False god

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A false god is, in some monotheistic religious denominations, the deities of pagan religions – as well as other competing entities or objects to which particular importance is attributed. Conversely, polytheistic pagans may regard the gods of various monotheistic religions as "false gods" because they do not believe that any real deity possesses the properties ascribed by monotheists to their sole deity. Atheists, who do not believe in any deities, do not usually use the term "false god" even though that would encompass all deities from the atheist viewpoint. Usage of this term is generally limited to theists, who believe in some deity or deities, but not in others.

Remains of Nergal gate in Nineveh, Iraq

In Abrahamic doctrines, a false god is a deity or object of worship that is regarded as either illegitimate or non-functioning in its professed authority or capability, and this characterization is further used as a definition of "idol".[1] The term is often used throughout the Bible to compare YHWH, interpreted by Jews and Christians, or Elohim/Allah, interpreted by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as the only real God. For example, 2 Kings 17:30 (NLV) states, with reference to false gods, "The men of Babylon made the false god Succoth-benoth. The men of Cuth made the false god Nergal. The men of Hamath made the false god Ashima".

An alternative usage of the term "false god" refers to anything that is considered to assume a place of undue importance in one's life; this usage is reflected in the viewpoint of some that "whatever we try to derive our core sense of meaning and worth is our god".[2]

Similarly to Judaism, people who adhere to the Noahide code, even though not being Jews, consider themselves as worshipping the only true God[citation needed], since this code is a set of moral imperatives that, according to the Talmud, were given by God[3] as a binding set of laws for the "children of Noah" – that is, all of humankind.[4][5]

The vast majority of religions in history have been polytheistic, worshiping many diverse deities. The claim to worship the "one and only true God" came with the arrival of monotheistic religions and is the distinguishing characteristic of monotheism. However, the term "false god" is regarded as offensive[citation needed] by many devout polytheistic Pagans[citation needed], and others whose chosen religion honors the deity or deities who are explicitly or implicitly being denounced by the term "false god."


  1. ^ [1] Merriam-Webster.com - idol: a false god
  2. ^ [2] Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now - Gregory A. Boyd - Zondervan, Apr 6, 2010
  3. ^ According to Encyclopedia Talmudit (Hebrew edition, Israel, 5741/1981, Entry Ben Noah, page 349), most medieval authorities consider that all seven commandments were given to Adam, although Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M'lakhim 9:1) considers the dietary law to have been given to Noah.
  4. ^ Encyclopedia Talmudit (Hebrew edition, Israel, 5741/1981, entry Ben Noah, introduction) states that after the giving of the Torah, the Jewish people were no longer in the category of the sons of Noah; however, Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M'lakhim 9:1) indicates that the seven laws are also part of the Torah, and the Talmud (Bavli, Sanhedrin 59a, see also Tosafot ad. loc.) states that Jews are obligated in all things that Gentiles are obligated in, albeit with some differences in the details.
  5. ^ Compare Genesis 9:4–6.

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