The Common Fight Against Idolatry

[T]he principle shared by all radical humanists is that of negating and combating idolatry in every form and shape--idolatry, in the prophetic sense of worshiping the work of one's own hands and hence making man subservient to things, in this process becoming a thing himself. The idols against which the Old Testament prophets fought were idols in wood and stone, or trees and hills; the idols of our day are leaders, institutions, especially the State, the nation, production, law and order, and every man-made thing. Whether or not one believes in God is a question secondary to whether or not one denies idols. The concept of alienation is the same as the Biblical concept of idolatry. It is man's submission to the things of his creation and to the circumstances of his doing. Whatever may divide believers and non-believers, there is something which unites them if they are true to their common tradition, and that is the common fight against idolatry and the deep conviction that no thing and no institution must ever take the place of God...

--Erich Fromm, from The Revolution of Hope

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5 thoughts on “The Common Fight Against Idolatry”

  1. And for a reductio ad absurdum of the atheist variant of this project, may I recommend Negative Dialectics by Theodor Adorno? Still, an awesome project, and there us a lot to be gained from it, in addition to its apologetic value for Christians.

  2. Thanks, Richard. A great quote from (for me) an unexpected quarter. Do you know if he was aware of the person or work of the 28-year-younger Stringfellow? I guess it's too much of a stretch to wonder if they ever met when they were both living in New York at around the time Fromm wrote the above...?!

  3. Good quote, interesting how he has a recognition of idols even if he doesn't actually believe in God.

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