state this perspective; some have argued that similar passages exist in the Vedas; I cannot verify the latter, but I do know the former is true. In modern Hindu practice, though people worship individual "gods", nevertheless most, if not all, Hindus have an understanding of an underlying unity amongst these "gods" - indeed, it is a core principle of Hindu thought. Even divisions between worshippers of Shiva and Vishnu arose not because of contests over which god was superior, but rather because of philosophical disagreements on which aspect of divinity (as represented by Shiva and Vishnu) was appropriate to be worshipped. -User:Graft

Graft - in theory I agree, but I am concerned that you are not making a distinction between Hindu theory, and Hindu practice. My (admittedly limited) reading on this subject, and my (admittedly limited) conversation with Hindus left me with the distinct impression that most Hindus always have been polytheists, and many still are. There are similar differences in Judaism, where the mass of Jewish believers have beliefs that are at direct odds with texts that they claim to follow. (For example, most Jews who try to accept Maimonides's point of view on various topics in practice reject his views! Many of his writings are so utterly misunderstood by the Jewish masses they attribute views to him that are quite the opposite of what he actually wrote! (Details available if anyone is interested.) I would like to incorporate what you wrote into the article, but I would also like to differentiate between practical beliefs versus theoretical teachings. RK

This is simply not true. Most Hindus, in my experience, would not consider themselves polytheists. Graft
For most educated Hindus today, espeically those outside of India, I agree. For most Hindus thoughout history, that is a different story. RK
I would be delighted to see your sources for this claim. Graft
Besides the two web pages I references, I will be bringing forth more sources. However, I think you are using a looser definition of the word "monotheism" than I am. The Hindu henotheism and nmonotheism that I see described here are what many Jews and Muslims see as polytheism. Even when you explain that this worship of multiple gods is really a way to worship just one, it looks, sounds and feels like polytheism. So given, I guess using this Hindu definition of monotheism, they could all be defined as monotheistic. However, it doesn't fit the Jewish, Muslim, Biblical, Deist or Unitarian definition of monotheism. RK
I take this to mean that these are the only definitions of monotheism you consider appropriate, and no others qualify. I disagree. I think the concept of Brahman is inherently monotheistic. To me, polytheism is the acknowledgement of the existence of multiple gods as separate beings. I don't see how Hinduism looks, sounds and feels like that, except on a very superficial level. By the same argument, the Christian Trinity is polytheist, but most people are willing to let that one slide, for some reason. Graft
Graft, I do not think this is RKs point -- I think his point is just that there may be radically different kinds of "monotheisms." This is an important point in the context of this article, and recent discussions of "Abrahamic religions," that contrast monotheism to polytheism -- as if all polytheisms were the same, and all monotheisms were the same. I think a good deal of the debate on the talk pages for these articles reflects a difference -- both tempermental and theoretical -- betwen generalists and particularists (aka lumpers and splitters). Although I have my own intellectual comittments, I do not think that one of these approaches is "right" and the other "wrong;" rather, the different approaches are helpful for different kinds of questions. In any event, it is important to recognize that although in one context Judaism and Hinduism can be lumped together as monotheistic, in some other context the differences between them are and significant.
RK and Graft -- I think both of you recognize that your exchange here is somewhat tangential to the topic of the article. Yet I find the exchange fascinating and worthwhile. Do you think the two of you can start work on a new article -- Comparing and contrasting Judaism and Hinduism or Different kinds of monotheisms or whatever you want to call it? You can start just by cutting and pasting much of your exchange here to that article. It is too informative to be left on a talk page of a tangential topic. Slrubenstein

I want to point out a weakness in this article; it treats Hinduism as a religion, when strictly speaking, no such unified religion historically existed. Hinduism is a term that encompasses a set of religions. Some of these religions are monotheistic, some are atheistic, some are based on ancestor worship, some are polytheistic. Maybe most Hindus today are effectively monotheistic? Maybe most are henotheistic? I am not wed to any one answer; I honestly don't know. I would like discussions and article content on this subject to reflect some of the ideas in the two articles below. RK

