Was this a skewed view of idolatry?



I became a Christian in a very strict protestant church with some very unique doctrines. I don’t know how common some of these doctrines are but I think I’ve heard them here and there in other churches. However, I’m probably converting to Catholicism and am trying to get a better idea about some of the things I’ve been taught.

Anyways - the issue is idolatry. The protestant church I was at taught you could fall into idolatry over a variety of different things. For example, if you were really into your girlfriend/boyfriend, you might be in “idolatry” to that person. If you were really into your car, maybe you were in “idolatry” to it. I guess if you were too into something, you could be in “idolatry” to it.

I find myself still thinking and worrying about this every so often. I think the Catholic definition of idolatry isn’t so intense but I was wondering what you guys thought of this. If you were too “into” something as a Catholic would that be a sin? What would that be called? I don’t know - I’m just looking for some clarity on this topic. Thanks,





The way I view idolatry is that anything that takes us from God, we put above God, is idolatry. For some, it could even be football, since it could be put above God, family.
The game could replace Church. If the game comes instead of, or is more important than, God, it’s idolatry.

Football isn’t a sin, but putting it above God would be.

It’s not sinful to have a boyfriend/girlfriend, but again, to put him/her, on anything or anyone, above God, that’s where the sin comes in.


You can make anything into an idol, the Pope talked about money being idolatry recently. From my country it looks like Americans idolise their flag, some people seem to worship their spouses. I guess it is about putting something on the level of God.


Protestants do use the term idolatry as a bugaboo, much more than do Catholics, for the most part. The late David Wilkerson was an extremist in this, insisting that among other things, TV was an idol that must be cast out.

Because the worship of actual physical idols has fallen out of favor, the term describes either anything or nothing.



Everyone has basic responsibilities to take care of as well as what God is calling them to do through their prayers and study. If a person willingly chooses to do something that is getting in the way of that, it would be idolatry. A person who skips church to watch the football games on Sundays would be idolizing football over God. I think even serving the poor could be idolatry if a person stopped praying and going to church to devote all their time to that.


I referred to this in one of my blog posts

So, the division between idolaters and worshippers of the God who is hidden exists as much in the West today as it did in the Middle East 3000 and more years ago. The modern idols of the materialist, consumerist, celebrity obsessed world are no less potent and no less worshipped because they do not get called gods. And ultimately, since each of these idols feeds our sensual appetites, what we worship is ourselves since it is the fulfilment our greedy desire for pleasure which will, we hope, be the outcome of our fervent acts of worship

The point really is that the idols of the ancient world were not slightly different variations of spirituality from the One God of the Christians and the Jews. They were vehicles through which people sought to fulfil their purely sensual desires. As such they deceived people into believing that true happiness, the happiness of genuine fulfillment of our purpose on this earth, could be achieved in a purely material fashion. Anything which we consider to be superior to the spiritual way, and for Christians there is only one Way, one Truth, one Life, is an idol to us and so a stumbling block


Remember, though, it’s no small feat to put minor items above God. To just “really like” something isn’t idolatry, unless we only “kinda like” God.

I think that idolatry should be distinct from materialism or spiritual sloth. If you skip mass to watch football, I would classify that as severe spiritual sloth. If you start worshiping the great deity of football, that is idolatry and a completely different problem. If you pay so much attention to how much money you have that your prayer life wanes, that is materialism. If you start praying to your all-powerful bank account asking it to give you eternal life, that is idolatry.

So the OP’s church is right. Idolatry can be anything that you worship that is not God, whether it be a statue, the sun, or a bracelet you found on the road. But we generally direct idolatry towards things like statues or sun, because there is almost no one in the world who will actually get down on their knees and worship things like their car or their girlfriend.


But plenty of people will do what their girlfriend asks them to do, bring gifts to their girlfriend, effusively and dishonestly praise their girlfriend – all so that their girlfriend might bestow favors on them. It’s quite a bit more like ritualized idolatry than you might have thought.


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