The Ten Commandments mess in Alabama is over: the two-ton statue has been removed, and Roy Moore, who installed it during his tenure as chief justice, has similarly been removed. (One unfortunate result may be that this frees him to run for governor, but I’ll give the people of Alabama the benefit of the doubt.)
Anyway, I bring this up as an opportunity to recommend Fred Clark’s comments at Slacktivist, where he compares Mr Moore’s statue to Nehushtan, the bronze serpent of Moses which was destroyed by King Hezekiah after the Israelites began worshipping it. At that point, it had become an idol, a graven image the worship of which is expressly forbidden by the Ten Commandments.
This is a case where the symbols have become so important that they obscure the things they symbolize. Mr Moore’s and his supporters talk as though the attempts to remove the statue were assaults on God himself. In a clip I saw on The Daily Show, Mr Moore compared himself (favorably!) to the Apostle Peter: three times, the prosecutor demanded that he “reject God”, and three times he refused. That seems a bit grandiose, even for politics, but the point is that the symbol (the statue) has become confused with what it symbolizes (apparently God, or perhaps God’s will).
You see the same sort of thing with the anti–flag-burning crowd: a symbolic attack is treated as though it were a mortal threat.
The spirit of a religion (or any teaching) is not found in physical objects. Equating a sculpture with the religion it signifies is like confusing a cicada’s shell for the real thing.