Christian Relaunch

Wrongful Attitudes (aka Idolatries)

Every wrongdoer tends to suppress the sense of our wickedness, and of God's call to repent, by idolatry, that is, devotion to an idol, an imaginary transcendent goal constructed out of one subset of world-features and entailing a one-sided attention to those features to the neglect of all others.

An idol enables its devotee to suppress the sense of God's voice, to feel that his path in life is satisfactory, that he is basically doing right, that is, that he is righteous.

"If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves."

1st Epistle of John 1:8

Possible idols are as diverse as world-features, and in the course of history many different idolatries have actually been practised.

It would be possible to produce a taxonomy of possible idols. Weber (world-rejection, -affirmation, -mastery, -flight) and Parsons (in his "pattern variables") have proposed what amount to approaches to such a taxonomy, but I hope at some point to find or develop a better one.

An attitude tends to express itself through a worldview, an effort to make sense of the world. And since no idolatry does ultimately makes sense, an idolatry gives rise to various worldviews until the mind notices that the problem is deeper. Sensing the inadequacy of its imaginary goal, the mind reacts by pursuing a different goal instead, that is, by being converted. But unless the self desists from wrongdoing the new goal will be another idol, either newly minted by the self or adopted ready-made from other selves.

And if the new goal is another idol it eventually turns out to be equally unsatisfactory, and the mind (whether of a single self or of a nation) "returns to its old home", leading to a restless oscillation whose cycle-period may be seconds (for an individual) or centuries (for a continent). Thus an idol-pair is formed, which will tend to be more stable than either of its components, as a molecule is more stable than any of its component atoms, especially if the two poles share an idolic cogniframe that lends the pairing a sense of unity.

Other, more elaborate idolic cogniframes are possible, but I have not yet formed a theory about them, though my list of historically significant cogniframes (in the "Specifics" part of the site) includes one such case.

Creating an "armistice line" between rival idols is difficult because every mind abhors a vacuum: there must always be a sense of unity in the ultimate goal pursued. It can happen that two rival attitudes attain mutual toleration by partitioning life between them, yielding a degree of stability, but even then one of them must be recognised as superior. This is unlikely to occur unless one of them has a high degree of stability.

Only a godly attitude is fully stable; every idolatry is ultimately unstable. But degrees of stability vary; one kind of idolatry may last a lifetime while another quickly evaporates under the pressure of reality.

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