The God-Idea of the Ancients (or Sex in Religion)
By Eliza Burt Gamble
Public Domain Books
Chapter XVII. Sacrifices
Although the sun was formerly worshipped as the source of all good, at a certain stage in the human career it came to be regarded as the cause of all evil. When Typhon Seth comprehended the powers of Nature, as the Destroyer and Regenerator she was the author of all good; but later, after the truths underlying Nature worship were lost, Typhon, the hot wind of the desert, was feared rather than worshipped.
In the history of an earlier age of existence, there is not to be found the slightest trace of human sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people, or to appease the wrath of an offended God. On the contrary, throughout the traditions and monumental records of the most ancient nations, sacrifices to the Deity– the God of Nature–consisted simply in the acknowledgment of earth’s benefits by means of a free-will offering of the bounties which she had brought forth.
That the sacrifice either of human beings or of animals was not offered in an earlier age of religious faith is confidently asserted and, I think, proved by various writers. Of this Higgins says: “I think a time may be perceived when it did not exist even among the Western nations.” This writer states also that it was not always practiced at Delphi. Mention is made of the fact that among the Buddhists, to whom belongs the first book of Genesis, no bloody sacrifices were ever offered.
It was doubtless under the worship of Muth, Neith, or Minerva, the first emanation from the deity and the original Buddha, that the first book of Genesis or Wisdom was written. In this book may be observed the fact that the slaughter of animals is forbidden. It is thought that with Crishna, Hercules, and the worshippers of the sun in Aries, the sacrifice of human beings and animals began. In the second book of Genesis, which is said to be a Brahmin work, animals are first used for sacrifice, and in the third book, or the book of Generations or Re-generations of the race of man or the Adam, which was written after the pure doctrines connected with the worship of Wisdom had been corrupted, they are first allowed to be eaten as food.
It is supposed that the practice of sacrificing human beings and animals took its rise in the western parts of the world after the sun entered Aries, and that it subsequently extended even to the followers of the Tauric worship, among whom it was carried to a frightful extent. It is also thought that the history of Cain and Abel is an allegory of the followers of Crishna to justify their sacrifice of the yajna or lamb “in opposition to the Buddhist offering of bread and wine, or water, made by Cain and practiced by Melchizedek."
 Anacalypsis, vol. i., p. 101.
It is now positively known that all over the world, during a certain stage of religious belief, either human beings or animals were, at stated seasons, sacrificed to the Deity. Of the universality of this practice Faber says:
“Throughout the whole world we find a notion prevalent that the gods could be appeased only by bloody sacrifices. Now this idea is so thoroughly arbitrary, there being no obvious and necessary connection, in the way of cause and effect, between slaughtering a man or a beast, and recovering of the divine favor by the slaughterers, that its very universality involves the necessity of concluding that all nations have borrowed it from some common source."
 The Origin of Pagan Idolatry, vol. i., book 2, p. 465.
Dr. Shuckford is constrained to admit that the sacrifices and ceremonies of purification practiced by Abraham and his descendants and those of surrounding peoples, were identical, with only “such trifling changes as distance of countries and length of time might be expected to produce.” The substitution of a lamb in the place of Isaac would seem to indicate a change from child-slaughter to that of animals.
Sacrifices were offerings to the god of pro- creation. Certain representatives of the life which he had bestowed must be returned to him as a free-will gift. In many countries, the victims offered to the deity were captives taken in war; but, as prisoners of war and slaves were not permitted to join in the battles of their captors, their lives were of little value; hence, later, it is observed that the sacrificial victim must be a prince or an individual whose life was of great importance to the tribe.
As in all hot countries the heat of the sun is the most destructive agency against which mankind have to contend, it is not perhaps singular, at a time when superstition had usurped the functions of the reasoning powers, that the sun-god should have been invested with the attributes inspired by terror, and that so far as possible, mankind should have deemed it necessary to propitiate its wrath, and, by rendering to it suitable offerings and sacrifices, they should have hoped to avert the calamities incident to its displeasure. Neither is it remarkable when we remember the peculiar circumstances surrounding the Jews, and the fact that the offerings demanded by their god was the life which he had bestowed, that the sacrifices offered to Moloch, the fire god, should have been the members of their own household–namely, their children.
We must not forget that the reward promised this people by prophet, priest, and diviner for godliness was extreme fruitfulness of body. We have seen that to obtain this mark of godly favor, or, under pretense of serving their god, the form of worship prescribed by their priests, and adopted both in their households and in their temples was pre-eminently sensual, and calculated to stimulate and encourage to the highest extent their lower or animal nature.
