Ancient Religions: What Do The Gods DO With Sacrificial Stuff?

All ancient religions have traditions of offering stuff to the gods-from the “burnt offerings” of the Hebrews, to the horrible human sacrifices of the Azteks.
My question: after a while, didn’t people start to wonder…“gee, we are destroying all this good food/stuff for (insert god name here)…how come he never eats it?”
I guess this was obvious to the Hebrews (the Levis got to eat the meat), but really, was this not the best argument for athieism in the ancient world?
Maybe belif in Santa Claus is more rational-he always ate the apple/cookies I left out for him.

The gods ENJOY them. Ours is not to judge.

In the Hindu temples I have visited the Gods bless the food offerings and return them to the faithful as prasad (? spelling) something which is eaten as you leave the temple.

I vote this for typo of the year.

This is an Aztec: Aztec Indian - Window Rock, New Mexico

This is an Aztek: http://www.texaschapbookpress.com/magellanslog46/aztek.jpg

Azteks were quite a human sacrifice: all pride went before them, as they were unbelievably ugly. Who knows how many people died laughing at them, or crashed after being struck blind by the horror. The horror.

First time I’ve luaghed out loud at a post in weeks.

To provide a serious answer, one of the ways religion is attractive to people is that it involves sacrifice. You have to do something out of the ordinary to get into, or stay in, the club. Bonus points if the something is adverse to your workaday interests.

Hence the funny clothes, the prayers at specific times, the meatless days, the days of rest, the dietary laws, etc.

The fact it’s an exclusive club in the literal sense of “exclusive” is what gives it its attraction. Rational isn’t part of the equation here. And if you have to prove your membership by an ostentatious display, well so much the better to impress your neighbors. Which is why Jewish yarmulkes are such better membership-proving devices than Mormon (under-)garments.

All that is human social-psych 101.

The cynic in me can’t help but also notice that for the priest class, it was just annother power trip: “I made these fools give up a meal they can’t replace. Feel my power!”

The ancient gods did exactly with sacrificed goats and virgins what the modern god does with prayers and the act of giving up french fries for lent.

(nevermind. I somehow skipped the OP’s third sentence.)

I’ve often wondered why sacrifice seems so universal. It’s been a part of nearly every culture.

My theory is that sacrifice encourages people to produce and store more than they immediately need, which gives them something to fall back on in times of famine.

I think another part of it is the mystery of taking a life. As humans, we rarely experience god-like powers. One of the closest things we have to it is killing an animal. It’s one of the few things we can do that cannot be undone.

I think it’s simpler than that. Consider a deity to be a big 30 foot man with a lion’s head who likes to wander by and scowl at you. How do you make him be less scary and intimidating?

Well, obviously, you give him gifts.

It’s a show of dedication. “Look how much I love you, oh god - I’m willing to throw an entire cow away to prove it. I wouldn’t do that if I wasn’t serious”.

Besides, who’s to say the god didn’t eat the burt offering? It was there, and then it wasn’t. Where did it go?

BTW, there was a Greek myth to explain why they burnt the fat and bones rather than the meat, which suggests they may have come up with a slightly cynical way of making the sacrifice hurt less.

I’ve gotta opine that the Hebrews just kept better records and everybody except maybe the human sacrifices did the same: the priests and their families got to eat the sacrifices.

It was a way of bargaining with the god(s), give them good stuff and they’ll send good weather and crops in return. If you got bad weather and a bad harvest, that means that the god(s) didn’t like what you offered to them. If what you offered in the previous years seemed to work and suddenly stopped working, or if you had famine for several years then an obvious explanation is that somebody did something seriously wrong and that person needs to be found and punished.

To conclude there was no god all along means they wasted all that good stuff in sacrifices.

Whatever god has the most stuff at the end of time wins.

Not always the priests. In Shinto, you will often keep a small shrine in your house, and put food on it for the kami. But then the next day you eat it yourself:

http://tripatlas.com/Kamidana

Why didn’t they use diamonds, like civilized people?

Understand, but why does a supreme, all-powerful being NEED any of this stuff?
Of course, the people could have resoned" we will continue to sacrifice to the gods, it is not worth getting them angry at us".
As others have pointed out, in most religions the sacrificail food was going to be eaten anyways, so no harm done.

I always assumed that the point wasn’t that the God valued the stuff, but that the human doing the sacrificing valued it, so giving it up was a sign of devotion. The God didn’t want a bunch of burnt animals, He/She wanted devotion.

You can see this in how people use the word “sacrifice” today in (usually) non-religious contexts, the emphasis isn’t on the person getting the stuff being sacrificed, its on the loss of the person giving things up.