Idolization or Christianization?

7 February 2022

In recent years a variety of idolatrous trends have appeared on the international stage. Usually called ‘paganism’ it means an approach to the worship of idols, that is the products created by humankind which are images of someone or something. Beyond the concept of paganism, however, there’s another meaning, that of ‘idolization’ that is the elevation of people or things to the position of an idol. On the basis of these two observations, it may be that many of us will recall instances of paganism or idolization in our everyday lives. I think it might be instructive to mention these modern-day pagan or idolizing trends: neo-paganism; worship of knowledge; worship of personality; worship of self; worship of women; and worship of animals.


Over the last few years, there has been a revival of pagan customs and a recurrence of the sickness of paganism. Many people are presenting outbreaks of a set of symptoms against the Christian faith, the historical progress of the Church, Orthodox tradition, its culture and art, and even against rationalism, as they wrongly understand it. They reach the point of blaming the Early Church for the demise of paganism, forgetting the long years of encounter between it and the Church, the decline of intellectual centers of pagan thought, the exposure of the vacuity of the idols and pagan obsessions. They also choose not to remember the enormous contribution of the great Fathers of the Church towards the preservation and development of valuable elements of pre-Christian knowledge and literature. Fr. Epifanios Theodoropoulos  writes that: ‘if all the nonsense written against Christianity is to be expunged, the mountains will need to become brains, the trees pens, the sea ink and the plains paper’. Under the influence of the internet, so-called ‘documentaries’ and a sketchy education, people choose to fritter away their time, refusing to accept  the intellectual, moral and spiritual inferiority of the pagan past which they are half-rediscovering.

Worship of Knowledge

The idolization of the hard, natural sciences and technology and the reverential approach to their achievements and to rationalism. Fr. Epifanios provides us with  some answers: ‘a) in essence, natural sciences describe and formulate. They don’t explain; b) I don’t tell you not to investigate. I merely tell you to come to some sort of conclusion; c) what stops us believing isn’t reason, it’s sin; d) the spiritual laws make us pay if we break them’. ‘One form of curiosity is good: that associated with scientific research’. As people, we have boundaries in place as regards the divine, since we’re created, not the Creator. Unfortunately, we either learn through our mistakes or we remain unrepentant blasphemers, sinning consciously in order to acquire self-assurance.

Worship of personality

The elevation of the person (scientists, performers, clergymen and so on) to the position of idol when their ideas find us in complete agreement with them, especially they encourage our sinfulness. It’s typical for such people to be termed ‘gods’, although God himself is quite clear on the issue: ‘You shall have no other God but me’ (Ex. 20, 3). Anything that is worshiped as ‘god’ other than the Holy Trinity is an idol.

Worship of the Self

Idolization and worship of oneself. It’s no coincidence that, nowadays, the branch of psychotherapy is flourishing, since thousands of people are continuously taken up with themselves. So many of the cases of people undergoing psychotherapy are, in fact, suffering from narcissistic tendencies. Non-Orthodox psychotherapy reinforces an individualistic way of thinking and acting, so that people become self-centered and not community-centered. They make insatiable demands for happiness and rights. If that which is, for Christians, a sin (fornication, theft, murder, abortion and so on), for egocentrics, who want to do and enjoy these things, it is their right to live happily and freely, because their self is the center of the world, they worship it and are interested in nothing else. A typical statement is: ‘We’ve got nothing in this world except ourselves’. And God? Isn’t God a buttress, a companion, a supporter? Without God and a destination, people are beings with a sell-by date. And yet, although they cultivate the importance of the body, they don’t appreciate it properly. That which is created is debilitated when it deifies and worship itself. Besides, people are members of the Church as a whole (that is, the body of the faithful, the community of persons) and of the whole of creation. As people, we have the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with God (in the theological sense of ‘persons’, not ‘individuals’).

The idolization of women as the sex superior to men.  But God made us ‘in his image, man and woman’ (Gen. 1, 27) so any differentiation in terms of humanity or value is inadmissible. The Biblical text touches directly on the equality of the sexes and our common value. The human essence [hypostasis] is one and the same, so no-one is superior or inferior to anyone else. As Saint Paul notes: ‘Nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal. 3, 28). So, disrespecting  the ‘image’ implies disrespect for God, the Creator of the Image. Elevation of the female sex above the male- and the reverse, obviously- is a distortion of the Christian view of the human being.

Worship of animals

The idolization of animals as a higher category of irrational creation. As regards the worship of animals, unreasonable or excessive love for animals, often enough more than is to be found among people themselves, leads to the idolization of the beasts (to use the Biblical term). Animals are part of creation, which is why they deserve our love and respect, but they aren’t superior to the rest of creation, far less than human beings who are the crown of the divine Creation. We’re called upon to love the Creator above all (Matth. 22, 36-38), to whom irrational and rational beings owe their existence and to whom we have to render the care and love that befits them. Veneration of God is the premise for genuine and effective respect for other people and the rest of creation.

Why are there pagan tendencies today?

We’re told to accept God and our inferiority as regards him. Acceptance of God involves: acceptance of the predetermined limits on our activities; having God as our reference point; ceasing to think and act egotistically and deifying our self; refraining from making vain idols; ceasing to parse the truth; abandoning Babel-based behaviors and ways of thinking; and striving to defeat the dominion of sin. The longer people remain in thrall to demonic influence (which brings them face to face with their passions) and demonic thoughts (which distort the truth), they’ll be in need of idols. Abandonment of our self (Matth. 16, 24) and of the things of the world, insofar as these are opposed to God (James 4, 4), are the only way to defeat pagan tendencies once and for all. We’re called upon to decide whether we want to idolize or Christianize our life and daily reality; whether we fill them with idols or make them replete in Christ.