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The meaning of «idolatry»

Idolatry is the worship of an idol as though it were God.[1][2][3] In Abrahamic religions, namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, idolatry connotes the worship of something or someone other than the Abrahamic God as if it were God.[4] In these monotheistic religions, idolatry has been considered as the "worship of false gods" and is forbidden by the values such as the Ten Commandments. Other monotheistic religions may apply similar rules.[5] In many Indian religions, such as theistic and non-theistic forms of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, idols (murti) are considered as symbolism for the absolute but not The Absolute,[6] or icons of spiritual ideas,[6][7] or the embodiment of the divine.[8] It is a means to focus one's religious pursuits and worship (bhakti).[6][9][7] In the traditional religions of ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Africa, Asia, the Americas and elsewhere, the reverence of cult images or statues has been a common practice since antiquity, and cult images have carried different meanings and significance in the history of religion.[1][10][11] Moreover, the material depiction of a deity or more deities has always played an eminent role in all cultures of the world.[10]

The opposition to the use of any icon or image to represent ideas of reverence or worship is called aniconism.[12] The destruction of images as icons of veneration is called iconoclasm,[13] and this has long been accompanied with violence between religious groups that forbid idol worship and those who have accepted icons, images and statues for veneration.[14][15] The definition of idolatry has been a contested topic within Abrahamic religions, with many Muslims and most Protestant Christians condemning the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox practice of venerating the Virgin Mary in many churches as a form of idolatry.[16][17]

The history of religions has been marked with accusations and denials of idolatry. These accusations have considered statues and images to be devoid of symbolism. Alternatively, the topic of idolatry has been a source of disagreements between many religions, or within denominations of various religions, with the presumption that icons of one's own religious practices have meaningful symbolism, while another person's different religious practices do not.[18][19]

The word idolatry comes from the Greek word eidololatria (εἰδωλολατρία) which itself is a compound of two words: eidolon (εἴδωλον "image/idol") and latreia (λατρεία "worship", related to λάτρις).[20] The word eidololatria thus means "worship of idols", which in Latin appears first as idololatria, then in Vulgar Latin as idolatria, therefrom it appears in 12th century Old French as idolatrie, which for the first time in mid 13th century English appears as "idolatry".[21][22]

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