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Weekly Poll: Should Ritual Animal Sacrifices Be Allowed?

By November 22, 2012

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In some religions, animal sacrifices are an integral part of many religious rituals. Sacrifices of various sorts -- plant, animal, and even human -- have been integral to religions going back for as long as we have records of religious practices. Whether to allow animal sacrifices today is a difficult choice. Is the fact that dominant religions don't do animal sacrifices anymore a good enough reason to ban it? Is protecting the animals a good reason to ban it?

I think that it's very important to keep firmly in mind the fact that the absence of animal sacrifices in a society's dominant religions could influence us against the practice. In modern America, at least, it would be very easy to regard animal sacrifices as "weird" and "primitive" simply because it's not normal in the context of Christianity or Judaism, but that's not only a poor reason to oppose the practice but is in fact an expression of privilege: treating others and their traditions as "inferior" and "abnormal" simply because they aren't yours or what you are used to.

It's very easy to offer rationalizations as if they were reasonable, logical arguments but which are really just masks for privilege. It occurs all the time in the context of race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. It's hard for the people enmeshed in privilege or privileged practices to see it for themselves, which makes it all the more important to try when it's clear that privilege may be part of the equation.

In this case, there is a potentially legitimate argument against animal sacrifices -- the treatment of the animals -- but is that a rational argument or a rationalization? One way to determine how genuine an argument really is is to look at whether or not it's based on principles that are applied consistently. So, is the treatment of animals during sacrifices any worse than the treatment of animals raised for food? If not, then are the people arguing against allowing animals sacrifices making the same arguments against modern animal husbandry? If not, then they aren't being consistent and are probably just rationalizing.

This is a good opportunity for you to reflect on your initial reaction to the concept of "animal sacrifices" and what it says about you, your attitudes towards minority religions, and the degree to which even you as an atheist may still be influenced by Christian privilege in modern American society. Atheists tend to be among those who are negatively impacted by the privileging of Christianity and Christian traditions, but this doesn't mean that atheists may not also at times still unconsciously accept attitudes which are dependent on those privileges.

August 21, 2008 at 10:20 am
(1) Scott D. says:

As long as legal restrictions concerning animal treatment are fallowed, animal sacrifices should be protected by the First Amendment.

And I’d like there to be some weight behind my response when people say “I’ll pray for you”. :)

August 21, 2008 at 2:13 pm
(2) Ron says:

Does religious ritual slaughter qualify as being included in the definition of animal sacrifice? Go here to watch video of ritual animal slaughter. If you are not outraged, then there must be something wrong with you! Although I am not a vegetarian, there to be respect for the animal.

August 22, 2008 at 11:55 pm
(3) Rasena says:

Animals humanely slaughtered for food is one thing, but slaughter for some god or other purpose is unacceptanle. Killing for fur coats, ivory, or trivial trinkets is also unacceptable. That piece of beef being kosher slaughtered is truly heart rendering. Maybe that type of treatment should be accorded to people that justify man’s having dominion over the beasts.

August 24, 2008 at 12:38 pm
(4) andy says:

I think we’d be very opposed if religions started making human sacrifices again-even if the the humans concerned appeared to consent to their own sacrifice.At least they’d nominally be able to give their consent-unlike the animals.

September 4, 2008 at 5:47 pm
(5) Marvin says:

Religious groups do many things that most of us consider offensive, and some of them even hurt people. Not long ago the Salvation Army was reported to have fired a productive employee when it was learned that she was homosexual. I find it immoral and refuse to support the SA any longer. It’s a futile gesture, but it’s my right.

I grew up and have lived most of my life in rural America where both wild and domestic animals are routinely killed for food, and I have no problem with it. The dominant religion in our country claims its diety requires a blood sacrifice and engages in rituals to glorify what it claims was the ultimate sacrifice through a ritual that apes the eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood of the human victim. In what way would ritualistically killing a chicken or lamb be worse?

October 9, 2008 at 10:04 am
(6) Tails Kitsune says:

I believe animals Should Not be killed unless for food. But according to some humans out here its ok to kill Animals as a sacrifice to the Monotheistic Sandy-assed Deity. im not going to give out any names… But you probably know whom im talking about..

