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Image / Icon Worship

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There are a number of terms that are applied to Hinduism in the Press, not only in the West but in India itself, which foster a negative image of it. Hindus are routinely called worshippers of idols, polytheists, and various other denigrating stereotypes, which do not reflect any intelligent examination of the religion itself but what is often an intentional campaign of misrepresentation and distortion.

However, there is a strange dichotomy in how such religious images are judged. When they are part of the Christian tradition they are called icons and classified as works of art and regarded as sacred in nature. When they are part of non-Christian or pagan traditions they are called "idols," which is a derogatory term that indicates not the sacred but mere superstition.

To call such images as idols implies that those who worship them practice idolatry or take the image itself as a God. This adds yet more prejudice and error to this judgement. The use of an image - whether we call it an icon or an idol - does not imply belief in the reality of the image. That we keep a photograph of our wife and children at our work desk does not mean that we think our wife and children are the photograph. It is a reminder, not a false reality.

(Based on an article by Dr. David Frawley)

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