Chapter 14 - Why does God love animal sacrifice?


For most people, the last chapter offers sufficient evidence to prove to themselves that God did not write the Bible. Clearly, an all-loving God cannot be a huge proponent of slavery. Therefore, since the Bible specifies that slavery is perfectly acceptable in the eyes of the Lord, it is easy to conclude that primitive men wrote the Bible rather than God.

However, if you need additional evidence, then we can approach the Bible from another angle and reach the same conclusion.

To any normal human being, the idea of animal and human sacrifice is both abhorrent and nauseating. The dictionary defines "sacrifice" in this way:

    The act of offering something to a deity in propitiation or homage, especially the ritual slaughter of an animal or a person. [ref]
This, quite clearly, is something that primitive savages would do. There is no need to beat around the bush: We all know, without question, that animal and human sacrifice is an absurdity. Sacrificing and burning an animal on an altar does not have any beneficial effect for anyone.


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The Aztecs in Mexico would take a virgin to the top of a pyramid, slice her still-beating heart out of her chest and eat it -- or whatever -- and we all know that their practices were insane and barbaric beyond belief. [ref] The death of the virgin did absolutely nothing to improve crop yield or rainfall, nor did it "appease" the Aztec gods (since those gods were completely imaginary). It is impossible to understand why the Aztecs would do something so bizarre and disgusting. Was it mass delusion? Rampant superstition taken to the Nth degree? Total desperation? A horrific combination? There is no way to know, but we do know that the behavior of the Aztecs was insane.

Any normal person is disgusted by religious sacrifice, and you would imagine that God is too. Ritual slaughter like this has nothing to do with an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, prayer-answering creator of the universe. The idea of killing an animal, splattering its blood about and then burning its flesh is, quite obviously, absurd and ridiculous. God would have nothing to do with animal sacrifice.

But then we examine the Bible -- the holy word of God and the single authoritative source of all information about Jesus -- and find passages like these:

Leviticus Chapter 1

    The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. He said, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When any of you brings an offering to the Lord , bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.

    "If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord . He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He is to slaughter the young bull before the Lord , and then Aaron's sons the priests shall bring the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. He is to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest are to put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. Then Aaron's sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, including the head and the fat, on the burning wood that is on the altar. He is to wash the inner parts and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the Lord .

    "If the offering is a burnt offering from the flock, from either the sheep or the goats, he is to offer a male without defect. He is to slaughter it at the north side of the altar before the Lord , and Aaron's sons the priests shall sprinkle its blood against the altar on all sides. He is to cut it into pieces, and the priest shall arrange them, including the head and the fat, on the burning wood that is on the altar. He is to wash the inner parts and the legs with water, and the priest is to bring all of it and burn it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the Lord .

    "If the offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, he is to offer a dove or a young pigeon. The priest shall bring it to the altar, wring off the head and burn it on the altar; its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar. He is to remove the crop with its contents and throw it to the east side of the altar, where the ashes are. He shall tear it open by the wings, not severing it completely, and then the priest shall burn it on the wood that is on the fire on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the Lord .

Burning flesh is an aroma pleasing to the Lord? Does this make any sense to you as a rational human being?

Here is another example:

Leviticus Chapter 5

    'If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible.

    'Or if a person touches anything ceremonially unclean-whether the carcasses of unclean wild animals or of unclean livestock or of unclean creatures that move along the ground-even though he is unaware of it, he has become unclean and is guilty.

    'Or if he touches human uncleanness-anything that would make him unclean-even though he is unaware of it, when he learns of it he will be guilty.

    'Or if a person thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil-in any matter one might carelessly swear about-even though he is unaware of it, in any case when he learns of it he will be guilty.

    'When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned and, as a penalty for the sin he has committed, he must bring to the Lord a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.

    'If he cannot afford a lamb, he is to bring two doves or two young pigeons to the Lord as a penalty for his sin-one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. He is to bring them to the priest, who shall first offer the one for the sin offering. He is to wring its head from its neck, not severing it completely, and is to sprinkle some of the blood of the sin offering against the side of the altar; the rest of the blood must be drained out at the base of the altar. It is a sin offering. The priest shall then offer the other as a burnt offering in the prescribed way and make atonement for him for the sin he has committed, and he will be forgiven.

