In talking about Allah as an idol the question comes 'If Allah is a false god, does that make him nothing? something? a demon?' I think Paul might say yes to all three questions:
"So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." (1 Cor 8:4-6)
Idols are nothing says Paul. But then he goes on to say they are not just called 'gods' but are gods. And then in chapter 10 he says pagan sacrifices are offered to 'demons'. (1 Cor 10:20).
So are idols nothing? something? or demons? It seems like Paul is saying 'all three.' How can that be? Well it's important that we take seriously the language of 'gods' (little 'g') and 'demons'. (Ex 15:11, 1 Kings 8:25, Deut 10:17, Ps 82:1; Deut 32:16-21 - thanks Otepoti for these).
I think false gods are demonic. Their 'nothingness' is not a non-existence but rather an ontological lack. They are like a gaping hole - a nothing where there should be a something. A hole is not non-existent but it does have its existence in being a deficiency, a denigration. They are not unreal or non-existent. They are just 'nothing.' Their whole power and being is in being a negation.
Think of how John describes light and darkness. Light is something. Darkness is not something - certainly not like Light is something. Darkness is not unreal or non-existent but it still depends on being not light. On one hand it is a terrible power (a fearful something). But in another sense it is nothing - its whole existence is an existence in negation. I think idols are like this.
But again this is not to say the forces behind these dumb idols are impotent. Far from it - they have a fearsome dark power. Think of Deut 32
"16 They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. 17 They sacrificed to demons, which are not God--gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear. 18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19 The LORD saw this and rejected them because he was angered by his sons and daughters. 20 "I will hide my face from them," he said, "and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful. 21 They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols."
Here these gods 'recently appear'. They are 'no god' and 'worthless idols' but nonetheless they are 'gods' - 'demons' even. Can we say then that objects of worship that are not God are nothing in themselves but become spiritual realities when worshipped. Demonic forces (which, again, are 'dark' forces - having their being in negating what is True) inhabit dumb idols when we invest them with power. When we seek life in what is dead it is not a neutral spiritual issue - the powers of darkness are involved.
So yes, idols are nothing. And something. And demons.
What say you?