Discuss the Second Commandment and explain why some religions forbid images and others favor them. Be sure to provide specific examples.

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The Second Commandment is a tricky one and has become a source of contention among many religious groups. The full text of this commandment (from the King James version of the Bible, Exodus 20: 4-6) says:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

The main confusion is whether the first or second part of the Commandment is most important. If you read only the first part, it sounds like people are not allowed to make any kind of image that represents a specific person or creature. This is the interpretation taken, say, by the Muslim religion, where traditionally no kind of representative art is allowed at all. Islamic artists became masters at calligraphy and abstract art, such as ceramic tiles and mosaics, partly because their religion forbids portraits of people or animals.

Other religions focus more on the second part, where it states that people should not bow down to any graven image. This ties into the ancient traditions, as in Egypt, where statues of gods and goddesses were worshiped as if they were the real thing. (Incidentally, the Hebrews were also caught doing this when Moses descended Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments in hand—they had made a golden calf and were praying to it, instead of to God. Moses was not pleased.) However, as long as the images are not a replacement for God, or prayed to as a god, then it is okay to make them. This is the view taken by the Catholic church, for example. They have statues of saints and beautiful paintings, which people admire, but everyone knows these images are not actual deities. Therefore it is fine to include them in church decoration.

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