The Legacy of the Twentieth Century

Part II. Idolatry

Idolatry needs a measure of what is sacred or profane, true or false, good or bad. In Europe, Christianity provided this measure for a long time. However, the twentieth century is unique since, with ‘the death of God’, this one exclusive measure also disappeared. This has greatly impacted art, culture, and society as a whole. Countless attempts have been made, and will continue being made, to either occupy the place of the deceased God, or to show conclusively that no absolute measure can possibly exist, and that we will all have to make up our own minds. So what is true now? Or good? Or beautiful? Or sacred? What could or should we worship? Is there a measure, or do we have to decide for ourselves? How can the concept of idolatry help us understand the value and significance of the ‘gods’ of the twentieth century, of the role of images in our society, of that which we worship now, of the expectations that remain after the disappearance of the Absolute, of the experience we have gained since then, and of the prospects we are now facing?