Talk:Idolatry/Archive 6

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RK, I removed these again. We have been covering many issues today, and I am sorry but still not convinced -- perhaps now that we are focussing on jsut these two, it will be easier for you to convince me?

  • Multiple gods and/or deities exist.
  • These gods may work together or against each other; A person may even set one god against another for one's benefit.

First, number one practically defines polytheism. But this is under a header, "poytheistic beliefs that Abrahamic Religions generally consider idolatrous." Do you see it? This is not a particular polytheistic belief, it is poytheism itself! The header suggests that there are certain beliefs of polytheists that are idolatrous -- which implies that there may be some beliefs held by polytheism that are not idolatrous. Yet this bullet point seems to suggest that all polytheism is by its nature idolatrous. At the very least, this point does not belong under the current header. If you believe it belongs in the article, why not incorporate it into the next section as part of a more general discussion: are "polytheism" and "idolatry" the same thing?

I agree; I am trying to say that Judaism, Christianity and Islam view all forms of polytheism as idolatry. These three Abrahamic religions do not view any aprticular polytheistic beliefs as idolatry; they view all polytheism as idolatry (incorrectly, I think.) However, this is no problem as the article isn't saying that these beliefs are idolatrous; rather, they are only saying that they are viewed as idolatrous. So I am in agreement with you. RK

Second, I still do not think that Judaism equates the sin of polytheism with the sin of idolatry (which the following section's mention of Rambam practically affirms). So isn't it factually incorrect to state that an Ambrahamic religion geenrally believes a belief in multiple gods to be idolatry? Can you give me a prooftext from the Bible or Talmud that states "belief in multiple gods = idolatry?" That would satisfy me.

Perhaps you are right. However, the Rambam (aka Maimonides) doesn't seem to represent the mainstream classical rabbinic view on this issue. I realize that the Bible doesn't say that "belief in multiple gods = idolatry", and in fact, I specifically mentioned that this was a later belief, and probably not a correct when, especially when one considers the polytheistic religions outside the knowledge of the near-eastern Israelites. As for the Talmud, I do think that it views all polytheism as idolatry. We should, of course, look into this point, and not blindly assert it. However, every reference to polytheism I have come across in the Talmud refers to it as idolatrous or something equivalent. RK

Third, in any event I think the second bullet-point is redunant. If belief in many gods=idolatry, all beliefs that follow from this belief (that gods may be in conflict, that people can take sides) are of course idolatrous. I just do not see why there is a need for bullet point two IF bullet point one goes. To conclude: one or both of these bullet points should go. If one of them stays, I think it may be more appropriate in another section. Slrubenstein

That is true, however this is not what I meant. If you are referring to the two bullet points above, they are meant to be distinct. (If they are not, that would be my fault!) The first one only states that multiple gods and/or deities exist. This doesn't say anything about the relationship between the gods and mankind. The second point says that "These gods may work together or against each other; A person may even set one god against another for one's benefit." This is meant to discuss a different issue; this point means that people effectively have some power over the gods, in much the same way that people use magic to achieve their goals. In fact, a sufficiently robust polytheistic pantheon that responds to prayer or sacrifice effectively is a magical belief system. There is no fine line between belief in magic and belief in a religion. (There is, of course, a distinct difference between most forms of magic, and most forms of religion. However, there exist gray areas in which they merge; this would be one of them.) RK

Oka, RK: to summarize: I do not feel comfortable making the claim that a belief in many gods is itself idolatrous, unless we have some prooftext. If you provide a prooftext, and we keep the first claim, then I think the second claim is redundant -- I agree it is a different point, but it is obviated by the first claim, if the first claim stands. If you decide that there is no prooftext for the first claim, and we delete it (or replace it with a more nuanced discussion on monotheistic views of polytheism, maybe even for anoterh article), then the second claim may stand, although again I'd like to see prooftexts.

