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Monday, 13 December, 1999, 09:03 GMT
Is it wrong to worship popular icons?

A controversial statue of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, portrayed as the Virgin Mary is on show at Liverpool's Tate Gallery.

Film star Leonardo DiCaprio and Elvis Presley also feature in the exhibition, which explores the idea that royal, sports and showbusiness stars have replaced religious icons for people's outlets of worship.

Is this bad taste or a reflection of today's society - what do you make of the contentious 'heaven' exhibition.


People ought to be aware that celebrities are just human; a statue which represents a celebrity as a religious figure just makes people idolise them more. It gives them false impressions on that person and on celebrities in general. Famous people should be portrayed as they are; human beings!
Isabelle, Canada

Having read all the above comments, am I the only one who thinks that maybe the artist is not making a statement about the late Princess Diana but about the people who are obsessed with her and other celebrities?
Stephen Hayes, England
Society idolizes celebraties as they have no other option. This world is so preoccupied with their consumeristic objectives, that our society has failed to give birth to genuine leaders. It is the natural instinct of man to hold someone high above general human image so that they have someone to look up to. It is unfortunate that we have been forced to idolize entertainers since this world is society is no more giving birth to outstanding personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther, Mother Teresa, etc. We can only have pity at people who have lost hope and have overshadowed their understanding of human achievement with the artificial glare of image and popularity. This phenomenon portrays the low level at which human respect exists. It is so unfortunate that we have to compromise our ideals to people who have done nothing to uplift it.
Dennis Joseph, India (Currently in USA)

Everyone worships something or someone. If we don't want to worship God then worshipping Diana is no worse than worshipping money or a relationship.
J Poole, UK

If we are going to set people up as idols then surely goodness and charity are far better reasons for it than this.
Caroline, UK
If we are going to set people up as idols then surely goodness and charity are far better reasons for it than this - but Diana, of whose media manipulations in the name of 'charity' I have a very low opinion, is far less deserving of such an accolade than a person who genuinely dedicates their life to helping the needy, such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Caroline, UK

People should idolise those that have made a genuine improvement to the human society, not those that entertain.
C Cowper, UK

Why not iconise these idols? After all without them, we wouldn't know where to shop, what to wear; where would we go for vacation? Are we at the zenith of civilisation yet? I'll keep this short, I feel quite nauseous.
Tom, Australia

Art holds a mirror up to life. In this case, the reaction highlights both the shallow worship of popular idols, and also the dogmatic inflexibility of organised religion. If it makes us pause, and become less credulous as a result, then I'm all for it.
Sean Ellis, UK

It is sad that even at the end of the twentieth century questioning religions and ideologies thousands of years out of date is like releasing the proverbial bull in the china shop. I don't think the exhibition is intended as a direct affront to God, and though I understand how it may be perceived as such, the religious community seems to be making a mountain out of a molehill. The same religious community that gave Diana such a spectacularly lavish, globally spectated funeral I might add.
If you really want to moan about something, try considering the plight of innocent civilians in Chechnya. The extermination of these people by a stubborn, pugilistic government is a far bigger affront to God than a statue. Christians in the 21st century should be looking to more global issues rather than inconsequentially braying on about modern attitudes in art, sex, music and politics.
Michael Mcelwee, UK

We are all perfect. We are individual. But that doesn't sell Celebrity.
D Piggott, Brit in Germany
Psychologically, they are the symptoms of The Cult Of Personality. This can be quite a different thing from religious fervour. Religion comes, in the light of no belief in a divine being, from a necessity within mankind for something greater, to give meaning to the plain horrors of life. This Cult comes from the media in all forms.
Daily we are enticed with visions of the Perfect. We are implored to look upon these people with awe and wonder. To tell ourselves that we Can Be As Perfect. Which hides one Truth. We are all perfect. We are individual. But that doesn't sell Celebrity. It doesn't sell tickets. And it gives no-one control over our will and self-image. Diana, it is true, was an exceptional person. But she was not a Saint. She was just an individual like us. And maybe it was The Cult Of Personality that killed her.
D Piggott, Brit in Germany

