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Saturday, November 16, 2002

Christianity and Child Sacrifice
One of the most baffling parts of Christianity, beyond the entire concept of a deity, is why do Christians think it's a good thing that their deity had to be tortured and killed so brutally? Sure, once he's a martyr for his ideas then he can be admired and respected -- if they agree with his ideas -- but if their god is so powerful, why was it necessary? Theologians have come up with all sorts of reasons, none of which make much sense to me, so I won't even bother repeating them. What is eerie about this sacrifice is the parallel to other sacrifices common in the ancient world.

Of course, this was the intended parallel, and Christ is often compared to a sacrificial lamb, but I submit that there is an even stronger parallel to the legacy of human sacrifice in many Semitic religions.
We don't know a lot of the details of Phoenecian religions, but it is believed that their religions have the common thread of human sacrifice, specifically of children. One tradition of Judaism is in fact an implicit rejection of this child sacrifice and is related in the story of Abraham and Isaac. The story goes like this: God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, which he prepared to do, but at the last minute god stopped the murder and explained that Abraham was simply being tested to see to what lengths he would obey the deity. Abraham is then told that child sacrifice is no longer permitted.

Of course, no one bothers to ask why Isaac ever trusted his father again!

But here it is in the bible that god tells his people that sacrificing children is no longer to be tolerated. I suspect this is the main reason for the creation of Judaism: Some of the Semitic people finally got fed up with the logic of sacrificing their children, so they invented this story and this version of god to avoid the requirement.

Of course, we can look even more fundamentally at the issue and ask why is any type of animal or human sacrifice thought of as some way of appeasing or gaining favor from a deity? There were many, in fact most, religions in the known world of the Mediterranean, Anatolia, the Levant, the Tigris and Euphrates River Valleys, the Nile Delta, etc. that did not allow human sacrifice, yet took it for granted that killing other animals was required for some sort of divine blessing, or as implied in the Bible a test of obedience. It is so ingrained in their and our culture that no one ever really explains why that is so.