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Human Sacrifice

(591 words)

Author(s): Zinser, Hartmut
1. Almost all religions include reports of people sacrificing the dearest thing they have, even life. Only in rare cases, however, do we find accounts of the regular killing of people as sacrifices, as among the Mayans and Aztecs. Human sacrifice usually took place in times of extraordinary danger such as prolonged drought, with expiation being attempted in the face of serious pestilence, disaster, or other emergencies. Reports of the practice almost always reflect distaste for the horror. In its aims human sacrifice differs in principle from other forms of sacrifice. It …

Dead, Cult of the

(1,522 words)

Author(s): Zinser, Hartmut
Death is part of the order of this world. Almost without exception, however, people have protested against its dominion, refused to acknowledge it, and even denied it. Accounts like that in Gen. 25:8, according to which people die contentedly after becoming sated with life, or the idea of a “good death” after a fulfilled life (Confucianism), are the exception. The protest against death underlies the cult of the dead, and at the same time these cults aid in coming to terms with the psychological and social conflicts among the s…