Modern idolatry takes many forms, Pope Francis said Wednesday, including not having children in order to advance one’s career.
“Idols demand a cult and rituals,” the pope said at his weekly General Audience in Saint Peter’s Square. “People bow down before them and sacrifice everything. In antiquity, human sacrifices were made to idols, but even today people sacrifice their children for their career, neglecting them or simply not generating them.”
Children are not the only sacrifice laid on the altar of idols, the pope continued, and one’s career is not the only idol on offer.
“Beauty demands human sacrifices. Fame calls for the immolation of self, one’s innocence and authenticity,” he said.
“Idols are asking for blood,” Francis said. “Money robs us of life and pleasure leads to loneliness. Economic structures sacrifice human lives for greater profits.”
“People live in hypocrisy, doing and saying what others expect, because the god of self-affirmation demands it. And lives are ruined, families destroyed, and young people abandoned into the hands of destructive examples, anything to increase profits,” he said.
The pope was reflecting on a reading from the biblical book of Exodus that forbids the making and worship of idols, a concept that he said is very important for today’s world.
Anything can become an idol, the pontiff insisted, and this goes for religious believers and atheists alike, since it is a human tendency.
Idolatry, he said, is not only concerned with the false cults of paganism, but is a constant temptation for the faith. It consists in divinizing something other than God.
The contemporary world offers us a “supermarket” of idols, Francis said, that can be objects, images, ideas, or roles.
In reality, he went on, an idol is a “projection of oneself in objects or projects,” which is stimulated by advertising. I don’t just see the object I want—that car, that smartphone, that job—but I perceive it as a means of self-fulfillment and self-service.
“Idols enslave us,” the pope said. “They promise happiness but don’t deliver. Whoever winds up living for that thing or that vision become caught up in a self-destructive vortex, awaiting a result that never comes.”
“Idols promise life, but in reality they take it away,” he concluded, whereas the one, true God “doesn’t demand life but gives his own.”
“The true God does not offer a projection of our success. But teaches us to love,” he said. “The true God doesn’t take away our children but offers his own Son for us.”
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