From, Tails Kitsune

P.S. as the old saying goes “You Kill it You Eat it…”

November 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm
(7) Mary says:

Killing innocent animals as a sacrifice is outright cruelty, and it’s only a short step from human sacrifice. Some of your comments say that it’s OK to kill them for food, but I don’t agree with that either. I have been a vegetarian since 1974 and vegan for about 3 or 4 years and I am in good health – among other things, my cholesterol is normal. I eat a great variety of tasty, healthy foods that I never would have discovered if I had remained a carnivore. I wouldn’t kill an animal except in self-defense, or, on some very sad occasions, I have had to have some beloved cats put to sleep because they were terminally, incurably ill and it was more merciful to put a quick end to their suffering.

November 24, 2012 at 10:23 pm
(8) Doris says:

I’m opposed to killing animals for religious sacrifices, just as I’m opposed to killing animals for food. Go vegan!

November 24, 2012 at 11:17 pm
(9) Sarah says:

I’m the HP of a non-vegetarian Wiccan Coven. Every holiday we celebrate (with the exception of the 1st day of Samhain) involves a feast, complete with cooked chicken, cow, turkey, or pig. We do take a moment to remember and honor the life of the animal…and then it’s dinnertime.
If we were able to raise and kill our own food animals, those animals would be raised in a much better environment than a factory farm. The killing would involve a ritual honoring the animal, and be as quick and humane as possible.

But I think you’re talking about the killing of animals simply to satisfy a god. Assuming for a minute that Gods exist and that one of Them wants people to sacrifice animals to It, my response would be akin to “WHAT?! You want an animal dead, but I’m supposed to “do the dirty” for You? Get off Your lazy butt and kill it Yourself! Wiggle a finger or whatever!” but that’s just me. I know some religions believe animal sacrifice is necessary.

Should it be allowed? Well, unless you can redefine society’s definition of “animal” (changing things concerning food and product production, medical and scientific research, zoos and pet ownership, etc.) the answer is “Yes”. Should it be regulated? In an ideal society, yes…but our government is far, far from idea. The potential for regulation laws to be abused is way too high; as things are, I can only answer “No”.

November 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm
(10) John Heininger says:

Hey! Why stop at “ritual” animal sacrifices! What about the countless number of animals being sacrificed every day to put meat on our table, poor things. They are “butchered” (excuse the pun) either way. Ritualistic, or unritualistic. And either way would be “weird” for the animals. So, hey, what we all need to do is become vegetarians, starting with Austin. And if anyone still feels bad about eating “live” fruit plucked from the trees, Austin could inspire us to only eat fruit that has fallen to the ground. Now wouldn’t that be a perfect world. O.K! Who want’s to go first!

November 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm
(11) Marvin says:

Mary (7), you may well feel that your stance is a moral one, and I feel sure that nearly everyone respects your right to your beliefs if that is the case. I’m sure you realize, however, that to insist that everyone else adopt, or at the very least, live by those beliefs would be futile. Attempts to restrict religious practices would be even more futile, and would be likely to strengthen the desire of some to engage in those practices. Religion thrives when it can convince its followers their “morality” is threatened. Carefully considered and fairly enforced regulation is about the best we can hope for.

November 30, 2012 at 2:58 pm
(12) nashka says:

Mary, do you realize we are who we are today because of the meat that was added to our diet thus increasing our brain size, allowing us to advance and survive beyond other species of the same liking.
You Mary, are a product of meat, so why fight it…unless you prefer a smaller brain.

December 3, 2012 at 2:18 pm
(13) David says:

Plants are a life form.
One way or another, to survive we ALL must consume the flesh of
another life form.
Vegans are no more ” moral ” than anyone else.

December 7, 2012 at 3:53 pm
(14) Deucalion says:

THe only animal sacrifices that should be made are to my stomach.
And Doris, there is a reason most people cant stand vegans, often times you’re as bad as Christians. My dearest hope is that a second ice age comes about, killing off soy and plant based food sources. Then vegans either all die out, or revert to normal people. This is the way the world works. Eat, be eaten, feed and be fed. Cows eat grass, I eat cows, worms eat me, grass eats the worm droppings, cows eat the grass… Cycle of life right there, who are you to argue with that?
(Though most vegans think they’re some sort of living embodyment of perfection, so I guess in your own mind you ARE someone to argue that, eh?)

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