I can definitely understand your concerns. I definitely had a time when I believed iconography was pure and simple idolatry. I rejected it outright. I rejected just about everything the Church teaches, as a matter of fact. I had to do a lot of changing.
I have seen, even in this thread, your opinion change on this issue. I'm glad to see you in dialogue with it, sincerely and honestly discussing, asking questions, etc. It's good. I'm glad you're here!
What I'd like to talk about is how so many people have commented on the importance of experience when it comes to Orthodoxy, because I both totally agree with them and came originally from the presupposition that the idea was complete bunk. Going to an Orthodox service isn't going to make you Orthodox. It isn't going to suddenly convince you that this is all there is and it's beautiful and wonderful and you're ready to get dunked for Jesus RIGHT NOW
. Of course, we wouldn't dunk you for Jesus right then, anyway. We're a little more careful with the mysteries than the run-of-the-mill evangelical megachurch.
However, experiencing the Liturgy, the cycle of services, etc. is very beneficial. It lets you directly interact with that you're trying to understand. You can talk to us and read as many books as you want, and while you'll learn a lot about
Orthodoxy, you won't learn Orthodoxy itself. That's because it is indeed a way of life. We're made Orthodox not because what we say and believe (though it's a prerequisite), but because we have lived it. We've been baptized and chrismated. We commune at the Liturgy, we make confession, we fast, pray and give alms (as a community, within the liturgical year), etc. Until you start doing
Orthodoxy, you won't get it like the Orthodox faithful get it. For all the knowledge you can gain about it, you can't see it as we see it until you experience.
Now, all that said...you need to do far more than experience it. If you're someone who might convert, you've got a lot to resolve and in many different ways. I've never met anyone who's had an easy time in the conversion process. If nothing else, there's a ton of theology to understand and wrestle with which are very different from much of what we've been exposed to. I know as a former Presbyterian, I had a bunch of theological hang-ups. I loved the services, thought they were beautiful, and admired the Church very much as something beautiful...but it had dreadful heresies! I would think to myself "The Orthodox know how to do church...too bad they're so wrong about everything!" I'm not saying you're echoing that, you're not...but I certainly did. I had to read a lot about Orthodox theology, church history, etc. to get more okay with the idea of Orthodoxy. It happened, but it wasn't easy. I had many times I spent with my priest wrestling with different ideas. He could point me to resources, clarify misunderstandings, exhort me to continue on...but it's something I had to go through.
In the same vein, even when I was okay with most of it, I still had hang-ups. I just couldn't fully make that jump. I wanted to. Badly. But, I wouldn't let myself. It just didn't feel right. What finally made me desire to convert was making it all my own. To attend the service and be in prayer with
the people. To try participating in the fasting seasons, keep a regular Orthodox prayer rule, etc. I took on the Orthodox lifestyle in every way I possibly could. Then, I started seeing it like the Orthodox do. I finally, after so long, got it. I couldn't do anything but convert. It's a strange feeling when you go from defending a practice to simply loving the truth of it. For me, that transition was with the Theotokos. I went on a progression from the standard Protestant perspective, to intellectually defending her Ever-Virginity...to just loving her. That last step, from the head to the heart...is Orthodoxy. That's what we're about. Sinking our heads into our hearts and truly being
where we need to be. Communing with God in relation, not just thinking nice things about the idea. I now simply love the truths of the Orthodox. I don't even like arguing them really anymore (I used to be a really big Calvinist debater...and went to a Wesleyan school! How much fun that was!), I just love it all. In my particular example, my growing devotion to the Mother of God is very special to me. You may be scandalized for me to say that there's a icon corner of about six icons in one part of my house that are all of the Blessed Virgin. I keep one of my Bibles there, a candle, and a rosary.
And, thinking on it now, that's a good thing to talk about, I think. You probably don't really get my devotion to the Mother of God at all (or to any saint). It's alien to you, I'm sure. Because, while I can tell you all of the reasons why the Orthodox venerate her, I don't actively think of any of those things when I see her icon. If you ask me to talk about her at all, of course I can't help but talk about the Incarnation, and how she gave of herself for the sake of Christ...that's all great and wonderful and true. But, when I see her icon, the first response I have is just...love. I want to smile at it, to venerate it, etc. I feel weird not doing so...actually. I want to because I want to give her respect, honor and love because I have all of those things for her...and for me that's on a very personal level. But, she's the Mother of God! The entire Church also loves and venerates her! It is proper to do so both personally and corporately.
I'm rambling...apologies. My point is simply that, there are both things to get your head around, but no matter how well your head is around it...you won't see it like the Orthodox do until you experience it. Until you start joining in. So, with that, I do hope you go to an Orthodox service soon. Speak with the people, introduce yourself to the priest, etc. Get involved.
Wrestle with your ideas there, think on them, talk to others about them...but do it while you're involved. The results might surprise you.