Imagine for a moment that you’re an Israelite during the Persian period. Your God is a great and powerful one -so great that you dare not speak His name. Your God hammered out the firmament and rolled out the rocky ground and set the star into their proper places. Truly, He is magnificent; the One True God.
And then you step outside and find your neighbor is worshiping a tree.
It’s a pole. You watched him cut it last week. Half of it went into his fire, and the other half he paid Jethro down the street to carve an image into. He’s kneeling in front of a log.
Alright, you know that if you approached him he’d have some explanation. Maybe a dream directed him to make an image of Asherah and burn incense in front of it. It’s not really a God, he’d say, it’s just a representation of a God. Or maybe it is inhabited by the spirit of a God. He’d have some way of explaining how he wasn’t really worshiping a chunk of kindling.
And maybe you know that the majority of the world (or the little of it you know of) worships in front of idols. And maybe you are uncomfortably aware that your family used to worship in front of Asherah poles like that one. And maybe a few of your family members still keep small idols of their household gods around.
But, I mean, come on! He’s worshiping a stick!
The New Iconoclasts
Pullquote: “Any God who can be killed, should be.”
It’s not a perfect analogy by any means, but I think this relates well to the reactions of atheists towards religion.
If Atheists have a God, the way many believers insist we have, it isn’t science. The God of atheists is Truth (or Reality, or the Universe, depending on how you want to spin it.) Science, reason and logic are only the means of finding the Truth, but they’re also the only means we’ve found that work.
We are constantly appalled at the things that people want to slap the label of “Truth” on. Time and again we find people declaring something to be Truth on the flimsiest of pretexts. A reference to a holy work, or some revelation in the distant past or some deep inner feeling.
Yes, we know that there are many arguments to be had. Many religions have theology that is internally consistent, and many have theology that is quite beautiful. But when you hold them up to the light of Reality, it’s hard not to feel that your looking at some fancy decoration painted on a stick.
And so the temptation is always there to take up the hammer and join in the long tradition of idol smashing.