As the size of a man’s family, or his power to reproduce, was an index to his favor with the Almighty the pleasure of the “Lord" in this matter being but the reflection of his own desires, the result as might reasonably be expected was overpopulation to such an extent that the means of subsistence within the small boundary of Judea was inadequate to supply the demands of the swarming masses of “God’s children"–children which had been created for his honor and glory. Surely some plan must be devised whereby these difficulties might be adjusted, and that, too, to use a modern expression, without flying in the face of Providence. As the Lord had been honored and man blessed in the mere bringing forth of offspring, what better scheme, so soon as such blessings became too numerous, than to return a certain number of them to the giver, the god of Moloch? It is true that by this process children were born only to be delivered over to the ravages of the fire- god, but by it, was not their deity both served and appeased at the same time that population was kept within the bounds of subsistence? That great numbers were thus sacrificed is only too apparent from the accounts in the Jewish scriptures–Abraham’s acts and those of Jephtha being examples of the manner in which this god was propitiated.
In Micah, vi. chap., 7th verse, occurs an interrogation which furnishes something more than a hint of the practice among the Jews of child sacrifice. “Shall I give my first born for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
Although there is sufficient evidence to prove the enormous extent to which the practice of child sacrifice prevailed among the Jews, it is believed that much more proof would be found, had it not, in later times, with a view to concealing the extent of this practice, been expunged from their sacred writings. Moloch was to the Jews what Siva came to be to the Hindoos, namely, the Terrible. It is plain, however, that Siva was not formerly feared in India, but next to Vishnu was the best beloved of all their gods. Siva was originally the androgyne god who was not only the Destroyer, but the beneficent Regenerator and purifier. It was the cold of winter and the heat of the sun. It was a conception which was a direct outgrowth of Nature worship or of that religious idea which was portrayed by a mother and her child.
The conception involved in sacrifice seems to be that of a payment for services rendered, or desired. The Amazulus, when going to battle, sacrifice to the manes of their ancestors, who, as older branches of the tree of life, appear to constitute their god-idea. This is done that their gods “may have no cause of complaint, because they have made amends to them and made them bright.” On appearing before the enemy they say: “Can it be, since we have made amends to the Amadhlozi, that they will say we have wronged them by anything?"
 Viscount Amberley, Analysis of Religious Belief, vol. i., p. 32.
At a certain stage in human history the various peoples of the globe depended upon excessive numbers for their prosperity, hence the most precious offering to the god of pro-creation was that of human victims.
In India, when a new colony or city was founded, in order to insure its prosperity, large numbers of children were delivered over as a bribe or offering of reconciliation to the god of virility. The enormous extent to which human sacrifice has prevailed in India, in Egypt, in Mexico, among the Carthaginians, the Jews, the Druids, and even among the Greeks and Romans, is well attested.
From the records of extant history, it would seem that human sacrifice usually accompanies a certain stage of sun-worship. Among the Aztecs in Mexico, a country in which the sun was a universal object of reverence and in which one of the prescribed duties of the boys trained in the temple was that of keeping alive the sacred fires, the immolation of victims became the most prominent feature of their public worship. We are distinctly told, however, that human sacrifice was not formerly practiced in Mexico, but that finally here as elsewhere, the idea became prevalent that by sacrificing human victims to the god of Destruction, his wrath might be appeased and the people saved from his vengeance. It is stated that human sacrifices were adopted by the Aztecs early in the fourteenth century, about two hundred years before the conquest. “Rare at first, they became more frequent with the wider extent of their empire; till, at length, almost every festival was closed with this cruel abomination.”
Notwithstanding these atrocities, in their conceptions of a future state of existence, and especially in their disposition of the unregenerate after death, are to be observed certain traces of human feeling and refined sensibility which are difficult to reconcile with the cruelty practiced in their religious rites, and which bear a striking contrast to the physical torture, to which after death the wicked are subjected not only in Mexico, but in countries professing a high stage of civilization and culture.
Of their religious observances, those which had doubtless been inherited from an older civilization, Prescott, quoting from Torquemada and Sahagun, says:
“Many of their ceremonies were of a light and cheerful complexion, consisting of the national songs and dances, in which both sexes joined. Processions were made of women and children crowned with garlands and bearing offerings of fruits, the ripened maize, or the sweet incense of copal and other odoriferous gums, while the altars of the deity were stained with no blood save that of animals. These were the peaceful rites derived from their Toltec predecessors."
 See Conquest of Mexico, book I, chap. iii., p. 74.
Prior to the days of Montezuma, the Aztec priests had engrafted upon these simple ceremonies not only a burdensome ceremonial, and a polytheism similar to that of Eastern nations, but, as we have seen, human sacrifices and even cannibalism had become prominent features in religious worship. Throughout the entire ceremonial and religious conceptions of the Aztecs may be observed a display of the savage and brutal elements in human nature, in close connection with unmistakable evidence of a once higher stage of culture and refinement.
In the later ages of Aztec history their most exalted deity was Huitzilopotchi, the Mexican Moses, the god of war. His temples were the most costly and magnificent among the public edifices in the country, and his image bedecked with ornaments was an universal object of adoration. At the dedication of his temple in the year 1486 more than seventy thousand captives are said to have perished.
