A reader from Portugal raised a question I hadn't thought of before: "Can God satisfy our infinite desire if God is a being among beings?" This question presupposes that our desire is in some sense infinite. I will explain and defend this presupposition in a moment. Now if our desire is infinite, then it is arguable that only a truly infinite object could satisfy it, and that such an object cannot be a being among beings, not even a being supreme among beings, but must be an absolute reality, that is, God as Being itself. To put it another way, the ultimate good for man cannot be a good thing among good things, not even the best of all good things, but must be Goodness itself. Anything less would be a sort of high-class idol. So let's start with an analysis of idolatry.
What is idolatry? I suggest that the essence of idolatry lies in the illicit absolutizing of the relative. A finite good becomes an idol when it is treated as if it were an infinite good, i.e., one capable of satisfying our infinite desire. But is our desire infinite?
That our desire is infinite is shown by the fact that it is never fully satisfied by any finite object or series of finite objects. Not even an infinite series of finite objects could satisfy it since what we really want is not an endless series of finite satisfactions -- say a different black-eyed virgin every night as in popular Islam's depiction of paradise — but a satisfaction in which one could finally rest. "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee." (Augustine) What we really want, though we don't know it, is the absolute good which is goodness itself, namely God. This idea is common to Plato, Augustine, Malebranche, and Simone Weil.
For thinkers of this stripe, all desire is ultimately desire for the Absolute. A desire that understood itself would understand this. But our deluded desire does not understand this. Our deluded desire is played for a fool by the trinkets and bagatelles of this fleeting world. It thinks it can find satisfaction in the finite. Therein lies the root of idolatry.
Buddha understood this very well: he saw that desire is infinite in that it desires its own ultimate quenching or extinguishing, its own nibbana, but that finite quenchings are unsatisfactory in that they only exacerbate desire by giving birth to new desires endlessly. No desire is finally sated; each is reborn in a later desire. Thus the enjoyment of virgin A does not put an end to lust; the next night or the next morning you are hot for virgin B, and so on, back to A or on to C, D, . . . and around and around on the wheel of Samsara. The more you dive into the flesh looking for the ultimate satisfaction, the more frustrated you become. You are looking for Love in all the wrong places.
So Buddha understood the nature of desire as infinite. But since he had convinced himself that there is no Absolute, no Atman, nothing possessing self-nature, he made a drastic move: he preached salvation through the extirpation of desire itself. Desire itself is at the root of suffering, dukkha, not desire for the wrong objects; so the way to salvation is not via redirection of desire upon the right Object, but via an uprooting of desire itself.
In Buddhist terms, we could say that idolatry is the treating of something that is anatta, devoid of self-nature, as if it were atta, possessive of self-nature. Idolatry arises when some finite foreground object, a man or a woman say, is falsely ascribed the power to provide ultimate satisfaction. This sort of delusion is betrayed in practically every love song ever written. Here are some typical lyrics (trivia question: name the song, the singer, the date):
You are my world, you're every move I make
You are my world, you're every breath I take.
There are thousands more lyrics like them, and anyone who has been in love knows that they capture the peculiar madness of the lover, the delectable madness of taking the finite for infinite.
Or will you deny that this is madness, a very deep philosophical and perhaps also religious mistake? I say it is madness whether or not an absolute good exists. Whether or not an absolute good exists, reason suggests that we should love the finite as finite, that our love should be ordered to, and commensurate with, its object. Finite love for finite objects, and for all objects if there is no infinite Object.
Suppose you accept what I just wrote about desire being infinite and ultimately unsatisfiable by any finite object. Would this show that God cannot be a being among beings? Not obviously! The supreme being theists could agree that infinite desire is ultimately satisfiable only by an infinite object, but that the omni-qualified supreme being fills the bill. Furthermore, they could argue, plausibly, that talk of Goodness itself and Being itself, which imply the divine simplicity, is just incoherent to the discursive intellect. To which one response is: so much the worse for the discursive intellect. The ultimate goal is attainable only by transcending it.