You are an intelligent human being, so think this through. Here is the logic expressed in Leviticus chapter 5:
    "Today I accidentally touched something that was 'ceremonially unclean,' and I didn't know about it at the time, but fortunately a priest brought it to my attention, and I am guilty. Now, I can't afford a lamb. But I can get two young pigeons for a shekel over at Saul's bird emporium, and then I can take them both to the priest. He will wring the head from the neck of one of them, but not sever it completely. And he will sprinkle the blood, and drain the rest. And then the priest will burn the other pigeon. Then I am forgiven. Thank God!"
What does your common sense tell you about this? It probably tells you that it is impossible to imagine an all-loving, all-knowing God demanding this, and you are correct.

Here is another example:

Leviticus Chapter 7, The priest's share

    The Lord said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites: 'Anyone who brings a fellowship offering to the Lord is to bring part of it as his sacrifice to the Lord . With his own hands he is to bring the offering made to the Lord by fire; he is to bring the fat, together with the breast, and wave the breast before the Lord as a wave offering. The priest shall burn the fat on the altar, but the breast belongs to Aaron and his sons. You are to give the right thigh of your fellowship offerings to the priest as a contribution. The son of Aaron who offers the blood and the fat of the fellowship offering shall have the right thigh as his share. From the fellowship offerings of the Israelites, I have taken the breast that is waved and the thigh that is presented and have given them to Aaron the priest and his sons as their regular share from the Israelites.' "
Does it seem more likely that God commanded this, or that primitive men looking for the "priest's share" wrote this?

Here is another example:

Leviticus Chapter 9

    [Moses] then presented the other ram, the ram for the ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on its head. Moses slaughtered the ram and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron's right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. Moses also brought Aaron's sons forward and put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet. Then he sprinkled blood against the altar on all sides. He took the fat, the fat tail, all the fat around the inner parts, the covering of the liver, both kidneys and their fat and the right thigh.

    Then from the basket of bread made without yeast, which was before the Lord, he took a cake of bread, and one made with oil, and a wafer; he put these on the fat portions and on the right thigh. He put all these in the hands of Aaron and his sons and waved them before the Lord as a wave offering. Then Moses took them from their hands and burned them on the altar on top of the burnt offering as an ordination offering, a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the Lord by fire. He also took the breast-Moses' share of the ordination ram-and waved it before the Lord as a wave offering, as the Lord commanded Moses.

We have Moses putting the blood of a freshly slaughtered animal on the ears, thumbs and toes of other people.

What does your common sense tell you about these passages?

When looking at passages like these in the Bible, everyone can see the problem. Animal sacrifice is abhorrent, and it has nothing to do with an all-knowing and all-loving God.

For most people, no further evidence is needed. It is obvious that primitive men wrote the Bible, not God. God would have nothing to do with the Bible if these passages are in it, and the Bible is an all-or-nothing book (see Chapter 13 for details). No all-powerful, all-loving God wants people to kill animals, splatter their blood, cut them up into pieces, arrange the pieces on an altar and burn them so that he can "smell the pleasing aroma." There is no difference between the Bible's book of Leviticus and the insanity of the Aztecs.

Therefore, in the same way that the slavery passages in the previous chapter prove that God did not write the Bible, these animal sacrifice passages prove that God did not write the Bible. The whole notion of an all-knowing, all-powerful God purposefully writing this material is patently absurd to any rational human being.

Key Point

All of this material about animal sacrifice is found in the Old Testament of the Bible. This is the same place where we find the Ten Commandments. Only about 20 pages separate Exodus chapter 20 -- the source of the Ten Commandments -- from Leviticus Chapter 1.

Keep in mind that all of this material about animal sacrifice is found in the Old Testament of the Bible. This is the same place where we find the Ten Commandments. Only about 20 pages separate Exodus chapter 20 -- the source of the Ten Commandments -- from Leviticus Chapter 1.

Human Sacrifice

If you are a Christian, how do you handle these passages in the Bible? A Christian has a problem, because it is hard to put faith in a book that harbors numerous passages where God demands animal sacrifice. As with the slavery problem discussed in the previous chapter, there are two possible approaches for a Christian:

  1. Pretend that the passages are not there and change the subject when they are mentioned.

  2. Try to develop some sort of highly convoluted rationalization on God's behalf to explain the passages.
Christians tend to take the latter approach, and then they do something quite unexpected. You would imagine that Christians would try to distance themselves as far as possible from animal sacrifice. But they do not.

Suprisingly, many Christians embrace these parts of the Bible. Only in the context of this abhorent practice does the horrific death of Jesus on the cross (as portrayed in the movie The Passion of the Christ) make even a modicum of sense. For Christians, the human race had to actually move into the realm of human sacrifice to finally appease their God. Senselessly killing animals was not sufficient. According to the Christian faith, Jesus is the human sacrifice that satisfied God.

