An Analysis of the Cult of Image Worship

We are all familiar with the central role religious images – statues, icons and works of art – play in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Stories of miracles and supernatural feats are so hinged with the cult of images that it’s obvious that one can’t survive without the other.

Such stories have been crystallized in many Catholic legends (e.g St. Mary of Egypt, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Faustina Kowalska etc.) and there’s no shortage of such today – from the spurious to the curious to the grotesque. In 2014, the Associated Press reported on an “oil weeping” statue of Mary in a small town in Northern Israel which attracted over 2,000 pilgrims.

There have also been stories of statues or icons of “Jesus” and the various “saints” weeping blood, oils or water, nodding, blinking, effective miraculous cures, or surviving a disaster. When Catholic believers listen to these tales they punctuate the air with chants of “Holy Mother pray for us!” while deliberately piping down on their own critical faculties to deny obvious questions.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says that “through the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover our heads and kneel, we adore Christ and venerate the saints whose likenesses they are” (8:636)

The Catholic Catechism (2132) also says: “The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, ‘the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,’ and ‘whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.'”

We need to ask: why would any Christian kiss or kneel to worship an image in the name of God? How do Catholics know for sure that the images they venerate are really the “likenesses” and “prototypes” of the persons they portray? Have they physically seen Jesus, Mary or the “saints” before? Did they pose for a photo shoot?

If the honour or worship rendered to an image passes to its prototype, what then stops one from worshipping the rocks in one’s backyards since one can paint a supposed image of ‘Christ’ or the ‘saints’ on them? Different portraits of Jesus or Mary have been produced by different artists in different nations at different periods of history. Certainly, all these artistic renditions can’t be representations of the persons alleged. This is a fraudulent development.

Church history shows how the cult of images developed. The early Christians while not adverse to art, had no images of Christ. This is evident in the writings of the early church fathers who denounced religious images. For example:

Melito (d. 180 A.D.): “We are not those who pay homage to stones, that are without sensation; but of the only God, who is before all and over all, and moreover, we are worshippers of His Christ, who is veritably God the Word existing before time” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers III, 579).

Irenaeus (c. 125-202 AD): “They style themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world…” (Against Heresies 1:25:6)

Tertullian (145-220): “But some one says, in opposition to our proposition of “similitude being interdicted,” “Why, then, did Moses in the desert make a likeness of a serpent out of bronze?” The figures, which used to be laid as a groundwork for some secret future dispensation, not with a view to the repeal of the law, but as a type of their own final cause, stand in a class by themselves … It is enough that the same God, as by law He forbade the making of similitude, did, by the extraordinary precept in the case of the serpent, interdict similitude. If you reverence the same God, you have His law, “Thou shall make no similitude” (Of Idolatry, Ch. 5).

Origen (c. 185-254 A.D): “But Christians and Jews have regard to this command … ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before Me: thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath … It is in consideration of these and many other commands, that they not only avoid temples, altars, and images but are ready to suffer death when it is necessary, rather than debase by any such impiety the conception which they have of the Most High God” (Against Celsus, 7:65)

Lactantius (c. 250-325 A.D.): “Wherefore it is undoubted that there is no religion wherever there is an image. For if religion consists of divine things, and there is nothing divine except in heavenly things; it follows that images are without religion, because there can be nothing heavenly in that which is made from the earth” (The Divine Institutes, 2:19).

Notice from these quotes that the only groups of people who venerated images purported to be of Christ were heretics who had mixed Christian elements with occult Gnosticism. The Synod of Elvira (305/306) prohibited images as a hindrance to the spiritual worship of God. Ambrose, Jerome and Eusebius made references to people making images of “Christ” or “saints” in their time but they were seriously frowned upon. Epiphanus for instance, wrote:

“…I came to a villa called Anablatha and, as I was passing, saw a lamp burning there. Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ’s church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person” (Jerome’s Letter, 51:9)

Catholic scholar, Ludwig Ott noted that: “Owing to the influence of the Old Testament prohibition of images, Christian veneration of images developed only after the victory of the Church over paganism” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Tan Books: Illinois, 1974, 320).

Even when images were introduced, several emperors condemned their use as heresy and ordered them destroyed. In 784 A.D. Tarasius who was an advocate of images, became the Patriarch of the East and the Synod of Nicaea in 787 ascribed reference to images and worship to God through them. This practice was sanctioned in the West through the Synod of Frankfurt in 794. Even then, several emperors, Catholic bishops and others were still opposed to image and relic worship.

