Human Sacrifice on the Altar of the Left
In fact, Magnus made an excellent point in this regard, and in many ways it is the main reason why this question about God's evolution should be of interest to us: "I wonder to what degree each person is doomed to repeat the psychogenesis of history. At least it should be possible to avoid some of the long pauses and backsliding." The point is that since human beings clearly develop in every way, it necessarily follows that their ability to comprehend God will follow the same developmental schema.
As mentioned yesterday, I certainly don't agree with everything Stark has to say on the subject. Although the book provides a great deal of fascinating and extremely useful research, I think his analysis is far too superficial, and never really gets beneath the surface into the principial, or metaphysical realm. In other words, he is far too empirical, and tries to draw his conclusions in a merely logical way, as if he is studying household income, or the evolution of tools. His ultimate explanation is that religions should be understood in the manner of free market economics, so that, if given the choice, people will "choose" religions that are more satisfying to them.
But this approach begs so many questions that it is difficult to even know where to begin. For example, he assumes far too much rationality in humans, especially humans of the distant past. Let's look, for example, at the (literally) bloodthirsty religions of Mesoamerica. Stark chides the earlier, pre-PC generations of anthropologists that contemptuously dismissed these people as barbaric and hopelessly illogical savages, but I think that is closer to the truth than suggesting that they were merely engaging in an understandable "exchange relationship" between God and man. You know, God wants to drink human blood, and we just happen to have a lot of it around, so it's a win-win situation!
B-b-b-but why blood? Why human sacrifice? And how can there be whole human cultures that revolve around this practice for hundreds of years, without anyone noticing that, for starters, it doesn't actually work? Okay, every time we do it, the sun comes up. Plus, the sun hasn't extinguished yet. Ergo, human sacrifice works.
But is this really logical? And why the anxiety about the sun going out? What's that all about? Obviously the sun had no problems making it through the day before the institution of human sacrifice. Who's the genius that came up with the idea, and how did he sell it to his fellow tribesmen? Can you imagine the conversation?
If I were there at the time, participating in the debate, I would have undoubtedly adopted the role of group psychologist. "Okay, let's stipulate that someone wants to slice open a victim's chest, cut out the beating heart, and eat it. Before assuming that it's God, let's explore this a bit more. Where are these feelings coming from? Mr. Dahmer, what are your thoughts? Etc.
Stark defines sacrifice in operational terms as "things given up or foregone so that they might be offered to God(s)." Okay, good enough. But there's a big difference between the perspectives of the knife-wielding priest and the sacrificial victim, isn't there? I mean, what's the priest really foregoing in Stark's terms? Nothing. Rather, he's very much like a liberal, who is perfectly willing to sacrifice other people's money.
The comparison is rather apt, because the left describes a Ted Kennedy as a lifelong public servant, which is true in the same sense that the sacrificial priest was one. For what did Ted Kennedy ever give up in the sacrificial process of burning all those trillions of dollars that didn't belong to him? When push came to shove, he wouldn't even allow wind generators near his property, because they might interfere with the view. Sacrifice!
Stark notes that "Blood played a significant role in sacrifices in all of the ancient temple religions," and this is indeed true (since, unlike the modern liberal priesthood, they didn't have cash). But again, why? One type of sacrifice that was still in vogue in Paul's time involved slaughtering a bull "on a wooden platform under which lay new initiates who were then drenched in the bull's blood..."
Okay. Let's assume that God enjoys this spectacle. My first thought is WHAT IN THE HELL KIND OF GOD ARE WE TALKING ABOUT HERE, PEOPLE!!!!!
For this cannot be God, -- and certainly not a God worth worshiping -- but some kind of preternatural monster. Stark notes that when the Spanish explorers arrived in Mexico, "they were utterly astounded by the immense ritual slaughters that were taking place." Subsequent academically correct research tried to deny the scope of the sacrifices, but they have now been verified. Stark cites one archaeological find containing the remains of 42 children with their throats cut, as an offering to the "rain gods" (let's not give Al Gore any ideas. Besides, hasn't the poor man sacrificed enough?).
Again, since we're not actually talking about God, what are we talking about? Unfortunately, Stark blandly dismisses psychoanalysis with a single sentence to the effect that is a well-known fraud that needn't seriously detain us, but his only reference is to the admittedly loony anthropological speculations of Freud, as if psychoanalysis hasn't undergone further development in the past 75 years.
One of the key insights of psychoanalysis is that behaviors that appear to be irrational have their own unconscious reason. But Stark believes that "the case for sacrifice as a highly rational economic act is overwhelming." Therefore, there's no need to even invoke a psychoanalytic explanation, since economics explains it.
Do not concur. Here is Stark's description of this rational behavior: "Adult male victims usually were held down [obviously, someone didn't think this was so rational!] on a sacrifical stone atop a pyramid, their chest was slashed open, and the priest snatched their still-beating heart from the chest and held it aloft to the sun." Then, the body "was rolled, flailing down the temple steps to the bottom where it was skinned and dismembered." (Hmm, reminds me of my IRS audit.) For some reason, female victims were often "skinned by a priest who then wore her skin as the slaughter continued."
I wonder what this would have looked like if they had been irrational?
One ceremony in 1487 "began with four lines of victims, each line stretching for two miles.... the total number sacrificed on that occasion was as many as twenty thousand, although others have placed the number as high as eighty thousand.... During regular festivals, the numbers killed at a particular temple probably ran around two thousand a day. But there were literally hundreds of sacrificial sites," like 7-Eleven stores on every corner.
But you know what? The sun's still here, so shut up. And you know what else? President Obama observed that it also came up the day after Obamacare was passed, so shut up again. For that matter, the high priests of liberalism know exactly how many jobs were saved and created as a result of the ritual Porkulus sacrifice, so stop complaining. The state has to burn money in order to ensure that God will make more.