I'm not necessarily going to reject this interpretation of history, since it has its merits. The people who call themselves Hindus now may not always have thought of themselves as a collective entity until the influx of other religions (beginning with Islam) forced them to think in these terms. But, on the other hand, I think it's a bit disingenuous to say that, because there may not have been a label for the various belief systems now called Hinduism, it therefore did not exist.
A lot of this debate stems into current politics, and as usual these positions on Hinduism are based on a desire to see history in a particular way. This is certainly the case for the first website you cite, which comes from a group that has a clear interest in denying the historical existence of Hinduism.
Though "atheism" is often included within the fold of possible twists of Hinduism thanks to Charavak school of thought, I think this is basically a philosophical aberration, and otherwise Hinduism is basically theist. The existence of a broad range of practices does not imply that there are separate religions at work; merely that there is a permissive philosophy that acknowledges a broad range of possible forms of worship.
It may well be that Hinduism or whatever it developed out of was at one time polytheist (I doubt the henotheist part), but this is a subject of debate, and at least as far back as the Gita (1300 BC or so), Hinduism cannot be considered truly "polytheist". I think this is getting a bit far afield of Idolatry, as well. Graft
I appreciate your comments, and I wouldn't mind seeing them worked into the article. However, see my comments above, on the difference between a Hindu and non-Hindu understanding of what monotheism entails. RK

RK I approve of your hard and sincere work on this article.. however, I think your missing the point... and it resides somewhere in the links between how monotheism sprang from polytheism: that there is little difference between them if you understand how the two concepts of the single God differ. Re-paraphrasing Campbell "Western belief says 'God is the trancendent energy', but Eastern religions says 'God is a manifestation of the trancending energy." "God" is a mask, in other words. And in that sense, Eastern beliefs (generally) are somewhat secular and non-literalist. The understanding of the metaphor is a central idea, Thats my limited understanding of it. Of course, just like in other ancient traditions, there is change, growth, and differing interpretation involved. -&#35918&#30505

&#35918&#30505, one of the points in this article that I like is that monotheists often misunderstand polytheism. But if I understand you correctly, you and I have radically different understandings of what this fact means. You seem to think that if monotheists really understood polytheists, then they would see that they aren't so different. I, on the other hand, think that the fact that monotheists misunderstand polytheists reveals just how fundamentally different they are. Thus, I don't agree that monotheism "sprang" from polytheism. Sure, it is likely that polytheism existed prior to monotheism -- but that doesn't mean that monotheism sprang from, is descended from, or developed from polytheism. Clinton was president before Bush, but that doesn't mean that Bush sprang out of Clinton or that the Republicans sprang out of the Democrats -- temporal sequence is not the same thing as causality. I believe monotheism is the result of a radical rupture, and represents something essentially different from polytheism, and that is why monotheists have such a hard time understanding what polytheists are thinking/feeling. Of course, I get most of this view from Kaufman -- if you are basing your argument on some sort of critique of Kaufman, please tell me more
By the way, as you point out, Campbell is just one view. I think he was a serious scholar and his views should be represented, but they are by no means widely accepted. I read an article in Midstream or Tikkun many years ago that argued that he was an anti-semite -- not that he explicitly said anything negative about Jews, but that his approach to religion involved a systematic attack on Judaism. I am not sure whether he was anti-semitic or not; my point is that I don't think he really understood Judaism or Biblical religion. Maybe he really understood paganism -- but this is my point; that he might really understand paganism, and really misunderstand Judaism, just shows how fundamentally different the two kinds of religions are. Slrubenstein

Wesley, which church council (I presume ecumenical council) condemned Doceticism? I know Ignatius in the early 2nd cen. condemned Doceticism, but that was about two centuries before Nicea. SCCarlson

I believe the Council of Chalcedon in 451 formally condemned it. Yes, it's an Ecumenical Council. Before then, it was condemned by the Gospel of John, Ignatius of Antioch (as you said), Irenaeus of Lyons and others. The council may not have dealt with docetism by name, but it did explicitly affirm and spell out in detail Christ's full divinity and full humanity, as reflected in the Chalcedonian Creed. Wesley

