I came upon today an article about the falsehood of idolatry (main article), written by Mike Shreve, an interesting man with an interesting history, an admirable breadth of knowledge and understanding, and a firm belief that Christianity is the correct path.
My first tendency — the desire for conflict I mentioned in my previous post — was to get angry. My senses recoil automatically from words aimed against the faith of Hinduism, the faith with which I have associated myself from my childhood. This faded within five seconds.
Rather than pick at scabs in Shreve’s argument, I thought — what can I learn from his beliefs? No one has faith in a thing if they believe it to be false or stupid, so there must be truth in the words Shreve writes.
His argument against idolatry reduces to a contradiction with the Bible, wherein the god of Judaism says “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Exodus 20:3–4 NIV). In essence, god is asking his followers to abandon idolatry simply because it is falsehood, a false faith in a false thing.
There is nothing “wrong” with idolatry in itself. It is the attachment to the object of devotion that causes problems. Break the idol of Ganesha, and the devotee is infuriated, the devotion snapped. Smash a crucifix before a few devout Christians, and expect a furious response which utterly forgets the Bible’s maxim to “love thy neighbor.” Therefore, it is not idolatry that is the falsehood Shreve seeks, but the attachment. Even-minded people can worship even cow dung without qualms, because they are not attached to the object — it may go, but their faith stays.
We learn from this article that we can strengthen our faith by reducing our attachment to external objects during prayer. The next time you are having an aarti or puja, try not to worry about where your back is turned, or where your feet are pointing. Instead, shift your focus within your own mind, and understand what Shreve teaches us in his article — that truth is internal.
So how do we fight the detractors of Hinduism? Silently absorb their truths and strengthen yourselves.