After 850, the cult of image worship began to grow in churches along with stories of “miracles” performed through them. In 1188, it was declared that a denial of images was a denial of God. In 1225, it was said that Christ was not Christ unless He was graven. Thomas Aquinas said in Summa Theologiae that an image of Christ claims the same veneration as Christ Himself. At the Council of Trent (1551-1552) idolatry was finally made a dogma (compulsory belief) for Catholics and so it remains till date.

What the Bible Says

In Scripture, none of the inspired writer ever mentioned the use of images in worship to God in the tabernacle or temple rites except when Israel was backslidden and served pagan gods. The Bible denounced religious images as the works of man’s hands; imitations of creations, made of dead materials and a foolish worship (see Lev. 19:4 2 Kgs. 18:4 , Isa. 44:8-20; 46:6-7 etc.). The second commandment in the Decalogue says:

You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them” Exodus 20:4-5 (New American Bible)

This commandment has been slyly eliminated from the Catholic Catechism because of its implications on Catholic dogma. To properly bury the verse in the rat’s nest, they split the tenth commandment into two – making the part about not coveting your neighbour’s wife into the ninth and the rest, servant, etc. was grouped together to form the tenth.

Catholic doctrinal books also intentionally use the review of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy instead of the original giving of the commandments in Exodus. These efforts prove that Catholic leaders too are aware that God’s commands condemn their use of images in worship.

You saw no form at all on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire. Be strictly on your guard, therefore, not to degrade yourselves by fashioning an idol to represent any figure, whether it be the form of a man or a woman…” (Deut. 4:15-16 NAB)

I shall pronounce my judgements on them because of all their wickedness, since they have abandoned me, offering incense to other gods and worshipping what their own hands have made” (Jer. 1:16 New Jerusalem Bible)

To whom could you liken God? What image could you contrive of him” (Isa. 40:18 JB)

These were directives given to God’s people in the OT denouncing images made of God or any divine figure. In the NT, the same commands were given to Christians forbidding them from “Christianized” image worship:

Therefore, my beloved, avoid idolatry 1 Cor. 10:14 (NAB)

Others must stay outside [heaven]: dogs, fortune-tellers, and the sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters, and everyone of false speech and false life” (Rev. 22:15, NJB).

God doesn’t need to go into semantic acrobatics or manipulation of terms. His Word is clear that any worship or veneration offered to an image is idolatry. Plain and simple. We spurn His commands only at our own peril.

During a discussion with an ex-Catholic friend, Rita, years ago, I asked, “What was the main factor that led you to reject Catholicism?” She answered, “Every time we prayed towards an image, something in me would ask, ‘Is this not idolatry? Is this not an abomination before God?’ Sometimes when I voiced out my inner protests, they would defiantly tell me it’s not idolatry. But their explanations couldn’t drown my inner voice. It was when I looked into the Bible, that I realized that God had been tugging at my conscience all along”

This “Christian” idolatry persists because many religious people want to walk by sight rather than by faith. They want God or Jesus to be portable and manageable; in a form that they can see, touch and kiss rather than serving Him in spirit and truth. The cult of image worship is simply a continuation of the traditions of pagans who made images of their deities.

The Catholic Encyclopedia‘s article on ‘The True Cross’ says “in the first ages of Christianity, when converts from paganism were so numerous, and the impression of idol-worship was so fresh, the Church found it advisable not to permit the development of this cult of images, but later, when that danger had disappeared…the cult developed freely”

The bigger the tales of miracles wrought through these idolatrous images, the bigger the income generated for Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy and the greater the number of souls led into spiritual bondage. But God must be worshipped as He has prescribed – in spirit and truth – not as we think He should be worshipped.


The Goddess Delusion

Over the last few decades, there has been a fast-spreading paradigm shift from Christianity to paganism. This trend ranges from attempts to promote a feminized version of God to cults centered around a female divinity. “For the first time in two millennia” wrote Caitlin Matthews in Sophia: Goddess of Wisdom, “the idea of a Goddess as a central pivot of creation is finding a welcome response.”

With the surge of feminism, Earth-centred beliefs and New Age spirituality, conceptual social and religious barriers are being broken down and many people are being led to adopt a form of female principle – whether by literal goddess worship or a mystical tap into the “feminine energy.”