Although there's certainly no room for docetism in the Chalcedonian Creed, it is my impression that the Council of Chalcedon was convened to refute the monophysite position. I suppose my objection is that the article statement strikes me as somwhat anachronistic, because the heresy of that time was monophysite not docetist. Docetism lost its steam before ecumenical councils were convened. SCCarlson

Ok, I think you have a point. What if we change the second sentence of this passage:
In this view, the veneration of icons is mandatory; to not venerate icons would imply that Jesus was not also fully God, or to deny that Jesus had a real physical body. Those Christians who denied that Jesus had a body were seen by other Christians as heretics and condemned as such at church-wide councils; their theology is known as docetism.
to this:
Both of these alternatives are incompatible with the christology defined at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and summarized in the Chalcedonian Creed.
and just drop the mention of docetism altogether? That way it addresses both alternatives instead of just one, and points to what the council did say instead of emphasizing an earlier heresy. Wesley 18:58 Mar 7, 2003 (UTC)

The second alternative sounds better. SCCarlson 22:12 Mar 7, 2003 (UTC)

I asked this a while ago and it got ignored, then moved to the archives: how or when have Roman Catholics criticized Eastern Orthodoxy's use of icons? I don't think that they have, since I can buy Orthodox icons at the local Catholic bookstore, and if no one disagrees within a couple days, will amend the article accordingly. Currently the article just says everyone disagrees with everyone else's stance on images, which I think slightly overstates the situation. Wesley

Why is irreverant to God in " " within paragraph 1? Susan Mason

I don't know. I do think, though, that prior to your rewrite the first paragraph was trying to express two different uses of "idolatry," and that your rewrite (cutting polytheism) essentially reduced it to one. I don't have any objection, but given the new first line, maybe this sentence can be deleted? Can you find a way to edit the sentences in the first paragraph together? Slrubenstein
It's an unattributed quote. Normally these are used to denote particular phrases that are very commonly used by those who hold a certain position. For example, the word firefighter is sometimes denigrated as "political correctness gone mad". Those four words are a very particular phrase that gets 1,420 google hits compared to, say, 40 hits for "political correctness gone crazy" and 17 hits for "political correctness gone bonkers".
However, it does not appear that "irreverent to God" is a phrase in this mould, obtaining a mere 33 google hits. (nb, note spelling: there is no 'a' in irreverent). Removing the quotes seems reasonable. Martin

According to whom is "idol worship" more value neutral? I don't see it that way, but maybe I am wrong -- what's the source? Slrubenstein

Originally, just my and Ed's guts, but I looked for dictionary support, of course: Idolatry Idol worship - which gives some, limited confirmation - idolatry has other, negative, meanings, besides meaning the worship of idols, which I perceive as giving the word negative connotations. I'm happy with the status quo, though.

I'm glad. I guess for me the key point is that most of those who are labeled "idol worshipers" deny that they are idol worshipers -- either they claim that what they are worshiping are not "idols," or they claim that their use of material objects is not "worship" -- I think the word idol is by definition negative. I don't know of any one who responds to the accusation of "idol worship" by arguing that idols are good; rather, they argue that the accusers are misunderstanding/misrepresenting what is going on. Slrubenstein

Oh, you can definately find someone arguing that idol worship is good. For example, some Hindus accept idol worship with open arms. I found no corresponding links for idolatry in my brief search... Martin

Thanks for providing the link! But I am still taken by the sentence: "One might argue that the idol is not God. Nor is the flag, a nation, nor is your wedding ring a marriage, nor is your father’s photograph, your father! Yet, you would never dream of treating these symbols with disrespect." -- it seems to me that this author is claiming that it really isn't idol worship. Indeed, the author puts "idol worship" in scare-quotes, which usually indicates that an author is using terminology that he or she doesn't really approve of, but uses because others use it. Slrubenstein

I cut the polytheism part because I thought it was confusing the first paragraph, not so much because I thought it was necessarily bad. Susan Mason

oh. Well, I still don't have any objections -- but if you think it is important information please make sure that the information you cut is made clear somewhere else in the article. Slrubenstein

Well, I guess thats it. I don't think it was important. Idolatry applies not only to polytheism AND monotheism, but to henotheism and other theisms as well. Susan Mason

