Let us read here chapters thirteen and fourteen of the Book of Wisdom on idolatry. Here is an abridgement: The feelings of men are vain, because the knowledge of God is not in them; they could not understand him who was by so many beautiful objects presented to their sight; and looking at the works, they could not understand the wise craftsman. Calling gods and sovereign arbiters of the world, or fire, or the winds and the restless air, or the water, or the sun, or the moon, or the stars that circle in circles over our heads, without being able to hear that if touched by their beauty, they called them Gods, how much more must their creator be wonderful? For he is the father of the beautiful and the good; the source of all beauty and the most perfect of all beings. And if there is strength in those bodies that they worshipped, how much more powerful must he be who made them? for by the greatness of the beauty of the creature, one could see and know the creator intelligibly. But even these are the most excusable, since they have gone astray perhaps by seeking God in his works, which invited them to rise to their principle. Although they are always inexcusable, since if they could come to know the beauty of such a great work, how much more easily should they find the author? But these are by comparison more blind and more unhappy, and their hope is among the dead, who are deceived by the inventions and the industry of a fine work, or by the superb materials of which it will have been composed, or by the lively resemblance of some animals, or the skill and curious work of an ancient hand on a useless and insensible stone, have adored the works of the hands of men. By setting up a heavy wood, the rest of which went to fire of which they cooked their food, and supporting it with difficulty by bonds of iron in a wall: the painting in a red which seemed to give him an air of life, in the end comes to adore him, to ask him for the life and health he does not have, to consult him on his marriage and his children, and make him rich offerings; or carried on a fragile wood, in perilous navigation, he invokes a wood still more fragile. A distressed father makes an image of a son who has been too soon taken away, and to console himself for this loss, he makes him offer sacrifices as to a God: a whole family came into this flattery. The kings of the earth had their statues worshiped, and, not daring to procure this worship for themselves because of their too obvious mortality, they more easily believe that they can pass for Gods from farther away.
Such has been the illusion of human life. Carried away by their passions and their love for their kings, men adored the statues, and gave to wood and stone the name incommunicable; they sacrificed their children to these false gods. There was nothing more holy among men. Marriages could not retain their sanctity; murders, perfidy, unrest and perjury flooded the earth. The forgetfulness of God followed: public joys brought ungodly sects; public perils have introduced superstitious and false divinations; it is no longer feared to perjure oneself, when one has seen that one swears by a wood or a stone; and justice and good faith are extinguished among men.
It is necessary to read again the place of Saint Paul, where he says: That the invisible greatness of God, his eternal power and his divinity appear visibly in his creatures, and that however the wisest, those who were the most convinced, refused him the worship which they knew well that they owed him, and followed the errors of an ignorant people, who changed the glory of an immutable God into the figure of the most vile reptiles, fainting all their wisdom, and having become foolish, while they boasted of the name of sage. This also obliged God to deliver them to abominable passions and disorders against nature, and to allow them to be filled with all vice, impiety, gossip, perfidy, insensibility; so that they were without compassion, without affection, without faith, because, knowing the righteousness and the truth of God, they would not serve him, and preferred the creature to him who was the creator, blessed forever and ever.
This flood of idolatry spread through all the earth. The inclination of the Jews, which so many divine chastisements could not wring from them, shows the common inclination and corruption of the whole human race. This worship had become natural to men; and this made the wise man say that the idolatrous nations were wicked by their birth; that the seed was cursed from the beginning; that their malice was natural, and that their. perverse inclinations could never be changed.
A disturbance so strange and so universal ought to have a common origin. Show it to me elsewhere that in original sin and in temptation, who, saying to man: You will be like gods, laid the foundation for the worship of false gods.