To be crystal clear: I am NOT challenging you on NPOV; you have made it clear that this is a particular view and I do not question that. I am, however, challenging you on accuracy and precision. I have no doubt that Judaism rejects polytheism and attempts to manipulate other gods. I do, however, have doubts that Judaism identifies these specific crimes as "idolatry." I'd like to see evidence. Slrubenstein


SLR, I do wish you would try and communicate with me more and work on the versions which I have produced, rather than continue bickering with RK whilst ignoring me. Susan Mason


RK, why are you reverting my work without even bothering to discuss it? Susan Mason


General comment, but I am especially interested in RK and Welsey's thoughts. This comment was inspired by Wesley's most recent contribution to the talk page. It is also motivated by the fact that after a lot of heavy work on the article, it is now far more accurate and NPOV but has lost some focus. I wonder whether it is worth reflecting on some general thesmes -- which may then guide us in reorganizing the article. Here is what I think. In the first version of the article, and in many ways since then, we focused on "idolatry" as a problem in the relationship between the human and the divine: can the divine take material form?/some say yes/some say that the answer "yes" is wrong and call it idolatry.

But now I think there is a more general issue at stake, which is, what is the place of "the world" in religion? A long time ago I was taught that all religions deal with relationships between the universe, God, and humanity, and that what makes different religions different is the way they sort out these relationships (but this may just come from Rosenzweig). But the implication is this: all religions, including monotheistic ones, must have some attitude towards, and make some use of, the material world. I find this observation useful because it means that there is necessarily going to be a fine line between sacred objects and idols. In other words: we must have a relationship with the material world, because God has a relationship with the material world; but we must not let our relationship with the material world compete with or get in the way of our relationship with God.

I fear that I am starting to sound like some others here who are prone to BS. But my intention is this: if well-informed contributors can reflect a little on what is "at stake" in the issue of idolatry, it might lead one of us to write a much more informative introduction to the article and might help us reorganize it in a more logical way. What do you think? Slrubenstein

I think comparing different religions' attitudes to the material world can certainly make an interesting study of itself, and yes it does relate to how material objects are treated and how they are permitted to be treated. Some related questions for comparative purposes: Is the created world inherently good or evil? orderly or chaotic? permanent or transient (and destined to "go away" one way or another)? That last question touches on the religion's eschatology. An example application might be to look at Buddhism, which I think believes the material world is transient or an "illusion" in the long run; if they think matter is transient, how could they truly worship a graven image, which is implicitly transient along with everything else? I'm not a Buddhist expert by any means, so that example may be misleading, but I hope it at least suggests the sorts of relationships that can exist between a religion's attitude towards the material world and its attitude towards sacred objects and "idols". I'm not sure if this should be part of the idolatry article or some other article that idolatry cross references. (BTW, Great Lent is all about not letting the material world compete with our relationship with God; one of the main reasons behind fasting. That was a very timely remark, as today begins Great Lent at least in the U.S.) Wesley 16:53 Mar 10, 2003 (UTC)
  I have ever understood it as one of the central truths of Christianity, that not only human beings, but the whole of the material world, was corrupted by the fall of man. Not only humans, but all life, is subject to death, decay, disease, and other misfortunes; the entire cosmos groans waiting to be delivered. All that is flesh is "carnal," tainted by sin. In this body, we can never be truly good. (See, e.g. Romans VIII - VIII). The original creation made by God was good, but we don't live there anymore. We live in a world subject to the laws of scarcity and work, the consequences of sin, where life itself is a burden to endure. Evil is written into the very laws of physics, such as the second law of thermodynamics.
  Christ's suffering is not limited to the Cross; Christ suffered because he had to come here, had to be born in human flesh, had to suffer its trials and temptations. We are told otherwise that He had to divest Himself of His true nature, of His glory, in order to suffer incarnation and death. (Philippians II:5-11)
  It seems to follow logically that nothing "flesh," that is, nothing that is made of matter, can ever be holy. To worship anything here is a blasphemy against the utter otherness of God, against His holy purpose to sweep this degraded earth away and replace it with a better one. This is the real indictment of idolatry, as I see it. Called to worship "in Spirit and in truth," we are called out of this world, to cultivate indifference to it. -- IHCOYC 03:55 Mar 11, 2003 (UTC)
I recognize that this is not the place for extended theological debate, but feel obliged to point out that if you believe that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully Man, then at the very least his own physical body had to have been holy. If you believe in Christ's physical resurrection, and bodily ascension, then you are left to explain why he did not leave his body in the ground and merely ascend in spiritual form like any ghost. Your position is at odds with the likes of Irenaeus of Lyons and Athanasius of Alexandria, and in some ways closer to that of Marcion of Sinope and to Zoroastrianism, which taught that all matter is evil. I just added a link to a work by Athanasius called On the Incarnation to the Incarnation article; it has an introduction by C.S. Lewis. It discusses the implications of the Incarnation in depth and is worth a careful reading, even if you don't find Athanasius authoritative. (BTW he's also the same one who first put forth the list of New Testament books that we use today; if you don't trust him, you may have bigger problems.) Athanasius' work on this subject is also reasonably representative of how Christianity has historically viewed the Incarnation of Jesus. Wesley 13:52 Mar 11, 2003 (UTC)
My understanding is that Christ's risen body, and Adam's pre-Fall body, were somehow perfected in ways we have no direct experience of. Christ was not a ghost, he could be touched, but his resurrection body was not like ours. We know, for instance, that there were no carnivorous animals in Eden; that was a world whose biology and geography can't be seen from here. More than that, I cannot say -- IHCOYC 20:09 Mar 11, 2003 (UTC)

