The Foolishness of Nature Worship
1For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature;
and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists,
nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works;
2but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air,
or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water,
or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.
3If through delight in the beauty of these things mena assumed them to be gods,
let them know how much better than these is their Lord,
for the author of beauty created them.
4And if menb were amazed at their power and working,
let them perceive from them
how much more powerful is he who formed them.
5For from the greatness and beauty of created things
comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.
6Yet these men are little to be blamed,
for perhaps they go astray
while seeking God and desiring to find him.
7For as they live among his works they keep searching,
and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful.
8Yet again, not even they are to be excused;
9for if they had the power to know so much
that they could investigate the world,
how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?
The Foolishness of Idolatry
10But miserable, with their hopes set on dead things, are the men
who give the name "gods" to the works of men's hands,
gold and silver fashioned with skill,
and likenesses of animals,
or a useless stone, the work of an ancient hand.
11A skilled woodcutter may saw down a tree easy to handle
and skilfully strip off all its bark,
and then with pleasing workmanship
make a useful vessel that serves life's needs,
12and burn the castoff pieces of his work
to prepare his food, and eat his fill.
13But a castoff piece from among them, useful for nothing,
a stick crooked and full of knots,
he takes and carves with care in his leisure,
and shapes it with skill gained in idleness;c
he forms it like the image of a man,
14or makes it like some worthless animal,
giving it a coat of red paint and coloring its surface red
and covering every blemish in it with paint;
15then he makes for it a niche that befits it,
and sets it in the wall, and fastens it there with iron.
16So he takes thought for it, that it may not fall,
because he knows that it cannot help itself,
for it is only an image and has need of help.
17When he prays about possessions and his marriage and children,
he is not ashamed to address a lifeless thing.
18For health he appeals to a thing that is weak;
for life he prays to a thing that is dead;
for aid he entreats a thing that is utterly inexperienced;
for a prosperous journey, a thing that cannot take a step;
19for money-making and work and success with his hands
he asks strength of a thing whose hands have no strength.