Do you expect Princess Di to give you any hope of an afterlife? Of course not she was as human as the rest of us and certainly wasn't a saint or a prophet.
If you are looking for proper spirituality and not some person who happens to be popular at this moment in time then go to a Church as they have been running for 2000 years and not the latest icon.
Peter, Great Britain

I do not understand why people are getting so excited about this. This idolising is a borrowed idea at best and has nothing to do with art. You can find hundreds of film stars in India who are being iconised and worshiped without pretending to be 'art'. There is absolutely nothing new in this
Tridiv, Germany/India

In the case of Diana's statue - it is just an artist's view - that is what poetic license and creativity is all about.
Sujata, UK
How can one decide the morality of worshipping icons - is it good or bad? Isn't it a very individual perspective? In the case of Diana's statue - it is just an artist's view - that is what poetic license and creativity is all about.
Sujata, UK

I think its extremely sad and some what worrying that society has sunk to such a level. In a way it is part and parcel of the consumer-producer society that the people selling a brand name or promoting a celebrity will do all they can to get the public interested and if the stupid public go mad and start hero worshipping a footballer for example - the club sells more T-shirts with his name on it. We live in a world so devoid of a guiding force (religion) and end up worshipping people of flesh and bones just like ourselves. So to end SAD-SAD-SAD.
Ahmed Azam, England

I think it is a sad fact of life that some people will be remembered after their death in ways that would either be completely anathema to them or just plain inappropriate. I suppose that Jesus expected to be remembered as a devout Jew but unwittingly his followers created a new religion. Similarly the cult of Mary which started generations after her own death. I think that this iconisation of Diana is for the feeble minded and superstitious but who knows what it may turn into many years down the road.

Just another reminder that as we move closer to believing we are Gods and in charge of our life, that none of us know the future. Now we cling on to media hypes, immortalising "stars" and material possessions rather than learning to build secure and lasting relationships.
Brian, England

Diana I'm sure would be horrified at this portrayal.
Maria Carney, New Zealand
I think the Diana/Madonna statue is in extremely bad taste. Diana I'm sure would be horrified at this portrayal of her and think that there are extremely different comparisons between our beloved princess and the mother of Jesus.
Maria Carney, New Zealand

Is this bad taste? Should we not instead at least realise that icons are not worshipped? They are venerated. If they are worshipped they become idols, an entirely different form of religious expression and hence not a replacement or new outlet for religious worship, but a new religion in itself.
J Little, UK

I find the mass hysteria generated by the media about people who are famous for being famous sinister. Most of them are no better than the rest of us, and sadly can be destroyed by being built up as heroic figures.
We used to say "it can't happen here" and laugh at the Germans who worshiped Hitler. Diana's funeral and the mythology following it makes one wonder. Somebody really evil could be the next icon, not just a rather sad person in a lovely body.
Derek Broome, UK

The worship of popular icons simply shows how shallow the human race has become.

We should have a statue of Princess Diana and a memorial garden in London, Kensington Palace where she lived. People would love it, this shows on the anniversary of her death each year when many people for all around the world leave their flowers and other tributes.
BUT, this statue is awful, nothing like her, the shape of the face, particularly the eyes is completely wrong. This one is in bad taste. Let us have a memorial statue in Kensington.
Diana Goreham, England

I do not think that Christian people are really going to worship those popular icons. Those icons were made just for fun. Besides, one should worship only God, because He created all of us.
Sanjar , Uzbekistan (studying in UK)

Today when many of our public figures are caught in immoral behaviours with no social consequences, is it any surprising that our youths in particular idolise them? This is the worst case of pursuit of vanity for lack of proper education by our many of our world leaders themselves vainglorious in their lives. What the world needs the most today is reconnection with our spiritual and moral source to clean the scourge of humanity from such idolisation.
Abdullah Adam, USA

Why can't art be appreciated for art's sake?
Tam Ponn, USA
Why this ridiculous obsession with not doing or saying anything against Christianity. Why can't art be appreciated for art's sake?
Tam Ponn, USA