Elmer Towns was apt to observe that:
“Many women turn to a female deity because they have been hurt by men. They may have been abused, raped, abandoned, or in some way violated by males in their lives. As a result, they may blame the heavenly Father, who is male. Notice, when people ask why God would allow starvation, cancer, or other problems in the world, they never ask why ‘Mother Earth’ or a female deity has caused the problems. It’s always a male deity that they blame. [1]

Ex-Wiccan High Priest, Bill Schnoebelen, reflected on the deceptive ideas that led him into goddess worship:

“While the Biblical Jehovah is striking people with thunderbolts as they step out of line, their Goddess plays and frolics with her hidden children … She is everyone’s fantasy idea of a mother or lover: a gorgeous, compassionate woman who loves unconditionally, does not chide or require much of you, and who is totally available for both service and sexual intimacy. I fell in love with this image of the Goddess immediately.” [2]

Many Wiccans and Neo-pagans freely acknowledge that their Goddess is universally worshipped in countless cultures, traditions and rites worldwide. They admit that their goddess has emerged in different forms, with different names at various periods of history. These are all facets or archetypes of the same great Goddess.

This global catholicity of the “great goddess,” however, exposes the diabolic veneer, because a historical overview of many ancient goddesses reveal them to be evil, savage and destructive. For example:

Kali – she is the major Hindu goddess of death, power and destruction. A Hindu text, Devi Mahatmyam, describes Kali as “armed with a sword and noose. Bearing the strange Khatvanga (skull-topped staff), decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in a tiger’s skin, very appalling owing to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out [and] having deep reddish eyes…” She is also depicted wearing a skirt of human arms and accompanied by serpents.

Kali has been worshipped for centuries, perhaps millennia, by human sacrifice. The infamous Thuggee cult of India and Nepal were followers of Kali who strangled their victims as an act of worship to her. Although the British tried to wipe out Kali’s cult when they colonized India, their efforts failed.

Much has been reported about the numerous human sacrifices to her in the last decade. As recently as 2015, a boy was sacrificed to Kali by a devotee in Kolkata. If all goddesses are one, then they are by no means benign.

Lilitu/Lilith – the Sumerian goddess Lilitu was depicted as having both the wings and claws of a bird. Some reliefs show her lower half as a serpent’s body or as a serpent with the head and breasts of a woman. Her visual representation closely resembles that of Maleficent in the 2014 Disney movie.

This goddess, under a slightly modified name, Lilith, is also worshipped in the West. Lilith is a figure out of Hebrew cabalistic folklore. She was believed to be Adam’s first wife who refused to submit to him and left the Garden of Eden by God while she was with child. She later gave birth to the baby and then bashed the baby’s brains out on the rocks by the Euphrates River.

Lilith is worshipped in witchcraft covens and satanic groups today as the ‘Dark Mother’ or demon goddess presiding over feminism, infanticide, abortion and sexual defilement. She also relishes blood sacrifices.

Tanit – the BerberPunic and Phoenician goddess and chief deity of Carthage (modern Tunisia). She was associated with the heavenly bodies, war and fertility and regarded as a consort of Baal Hammon. She was often depicted having a lion’s head.

Archaeological and ancient writings points to animal and human sacrifices as part of her cult worship. Excarvations at ancient sites of her temple showed charred bones of newborns, and in some cases, the bones of fetuses and two year olds. [3]

Artemis – Greek goddess of the hunt, moon and childbirth. She is also called “the thrower of the dart or shooter” of death. A Wiccan writer says “Artemis had a reputation for liking bloody sacrifices, including human ones … Artemis who personified respect for animal life, accepts the necessity of the hunt, but only if the rules and the absolving rituals are observed. In most Goddess religions, a similar reasoning is applied to the fetus and the newborn. It is morally acceptable that a woman who gives life may also destroy life under certain circumstances.” [4]

Notice the strong link between goddess worship, feminism, sexual immorality and infant destruction.

Oya – also known as Yansa or Iansa, this Yoruba warrior goddess is worshipped in West Africa as well as in the Americas. She is the “patron” goddess of death, destruction, lightning and violent storms. Her name literally means “She tore [asunder]”. She is associated with cemeteries, marketplace and said to be queen over river Niger and the Amazon river.

Oya’s symbols are swords (or machetes), flywhisk and water buffalo. Her nine children are emblematic of the moon. She is a huntress (murderer) who presides over magick and evil wisdom. [5] She is also believed to be the mother of the Egunguns – embodiment of the spirits of the ancestral dead in Africa.

