What is religion if not the worship of idols? Let’s have a look at two of the most prominent religions in the world, Christianity and Islam. In Christianity you idolize Jesus Christ, and in Islam, you Idolize Mohammad. These men are touted as the idealized version of what a man can become at his greatest. This will not be a critical analysis of the differences between the religions’ idols and therefore their differing outlooks on the world and how to live, although that would be an interesting topic. Instead, we are going to discuss the idea of idol worship.
Christianity and Islam forbid the worship of other gods, and they both claim the supremacy of their respective god over the dominion of man. They present their respective saviors as the idealized version of man, and all followers of the religions should seek to be just like this one man. I ask you, is this idea of just one ideal compatible with humanity? How many people have you met that are exactly like other people? Are most people even that similar, or do we all have unique personalities with different perspectives and perceptions of the world? You may argue that Jesus or Mohammad had attributes that their worshipers are seeking to portray, but that is not what the religion advocates. It says the traits of these men are the exact traits you should achieve, and if you do not you will not receive salvation/reach paradise. This leaves little variability in the actions of the faithful. They must do exactly what is written in their holy texts, or they will not be like their Idol.
Does this make sense for humans? Should we all seek to be the same? This is one of the reasons why I find the ancient pagan religions of the Greeks and Romans, or even the modern religion of Asatru to be more appealing. They have many gods, and you as the individual can choose to worship whichever god or gods suit your personality or interests. The gods were also not perfect, but they aspired to be better. This is very reflective of human beings. We are all flawed, but the degree to which we aspire to better ourselves speaks to our character as individuals. When you overcome your fears or you achieve goals in the face of adversity, you are improving as a person. You get stronger and better. You are not ever going to be perfect, but at the end of the day you will know you have gotten better.
I ask you, what idols do you worship? Who do you idolize? I idolize the best version of myself. This is not a conceited statement; it is a commitment to self-improvement. As I grow as a person, I aspire to be better every day. My understanding of what that means changes and improves daily because I am changing and improving daily. Who I am today is far better than I was ten years ago, and who I will be in ten years is a better man than I am now. I know this because I seek to achieve a virtuous life every day, and every day I deepen my understanding of what that means and how I am doing in my pursuit.
I know I am not as financially successful today as I thought I would be a decade ago, but I know I am a better man. I have more strength, both physical and mental, more courage, more empathy, more knowledge, a deeper understanding of the world around me and the people in it, I have far more hope for the future, and I have a far deeper understanding of who I am as a man. I also know that as long as I continue pursuing self-improvement, I will become a great man by my own standards, and that is all any of us can ask for.
Seek out your ideals, discover your idealized self, and start practicing at the altar of self-improvement every day. You will find happiness, love, meaning, and self-fulfillment, but if you do not understand what these ideas mean, you will be lost in the dark. Instead, find the light within yourself, discover what it is that makes you special, and seek to make yourself better!