A Deity which occupied a conspicuous place in the mythology, and which was probably an inheritance from more ancient times, was Quetzalcoatl, doubtless the same as the Eastern Goddess of Nature, or Wisdom. She was the “grain goddess,” and “received offerings of fruit and flowers at her two great festivals. She also took care of the growth of corn. She was doubtless the same as the Earth Mother of the Finns and Esths, she who “undertakes the task of bringing forth the fruits.” She is evidently the Demeter of the Greeks, the Ceres of the Romans, etc. She is also the goddess of Wisdom, for she had “instructed the nations in the use of metals, in agriculture, and in the art of government.” Under this Deity the
“Earth had teemed with fruits and flowers without the pains of culture. An ear of Indian corn was as much as a single man could carry. The cotton, as it grew, took, of its own accord, the rich dies of human art. The air was filled with intoxicating perfumes and the sweet melody of birds. In short, these were the halcyon days, which find a place in the mythic systems of so many nations throughout the world. It was the golden age of Anuhuac.”
We are given to understand that for some cause not explained the beneficent god Quetzalcoatl was banished, that he (or she) was deposed through the influence of some deity which had become more popular, or, at least, more powerful; but that when Quetzalcoatl departed from the country “in a winged skiff made of serpent skins,” it was with a promise to return to the faithful, which promise was sacredly cherished down to the time of the Spanish invasion.
The Mexican Mars, Huitzilopotchi, was born of a virgin. His mother, a devout person, while at her devotions in the temple saw floating before her a bright colored feather ball, which she seized and placed in her bosom. She soon became pregnant, her offspring being a god, who like Minerva appeared full armed with spear and helmet.
Although the exact manner in which the Mexicans sacrificed to their Deity to atone for the sins of the people differs somewhat from the modus operandi employed in the Christian vicarious atonement, still the likeness existing between them is sufficient to indicate the fact of their common origin and the similar manner of their development.
The Mexicans were wont to select a young and handsome man from their midst, whom they invested with the dignity of a god. After having surrounded him with every luxury, and when they had showered upon him every attention, crowning him with flowers and worshipping him for a year or more as a Savior, they killed him, offering him as an atonement or sacrifice, in order that the rest of the people might escape the vengeance of their great Deity, who, it was claimed, is pleased with such offerings, and who demands sacrifices of this kind at the hands of his children. Within blood was contained life, hence the offering of a bloody victim was but the returning to their god, as a free-will gift that which he had bestowed, such sacrifice being regarded as the only acceptable means of grace or reconciliation.
That the offering of a victim to the Jewish God was deemed necessary to the fulfilment of Christian doctrine is a fact which is clearly shown by numerous passages in the New Testament. “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” “By one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many."
 Hebrews, x., 10, 14.
 Ibid., ix., 28.
That the Jewish Paschal feasts and the Eucharistic rites of Christians had their counterpart among the Mexicans is observed in the fact that shortly after the death of their god, cakes which had been prepared and blessed by the priests were offered by them to the people to be eaten as the veritable body of their sacrificed lord.
The source whence the doctrine of an atonement –a bloody sacrifice which lies at the foundation of Christian theology–has proceeded is not at the present time difficult to determine, for we shall presently see that it, like all the leading doctrines contained in this later system, and which are regarded as exclusively Christian, had its origin in the religion of past ages, a religion which although originally pure, in course of time degenerated into the grossest phallicism and even into human sacrifice and cannibalism.
Although among the Mexicans as among the Jews, human sacrifices were offered to the Deity, no hint of gross and sensual rites practiced in the temples of the latter is recorded. Hence, as the Mexicans had not arrived at that stage of religious progress (?) at which sensuality inculcated as a sacred duty, and at which moral and physical debasement was encouraged both in public and private life, we may reasonably conclude that their faith represents a somewhat earlier stage of development than does that of either Jew or Greek. In point of morality, as judged by the most ancient standards, or by the more modern, the Mexicans compare favorably with either of these nationalities. Indeed when we compare the social, religious, and civil conditions of Mexico as we find them under Montezuma with those of the Jews under David or Solomon, or with those of the Greeks under Solon, or even with those of the Christians during the Spanish Inquisition when thousands upon thousands, not of captives taken in war, but of the noblest and best of the land, were yearly slaughtered for “the glory of God,” there is quite as much to meet the approval of an enlightened conscience under the first named system as under that of any one of the other three.
By priests the fact has long been understood that effects may be produced through appeals to the religious or emotional nature which under other circumstances would be impossible; and as, for thousands of years, it has been the special business of this class to formulate creeds for the ignorant masses, religious belief and the ceremonies connected with “sacred” worship, during certain periods of the world’s history, have assumed a grotesqueness in design unsurpassed by the most fanciful fairy tales which the imagination has ever been able to create, at the same time that they have portrayed a depth of sensual degradation capable of being reached only by that order of creation which alone has been able to develop a religion.