Child Sacrifice and the Default Religion of Mankind
Q: You said, "The default religion of human beings is the practice of human sacrifice. This pathological virus planted deep in the heart of the human species has been given insufficient attention by scholars. Virtually all primitive cultures and ancient civilizations engaged in it." You state further, "Obviously, the foundation stone of Judaism is the injunction against human sacrifice, when God tells Abraham not to kill him a son out on highway 61. Superficially, Christianity may be seen as a resuscitation of the sacrificial motif, with the murder of the innocent Jesus, but in reality, this is clearly intended to convey the idea that when we murder innocence, we murder God. The crucifixion of Jesus is meant to be the last human sacrifice, with Jesus standing in for our own murdered innocence (and our own murderous selves)."
Was Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to the one God, a shortcoming? Did Abraham “pass the test” or did he fail? Does God have a sense of humor?
A: First of all, I should say that this particular view of the sacrificial motif in Christianity is not original to me, but is outlined in a wonderful book entitled Violence Unveiled, by Gil Bailie (who in turn was deeply influenced by the work of by René Girard). A number of readers actually contacted me for clarification of my view, because I didn’t make it clear that Bailie (who is Catholic) is not talking about Christian theology per se, but about the unconscious anthropological implications of Christian theology, as it seeps into the culture at large. In short, Christian cultures are going to have a much greater capacity to identify with the victim, which has both a positive side (empathy for true victims) and a potentially negative side (the whole dysfunctional leftist victim culture that shadows and parasitizes Christianity).
Now, “was Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to the one God, a shortcoming?” And “did Abraham ‘pass the test’ or did he fail?”
Like all biblical stories, this one operates on no less than four levels -- the literal, moral, symbolic, and mystical -- but actually several more than that, including psychological, metaphysical, meta-historical, and cosmological. These stories are like multifaceted little holographic jewels -- turn them just a bit, and you can unlock an entirely new dimension. But the main idea is that scripture embodies both an exterior/horizontal and an interior/vertical dimension.
So what is this story telling us? What is its point? I’m not sure if what follows is a kosher exegesis, but it is my own attempt to square the story with psychological truth.
The first question we must ask is, who was that voice in Abraham’s head telling him to murder his son? Was it really God? Or was it something else? In his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes put forth the intriguing idea that ancient man lived in a state of psychological fragmentation, almost like what we would now regard as a multiple personality, or perhaps like Mel Gibson after a night out with the goys. He deduces this from a great deal of data, but concludes, for example, that what modern people experience as a relatively integrated conscience, or superego, ancient man experienced as a sort of command hallucination.
Child abuse has always existed. As a matter of fact, the further back in history you go, the more child abuse you discover. Except that it goes unnoticed, because it is simply embedded in the culture, just as it is today in the Islamic world. I would go so far as to say that mistreating, rather than loving, children is the “default” setting of human beings. As a psychoanalytically informed psychologist, I have no hesitation whatsoever in making this statement. Childhood is filled with trauma that is internalized, only to be acted out later in life in various relationships -- including with one’s own children.
Nowadays a person just lashes out at their children without the verbal middleman. They don’t generally hear a voice telling them to do it, as did, for example, Andrea Yates. But the internalized unconscious entity that compels the abuse is still there. If we could put the abuser on the couch, have them free associate, and take the deposition of this split-off sub-personality, we might well be able to give voice to the entity that wishes to harm the child. It is very likely an internalized sadistic object lashing out at a projected, devalued, masochistic part of the abuser's own self. In other words, it is an entirely internal psychological drama into which the child has been inducted to play a role.
I have seen this dynamic play out in dozens, probably hundreds of clinical histories. I remember one case of a woman who was sadistically and arbitrarily abused by her mother. She remembers asking her mother why she beat her, to which her mother responded with words to the effect of, “when I was a little girl, my mother beat me. When you grow up it will be your turn.”
So breaking the cycle of acting out our “mind parasites” on children is one of the keys to both individual and collective psychohistorical evolution. It is well understood by historians of antiquity that the Jews were exceptional in this regard. (I had a recent series of posts on this topic.) One of the things that set the ancient Jews apart from their contemporaries was their more humane treatment of both women and children, in particular, female children (who were greatly devalued in the ancient world, just as they are today in the Islamic world). It is not so much that their standards were higher as compared with the modern West, but by the incredibly cruel standards of the day. I believe that this is one of the factors that allowed the Jews as a group to vault ahead of others despite the constant vilification and scapegoating that has dogged them right up to the present day's New York Times editorial page.
In my opinion, it can surely be no coincidence that the most humane place in all of the Middle East is surrounded by barbarians who wish to extinguish it in the exact degree to which they systematically abuse their own children.
As a matter of fact, a couple of days ago a reader sent me this link to a piece in the Claremont Review on child sacrifice. In it, the author recalls Golda Meir’s famous remark about how “peace with the Palestinians will be possible when they love their own children more than they hate the Israelis. In saying so, she touched upon a fundamental difference between pagan and biblical religion: the presence or absence of child sacrifice.... Many ancient peoples believed in sacrificing a child to an angry god like Moloch or Baal in order to avert misfortune. Today, thousands of Muslims believe that sacrificing their children as ‘suicide’ bombers in a crowd of people pleases their God Allah. More, Islamic terrorists invite the death of children by placing their military and political headquarters in residential areas which they know their enemies will strike.”
Folks, is this not an obvious, if horrid -- and therefore denied -- truth about fallen mankind in general and the Islamic world in particular? The author concludes his piece on a pessimistic note, speculating that “if the current intellectuals’ project of undermining the Biblical traditions of the Western world continues unabated, [instead of] embracing some new, ‘enlightened’ philosophy which previous generations were supposedly too dull to conceive or practice, likely we will wind up with ancient paganism instead.”
This is exactly what I have stated in the past. Naive secularists believe that if we can only eliminate religion, then we will end up with a scientific and rational worldview. Not so. Eliminate religion -- specifically, Judeo-Christian religion -- and pagan magic rushes in to fill the breach. If your three eyes are opened, you only see it everywhere, for example, in the faux religion of global warming hysteria.
As the writer puts it, “Paganism has the advantage of being older than Christianity, the faith which arouses most of the hatred of the pseudo-intellectuals of our time.... Much of Islam today seems to have more in common with the pagan religions which preceded its founding in the seventh century. No clearer case of child sacrifice exists now than radical Islam’s cult of suicide bombings...” So who is that voice telling Muslims to murder children -- both their own and others'? Could it be the same voice that told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? No: could it possibly not be the same voice?
Here's one of Moloch's stenographers, speaking live to you from the pre-Abrahamic bowels of history -- from the contemporary Muslim Middle East: "What else is there for a man but to sacrifice his son for his religion?" Hizb'allah is actually Hiz'baal.
Now, I realize there are other interpretations, but as a psychologist, I see the story of Abraham and Isaac as a primordial, archetypal tale of how barbarous pagans stopped listening to their psychotic, child-hating "god," and instead took a right turn in history, discovered the God of Love, and became the Jews that we know and love. That little crack of light and Life that opened up in antiquity runs in a straight line to us. Another line -- a line of Death -- leads to contemporary Islamism and its allies among the international Left. It is so obvious, and yet people do not see. This occasionally causes me real despair, as if the foundations of the West are being eroded in plain sight, on one side by Islamic do-badders, on the other side by leftist do-gooders.
Oh, by the way. You asked if God has a sense of humor. I don’t know how that question got mixed in with this one, but the answer is yes, which is one of the things I try to bring out in my blog. Speaking of which, we all know that Jews are staggeringly over-represented among the greatest comedians of all time. Likewise, this whole global jihad nightmare would be over in a second if Muslims could just laugh at how silly they are, instead of killing people. But the god of jihad and child sacrifice is not the God of Groucho Marx or Rodney Dangerfield. Well, maybe Rodney Dangerfield, in that they are obsessed with being granted the respect that they haven't earned -- probably because it was never given to them by mullah or fatwa when they were infatoddlers or jihadolescents.
There is an old joke: “It doesn’t matter what religion you are, so long as you’re ashamed of it.” Islam is supposed to be a “shame culture.” If so, one wonders why they always behave so shamelessly. Perhaps because they are angry victims of their own childhood shame -- projected onto the West that "shames" them -- and the Left is always willing to assist a fellow self-made victim.