Ypp is a frequent reader and commenter at Gates of Vienna, and has contributed this meditation for the Christmas season on the nature and meaning of sacrifice.
Sacrifice and its message
It is a commonplace that Western civilization is based on Judeo-Christian values and the Classical heritage. Some also add the German and Celtic spirit. There have been many posts here about the second and third components; however, the first, Judeo-Christian, is usually less well-understood. In this essay, I am trying to rationalize the influence of Judeo-Christian ideas, as I understand them.
It was noted previously that though the pagan world was not devoid of ideas and inventions, those ideas were later abandoned due to general lack of interest within society. The same can be said about Muslim world, which inherited a good deal of the Roman Empire and its civilization, but finally degraded and became retarded.
I would guess that the lack of interest may be due to general lack of respect for human life and freedom. As the Russian writer Gogol once put it in his historical novel, it is not that the people had had no money to build and prosper, but that it was not a worthy effort because of a general lack of stability and prospects.
So what’s special about Judeo-Christian values? I want to analyze two most crucial events for Judaism and Christianity, which laid the basis of both religions.
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For Judaism, it is the sacrifice of Abraham, the first Jew, of his beloved son, by God’s request. The point is that Abraham was going to kill his son, but God stopped him at the last moment. So, actually, there was no sacrifice. After that, Abraham traded some benefits from God for his descendants, which became the Jewish people. So the Jewish people began with the sacrifice, which did not happen. But because Abraham almost did it, and really suffered, he expiated some of the sins of his descendants.
I believe it is a powerful story which tells us that God does not want us to sacrifice our children; he wants us to live. Because, firstly, the sacrifice did not occur. Secondly, because our sins were expiated. If you ask, why did he need all that sacrifice at all, I believe that it’s because without sacrifice (which did not happen) there would be no story and no message.
This story essentially repeated itself with the sacrifice of Jesus, which gave birth to Christianity. Jesus died, but he was resurrected, which means that he actually did not die. He really suffered, but he did not die completely. Because Christians are children of Jesus, they receive the same benefits and the same message from Jesus as the Jews do from Abraham.
This message, as far as I know, is missing in other religions. In many philosophical systems, death is considered indistinguishable from life. Such a position can hardly encourage any development or respect for life and property.
I even dare to suggest that those atheists in the West, who refrain from having children, in fact sacrifice their children to what they probably believe is god. Whereas religious people know that this sacrifice is not required and not welcome.