Please read Athanasius' On the Incarnation, linked from the Incarnation article. You agree that Christ's resurrection body was not a ghost, but don't seem to see why that matters or how it affects this discussion. I assume you agree that his pre-resurrection, pre-death body was also a real, physical body. Aside from Christ's resurrection body, Christ's body pre-death and pre-resurrection was holy. When Philip asked to see the Father, Jesus said "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." This alone contradicts your statement that "To worship anything here is a blasphemy against the utter otherness of God." The whole point of the Incarnation is that Jesus was Immanuel, God with us, no longer completely other but also imminent, uniting our human nature with his own divine nature in his person and thereby beginning the healing of our human nature. Peter, James and John caught a glimpse of Christ's unconcealed glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. He did not divest himself of his divinity when he became man; as Athanasius explains, if he had, then his death would have accomplished no more than any other man's death. (The Philippians passage does not reject or refute this, or rather has not in the historical reading of the church.) Such a change would also render the Trinity divisible, and God changeable, both ideas which are repeatedly rejected by Christian writers and theologians through the centuries, as well as in some of the oldest prayers prayed in the Orthodox church. This is not just my understanding. This is the tradition of the Apostles and Fathers of the church, from the New Testament to the interpretation of the Church of that scripture handed down through the centuries. The Good News is actually Good News for all of creation, not even just for all humanity, as the corruption of all creation is being healed. Athanasius also argues that for God to leave His creation in a fallen, corrupted state would be an admission of failure, so of course He would do something to redeem it and heal it. Hence, matter is not evil but is in need of "saving" or "healing", like us people, and is also considered worth "saving".

Getting back to the article at hand and Slrubenstein's original suggestion, would it be helpful to compare the attitude of different religions to the material world? ;-) Wesley 05:01 Mar 12, 2003 (UTC)


I have decided to avoid this article until you are all reasonably satisfied with it, then I will return! Susan Mason


The final paragraph of the section on Christianity now begins The vast majority of Christian denominations. . . countenance the veneration of images and icons, and believe that it is in fact mandatory to do so. I don't believe this is true; while a majority of Christians may belong to denominations that countenance such worship, the party of Christians that refuses to go along definitely has more denominations than the party of Christians who do. Some denominations may have different rules about acceptable decorations in churches, but no Protestant denomination of my knowledge tolerates the veneration of any of them. To speak of the "vast majority of Christians" suggests that veneration of images and icons should be taken as normative, and raises NPOV issues. -- IHCOYC 15:25 Apr 4, 2003 (UTC)

