Critical Podium Dewanand Religion
A Semitic faith condemned to idolatry By M.S.N. Menon
Sacrificer M.S.N. Menon
Sacrifice code wfor0382
Sacrifice date February 13, 2005
A Semitic faith condemned to idolatry
By M.S.N. Menon
February 13, 2005
It is the case of the Christian missionaries (of Benny Hinn, for example)
that Hindus worship idols. They do. But they are free to go beyond idol
worship to meditation (with eyes closed, dhyana)-from the worship of a
personal God (monotheism) to meditation over a God without form or attributes
(monism). This is Advaita.
But there is no way a Christian can bypass Jesus Christ and seek a formless
God. (The very thought is blasphemous to Christians.) He is thus condemned
to remain, with his idols and symbols, a monotheist. He is condemned to
worship, to remain apart from God.
If you ask me which path I prefer, I say without hesitation: The Hindu
path, for my goal is to be as perfect as God. Transform and transcend-this
is the essence of the Hindu faith. Both are not open to Semitic faiths.
Early Christianity saw nothing wrong with idols and images. It was free
from Jewish follies. In the Roman catacombs (underground places of Christian
worship and burial) are to be found the first visual pictures of the Biblical
story. These were painted between the 2nd and 4th centuries a.d.
This tradition must have continued, for the most famous painting of all-the
'Creation of Man' by Michelangelo-was done in the Sistine Chapel of the
Vatican in the 16th century under the direct supervision of a Pope. God
is depicted here as an old man with a beard, but of powerful build, reaching
out his hand to touch the extended hand of Adam.
In fact, no religion can rival Christianity in the multiplicity of images.
In some of the largest Catholic churches of France, there are as many
as 3,000-4,000 statues. Christian sailors got their hands tattooed with
the figure of the Madonna for protection. Pope Gregory II defended the
use of idols. These idols were never seriously challenged till the Reformation.
Christians also worship the cross. It is a symbol. According to the Christian
tradition (contested by Islam), Jesus was crucified on a cross. Hence
it became a religious symbol. The fact is: crosses were venerated even
before the advent of Christianity by various pagan cults. It was a symbol
of fire, which was obtained by rubbing two sticks against each other.
Early Christianity frowned upon it. But it gained acceptance after St.
Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor, Constantine the Great, discovered
the cross on which Jesus was crucified during her visit to the Holy Land
in the 4th century a.d. Well, such is the tradition.
But the shape of the cross which was used by various sects of Christianity
was not uniform. This is rather curious, for once they accepted the cross
discovered by Helena as the one on which Jesus was crucified, the Christian
authorities should have standardised the shape of the cross. The fact
that they did not calls for an explanation.
One is, therefore, forced to admit that the use of the cross too was
one of the many pagan traditions adopted by Christianity. This also explains
why some Christian sects are reluctant to use the cross.
As in Judaism, so in Christianity, God is described in human terms. For
example, the Common Prayer says: "Our Father, which art in Heaven."
The Apostles Creed says: "He (Jesus) ascended to Heaven and is sitting
on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty."
The Reformation was a revolt against the Papacy. It was alleged that
the Popes had Romanised and paganised Christianity, that idol worship
was a pagan practice and that it violated the Jewish tradition, which
is why the Protestants gave up idols. Obviously, they knew not why the
Jews hated idols.
Times change. Concepts change. Gods change. Yahweh was an "old man
with a white beard". This image is no more acceptable to Christians.
Pope John Paul II says that God "is not an old man with a white beard".
And he has referred to God as 'mother' too. The Hindus knew of these problems
3,000 years ago. They called God 'It'. The Christians laughed at the Hindus.
But did not Jesus himself call God his 'Father'? Does it mean that the
son did not know his 'Father'? Christianity cannot go beyond its anthropomorphic
Today enlightened Christians do not take the Biblical story seriously.
Almost the entire scientific community rejects the story of the Genesis.
"The hypothesis of a pervading spirit co-eternal with the universe
remains unshaken," says the poet Shelley. And this is a pagan idea.
But, here, we are in the realm of Vedanta, the final reach of the Hindu
mind in its quest for the nature of God, the final formulation. Christianity
failed to reach out to Advaita. It opted for a personal God. But a personal
God calls for images and symbols. Christianity is condemned to idol worship.
Critical Podium Dewanand Religion
All rights reserved.