Absolutely awesome post by Christine at Talkwisdom!
It's long, but well worth it!
Early 20th-century author G.K. Chesterton once observed that when men refuse to believe in God (as Scripture reveals him), they don't believe in nothing, they believe in anything.
In Paul's view (which Chesterton shared) humankind are not atheists by nature, but worshippers. When people en masse become futile in thought and dark in heart, says Paul, and reject the concept of an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, holy, loving, and sometimes wrathful God, they don't cease to worship, they cast about for something else than God to worship.
Those who reject God, says Paul, begin the worship-"exchange" of God for something else with some kind of embodiment of things he created. In more primitive societies, people create and worship material images of animals, celestial bodies or other natural phenomena -- or idealized images of human beings themselves.
In more sophisticated societies, worship of creation may become more "intellectualized"; people may revere "the cosmos" or "the mind of man" or anything else awe-inspiring, but less threatening, than the omnipotent Deity Paul speaks of.
Almost inevitably, people trying to find the God-less object most worth of their reverence end their search with the highest natural manifestation of creation, humanity itself. (We might refer to this stage as discovering the essence of what's known today as secular humanism.)
In Paul's frame of reference, the highest of all created beings in spirit, intellect and authority is man. And, as Paul says elsewhere, his view is that the male gender possesses the higher authority of the two genders. Thus, Paul posits, when God-less human beings seek an ultimate being to worship other than God, they eventually conclude their search revering the most awe-inspiring and esthetically beautiful specimen(s) of humanity itself. At this point, Paul implies,"
God [gives] them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator -- who is forever praised. Amen" (vs. 24-26). In most cultures that have taken this direction, fervent admiration (approaching or encompassing) worship of human male and female forms becomes common.