In case anyone hasn't already read James George Frazer's The Golden Bough: thousands of years ago most or all religions were based around human sacrifice. How many thousands of years depends on which culture we're talking about. The Aztecs and the Mayas still sacrificed humans 500 years ago. Human sacrifice came from people's observations of plants and from the beginnings of agriculture: a plant died, but then parts of the plants, the seeds, came back to life as more plants. Animal sacrifice was a step away from human sacrifice in the direction of not being religious at all. The ancient Greeks, Romans and Hebrews all practiced animal sacrifice. The animal sacrifices began as a quite conscious substitute for the human ones. Then as time passed the human sacrifices were pushed down deep into the subconscious, that place where things can be extremely dangerous if they're not dug up, dusted off and examined. Actually, the title The Golden Bough refers to human sacrifices performed by Romans not so long before Classical (ca 100 BC -- AD 100) Rome, the memory of which made the Classical Romans very uncomfortable. A case for the Truth Hurts Department.
The story of Abraham and Isaac comes from the time of the transition from human to animal sacrifice. The concept of Jesus as Savior is a huge step back, mentally, toward the time of human sacrifice.
It's all pretty clear, simple and straightforward once you've grasped it. And wise people write great books to help us grasp things.
So give me a Nobel Prize, you ungrateful turds!
Sorry. (But SHEESH! What have I got to do?!)
As always, I recommend the 12-volume unabridged version of The Golden Bough. But the 1922 1-volume abridgment is better than nothing, *sigh, sneer*, I suppose. The abridgment does away with all footnotes, and for reasons which I no longer even want to understand, many of you out there in the general public just hate footnotes. Heaven forbid you should ever read a footnote and understand an author's justification for what he or she writes.
Many people have objected to Frazer because he referred to "savages" and "civilized" people. I don't want to argue about this. If you want to argue about it, you should have no problem finding people who will either attack or defend Frazer for the use of such words, whichever side you're not on.
It seems to me that Frazer was not racist, and used words like "savage" and "civilized" because those were the words which people around him in Oxford used when they referred to people around the world. Certainly, plenty of Frazer's contemporaries in Europe were racist, in quite horrible ways. Frazer's big fan TS Eliot, for example, was quite nastily racist. But it seems to me that Frazer used similar terms, but in different ways, not judging people according to their ethnicity, and not claiming that "civilized" people were superior to "savages." (And, by the way, also not claiming that "savages" were superior to the "civilized," as did Rousseau -- although Rousseau actuallly never used the phrase "noble savage.") Again, I'm not interested in debating this. You think I'm wrong? Fine, I'm wrong. Plenty of people will be eager to agree with you, and many others will be eager to dispute what you say. Have fun, and give 'em all a great big kiss from me.
Now about that Nobel...