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Idol worship, Deity worship, and hell

Some Christians say ISKCON is an idol-worshiping 'cult,' and that if I joined ISKCON I would be turning away from God and going to hell. Is there any similarity between Deities and the Ark of the Covenant?

Our Answer:

If you have faith in Christ, do you think he would say that you would go to hell? We also disapprove of idol worship. We make very clear distinctions between idol worship and Deity worship. When one imagines a form of God and worships that according to his imagination, that is 'idol' worship. When God says in scripture that if you make a form of Me using these substances and worship according to these directions, I will reveal Myself to you through the medium of the Deity. That is Deity worship.

Srila Prabhupada explains that Deity worship is authorized by God while idol worship is not. He uses the analogy of the mailbox. If you put mail in a U.S. Postal Service mailbox it will go to the destination. If you make your own box, and paint it red and blue and write 'U.S. Mail" on it, the letter won't go anywhere, because the box is not authorized by the postal service.

Catholics generally have fewer problems with the concept of deity worship than Protestants since in that tradition the form of Christ and those of the different saints are seen as spiritual and worshipable. Some Catholics are surprised by the similarities in the traditions. The Eastern Orthodox Church is also similar but they call their worshipable forms "Icons" rather than deities. In Sanskrit such forms are called ‘murtis’.

It could be argued that the Ark of the Covenant—which carried the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s staff, and holy manna, and was protected by angels—was also spiritual and therefore worshipable, like a deity. We consider scripture to be as worshipable as God.