Just for clarity, here's the paragraph in question:
The vast majority of Christian denominations hold that God particularised himself when he took on flesh and was born as Jesus; through this act God is said to have blessed material things and made them good again. By rising physically from the dead, ascending bodily into Heaven, and promising Christians a physical resurrection, God thus indicates that it is not wrong to be "attached" to physical things, and that matter is not inherently evil, unlike the contemporary teachings of Gnosticism. While God the Father and God the Spirit are forbidden to be depicted in icons since they are invisible, it is acceptable within Christianity to depict God the Son because he came in such a way that people could see, hear and touch him. In this view, the veneration of icons is mandatory; to not venerate icons would imply that Jesus was not also fully God, or to deny that Jesus had a real physical body. Both of these alternatives are incompatible with the christology defined at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and summarized in the Chalcedonian Creed.
By itself the opening sentence I think is correct, since most Christians believe that Jesus is God. If I'm not mistaken, the Protestants would start to part ways with the Catholics and Orthodox after the sentence that ends "...unlike the contemporary teachings of Gnosticism." since it's after that sentence that the paragraph starts talking about icons and so forth. I'll amend it accordingly, as you make a good point. Wesley

I removed this paragraph:

In The Religion of Israel Yehezkial Kaufman argued that the popular concept of "idol worship" is a misrepresentation of non-deistic religious beliefs and practices. Other historians of religion have suggested other ways of describing the beliefs and practices in questions. One way of viewing them is as a form of animism which expresses the belief that all objects in the world are alive, and thus have indwelling souls, and thus should be worshipped. Another view of such practices is that the statue or physical object is a material manifestation, or symbol, of a non-material god who holds power over some aspect of the world, such as a particular stream of water or rain in all its forms.

There isn't enough information here about Kaufman, and unless u add some more its not very informative. What is the "popular concept" (according to Kaufman) and how is it a misrepresentation? Does anyone in particular disagree with Kaufman? How much of this paragraph is expressed elsewhere in the article (a good deal I believe), what good is it to say "[Animism] is...a form of animism which expresses the belief that all objects...are alive". Dietary Fiber

Oh, I see what you mean. Thank you for pointing this out; even though I had one intention when I added that paragraph, I can see why it might be vague. Here is what I should rewrite it to say: The popular notion that Kaufman refers to is one that holds (a) polytheists and animists generally worship idols as such, and (b) all forms of polytheism and animism are idolatry, and it is also usually implied that (c) they have immoral belief systems. That's all that Kaufman means; other scholars of religion also use something like this as their understanding of the popular useage of "idolatry". Most scholars of religion and history, like Kaufman, reject this view as false and uninformed. Does anyone disagree with the historical view? You bet! Most religious Chrisitans and many Orthodox Jews and Muslims do; especially in the USA. But they don't disagree with Kaufman as such; rather, disagree with historical studies of polytheism, or any discussion of them which allows them the possibility of being seen as moral and non-idolatrous. There are basically two schools of thought. RK
(a) liberal religious Jews and Christians agree with the modern scholarly view; not all polytheists (and animists) should be called idolators. In fact, perhaps very few people genuinelly deserve this appellation.
(b) Traditionally religious Jews, Christians and Muslims reject the modern scholarly view, and view most (or all) polytheists (and animists) as idolators. (Of course, we must note that a huge number of Protestant Christian fundamentalists in the USA view all religions other than their own as idolatry.) RK

So what is "idolatry" according to the "liberal" view? I am confused as to what possible meaning "idolatry" could have outside of a religious context. Dietary Fiber

I don't understand why you deleted our exchange, and labelled it as "spam". Why would you ask questions, and then delete the replies? This behaviour makes no sense. Further, who claimed that idolatry has a non-religious meaning? No one said any such thing. RK

