Books, magazines, radio, television, computers, they all have, to a greater or lesser extent, contributed to the phenomena of masses of people becoming enamored with a personality which they have been exposed to via that medium. In the past, in the days in which books, magazines and then radio were the primary media, authors and radio personalities might become famous, even loved, for their contributions. However, the advent of movies, television, and now computers and cell phones has exponentially increased the phenomenon of “consumers” not only liking, or loving, but idolizing the personalities whose faces and words fill these media.
In doing a computer search on the definition of “idolize”, the following definition, attributed to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition. came up on “Wordnik”: “To regard with great or uncritical admiration or devotion.” The descriptor “uncritical” is the key word to why such idolization (of anyone or anything) is not something conducive to genuinely healthy individuals nor a healthy culture. I think all of us, with a few seconds of thought, can come up with the name of a personality that has been the recipient of such idolization in the past and/or the present. I would venture that very often those who are not caught up in the idolization of a particular person can plainly see the downside of such idolization. However, interestingly, even those who can plainly see the downside, the “error” if you will, of idolizing one personality may be actively involved in the idolization of another. In such cases it is a recognition of the imperfections of the object of the idolization, rather than a recognition of the pitfalls inherent in the act of idolization itself. The American practice of idolization is so pervasive, so entrenched, that within certain (many?) Christian churches the idolization of Jesus has become more important than adherence to the vital principles he taught.
Why does it matter? One very important reason is that if a person can be led to believe that it is the idolization, the worship, of a personality that is important, rather than the study and consideration of the vital principles which they proclaim, then a person can be led to violate genuinely vital principles necessary to a healthy person or culture when told to do so by the object of idolization. Or by another person or an agency which they believe represent the object of idolization.
Beware of any person or organization which holds up a personality as someone to be idolized. Both as individuals and as a culture we are much better served by having concern with the principles which enlightened and loving teachers, saints and prophets, through the ages, have brought forward. Principles such persons have endeavored to direct and encourage people to the study and understanding of.