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Aniconism is the absence of material representations of both the natural and supernatural worlds in various cultures, particularly in the monotheistic Abrahamic religions. This prohibition of material representations may extend from only God and deities to saint characters, all living beings, and everything that exists. The phenomenon is generally codified by religious traditions and as such it becomes a taboo. When enforced by the physical destruction of images, aniconism becomes iconoclasm. The word itself derives from Greek εικων ‘image’ with the negative prefix an- (Greek privative alpha) and the suffix -ism (Greek -ισμος).
Monotheist religions – Aniconism was shaped in monotheist religions by theological considerations and historical contexts. It emerged as a corollary of seeing God’s position as the ultimate power holder, and the need to defend this unique status against competing external and internal forces, such as pagan idols and critical humans. Idolatry was seen as a threat to uniqueness, and one way that prophets and missionaries chose to fight it was through the prohibition of physical representations. The same solution worked against the pretension of humans to have the same power of creation as God (hence their banishment from the Heavens, the destruction of Babel, and the Second Commandment in the biblical texts).