You deleted the exchange, not I. You deleted it and moved it to my talk page where it didn't belong. You indicated that idolatry has a non-religious meaning by referring to a "liberal/scholary" view; as opposed to a religious view. Dietary Fiber

Stop playing word games. You are being argumentative instead of helpful. This page is only for the discussion of how to change this article. That part of the conversation was not on topic for this page, so it was moved to your personal home page, which is precisely where such conversations belong. That is standard Wikipedia practice. Your deletion of that discussion, and your insulting attack on it as "SPAM" was hurtful and uncalled for. RK



Is there any documented evidence (surveys, etc.) for this statement?

Most traditional Jews, Muslims and Christians have held all forms of polytheism and animism to be idolatry.

Clarifying this point may help to resolve the dispute. SCCarlson 12:28 Apr 8, 2003 (UTC)

I have been searching for over a month, and I cannot find any statement to the contrary. Everytime I find a reference to classical Judaism, Chrisitanity and Islam discussing animism or polytheism, these religions are held to be idolatry. I am aware of no exceptions. I did hedge the wording by saying "most", but that may be an understatement. Classicaly, it may well be that "all" Jews, Chrisitans and Muslims viewed such religions as idolatry. RK
If you can, please provide some of these references, so I can understand what you are referring to. I'm not sure a liberal-conservative distinction is the right way to focus on the issue, though, because it seems to be more of an ignorant vs. educated distinction. There are conservative religious scholars who don't conflate the two. Rather, the more one is familar with other religious (admittedly somewhat more common among religious liberals), the less likely one is to equate polytheism and idolatry. Most religious conservatives in my experience do not give a moment's thought to issue, so the statement, in my opinion, is just as relevant as discussing the opinions of accountants and astronomers about idolatry. SCCarlson 01:59 Apr 9, 2003 (UTC)

I personally don't have a dispute with that statement because I am of the understanding that idolatry is a religious pov term of disparagement made by the Abrahamic religions to describe any other religion which worships anything other than the one true God. What I am confused by is RKs assertation that there is a "liberal scholarly religion" in which idolatry is seen as some sort of...something else? Don't get me wrong, I agree that "liberal scholary view" exists, but Im a little confused by this:

This is incorrect. While the term "idolatry" certainly can be used as disparagement, that is not all that the term means. The term idolatry is a technical term indicating that adherents of a faith worship idols. That, in of itself, is not a disparagement at all; it is merely a description of their beliefs. And there certainly have existed many such people. And please stop putting words in my mouth; I never wrote about some "liberal scholarly religion" that accepts idolatry as legitimate. In fact, I cannot even imagine what a "liberal scholarly religion" might even be referring to, except perhaps Unitarian-Universalism, which is a religion I did not write about! RK
Allow me to try to clarify one last time: Not all Jews and Chrisitans attack all other religions as idolatry. Many religiously liberal Jews, and religiously liberal Chrisitans, hold - for the reasons explicitly stated in the article - that it is incorrect to label all polytheistic beliefs as "idolatry". What precisely is problematic about this? RK
  • One way of viewing them is as a form of animism which expresses the belief that all objects in the world are alive, and thus have indwelling souls, and thus should be worshipped. Another view of such practices is that the statue or physical object is a material manifestation, or symbol, of a non-material god who holds power over some aspect of the world, such as a particular stream of water or rain in all its forms.

In this paragraph, it basically seems to argue that animism is not idolatry because its actually animism, which really just seems to be a redundant statement that "some people don't think animism is idolatrous"; but since we already stated that many practictioners of the so-called idolatrous beliefs do not believe they are idolatrous, why is it necessary to clarify that some people argue that their worship of the "Stream of Water God" is not really idolatry but merely worship of rain (which isn't really idolatry either).

So I removed the paragraph because I felt it wasn't really discussing the "liberal scholary view" involved, that is, the view of anthropologists that primitive cultures are not a bunch of voodooo magic idiots worshipping rocks which they believe to hold the powers of the 5 universes.

