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There may be more idolatry in institutional Christianity than in the pagan world.

The Old Testament is full of stories about God's people being drawn away from genuine faith, into following the idolatrous practices of nearby tribes. Usually the problem came from trying too hard to 'relate' to neighbours, as happened with Solomon and his pagan wives. (1 Kings 11:1-4)

Such idolatry has continued most dramatically in modern times in the Catholic church, with its veneration of religious statues and trinkets.

However, there are a few New Testament arguments in favour of a softer line on people from other religions who practice idolatry.

No. 1: Jesus is silent on the subject of idolatry. He himself favoured 'relating' to sinners.

No. 2: Though the early church retained two fundamental Old Testament rules (against fornication and idolatry--Acts 21:25), Paul says that, if overly religious people are not looking, we can accept gifts of food from people who are idol-worshippers without feeling guilty about it. (1 Corinthians 10:25-29)

No. 3: The New Testament re-defines idolatry as covetousness (Colossians 3:5, Ephesians 5:5, Matthew 6:24) So the sin is not in relating to someone whose idea of God is still primitive, so much as it is in pandering to that ignorance in such a way as to make money from it. On this basis, the Catholic Church is still guilty, because it has made a business out of peddling religious junk.

But PIdolatryrotestants are also guilty. The prosperity gospel, which teaches people to use God to become rich, is probably the fastest growing religion in the world today. Very few denominations have not succumbed to it, and even fewer have dared to dissociate themselves from anyone who does. In an effort to 'relate' to other Christians, those who are not teaching the prosperity doctrine are at least tolerating it. It could cost them dearly to condemn this heresy; and so most just make token complaints about it while continuing to turn a blind eye to it.

A sincere Hindu who is seriously trying to express love to God by placing gifts in front of an idol deserves more patience than these greedy rip-off merchants in the so-called Christian faith. But, while there are plenty who are prepared to condemn Hindus and people of other pagan religions for their idolatry, there is hardly anyone prepared to take a real stand against covetousness within the ranks of professing Christians.

(See also Relating vs Compromise.)

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