God Likes Animal Sacrifice! I am stunned. Good ethics: god wrong. Animals and ethics: ethics of care are based on empathy. Lack of empathy unethical.

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if there is a god,
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animal sacrifice?




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why unethical?




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We're born with the capacity to feel.
What we learn to do with it, is what matters.
Empathy for Animals versus Fear of God.

Do we learn to cut off from others? Or do we learn empathy?
With care, empathy, there's no room for animal sacrifice.
A natural response: god is wrong, religion is wrong,
even god is bad, religion is bad. Or we may turn to other gods
and religions. But at the heart of it:
if there is empathy, if we love animals, care for them, value them,
animal sacrifice is inherently unethical. Animals and ethics:
very different if we connect to animals, and if we don't.

Animal Sacrifice - Stunned Disbelief
and an inner voice: god wrong!


The memory is etched in my mind. I am seven. I am reading a child's version of the bible. Well-meaning friends of my parents gave it to me. Fascinating. It answered so many questions I had never thought of asking. And then something inside me went NO, this can't be. It had to do with god.

This was my first experience of my inside moral voice, my intense inside sense of what is right and what is wrong, going against what I heard outside me. I had had the sense of knowing something was bad - especially that something I was doing was bad - before that. But those times, my inside voice went with the outside voices.

This time was totally different.


There were questions the bible answered to my complete seven-year-old satisfaction. How did the world get to be? How did people get to be? The answer - god made them. I had never wondered how we got to be, and this answered the question in a very reasonable way for my seven-year-old mind. God made us out of earth.

Other stuff also made sense to me. The first people were bad and god punished them. That sounded like my sister and myself. We often did things our mother didn't like, such as fight with each other, and my mother got frustrated. After that, the first people had two sons who fought with each other - again so like my sister and myself.


What happened after that, though, didn't make sense at all. One of the brothers burned some plants for god. The other brother killed animals and burned them for god. I was horrified. I knew that was wrong, utterly and totally and unendingly wrong. Animals killed, and for what?

I only knew one animal well. Schmoiky, our spaniel. I loved him.

I kept on reading. God liked that brother, the one who killed animals, thought he was the better brother. Shock. Disbelief.

animal sacrifice - unimaginable to outsiders, accepted by millions
animal sacrifice - does this mean: god wrong, religion wrong?
or is it just that people have created gods and religions in their image?


Over two decades ago, I made the choice to stop eating most animals - land animals and birds, especially. When I tell people, a common response (less common than twenty years ago) is: It's our god-given right to eat animals. God gave us dominion over the animals - don't I know that? We're at the top of the food chain because that's how god wants it.

My answer to those people: are you aware that the same god found it fine to drown billions of animals because he was upset with people. That very famous story: Noah and the flood - which most people don't recoil from in horror.


Those are cold words, cold arguments. My inner voice came from love.


It's easy for me to go back there, to my reading the words slowly, sounding them out. I was just learning how to read.

I can play that moment of reading the story in my mind. The god was mad at the brother who did not kill animals. He liked the brother who killed animals. I read that over and over, stunned. I was sure that I was not reading the words right. After all, I had a hard time with lots of words. But no matter how many times I went over the passage, god always liked the brother who killed the animals.

I could understand what happened next. The other brother, the one god didn't like, got mad at his brother and killed him. This was worse than anything my sister and I got up to, but I could understand it. I would be totally pissed off if someone who killed an animal got praised for it.

After that the god got mad and punished the brother who was left. Again, not hard to grasp. His favorite had been killed, after all.

I could not take it in, though, that the god liked it better if someone killed animals.

animal sacrifice - I didn't have the words for it then, but I had a vivid imagination -
an animal screaming in pain, dying - and a god not horrified.
animals and ethics - for me, an open and shut case, animal sacrifice is wrong -
why is it unethical? for the same reason as human sacrifice is unethical - our inherent value.


I never quite forgot that initial shock at reading the story of Cain and Abel. I stopped thinking about it, but it stayed lodged deep inside me. My initial shock - coming from love - told me: this is wrong, all wrong.

Over the years I learned that the stories I accepted without questioning - on creation, for instance - were in fact not accurate representations of how people came into existence. I remember my disbelief when I found out about evolution in grade three. The idea of evolution boggled my mind. Horses had once been the size of cats? That was nuts.

No, it wasn't nuts, I learned. It was science. Wow.

Likewise, I learned that, though the story of Adam and Eve made sense to me - people disobeying and getting into trouble - again there was no historical backing for it.


But what felt wrong to me on first reading - animal sacrifice - continued to feel wrong.

I've come to believe, very firmly, that ethics - right and wrong - is above any religion. Slavery, animal sacrifice, the subordination of women, homophobia, no divorce no matter what, no birth control, genital mutilation, the inferiority of some caste or race, a caste system - to say that any of these is backed by a religion, just means there is something wrong with that religion. And in each case, as with anial sacrifice, there is a failure in love and empathy.

But to go back to my seven-year-old self, maybe the foundation for my holding ethics above any religion comes from my utter conviction that it was wrong what that god did, saying it was good to kill animals just to burn them.

It's obvious that I still hold that conviction as an adult.