RK, however, thought the paragraph was useful, and while I really don't object to it so much as a stand alone paragraph, for example if you were to put it on my talk page I wouldn't really disagree with the content, I don't think it adds to the article because, excepting the Kaufman reference which should be added to before its re-added, the paragraph doesn't really add anything that isn't already in the article, an article which already explicitly states that some people aren't Christians, Abrahamics, or Islamists, and don't believe in idolatry.

Now granted, RK has also indicates that there is dispute between members of the Abrahamic religions as to what idolatry actually is, and some no longer feel that polytheism/animism automatically qualify for idolatry; however, the paragraph in question does not discuss that. It merely states:

  • One way of viewing [animism/polytheism/"idolatry"] is as a form of animism which expresses the belief that all objects in the world are alive, and thus have indwelling souls, and thus should be worshipped

Which doesn't seem to be a useful statement to me seeing as how the article already states that animism is not necessarily idolatry. Dietary Fiber


In which RK asserts there is a "liberal scholar POV", from above

  • :(a) liberal religious Jews and Christians agree with the modern scholarly view; not all polytheists (and animists) should be called idolators. In fact, perhaps very few people genuinelly deserve this appellation.

Is it appropriate to refer to all idol "worshipers" as idolators, as RK suggests elsewhere? Dietary Fiber


That's it. I am tired of your bald-faced lies. I never wrote any such thing, Dietary Fiber, and you will be reported for fabricating quotes and trolling. This is the second time today you fabricated a quote from me, and attacked me for it. Each time I try to work with you, you respond with personal attacks and fraud. Well, that's the end of your hateful attempts to disrupt our encyclopedia. You are now under watch. RK 00:25 Apr 9, 2003 (UTC)

I have some problems with the following passage. I think RK has been doing a lot of work on these, so I don't want to make any changes without some discussion -- but to be frank, I thought of removing these from the text until they could be fixed:

Modern biblical scholars hold that the early books of the Hebrew Bible were written as a reaction against the belief that prayer or rituals within the presence of certain objects or places are likelier to have an effect then when performed elsewhere. The Torah instructs the Israelites to demolish all local places that are reputed to have such power. In their place the Israelites were instructed to offer sacrifices at only one location, the Temple in Jerusalem. Later books of the Bible make clear that prayers to God could be offered anywhere.

My problem with this is three-fold. First, the phrase "later books" is confusing, as it could meen books that appear later in the Bible (e.g. Chronicles, as opposed to Genesis), or it could refer to texts (not whole books, for the most part) that were written later (e.g P and D are later than J and E). Second, this ambiguity is important because my sense of Biblical history is the opposite of what this paragraph suggests -- my sense was that within the Bible the earliest texts approve of worship in many places, and the later texts focus on the importance of one central place (of course, this is reversed in Rabbinic literature). In any event, third -- I just don't see how this bears on idolatry. Whether on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem, or any number of bamot in the desert, the Biblical view is that idolatry is wrong.

By "later books", I mean the other Biblical books that come in sequence after the five books of Moses; these books are both later in a literary sequence, and later in a chronological order. The five books of Moses was written first (even taking into account its later redaction around 440 BCE). I was not trying to bring up a discussion of the original sources of these books (i.e. the documentary hypothesis). I agree with you that the very early parts of the Bible - especially Genesis - do approve of sacrifices and worship in many places. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. All I meant to say was that over time this permission was rescinded, and as we move through the Torah we end up a sitation where sacrifices are prohibited everywhere, except in the Temple. (While prayers are still allowed anywhere.) So far, I think we are in agreement. As to what this has to do with idolatry, my thinking was this: people accused of idolatry had many places they sacrificed and worshipped; parts of the Bible (specifically, the Torah) are believed to have been written in direct response to this. RK


A small number of modern Jewish theologians such as Yehezkel Kaufman and Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz have suggested that perhaps only the Israelites were forbidden to worship idols, but perhaps such worship was permissible for members of other religions. (Yehezkel Kaufman, "The Religion of Israel", Univ. of Chicago Press, 1960; J. H. Hertz, "Pentateuch and Haftorahs" Soncino Press, 1960, p.759).

