Iconolatry, -clasm‏ and -graphy


Iconolatry is the veneration of images.

Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of icons and other symbols or monuments, usually for religious or political motives.

Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images.

Predestination‏


In theology, predestination is the doctrine that God has foreordained all things, especially that God has elected certain souls to eternal salvation. In crude simple terms, the concept of predestination is synonymous to the term ‘fixed destiny’.

The concept of predestination is a problem with respect to the theological idea of theodicy – the branch of theology that concerns itself with the question: ‘If a superior entity is both omnipotent and “good”, how can evil exist in the world?’ Presuming all events are predestined, all evil must be unavoidable as well. Therefore, the doctrine of predestination makes it virtually impossible to call an omnipotent entity “good”.

Also, predestination causes a paradox when combined with the philosophical concept of free will; man can hardly have free will when everything is ‘meant to be’. The philosophical case against predestination is argued quite persuasively by Christopher Hitchens:

“People say, “Well, how do you have free will? Do you think you do have it?” Well, it’s a very, very difficult subject indeed. Some religions say you don’t in effect have it, that all is determined by heaven, you’re really only a play thing in a larger game. I take that to be that some of the point of Calvinism. There are some schools of Islam also that say, “It is only as Allah wills.” There’s no will of yours really involved as long as you’re willing to make the prostration and the obedience. So the connection between religion and free will isn’t as simple and easy as some people think it is.

But I would say, yes, I think we have free will. When asked why I think so, I would have to take refuge in philosophical irony and say, “Because I don’t think we have any choice but to have free will.” Well at least I know at this point that I’m being ironic and that some of the irony is at my own expense and it’s a risk I have to be willing to run. But the Christian answer is, “Of course you have free will, the boss insists upon it.”

This somewhat degrades the freedom and redefines the idea of will and it seems to me also that there’s something degrading in the idea that saying that morality is derived in the same way; that it comes from on high; that we, ourselves, are not good enough; that we don’t have the dignity; we don’t have the self respect; we don’t have the character to know a right action or a right statement when we see it or when we want to perform it.

It’s this servile element in religion—it’s not strictly speaking the subject of our debate this evening, I know, but I’m damned if I completely forgo it—it’s the idea that, buried in the religious impulse, is actually the wish to be unfree, is the wish for an immovable, unchangeable, celestial authority, a kind of heavenly North Korea that will take our decisions away from us and commit us only to worship and praise and thank a Great Leader and his son, the Dear Leader, forever and ever and ever. I’m so glad that there’s no evidence that this is true.”

Christopher Hitchens

On Russell’s Teapot


“Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake.

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

It is customary to suppose that, if a belief is widespread, there must be something reasonable about it. I do not think this view can be held by anyone who has studied history. Practically all the beliefs of savages are absurd. In early civilizations there may be as much as one percent for which there is something to be said. In our own day…. But at this point I must be careful.

We all know that there are absurd beliefs in Soviet Russia. If we are Protestants, we know that there are absurd beliefs among Catholics. If we are Catholics, we know that there are absurd beliefs among Protestants. If we are Conservatives, we are amazed by the superstitions to be found in the Labour Party. If we are Socialists, we are aghast at the credulity of Conservatives.

I do not know, dear reader, what your beliefs may be, but whatever they may be, you must concede that nine-tenths of the beliefs of nine-tenths of mankind are totally irrational. The beliefs in question are, of course, those which you do not hold. I cannot, therefore, think it presumptuous to doubt something which has long been held to be true, especially when this opinion has only prevailed in certain geographical regions, as is the case with all theological opinions.”

– Bertrand Russel

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Limbo‏ [Noun.]


In Roman Catholic theology:

  1. from the 13th century to the 16th century, the place where innocent souls exist temporarily until they can enter heaven, notably those of the saints who died before the advent of Christ (limbus patruum) and those of unbaptized but innocent children (limbus infantum);
  2. from the 16th century onward, any in-between place, state or condition of neglect or oblivion which results in an unresolved status, delay or deadlock.