It's a lamentable state of affairs that people like Princess Diana and Leonardo Di Caprio are held in an almost religious esteem in this day and age. Whilst I don't want to detract from the achievements of these two individuals or anybody like them, I think the best form of appreciation would be to try and find those hidden depths within yourself and endeavour to bring out those qualities you so admire in others into your own existence. To simply blindly worship modern pop icons is lazy-minded and trite. Learn to love yourself before you love others and remember: these celebrities are only easy to love because you've never known them in any depth! Loving somebody for who they actually are, warts and all, is probably the most difficult thing of all.
Dave Strong, UK

This exhibition is, of course, both in bad taste and a reflection on our society. It tells a very ugly truth, but one that should be told never the less.
John Saunders, USA
Man has always reverted to the worship of idols, be they inanimate objects or flesh and blood. Hence the continual need for God revive monotheism through prophets.
Don Leyton, UK

How ironical that Diana becomes an icon to be worshiped. She was definitely an icon from the perspective of pop culture but a spiritual icon? Who are you kidding!?
Victoria Chao, USA

Are people going to the gallery to admire the statues as works of art, or to kneel before them to pray? If it is the former, then "no problem." But, if it is the latter, it has to be called "heretical," "sacrilegious," and "blasphemous;" from a religious point of view. I find it very hard, indeed, to think that anybody would be fool enough to believe that praying to the statues of deceased celebrities could actually bring about answered prayers! People have to realise that death does not suddenly confer some kind of supernatural sainthood on a person, nor transform them into some sort of holy, omniscient, omnipotent god!
Will Grand, USA

Too often unfortunately in UK these days Christianity is battered, in the name of free speech. These statues however look so ridiculous, that they achieve nothing positive for anyone, but the artist with the sick idea...
Aris, Canada

I don't understand why people get so upset and personally insulted with forms of art that they don't like. This is just a rendering by an artist, of a person who is no longer with us on this Earth. Give it a rest - it is just a statue. We have bigger problems to worry about.
Jane Sweeney, USA

How sad that such poor examples of the human race should be selected to idolise. If we must have heroes, why not select those who are a positive example to us all?
John Atkins, Singapore

There is nothing wrong with wanting to worship a person that has meant a lot to their country or the world.
Deirdre smith, USA

The point is that Christians do not worship icons. They may use icons to worship something else, but an icon is always a human object de art. An icon is a human artefact that leads to the eternal. What or where does an icon of Diana really lead to? I sometimes feel like we have at our centre a spirituality that is a homing beacon towards God. We need something more than money, something more than short-term relationships, something more than just science. The current antipathy in society at large towards Christianity which is sometimes evidenced in some writers in Talking Point may be a subconscious reflection of the deep need we all have, but do not want to have, for something more.
Ed Manning, UK

These statues can be seen as a wry commentary on how far people go in their worship of personal heroes and heroines. However, I can also see the point that combining the images of Princess Diana and the Madonna trivialises both. Without knowing the artist and their intentions, it's rather hard to say which direction it's supposed to go.
Andy, United States

I'd say the statues are unpopular because they show people how ridiculous it is to be worshipping these stars.
Graham Bartlett, UK
People do worship these stars. I'd say the statues are unpopular because they show people how ridiculous it is to be worshipping these stars, making them realise that their fandom is so close to religious fervour (particularly with the distasteful 'cult of Diana' which sprung up after her death). It's always hard to accept when you're shown that what you're doing is ridiculous.
Graham Bartlett, UK

I could imagine that people of the last couple of generations would make more realistic icons, than from stories of hundreds or thousands of years ago. But, quite why people might want to iconise any one individual, I don't know.
Colin, The Netherlands

It is fine to iconise people after their death in remembrance, however, it must be remembered also what that individual suffered by the same hand. The pain and anguish projected onto her, which is why she is so revered after her death. The act of worshipping is one of personal salvation and redemption.
Fiona, UK

I personally believe that it is in bad taste. Not only does it take away from what the idol represents to people of that faith, it takes away from the real accomplishments of the people being used in the display.
Nathan, USA

