Human Sacrifice and the Eucharist

Objections to sacrifice

Liberalism in religion can be defined as hostility to the idea of trying to please God with ritual and sacrifice, and indeed hostility to the idea of dividing the world into the sacred and the profane. The liberal regards such ideas as degrading, as superstitious, as reflecting a debased idea of God and an unjust contempt for His creation. The liberal’s objections are serious, and should be considered in turn.

First, it is said that prayer and sacrifice are distractions from our duties to our fellow man. God, being omnipotent, has no need of our gifts, while the needs of the poor are great and urgent. This is the old “you shouldn’t have beautiful churches when people are hungry” argument. And since the poor will be with us always, a society could never invest any resources in religion, art, or pure science if this argument is valid. Fortunately, it is not, but it is worth considering because it highlights the fundamental difference between the liberal-communist ideal of justice—“to each according to his need”—and the conservative-Aristotelian ideal—“to each his due.” We make offerings to God not because He needs them, but because He deserves them. If I fail to offer God the first fruits of my labor, I am not responding to things according to their true value; I am, in a sense, not living in the real world. Of course, we may occasionally postpone our direct service to God when emergency strikes and the needs of our fellow men are pressing, but the mere fact of poverty and want cannot negate our religious duties. Indeed, I suspect that most of the offense against church “wealth” comes from middle-class intellectuals rather than the truly poor. After all, our cathedrals are more truly at the service of the poor (for they too wish to worship God) than are our universities or our art museums.

But surely, it is next claimed, if we must offer something to God, it would be better to offer our service to our fellow man. If God is as generous as we say, wouldn’t he be more pleased by justice and charity to others than by ritual and sacrifice? Two things should be said to this. First, it presents a false “either-or” choice. According to most religions, love of neighbor and ritual sanctification are complementary and mutually-reinforcing. Second, it would not be fitting for God to declare that the only worship He wants is good behavior towards other people. An offering to God is meaningless if it consists of nothing but things we should be doing in any case for other reasons. The religious drive is to unmediated self-offering to God, and if the Lord failed to provide some way of making such offerings, He would be frustrating the noblest aspiration He placed in us.

Finally, it could be said that all this talk of “offering” things to God is meaningless in any case. Everything already belongs to God. Therefore, we should regard everything as equally “sacred”; to do so would surely augment our respect for other people and the natural environment. This objection does contain a truth: all things do belong to God, and all things do bear some likeness to their Creator and deserve our respect for carrying this likeness. However, though all things belong to God, not all things belong only to God. Food, technology, and good government exist ultimately to glorify God, but they glorify Him through their service to us. Sacred things are those things set aside only for God, to be used by us only in our worship of Him. A thing may be good without being sacred.

3 Responses

  1. […] and Isaac By bonald From my Human Sacrifice and the Eucharist (also called In Defense of Human Sacrifice): Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac is a perfect […]

  2. […] relevance here is my discussion of the symbolism of blood in Human Sacrifice and the Eucharist: A religious ritual is a symbolic act, and as such it makes […]

  3. […] to the profound meaningfulness of the offering of body and blood, what I have called the “symbolism of blood“.  He pointed to the boyhood ritual (which he’s seen in several cultures) of two […]

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