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Author Topic: Human sacrifice  (Read 38679 times)
Adept Member
Last Login:August 17, 2011, 09:57:32 pm
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Religion: Stoic (with declining druidic/wiccish hangovers and emergent Hellenic/Kemetic affiliations)
Posts: 1525

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Marc Larkin 6marc9

« Reply #15: August 25, 2010, 06:10:33 am »

Thank you for being sensitive and asking thought-provoking questions. Now that I've had time to think about it, I'm seeing that I've got a lot of defensive reactions in regards to this topic, which has me surprised. I'll try to do better about articulating myself. ...I hope that makes more sense.

You're welcome Smiley I find it can be difficult getting ideas in this sort of area explicit and coherant on the first few (hundred) tries. I think you did really well, it made a lot of sense Cheesy It made sense in all sorts of ways the first time, but I really wanted to understand more about which ones you intended. That said, I'd like to pull apart the bits because you've got some really interesting and complex bits in there Smiley

I suppose the reason actual human sacrifice disturbs me is the fact someone had to be killed for it to happen.

From a shamelessly Stoic perspective; all people die, which is not to be as glib as might first appear.

Across a broad range of belief systems (e.g. secular humanism, Christianity (some), Islam (some), Hellenic and Roman polytheisms) the circumstances of a person's death can have great impact on the 'meaning' of their life. Unfortunately, that's a poor and slippery word for the job, yet it's the the best I can manage; so, I'll try and tease it apart somewhat. Be it the suffering of the Christ, the deaths of the martyrs, Achilles or Erechtheus, or death in the service of some secular cause, people across time and culture have placed great importance on the manner of a person's death. It sort of makes sense when I consider something my grandmother told me when she was alive -dying is easy, everybody does it. I didn't understand at the time, but over the years it's come to mean that death of itself is nothing special. It's life or the afterlife (for those who believe) that has the focus of most people. This seems such a truism that it is hardly surprising to me that Bhuddism arose, in part at least, in response to it. Whether death is a conscious experience, a non-conscious experience, or no experience of any kind, dying marks its border.

The fact that you focus on the manner of the dying makes sense taken in this context. The point I suppose I'm trying to make is that the fact that the person will be dead after it, the fact that they will no longer be alive after it, aren't relevant. It is just the manner of the dying. So, what sort of dying is it?

It seems to me that it is a is a death that has been chosen and imbued with purpose, sometimes even by the individual concerned. Certainly by those who perform the sacrifice. It is a way of dying that places the individual apart from the vast majority of other people. Their life has been gifted to a god, or given in service of their family/people (in some ancient societies the boundary was nowhere near as sharp as it tends to be recently); made sacred and set apart from other things.

Whatever the thoughts were on the proper use of prisoners of war, or the desires of the gods, the modern values I was raised with tell me that murder is wrong.

I think it would be hard to argue that murder is ever right (or at least not often so); however, for many people murder and killing are not the same thing. Murder is a legal concept and many classes of killing are deemed not to count. Killing in self defence, or in service of one's country are generally not seen as murder. Revenge killings by the state are condoned in many countries. A lot of people are in favour of euthenasia; I'm sure you get the point. Not all killing is murder.

Human life is sacred, and the act of killing should have very good justification behind it (for example, in self-defense of oneself or loved ones, or in capital punishment involving serial killers). To me, "because (I think that/my culture or religion tells me that) the gods want me to" isn't a nearly good enough excuse.

I had several responses to this cross my mind, but I hope you will let me ask a little further first. What are the gods to you? I ask in terms both of what role do they play in the greater reality and in terms of what they mean to you personally. I would also ask what do you think they mean/meant to other people, now and in the past?

Going to why I don't like the idea of gods accepting that sort of sacrifice... because murder is such a Very Bad Thing in my eyes, I don't like thinking that my gods are associated with Very Bad Things.

I would like to suggest that you are absolutely right, but not in the way I think you meant Smiley Murder is a Very Bad Thing. If your gods are, or have been, associated with the killing of people (or anything else for that matter) and it is true that not all killing is murder, then you would be right in believing that your gods were not associated with murder if it were also true that killing in sacrifice is not murder.

I acknowledge that most of the gods we have written myths for were/are involved in some pretty terrible things, though I think that there's a deity, and then there's the deity as represented by a certain author, in a certain time period, writing with as much bias as an author today.

True, but these myths have stood the test of time and culture; if not unbroken to now, then at least over long periods. That suggests to me that the truths about the world and the gods that people found in them were more than those of any few poets, bards or other nameless godbotherers. At the very least, it invites me to think deeply on the place of the things that horify me within the greater patterns of reality.

And with the relationships I've kindled over the years, I can't imagine ever being okay with the gods I know and love accepting a human sacrifice.

Just reiterating that it is not my intent to question or comment on that relationship or experience.

That's condoning actual murder - not the mythological or figurative kind, but the real kind - and that's not right by me.

Once again, I question whether this is necessarily so.

Finally, as far as my dislike of human effigy goes... an effigy is supposed to be a stand-in of the real thing. Since I view literal human sacrifice as unjustified murder, I have a hard time understanding why someone would want to reproduce that, even without the loss of human life. However, since there are definitely intentions other than that (even if I can't think of them right now), if the intent of the sacrifice is clearly stated and there's a certain reasoning there for why someone wants to include that... I'd be willing to listen. I don't think I could participate in that ritual, but I would try to understand it.

There's an old thread or two around here that explore that part a bit more than I want to here (but I haven't time to find them just now - sorry). I hope that it makes more sense though in the context of what I have already written here, as well as in response to your ongoing introspection on the issues. Thanks for a post with such interesting facets Smiley

"If Michelangelo had been straight, the Sistine Chapel would have been wallpapered" Robin Tyler

It's the saddest thing in the world when you can only feel big by making others feel small. - UPG

Stupidity cannot be cured. Stupidity is the only universal capital crime. The sentence is death. There is no appeal and sentence is carried out automatically and without pity. Lazarus Long.

BGMarc at the Pub

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