Sunday, July 19, 2009

Speculating On The Origin Of Human Sacrifice

Suppose the act of human sacrifice becomes imperative for a tribe's survival. Initially, one might imagine numbers being drawn to determine who will be sacrificed. How awful this would be! Who would want to die only because there was not enough food? Presumably nobody.

Imagine at this point, an elder of the tribe comes up with a way to mitigate the difficulty of this decision. What if a superstitious belief were contrived whereby “volunteers” would be promised a wonderful afterlife and be honored here in this world for the rest of time? Do you suppose there would now be willing volunteers wanting to be sacrificed? Most definitely.

But what about tribes that still engage in this practice even though their survival no longer necessitates it? Well, at this point, it is such an honored and revered tradition that its practice is no longer out of practicality. Rather, it is done because the tribe believes it is actually true and is a way to cherish “honor” in society!

Many feel led to stop this type of “barbaric” practice. But if this practice is banned only because it is awful and ultimately built on a lie, what other practices built completely on superstitious “lies” ought we ban? Certainly most with strong religious convictions are not sacrificing others but should we necessarily pardon their practices? Is it true to say that religious convictions never cause death and destruction? Certainly not. Then perhaps superstitious beliefs of all kinds can actually sow conflict and result in death and destruction.

At this point, if we arbitrarily seek to eliminate certain “evil” practices based on superstitious lies, where must we end this eradication effort? Who is to say which superstitious lies are harmful and which are merely innocuous? Might arbitrarily eradicating certain practices, however “awful” they may be to “us”, be an affront to another society's freedom? At what discrete point must we curtail freedoms to prevent “crimes against humanity”?

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