Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. (I Corinthians 10:14 NIV)
When the Bible tells us to “flee” from something, then we had better run. Idolatry is a horrible thing. Idolatry involves worship of a false god, along with all the harmful rituals pertaining to such a false god. Today idolatry is seen as generally harmless because most westerners take for granted the assumption that no one really believes in the pagan deities any more. And yet, idolatry is still all around us. It exists to varying degrees in the major world religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism and some branches of Christianity. Of course there is some disagreement as to what “idolatry” really is. If I were to talk to representatives of each of the religions mentioned above, they might individually try to convince me that what the way they pray in front of their shrines does not constititute idolatry. But the Bible tells us to flee idolatry, not to become even partially associated with it. I believe that it is unwise for Christians to pray repeatedly in front of any specific physical object, because if we do, we have a tendency to begin ascribing sacred powers to that object in our mind. We are to pray to God alone, and should avoid prayer directly to a tomb, a statue, a bone, a string of beads, a religious painting, a plant, an animal, consecrated food, or any other created thing. We are to pray only to the Creator.