What kind of dimwit would worship a golden calf - and one that he had a hand in making, at that?
Quite a few dimwits, as Moses found out.
The Second Commandment, forbidding idolatry, sounds pretty 'forbidding' - God says that He'll punish the great-grandchildren of those who disobey, while He'll offer blessings through a thousand generations.
Quite a carrot, and quite a stick. Guess He thinks this one's important.
And yes, it is. The world of Moses was pretty well ruled by idols and totems, and those idols were devoutly worshiped because they were thought to really be the god,
The God of the Hebrews found this distasteful. He's not a local god, confined to a specific place and time, constrained to inhabit a shell built be those who worship him.
He's not a bird of the air or a beast of the fields of a fish of the sea.
Our God is a Big-G God, and all of Creation is his beat. That's the message He wanted to get across. He has the power - not some wood or stone carving, or some metal casting.
And He's not a calf or a sheep or a ram or an eagle. He is us, because we are made in His image.
I think this is what He's telling us, that we can put away the infantile attachment to objects, and step boldly out in faith to worship something we can't see.
"You're grownups," says God. "Act that way."
There are those who think that we've replaced the golden calf with other things, like money and power and vacations in Bermuda. But that's not really true - I don't know anyone who prays to their billfold, or asks their Ferrari for intercession.
And if you're thinking of American Idol, let it go, because no one's paying religious homage to the singers.
We may let these things come between us and God, but it's a world away from the Israelites and their calf. We get too busy to spend time with The Man, The Israelites sought to replace...really replace him.
And God said, "NO!"
(You might question the ;worship' of saints and the Virgin Mary practiced in the Catholic and orthodox churches. It's not really the same - the correct term is 'veneration' which means 'respecting', and praying to saints or the Virgin Mary does not assume they are divine. Rather, one prays for their intercession - one is asking them to pray to God with and for the petitioner. Their statues are certainly not idols; they are to call to mind the saint or the Virgin Mary, but are in no way inhabited by them.)