If We Don’t Worship God We’ll Worship Something Else

“I am the LORD your God…. You shall not have other gods beside me.” Exodus 20:2-3

A brief survey of history will show easily that humans are naturally religious; we are “wired” for worship. This was especially evident in the ancient world in which every culture had a religion of some sort. In the readings from last week’s Mass on Wednesday, the Apostle Paul entered a discussion with the Greeks in the Areopagus to preach, and noting how religious they were, used as his starting point the fact that he had discovered an altar there which was inscribed, “To an unknown God” (Acts 17: 22-23). He then proceeded to try to connect them to the fullness of God’s revelation to the human race which is only found in the person of Jesus Christ.

In some ways the pagan world was much easier to bring to faith in Christ because they were already naturally and overtly religious. In fact, it would have been rare to find an atheist in the ancient world. What we commonly refer to as atheism is more of a modern phenomenon which has emerged primarily with the advent of modern science, which paradoxically has its origin in Catholicism.

For some modern people, reality has been reduced to what is merely material. And yet, atheists and agnostics cannot fully repress the inclination to worship … something. This is seen even in the early atheistic communists like Lenin who turned the state into a type of god to be worshipped. One often sees the same passion today in forms of extreme environmentalism. The earth and the environment are treated in a god-like way, even to the point of people setting themselves on fire in an act of sacrifice as a man did not long ago in Central Park in New York City. One could point to many other examples: the abortion rights movement, politics, etc. These things become a type of religion.

Perhaps the primary god that is most popular in the modern developed world is the self. Without the true God to worship, many turn toward themselves in a form of self-worship, a veritable cult of personality. Every person worships something.

To get life right, we have to get worship right. That is why God’s first commandment is that He is the only one and true God, and we are to worship Him alone. Not only that, God has prescribed how He wants to be worshipped by His creatures. This is what the Mass is, and that is why Sunday Mass is not only very important, it is essential. We cannot know the truth about ourselves without reference to God. We cannot live without God. Without worship we run off the rails and end up giving ourselves to other false gods. Not the pagan ones of old, but the material ones in the modern world that surround us.

Worshipping God is necessary for right order in our personal lives and in the cosmos itself. God created human beings to be the priests of His creation. We are meant to offer thanksgiving and praise to God our Creator on behalf of all creation. We do this “through, with, and in the Son” in the Holy Spirit at every Mass.

So, the best way to keep our lives straight, and to truly help the world, is to worship the God who made it, and then redeemed it. We are made to worship.


  1. June 6, 2019 at 3:58 pm #

    I’ve been an atheist for decades. I haven’t felt the need to worship anything else yet.

    And as for the idea that atheism was rare in the past, yes, of course it was, because people like you used to hang atheists or burn them to death. It wasn’t exactly easy to be an atheist in antiquity.

    • June 6, 2019 at 4:14 pm #

      “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

      -Lucius Annaeus Seneca 5-65 AD

    • June 14, 2019 at 8:18 am #

      I can never figure out why an atheist would even bother to read a religious tract, of any kind.
      It isn’t like there are not plenty of outlets for your secular tastes.

  2. June 6, 2019 at 10:49 pm #

    Yes, every culture had a religion of some sort, and sometimes several. Iron-age sheepherders knew almost nothing about medicine, geography, astronomy, physics, and much more, so why would anyone think they got metaphysics right?

  3. June 8, 2019 at 12:22 pm #

    This essay falls into the “believers whistling past the graveyard” category. Yes, religious faith is becoming less relevant, and less defensible. Yes, the only way to attack atheists is to point out random, statistically meaningless examples of god-less folly, like an unbalanced person setting themselves on fire (who knows if they were an atheist). This essay would get a failing grade in 9th grade English, for making indefensible, unsupportable arguments. It will probably pass muster here, on a web site for people who don’t like to think. We’ve grown beyond religion. Thank gawd.

  4. June 12, 2019 at 11:55 pm #

    To the above comment: people like you…in reference to the bishop…do you know this bishop? If you do OK, you have a right to print your thoughts… But I am so tired of Atheists making statements about the past to justify judging everyone religious…. What if this bishop is good? What if someone judged all atheists as bad? I really like this one atheist…he is young and allows me to talk about God and I allow him to talk about not believing…but he is a great person and I really enjoy speaking with him since he is very smart. So maybe you have something in common with our current bishop… I think we ALL have to try to help each other when we can.

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October 23, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph