The Sacrifice reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Sacrifice

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Sacrifice is the practice of offering food, or the lives of animals or people to the gods, as an act of propitiation or worship. The term is also used metaphorically to describe selfless good deeds for others.

Table of contents
1 Theologies of Sacrifice
2 Sacrifice in Judaism
3 Human Sacrifice
4 See also:
5 Further Reading
6 External links

Theologies of Sacrifice

The theology of sacrifice remains an issue, not only for religions that continue to practice rituals of sacrifice, but also for those religions that have animal sacrifice in their scriptures, traditions, or histories, even if sacrifice is no longer made. Religions offer a number of reasons for why sacrifices are offered.

Sacrifice in Judaism

Medieval Jewish rationalists like
Maimonides reinterpreted the need for sacrifice. In this view, God always held sacrifice inferior to prayer and philosophical meditation. However, God understood that the Israelites were used to the animal sacrifices that the surrounding pagan tribes used as the primary way to commune with their gods. As such, in Maimonides' view, it was only natural that Israelites would believe that sacrifice were be a necessary part of the relationship between God and man. Maimonides concludes that God's decision to allow sacrifices was a concession to human psychological limitations. It would have been too much to have expected the Israelites to leap from pagan worship to prayer and meditation in one step. In the Guide For the Perplexed he writes:

"But the custom which was in those days general among men, and the general mode of worship in which the Israelites were brought up consisted in sacrificing animals... It was in accordance with the wisdom and plan of God...that God did not command us to give up and to discontinue all these manners of service. For to obey such a commandment would have been contrary to the nature of man, who generally cleaves to that to which he is used; it would in those days have made the same impression as a prophet would make at present [the 12th Century ] if he called us to the service of God and told us in His name, that we should not pray to God nor fast, nor seek His help in time of trouble; that we should serve Him in thought, and not by any action." (Book III, Chapter 32. Translated by M. Friedlander, 1904, The Guide for the Perplexed, Dover Publications, 1956 edition.)

Human Sacrifice

Human sacrifice was practiced by many ancient cultures. People would be ritually killed in a manner that was supposed to please or appease some god or spirit. While not widely know, human sacrifices for religious reasons still exist today in a number of nations, including India.

Some occasions for human sacrifice found in multiple cultures on multiple continents include:

Some of the best known ancient human sacrifice was that practiced by various Pre-Columbian civilizations of Mesoamerica. The Aztec were particularly noted for practicing this on an unusually large scale; a human sacrifice would be made every day to aid the Sun in rising, the dedication of the great temple at Tenochtitlán was reportedly marked with the sacrificing of thousands, and there are multiple accounts of captured Conquistadores being sacrificed during the wars of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico.

Human sacrifice still happens today as an underground practice in some traditional religions, for example in muti killings. Human sacrifice is no longer officially condoned in any country, and these cases are regarded as murder.

Many people in India are adherents of a religion called Tantrism; a small percent of unscrupulous Tantric practitioners engage in human sacrifice, often with the promise of inducing childbirth in a sterile couple (see Further Reading).

Human sacrifice is a common theme in the religions and mythology of many cultures.

Christians believe that the death of Jesus Christ was a self-sacrifice for mankind's sins.

See also:

Further Reading

External links