Worship is too strong a word - honour, perhaps. And Raphael's Madonnas were all paintings of his mistress. No problem.
Sean Caulfield, USA

Mankind is instinctively religious, with an in-built urge to adore/venerate or worship something other than itself.
Alastair Shaw, UK
Anthropology demonstrates what the Bible has recognised for thousands of years - that mankind is instinctively religious, with an in-built urge to adore/venerate or worship something other than itself. This exhibition merely reflects this reality and highlights the foolishness of C21 people who continue to worship and serve created things, rather than the Creator, who is way above us in character and being, and yet who has made himself known in human form through his Son.
Alastair Shaw, UK

I think it's a very clever and spot-on reflection of how some misguided people feel about the famous. It seems people forget that these are just normal people in extraordinary positions. This is not an insult on religion but a clever metaphorical representation that serves as a timely reminder as we approach 2000 years of Christianity. Anything that reminds people of the existence of God is helpful, especially at this time.
John, Brit in the Netherlands

I think these images are of extremely bad taste. The people themselves would not of wanted this to happen to them after their death. Good religious images are still being produced today which help lift people to the great transcendent reality. This is not even a good likeness of the poor Princess.
Noreen McAllen, England

When we have so-called 'icons' of present day being represented like this, it makes you realise how empty most of our lives are.
V Anglim, Scotland
This is so sad. As a non-religious person I can understand people who are religious and will respect their right to their views. However when we have so-called 'icons' of present day being represented like this, it makes you realise how empty most of our lives are. Who needs icons anyway?
V Anglim, Scotland

Yes, it is disgusting. Does this represent our society as extremely shallow? Yes, I think so.
Christine, Canada

As pointless and inane an exercise celebrity worship is, at least its practitioners have the presence of mind to idolise something that actually exists.
M. Moran, UK

There is nothing wrong with having a hero or heroine.
Daren, UK
There is nothing wrong with having a hero or heroine. If there is somebody that you can aspire to be than at least you have some kind of ambition, and ambition drives you to achieve more.
Daren, UK

I think it's sad that people today have to look to people in the public eye for direction.
SG Drexler, USA
I think it's sad that people today have to look to people in the public eye for direction, in this case, spiritual. Those that "worship" these people must realise that they are human beings and usually not qualified for sainthood.
SG Drexler, USA

This exhibition, whilst offensive to some and inappropriate to many, unfortunately is a good reflection on an aspect of today's society. As a Christian, the situation saddens me. The rights of free expression should always remain - both for the artists and for the public who see the exhibition, but to produce work that is so blatantly offensive for many people is inappropriate.
To be honest, I think that this 'Christian' country should take more notice of the state of our society that brings out this kind of work, and start reading the Bible that we all 'believe in'. We should never worship 'religious icons' anyway. The Bible is very clear that we should worship God alone, who is alive, well, and very real.
Mark, UK

The grinding poverty that Mary, mother of Christ was born into and lived in is no longer visible in the modern Western World. The concepts of chastity and modesty are also now completely outdated. Family values and tradition are non-existent. In such a situation, it is no wonder that icons reflecting the tastes of the modern Western world should should become increasingly respectable.
Dennis Dey, USA

Worshipping some mystical being whose existence cannot be proven seems to me to be in bad taste.
Ian Lowe, Scotland
Worshipping some mystical being whose existence cannot be proven seems to me to be in bad taste. Much better to "give it up", for a real flesh and blood heroe like Linford Christie, or Michael Molls, Glasgow Ranger's divine striker!
Ian Lowe, Scotland

I wouldn't say it was wrong, but it is rather sad. Everybody admires certain people, for various reasons, but some people get too carried away by it. I assume they have rather empty lives.
Tony Jones, UK

It's absolutely true. In much the same way as therapists of various kinds have replaced clergy, stock brokers and market analysts have replaced soothsayers and fortune tellers. There's nothing new under the sun!
B W Wakefield, USA

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08 Dec 99 |  UK
Storm over Diana 'Madonna' statue

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