Defining worship

In my post requesting beliefs and opinions regarding polytheists (like myself) from those of Abrahamic traditions, I got many interesting answers. Among the most edifying were responses from a Muslim, lauramp, and a Vedanist (a ‘branch’ of what most Westerners know as Hindu), mondaymedia. Both made mention of the importance of worship when defining what I would call vital aspects of their faiths (lauramp, MM, your call on whether you agree or not 8^).

As a writer, my fallback position on understanding words always involves returning to the dictionary. says the following (among other things) about the word worship:

1.a: The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.

1.b:The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed.

Reverence, love and devotion. Not a thing about obedience, interestingly enough, though I would argue that falls under the “religious forms” section of 1b, depending on the religion. (This also means, amusingly enough, that I’m right when I say I worship my wife! She’s a sacred object to me, anyway… >g<)

The online etymology dictionary has more about the word’s background:

“condition of being worthy, honor, renown”

This is from the Old English, derived from worthy.

Throws a whole new light on the “I am a jealous god” thing, huh? “Hey, who was that goddess I saw you chanting to last night? Huh? Huh?!” >VBG<

Seriously, I have major issues with the notion that any divine beings would be jealous in the sense of being covetous regarding expressions of love, Fallen entities aside. This is particularly egregious, IMHO, if you accept the idea that God is Love — and even not being Christian, I do. Perhaps the key is in the word “devotion.”

For example, I love my mother (the biological one). She gave birth to me, sheltered me, raised me and taught me a lot of important lessons. I don’t revere her as I did as a child, but I would say I still do to an extent. And while our financial situation is…um, not great…I’m devoted to her well-being, and would do what I could within my limited means were she to need assistance. In no way would I say that I worship her.

What’s the difference? I’m not sure. If I had to hazard a guess, however, I’d say that worship is more than the sum of its parts. It’s a…harmony, a resonance, a particular sort of intermingling of the elements that creates a connection to the Divine, perhaps Essence/Tao/God itself. Now this relates to a lot of different aspects of the previous thread. However, IMO the real question then becomes, why are some faiths so monopolistic about that connection?

Coming from a faith (such as it is) that has no such dogma, I’m inclined to chalk it up not to gods, but simple human desire for power. Still, I think it’s an important one to deal with, since it definitely seems to be at the crux of what the Religious Wrong claims to be about, the Dominionists in particular (at least in America). Thoughts?

(/) Roland X
Seek and ye shall find, they say. Well, I’m still seekin’. SP is a good start, though. ;^)


Here is a little longer treatment (none / 0)

Worship [1] from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

Bible in a Year now posted weekly. Index is here

by JCHFleetguy on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 23:00:51 PDT

I’m no theologian (4.00 / 2)

… but I think “jealous” coming from the mouth of the great God is a way of saying, “Listen, I want to be the center of your life.”

The problem we have with “other people’s religions” (and this is the greatest disgrace on all of us_ is the tendency to caricaturize them.

The bible uses the metaphor of the God/man thing as LOVERS over and over and over … husbands and bridesmaids and “harts panting for the brook” … there is a rapturous almost sexual desire that God expresses …

Jealousy would fit neatly into that metaphor. A God that gets upset at being locked out of our hearts. A God who frets that we are selling ourselves short. A God who destroys himself as proof of his seriousness.

This is the freakiest thought POSSIBLE to people who believe God is doing everything he can to keep from being part of our lives. That he is DYING (literally and figuatively) to be welcomed into our hearts.

I think even Christians struggle with the notion that we gruesome souls should be so loved, by someone who should know so much better.

To those who can’t feel this love, it is the worst sort of foolishness. To those who glimpse it for a moment, it changes every atom of their lives.

Hey, the good news is, maybe God DOES know better than us … (why wouldn’t he?) … and maybe we are vastly more lovable than we are willing to admit …

Because that ups the ante on our lives. Maybe we’re not whores and used car salesmen after all. Maybe we’re the offspring of stardust.

by Mike Finley on Fri Oct 21st, 2005 at 11:49:26 PDT

God is love (4.00 / 3)

And IMO, LOVE is the greatest force in the universe.

But I disagree with the idea that we can only feel that love (or even feel it best) through one facet of the Divine, or that once someone feels it from one face that they can/should never accept it from another.

I was Born Again when I was 15, and stayed with that church until I was around 19. I gradually came to the realization that the church and I had some fundamental differences on some “sins.” I had to choose between being true to myself or to a church I didn’t agree with, and after much thought and consideration the church lost. Mind you, my disagreements were more with the church than with Yeshua Himself, since most of the stuff people quote on the subject comes from the mail His followers sent to one another after He left this plane than from what He is quoted as having actually said.

I have since found other ways of touching the Divine (other gods/goddesses), from whom I feel the same wonderful, transcendent, unconditional love but who don’t ask me to go against my nature. I’ve been working with, feeling the love from, these divinities for over 20 years. Because of this, I could never in good conscience go back to a monotheistic church.

To go along with the comparison of our relationship to the Divine as a marriage, I’ll point out that not all first marriages work, and sometimes it takes a try or two before you find your Life Mate :-).

I may have a different take on this than many because I’m still friends with my ex, and we get along better as friends than spouses. I feel like I get along pretty good with Yeshua, too, not as a “bride” but as a friend :-). And just as I’d be happy for someone who married my ex (assuming they had a mutually good relationship), I don’t have any problem with people having a more intimate relationship with Christ than I’m comfortable with.

As many have said, it’s different pathways to the mountain top. We each need to find the way that’s best for us, and let others find their optimum path even if it’s different from ours.

by Morgan on Fri Oct 21st, 2005 at 13:06:17 PDT

worship (none / 1)

The Arabic word usually translated as “worship” is “ibada”, which literally means “service” and implies a relationship of a servant to a master. In this case, God is the master and the human being is the servant.

But the important thing for me is that worship is not for God’s sake. He has no need of it. But we do. As human beings, we are often forgetful, shortsighted, careless. We get caught up in the immediate or the pleasurable and forget to take the larger view. So we need a reminder. And this is considered to be one of the main purposes of prayer in Islam, as a remembrance.

And the point I was trying to convey (which I may not have been clear enough about) is that for Muslims, there is a very, very clear distinguishing between the Creator and the created. To us, it does not make sense to treat the two the same when they are not comparable. And since worship is meant to remind us of this same thing in regard to ourselves (that is, the relationship between us and our Creator), then it would seem to make the most sense to direct this activity to God and not to something that is also part of God’s creation.

I’m suspecting that we are working from different ideas of what worship is or what its purpose is.

“Riches does not mean having a great amount of property, but riches is self-contentment.” (Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him)

by lauramp on Fri Oct 21st, 2005 at 11:49:32 PDT

[1] link was

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