False Gods

Max raised some good questions in an old open thread. I thought it deserved some teasing out and a wider discussion:

“There are false gods”

So incredibly interesting.

What makes them false? That they don’t exist at all?
What do you do with the ‘personal relationships’ people have made with those gods?

Some false gods are idols of our own creation. People creating a god in their own image, as it were. I think false gods certainly exist, in the sense that people create them, pay attention to them, and are sucked in.

As a westerner, the false gods I see are money, prestige, chemicals, sex, food, and anything that can take over part or all of a person’s life in some insidious way. I think these are far more dangerous to people than some of what previous Catholic or Christian generations might have condemned as based in superstition or the occult. I never knew anyone who journeyed into dissolution by astrology or Ouija boards. But I have known people who worshiped at the altar of alcohol and gave themselves over entirely to it.

What do I do with alcoholics and drug addicts and people addicted to pornography or money or status? Unless they come to me and ask questions, nothing. People have to be attracted to change from idolatry to faith. I’m a skeptic that an addict’s adoration of a bottle, a crack pipe, or pictures of sex is actually a relationship. Personal? I suppose so. A relationship implies a place of health, focus, fruitfulness.

It is apparent that many non-Christians have a positive and fruitful experience of religion. Max wonders if Jesus might overhear a prayer to another deity. I don’t suppose there’s some magical block in place to prevent it. I’m disinclined to call out sincere believers and disciples of other religions. My practice of Christianity does not require than I condemn. Rather it suggests dialogue.

To be sure, other Christians and even some Catholics would disagree with me on this point. All I can say is that I am ineffective as a proselytizer. I can only hope to be fruitful the way that’s worked for me in the past.

More questions:

Wouldn’t the One True God accept that prayer as if it were directed at Him? Wouldn’t Jesus forgive the person who misdirected the prayer?

It would be my expectation this would be so. I think that in any sincere search for God, a person would be heard and answered.

You seem to not realize how fascinating this really is.
If you had been born in Pakistan or Indonesia you would be dismissing Jesus as ‘a false god’ – by using the very same logic you are using to defend the truth of Jesus.

It’s an interesting what-if. I was not raised in a family that were churchgoing Christians. If I were born in Pakistan or Indonesia, it is possible my mother would have enrolled me in a Christian school if the educational opportunities presented themselves. And I might have ended up as a Jesuit. Who knows?

I know I have the life I’ve lived. I experienced God’s personal call in response to my unbaptized prayer. I know I have felt a deepening relationship over the years. That beckoning of God happened outside of my family life, so if Christians were in the neighborhood wherever the alt-Todd was living, I’d like to think it possible or even likely I would be on the path to Christ anyway.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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