On the dangers of worship

July 18, 2022

This post is prompted by the quote from Ross Roberts’ blog post about his 12 rules for life in Tim Ferriss’ newsletter “5-Bullet Friday”.

“Rule 2: Find something healthy to worship”

The underlying assumption being that there is an inherent need in human beings to worship something (*).  

Personally, I would revise that to “find something true to worship”.

Worship means submission of the ego to the thing that you worship. When you look for something “healthy” to worship, who does the choosing? Is it not the ego still? 

The intention behind the search is important. If the intention is to find a source of meaning to not end up unhappy or unfulfilled, then the intention is still to benefit the ego. Just not a material kind of benefit. The result: still worshipping yourself —albeit in disguise —and feeling good about yourself.  Or worse: feeling to be better than others, leading to self-righteousness, leading to arrogance. And arrogance is downfall.

On the other hand, when you find something true, you have a chance to stump the ego.

For example, if you do good to feel good, you get that benefit. But you also get the risks. If you do good out of worship, as part of your submission, you will get the benefit of feeling good and less of the risks, being aware of them, guarding your intentions. And in that lies the struggle until the end.

(*) Additional information for people who are interested what the Islamic standpoint is on this. Please ignore if not interested.

In the Islamic teaching the answer would be yes, there is an inherent need placed in human beings. According to the Quran, every human being is created in a pure state, the so-called fitra, which is aligned with the guidance, ready to choose or reject it. 

There is no concept of original sin that pollutes that state, no concept of Adam and Eve sinning and all of us ending up here as a consequence of their punishment. They knew from the start that they were created to live on Earth. Their time in heaven ends up being a time for them to learn to be human, that is to make mistakes and more importantly to show the right response to that, which is owning up and taking responsibility; to learn about the enemy without (Satan) and within (ego). Their response to their disobedience was to acknowledge that they did something wrong right away and to ask God for forgiveness (which was granted). 

In contrast, the Quran tells of Satan’s response when he made a mistake when he refused to follow the order of bowing before Adam. He first tried to justify his disobedience by stating that he is better than him, because he is created from fire and Adam is created from mud (earth + water), revealing his arrogance. (And arrogance is downfall.) Then he blamed not himself but God for leading him astray.

Once Adam and Eve demonstrate responsibility, they are ready for their life on Earth and the story or history of humans on Earth begin.

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