Coatlicue – Aztec goddess of the earth, moon, fertility, sexual pleasure and gambling. She is said to be one of the nine Lords of the Night Hours and the power behind all magic in the Aztec world. Her name literally means “skirt of snakes”. As Tlazoteutl, “she appears nude, riding on a broom. She wears a horned headdress with a crescent moon and she holds a red snake. She also has a crescent moon decorated on her nose …. represents the planet Venus. She is often depicted wearing a flayed human skin.” [6]

There is absolutely nothing gentle or good about these goddess figures. They are bloodthirsty fiends whose altars were drenched with blood of many souls. Yet these same entities are being invoked in Wiccan/Neopagan circles today.

Astarte or Ashtoreth – the chief goddess of war and sexuality worshipped throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Astarte is the Greek form of her name. Her symbols are the lion, horse, sphinx and a star within a circle indicating planet Venus (the morning/evening star).

She is associated with the crescent moon and depicted with a child on her laps. Figurines of Astarte have been found at various archaeological sites in Israel showing the goddess having two horns.

A feminist author admits that “infant sacrifices were regularly performed in honor of, certainly, some forms of the goddess. It is recorded, for instance, that around the sacred stone which represented the goddess Astarte, hundreds of skeletons of human infants have been found… first-born children and animals were sacrificed to her.” [7]

From the Bible, we can see the dark, downward spiral when people dabble into goddess worship which we observe today as ancient paganism is being revived. After King Solomon was led astray by his pagan wives “He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD…” (1 Kgs. 11:5-6)

Centuries later, about 741 BC, King Ahaz “walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites” (2 Kgs. 16:3).

Then some decades later (about 721 BC), the Bible says this about the Israelites:

“The set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree… They bowed down to all the starry host, and they worshipped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD…” (2 Kgs. 17:10, 16-17).

God has revealed Himself as the only true God and there is no “heavenly queen” ruling together with him (Is. 45:5). He is the embodiment of love and the “father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (1 Jn. 4:8; 2 Cor. 1:3). He desires all men to know and serve Him. Yet, many people are being led astray by another form of modern goddess delusion in a “Christian” garb: the cult of the Catholic Mary.

The “Virgin Mary” being worshipped in Roman Catholicism has become the “emergent” goddess archetype of our time, annually drawing millions of people from diverse churches and religions to her shrines and grottoes like the pied piper of Hamelin. Many apparitions and miracles of this Lady have been documented. What is particularly striking is, this Catholic Queen of heaven is demanding that the Vatican define a final dogma to make her the Co-Redemptrix with Christ:

“When the dogma, the last dogma in Marian history, has been proclaimed, “the Lady of All Nations” will give peace, true peace to the world. The nations, however, must say My prayer in union with the Church. They must know that “the Lady of Nations” has come as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. So be it!” [8]

New Agers are also receiving messages from this counterfeit Mary calling for a one world religion: “Each religion is worshipping, underneath the outer trappings, its Creator. It is the same Creator! Whether you pray facing the east or facing an altar or on Saturday or Sunday, it is all worship … All words which have been written in the Holy Books have been written by men in unity with the Creator.” [9]

Bible prophecy indicates that a diabolical female figure will gain universal prominence in the last days. Prophet Zechariah was shown a woman sitting in a basket lifted between heaven and earth which an angel of God called “wickedness” (Zech. 5:7-9). This could be Babylon the Great: the whore who rides on a beast in Revelation 17. This is the demonic religious force behind modern false worship and she will finally usher in the Antichrist in the Last days.


1. Elmer Towns, Bible Answers to all your Questions, Thomas Nelson, 2003, 139

2. Bill Schnoebelen, Wicca: Satan’s Little White Lie, Chick Pub., 1990, 113.

3. Lawrence Stager by Paolo Xella et al., Phoenician bones of Contention, Volume 87, no. 338; 1199-1207.

4. Ginette Paris, The Sacrament of Abortion, Spring Pub., 1992, 34, 53.

5. Adeoye C. L. Beliefs and Religion of Yorubas, Evans Bros, 1989, 303.

6. Patricia Turner and Coulter Russell, Dictionary of Ancient Deities, Oxford Univ. Press. 2000, 470.

7. Esther M. Harding, Woman’s Mysteries – Ancient and Modern, Harper and Row, 1971, 138.

8. Message to Ida Peerdeman in Josef Kunzli, The Messages of the Lady of All Nations, 1997, 85.

9. Annie Kirkwood, Mary’s Message to the World, New York, 1991, 145.