For example, here is something that a Christian minister might say:

    If you read all those dry regulations for sin sacrifices in Leviticus and if you read about the requirements for the Passover lamb, you will realize that Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for sin. He is the first-born son, not of a sheep or a goat, but of God. He is innocent of all sin, He volunteers of His own free willóthat is, He was convicted only by His own confession. He freely submitted to His Fatherís will. He is, by the Levitical code, a perfect sacrifice, and therefore He perfectly removes all sin. He meets all the requirements for a fellowship offering, and thus places us in fellowship with God. Since even on the cross, none of His bones were broken, He also meets all the requirements for a Passover lamb, whose blood protects us from the angel of death, thus He prepares us for the Resurrection.[ref]
As uncomfortable as this sounds, this is the core belief of the Christian church. Christ had to die as a human sacrifice for our sins to appease the "God" of Leviticus. The most prominent religion on this planet, practiced by two billion people, has human sacrifice as its central tenet.

When we read about animal sacrifice in the Old Testament, what we discover is a God who must be insane. No rational human being can accept that an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God could possibly support animal sacrifice.

But then we turn to the New Testament and find that God has moved beyond insanity. God becomes a monstrous absurdity who demands human sacrifice. In other words, Christians are dwelling in the same realm as the virgin-killing Aztecs.

Contemplating the crucifixion

Have you ever thought about how bizarre the crucifixion story is? Imagine the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe sitting on his magnificent throne in heaven. He looks down onto earth and says to himself:

    Those evil humans down on earth. I hate what they are doing. All this sin...

    Since I am all-knowing I know exactly what the humans are doing and I understand exactly why they commit each sin. Since I created the humans in my own image and personally programmed human nature into their brains, I am the direct author of all of this sin. The instant I created them I knew exactly what would happen with every single human being right down to the nanosecond level for all eternity. If I didn't like how it was going to turn out, I could have simply changed them when I created them. And since I am perfect, I know exactly what I am doing. But ignore all that. I hate all these people doing exactly what I perfectly designed them to do and knew they would do from the moment I created them...

    So here's what I am going to do. I will artificially inseminate a virgin. She will give birth to an incarnated version of me. The humans will eventually crucify and kill the incarnated me. That will, finally, make me happy. Yes, sending myself down and having the humans crucify me -- that will satisfy me. I feel much better now.

It makes no sense, does it? Why would an all-knowing being need to have humans kill himself (Jesus is God, after all) to make himself happy? Especially since it is a perfect God who set the whole thing in motion exactly the way he wanted it? The whole story of the crucifixion is absurd from top to bottom if you actually stop to think about it.

Chapter 21 explains where this bizarre story actually comes from. It has nothing to do with "God".

Thinking about our sacrificial God

Have you ever stopped to think about it? If you are a Christian, have you ever thought about how uncomfortable this is? You are worshipping a God who demanded animal sacrifice, and then was finally "appeased" by human sacrifice. Many Christians seem to actually revel in human sacrifice. How else can we explain the tens of millions of Christians who flocked to the movie The Passion of the Christ?

Key Point

Many Christians actually seem to revel in human sacrifice. Tens of millions of Christians flocked to the movie "The Passion of the Christ".

Have you ever consciously thought about how truly uncomfortable this situation is?

Please simply take a moment and think about what you have read in this chapter. Here are two points of view for you to consider:

  1. God wrote the Bible and the Bible is the word of the Lord. God demanded animal sacrifice and he specified how he wanted the sacrifices done in minute detail in the Bible because God enjoys animal sacrifice. These ritualized animal killings allowed humans to atone for our many sins against God, and the aroma of the burning flesh was pleasing to the Lord. By moving to the level of human sacrifice, Christians were finally able to appease their God.

  2. Animal sacrifice is absurd, abhorrent, ridiculous and revolting. Human sacrifice even more so. The Bible was written by primitive men, not by God. Those primitive men were as insane as the Aztecs.
Use both your head and your heart to analyze the situation. Which point of view makes more sense to you?

Now, let's look at another example that is just as outrageous...

<<< Go to Chapter 13     |     TOC     |     Go to Chapter 15 >>>


New York Times Coverage
WWGHA was
discussed in a
New York Times piece
by N. D. Kristof.
For a counter-point to Mr. Kristof, please see
Chapter 26.

Recommendation by Sam Harris
Sam Harris recommends WWGHA in his book Letter to a Christian Nation.

Endorsement by Richard Dawkins
In a New York Times Letter, Richard Dawkins calls WWGHA a "splendid Web site."


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