I question these citations. Although Hertz was a chief rabbi and the Soncino Humash is popular, I don't think he is the authority here; surely he is drawing on earlier authorities. Also, where does Kaufman make this point? His main point was that the Hebrews didn't understand idolatry, not that they allowed it for non-Jews, indeed, he is clear that they were contemptuous of idolatry. I do think this view exists within Judaism; I am pretty sure that there are midrashim that tolerate non-Jewish forms of worship (including ones that seem idolatrous) as long as they are limited to non-Jews -- but Kaufman? Slrubenstein

In this section I want to summarize the reaction of modern day Jews toward those accused of idolatry. Who better to cite than J. H. Hertz and Y. Kaufman? They are respected and well-read in the Jewish community. Interestingly, most Orthodox and Conservative rabbis do not believe that Hertz was drawing on earlier authorities. On this issue, Hertz had a novel way of looking at things; his views have little support in the classical rabbinic sources. Howeverm by dint of his acceptance on many other issues, people are willing to give him a pass on this one, and may use Hertz's views to promote religious pluralism, even if they don't have a firm classical rabbinic basis. RK
As for Kaufman, I agree with you that he said that the Hebrews didn't understand idolatry; I also agree with you that he said that the Bible does not allow idolatry for non-Jews. However (and correct me if I am wrong) I thought he said that today, Jews should be Ok with gentiles who practice polytheism, and that we should not condemn them as idolators. I have read this in articles about him, but I have not read this in his works directly. I could be wrong. RK

Okay, RK, I understand better. First, I think the paragraph on multiple sites of worship should just be cut -- but I don't want to do it against your wishes so I am asking you to delete it if you agree with me. My reason: I just think it is too tangential and thus distracting; the objection to idolatry is first and foremost an objection to false gods and graven images. Even if there is a connection between this and Biblical injunctions against worship at many places (and I think there are at least other factors, so a fair discussion of this would get complicated -- many think that the parts of the Bible written against multiple places had to do with a struggle to reorganize priestly authority within Judaism, not problems with non-Jewish practices; you can disagree, my point is only that fair treatment of this topic would require much more discussion) this point is just not necessary for a good article on idolatry.

I don't mind making this cut. It is somewhat tangential. I thought it was interesting and semi-related, but I see your point. RK

Second, I really think Hertz is too minor a figure to include here but if you are invested in representing this POV, it is okay by me. But as for Kaufman, if he did take the position you claim, I just am not familiar with the source. Could you check around and see where exactly he says this? Otherwise -- I think we are safer taking it out.

I think that J. H. Hertz is important to mention here, as he is one of the few "big guns", so to speak, who has something to say on this issue. Most Jewish leaders don't really deal with this issue at all. The few others I can think of who have written in depth on such issues include Rabbi Elliot Dorff (Conservative Judaism), and Rabbi David Novak (Union for Traditional Judaism, a right-wing Conservative, left-wing Orthodox group.) RK

But third and finally, I am still a little confused about your point. Are you saying that Kaufman (or others) said that it was okay for non-Jews to practice idolatry, or are you saying that Kaufman (or others) said that although idolatry is wrong, many current forms of polytheism are not really idolatry (i.e. they are okay because they are not idoloatry, not because idolatry is okay)? It really isn't clear to me. Can you make such changes as are necessary to make this clear in the article? Thanks, Slrubenstein

If I understand Kaufman correctly (and I am not swearing by this!), then I mean the following: Kaufman believes it is always wrong to be an idolator, whether one is a Jew or a gentile. However, certain religions accused of idolatry are really not idolatry. Therefore, it is permissible for gentiles to believe in these polytheistic non-idolatrous religions. (And I will check my sources!) RK