I also hold that we sometimes deeply viscerally feel when something is right or wrong. It doesn't matter what the outside voices say, or what we are taught, whether from family, religion or society. (We can also, unfortunately, deeply viscerally hold things which go against all evidence: women, Jews, blacks, gays, low-caste people are inferior, etc).

unimaginable to outsiders, accepted by millions:
the inferiority of women; the equality of women;
homophobia; the equality of heterosexuality, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality;
anti-Semitism; the equal value of Jews, Christians, Muslim, Hindus, Buddhists, etc;

animal sacrifice; the inherent value of animals.
always, the inner voice on the side of empathy is FOR those cared for.


That inner voice that comes from caring, from love, and from feeling the rightness and wrongness of things. When I hear about it in other people, I nod. Yes, I recognize it.

Here are a few instances that have stayed with me.

Chinua Achebe, in Things Fall Apart, captures this inner experience of knowing something is wrong. Nwoye comes from a tribe where newborn twins are put in earthenware jars and thrown into the evil forest. One day, coming home from harvesting yams, he hears crying coming from the forest - and something just breaks inside him. No one has told him anything was wrong with what is done to twins. Yet inside him something breaks.

For Timothy Findley, his own sense of right and wrong seems to have been loudest with the Noah's ark story. I'm remembering a part of the opening of his Not Wanted on the Voyage.

And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his son's wives.
And the waters began rising....

They make it sound like everyone was just standing and waving,
with luggage neatly labeled, wanted and not wanted on the voyage.
Well, it wasn't like that. It was the end of the world.

Then he imagines the end of that world, the crying, screaming, flames, dread, horror, panic.

Lillian Smith, in Killers of the Dream, recalls being a young white girl in the south of the United States in the early part of the twentieth century. She stood at the edge of a crowd, listening to a white politician haranguing about black evil, black inferiority. Most of the people listening were white, but among them were black millhands and the town's black doctor (he only treated black people, of course). Inside her, listening to the rant, came tearing voices. "What is wrong, what is wrong? How can he be talking like that. Can't he see they're human, just like us?" Then other voices came, arguing against the first. "But then why are they not with us, in our schools, in our churches?"

Her book is aptly called Killers of the Dream - she felt racism kill the dream of equality inside herself.

Actually, the dream isn't all I see being killed. I see that either we listen to what we hear from deep inside ourselves - or part of our ability to see, to experience, and to respond to reality gets squashed.

My inner voice wasn't silenced. But there seemed no space for it in the world around me. Everything was just too puzzling. As for talking to a grownup, I had learned that they had a hard time listening. My father was likely to give me a long speech on something or other.


And with that I'm back where I started. Something inside me broke when I read about the god preferring burned killed animals over vegetables.

Maybe it happened because we had a dog, and I loved that dog. Maybe it would have happened anyway. I believe the breaking came from a deep down in-born sense of connection to animals.


What was it that broke? Acceptance of the story I was reading. Belief that the story could be telling something true.

The god I was reading about could scare me. He kept punishing people. But he could not be my kind of god.

So one of the things that broke was the potential for a deep connection to a religion upholding the tenets of the Old Testament - traditional Christianity, Judaism and Islam, or any religion with similar values. They go against my built-in moral sense.


I wish I could say that I held onto that moment. But it got stored away, in some corner somewhere. Maybe I would never have come across that memory, in another kind of world, one where no one cared about animals, and where belief was rampant in a harsh god who loved having animals sacrificed to him.

But I live in a corner of the world where caring about animals is common.

And I've ended up writing The Fluffers Book, a preteen novel with a dog - an invisible ghost dog - at the center of it. It draws on that deep inner sense about animals - our potential love for them, and their potential love for us. Their inherent value.

I didn't know exactly what I was going to write about when I started. I knew it had to do with the story I read about Abel and Cain in childhood. More, it has to do with one place where our moral sense, our sense of right and wrong comes from - deep inside ourselves, in our connection to others, human and animal and more.


December 17, 2006, January 3, 2008
copyright © Elsa Schieder 2006, 2009 - all rights reserved


Daryl, USA, August 6, 2009:

Good points, Elsa. Sometimes our initial impressions that something just doesn't feel right - no matter how old we are - ring true.

But for me, questioning Biblical stories of creation came later in my life. I never took the creation story literally. But later in my life I questioned the existence of an all-loving, all-powerful, all knowing God that did certain things....

Consider extinction ...

For the full comment regarding what is God like and why does God kill so many things he creates, click here.

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God Likes Animal Sacrifice! I am stunned.
Good ethics: god wrong.
Animals and ethics: ethics of care are based on empathy.
Lack of empathy unethical.

blue green idea

ANIMAL SACRIFICE * for some, it's natural *
for others,
animal sacrifice is clearly an ANIMAL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS *

the big question: why would any deity want this?
some say that a deity's ways are mysterious -
others say that animal sacrifice just doesn't make sense

for me, it started with feeling - but logic also supports NO ANIMAL SACRIFICE

blue green idea

Animals and Ethics: Animal Sacrifice vs Animal Love.
God Wrong? Religion Wrong? God Bad? Religion Bad?
Animal Rights and More.

Animals and Ethics:
Animal Sacrifice

Animal sacrifice - for me, it just should not be an issue,
just as genital mutilation should not be an issue,
just as homophobia just should not be an issue.

In other words, animal sacrifice seems a consequence of
not being adequately connected to reality - the reality of animals.
How else bring someone to believe that animals sacrifice is okay -
or even more, that it's something a god wants or requires?

July 30, 2009

copyright © Elsa Schieder 2009, 2011 - all rights reserved

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