Do Christian theologians actually mention the staff with the serpent? As your account of the Biblical passage suggests, it was a device for healing, not an object of veneration. I don't think it fits -- if you won't delete it, will you add more explanation? (the Ark of course is a great example) Slrubenstein

The staff with the serpent is seen as an "archtype" or "foreshadowing" of Jesus Christ being lifted up on the Cross; looking to Christ's crucifixion (and the crucifix as a proxy) is justified. Christ referred to the serpent with staff himself once in the Gospels, when foretelling his death. (And some Protestants unwittingly call for His crucifixion all over again when they sing a song with the words "Lift Jesus higher! ... He said 'If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me'". It annoyed me when I was a Protestant, too. ) Also, an outside observer could look at what the Israelites were doing with the staff and conclude that they thought the staff itself had 'mana' or was enabling their healing, so on that grounds alone I think it's a fitting example. But please edit my description, I just wrote it from memory; I referred to it as Old Testament only because it's in the context of how Christians look at it... well, I need to go. Thanks! Wesley 23:04 Mar 7, 2003 (UTC)
My recollection is that the staff with the serpent (Nehushtan) was destroyed by Josiah or another of the reforming kings, because it was feared it had become an idol. (No, it was Hezekiah. 2 Kings XVIII:4) The clear teaching of Scripture is that even an interesting historical relic may become an idol when veneration was offered to it. -- IHCOYC 12:43 Mar 8, 2003 (UTC)

RK has rewritten the intro as:

  • Idolatry (idol worship) is a term of disparagement used by certain monotheistic religions, in reference to polytheistic religious practices.

I believe the earlier introduction was more informative. Susan Mason

I happen think its all just a bastardization of what I wrote Sue, - Thank you for consistent inconsistency. -&#35918&#30505SV Still its not bad.

RKs version is worthless, Idolatry is not limited to merely polytheistic practices, and not all polytheistic practices are idolatrous. As a Jew, I find it silly to refer to the Tanach as the "Hebrew Bible". RK also needlessly sidetracked the article's first list into one of beliefs of polytheism, rather than a list of idolatrous practices as viewed by the Abrahamic religions. He also deleted the link to paganism. Susan Mason

Lir should be banned again. He is a bald-faced liar. I never said that idolatry is limited to polytheistic practices. Ever. Further, I never said that all polytheistic practices are idolatrous. Just read my actual quotes, please. Since Lir is unable to dispute what I wrote, he forges quotes and attacks me for things I have never said. This is unaccepable behavior. Further, I am appalled by the way that Lir is dishonest about the relationship between the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) and the Christian Bible. Most of us long ago agreed by consensus that Judaism and Christianity are different religions (despite Lir's claims to the contrary); most of us have been using the terms "Hebrew Bible" or "Tanakh" when referring to the Bible used by the Israelites/Jews. Lir's claims that this is a POV choice on my part is a flat-out lie, and is part of his agenda to rewrite all articles on related subjects. Please, since Lir is banned, can't we ban him again? He really is disrupting far too many articles (not just this one). RK
Im not incorrect in guessing that RK is attempting to communicate with me somehow? I apoligize for saying your version was worthless RK, I was simply upset at your hostile attitude. Susan Mason

Lir writes: I much prefer the following: Idolatry (idol worship) is a term of disparagement used by certain monotheistic religions, in reference to certain religious practices. The Hebrew Tanach referred to neighboring religions, such as those practriced by Akkadians, Mesopotamians, and Egyptians, as idolatrous, and warned against idol worship by Hebrews. Judaism's animosity towards these "pagan" religions was inherited by Christianity; as Islam developed it adopted such views as well. Within the context of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), idolatry is considered to be a sin. Beliefs which the Abrahamic religions generally consider idolatrous include: Certain objects and places have supernatural power (see: mana): Prayers in the presence of certain objects or places are likelier to be heard by the gods than elsewhere

Its all just gone to poop. -&#35918&#30505sv
  • WIKIWARNING: Swearing is a bannable offense. Susan Mason
not according to Wikipedia:Foul language. Martin
- :) And not if the accusation is coming from a banned user... 'Susan'.-&#35918&#30505sv
Im banned? Might I ask what for?Susan Mason