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Religious concepts of sacrifice usually involve rituals and practices directed at a particular higher power. Often, what is important about sacrifice is the intent brought to the practice. Even when we are appealing to the divine with a specific request, we feel as though something was gained in the action itself regardless of whether the request was met. This is because many sacrificial rituals are symbolic in nature. Sacrifice can even be a lens through which we see other aspects of life, such as our work and creativity; we sacrifice certain potentialities of ourselves so that other aspects can be expressed.

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Quotations

The New Testament
Christian scripture
Christianity

"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."

The New Testament
Christian scripture
Christianity

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, too ffer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship."

Teresa of Avila
Christian saint
Christianity

“And force your will to do the will of your Sisters in everything, even though you may lose your rights; forget your own good for their sakes no matter how much resistance your nature puts up; and, when the occasion arises, strive to accept work yourself so as to relieve your neighbor of it. Don’t think that it won’t cost you anything or that that you will find everything done for you. Look at what our Spouse’s love for us cost Him; in order to free us from death, He died that most painful death on the cross.”

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture
Islam

“So, you who believe, do not violate the sanctity of God’s rites, the Sacred Month, the offerings, their garlands, nor those going to the Sacred House to seek the bounty and pleasure of their Lord––but when you have completed the rites of pilgrimage you may hunt. Do not let your hatred for the people who barred you from the Sacred Mosque induce you to break the law: help one another to do what is right and good; do not help one another towards sin and hostility."

The Hebrew Bible
Jewish scripture
Judaism

“In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

Martin Buber
Austrian-Israeli Jewish philosopher
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“The [creative] deed involves a sacrifice and a risk. The sacrifice: infinite possibility is surrendered on the altar of the form; all that but a moment ago floated playfully through one’s perspective has to be exterminated; none of it may penetrate into the work; the exclusiveness of such a confrontation demands this.”

Adib Taherzadeh
Baha'i leader
Baha'i

“One may sacrifice his comfort and material means in order to help the poor and the needy. In so doing, one is rewarded spiritually, but has to give up something of material value instead. This sacrifice, if carried out in the path of God and for His sake, is most meritorious. It enables the soul to become detached from the material world, and thus brings it closer to God. This is one of the fruits of sacrifice."

The Bhagavad Gita
Hindu scripture
Hinduism

“The process of offering is Brahman; that which is offered is Brahman. Brahman offers the sacrifice in the fire of Brahman. Brahman is attained by those who see Brahman in every action.”

The Bhagavad Gita
Hindu scripture
Hinduism

“Whatever I am offered in devotion with a pure heart—a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water—I accept with joy. Whatever you do, make it an offering to me—the food you eat, the sacrifices you make, the help you give, even your suffering. In this way you will be freed from the bondage of karma, and from its results both pleasant and painful. Then, firm in renunciation and yoga, with your heart free, you will come to me.”

Lieh Tzu
Daoist sage
Daoism

“In a land far to the south and east is a country where it is customary for people to kill their firstborn and offer its flesh and blood to everyone in the community to eat. They say this will bring fertility to the women. Moreover, when a father dies, the children tie their mother on the dead man’s back and abandon both of them in the wilderness. They claim it is not proper to live with the wife of a ghost. When a relative or family member dies, the children demonstrate their filial duties by cutting off the dead man’s skin before they bury his bones. In a land far south is a country where children are said to be filial only if they burn the bodies of their dead parents. When the smoke rises from the pyre, it is said that the soul of the dead has risen into the sky. All these customs are established traditions in the countries where they are practiced. They are observed by all the people and there is nothing strange about them. We call them barbaric and are shocked by them only because we have different customs.”

Ruth H. Chang
Scholar of East Asian religions
Confucianism

“People believed that spirits and ancestors could affect human destinies; therefore, sacrifices could bring good fortune or avert disaster. Offering sacrifices was a major responsibility; indeed, it was one of the fundamental duties of the Shang kings. Sacrifices were made to nature spirits, culture heroes, and royal ancestors. The number of sacrifices grew so that by the eleventh century B.C., the king had to perform a major ceremonial sacrifice every day to mark annual sacrifices to royal deities.”

Pascal Boyer
Cognitive anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“As I said, sacrifice is often offered in exchange for better crops or plentiful game. However, people also have the intuition that the outcomes of their agricultural or hunting operations mainly result from their own action. Indeed, whatever the ritual guarantee, farmers and hunters never dispense with any empirical measures that increase their likelihood of success. You may give a goat to the gods but you still plow your fields to the best of your abilities. The ways in which the gods actually confer benefits are not really described or even thought about.”

The New Testament
Christian scripture
Christianity

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”