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The Roman Catholic and particularly the Orthodox Churches have traditionally defended the use of icons.
The debate on what images signify and whether reverence with the help of icons in church is equivalent to idolatry has lasted for many centuries, particularly from the 7th century until the Reformation in the 16th century.
These arguments assert, "the honor given to the image is transferred to its prototype", and that venerating an image of Christ does not terminate at the image itself – the material of the image is not the object of worship – rather it goes beyond the image, to the prototype.
The Eastern Orthodox Church has differentiated between latria and dulia.
A latria is the veneration due God, and latria to anyone or anything other than God is doctrinally forbidden by the Orthodox Church; however dulia has been defined as veneration of religious images, statues or icons which is not only allowed but obligatory.
In Orthodox apologetic literature, the proper and improper use of images is extensively discussed.
The Ancient Egyptian religion was polytheistic, with large cult images that were either animals or included animal parts.
Ancient Greek civilization preferred human forms, with idealized proportions, for divine representation.
The definition of idolatry has been a contested topic within Abrahamic religions, with some Muslims considering the Christian use of the cross as a symbol of Christ, and of Madonna (Mary) in some churches, as a form of idolatry.John of Damascus wrote, "I venture to draw an image of the invisible God, not as invisible, but as having become visible for our sakes through flesh and blood", adding that images are expressions "for remembrance either of wonder, or an honor, or dishonor, or good, or evil" and that a book is also a written image in another form. John the Evangelist cited John , stating that "the Word became flesh" indicates that the invisible God became visible, that God's glory manifested in God's one and only Son as Jesus Christ, and therefore God chose to make the invisible into a visible form, the spiritual incarnated into the material form.The early defense of images included exegesis of Old and New Testament.To Aristotle, states Paul Kugler, an image is an appropriate mental intermediary that "bridges between the inner world of the mind and the outer world of material reality", the image is a vehicle between sensation and reason.Idols are useful psychological catalysts, they reflect sense data and pre-existing inner feelings.
Alternatively, the topic of idolatry has been a source of disagreements between many religions, or within denominations of various religions, with the presumption that icons of one's own religious practices have meaningful symbolism, while another person's different religious practices do not.