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The Sacrifice Assumption -- Why Humans Are Compelled to Influence the World, Instead of Improving Themselves

Updated: 2 days ago

A black goat with a small tree on it.

Ms. Tamara Moskal's Synopsis

Offerings to the gods reflect the human desire to influence forces beyond our direct control. In addition to pleasing supernatural deities, we try to satisfy people in power, friends, and romantic partners to gain their favor. The sacrifice rituals give us hope to alter our uncertain existence; instead, we should become mentally stronger.
Sacrifice as an accepted cultural ritual increases our self-confidence in the effectiveness of such practice and becomes a fallacious delusion of certainty.
Bribes in politics and business are examples of normalized modern-day sacrifices, creating corruption. None of the favor-tipping rituals can influence the future's outcomes. The Sacrifice Assumption offers comfort but is ultimately a delusion.
The author became a refugee in his own country during the Israeli-Hamas conflict. He trained himself to stay calm, focused on building a philosophical blog, and chose to help others in psychological distress.
We grow stronger when we conquer our insecurities, persevere through hardship, and prioritize altruism. Then, the followers will follow, and the strong leader will lead out of care for people, not ego. Live and die by the power within you.


How and Why We Seek Favor


Before there was prayer that did not burn anything dead or alive, there was the sacrifice of countless animals to both pagan gods and the Abrahamic god which most of the world's population worships today. Where the slaughter of animals was justified from a religious standpoint, our ancestors believed that by doing so we had the power to tip the odds in their favor by offering the gods what they were allegedly pleased to have.


This practice reflects a deep-seated human desire to influence the uncontrollable, by pleasing forces whom we have no direct control on. And I am not only speaking of cosmic entities. I am also referring to organizations stronger than us, like the state, our friends, our bosses and our romantic partners.


You know you matter as a person when people strive to please you. Their attempts at pleasing you derives from the same reasoning people throughout history used animal sacrifice: To keep you at their side, thus preventing you from turning on them, or forsaking them. It is no wonder then, that many narcissists are at positions of leadership. Their motivation to be highly engaged in organizational politics is the need to gain "fuel" from their followers. The sacrifice done in their name, can be regarded as narcissistic fuel.


Hence the psychological need of some people to be in positions of leadership -- so people would sacrifice for them. To quote Mr. John Duran:



Whether it be wars, holidays, weddings, or other events, it is believed to this day that certain actions, especially those connected to religion, superstition, or plain luck, can alter otherwise-inevitable possibilities. These rituals offer confidence, or at least hope, that the extent of our power in this uncertain existence does have some agency over the unknown, even if it's indirect.


Should we give up on being weak, and start working towards greater strength, we wouldn't feel so compelled to please other beings, nor seek others to please us and put us on a pedestal.


The path of the philosopher is advanced when he or she uses logic to convince others to cooperate. They will not seek as much to please others, nor use mafioso manipulation tactics such as extortion and coercion. No. They will convince through reason and morality. Should they lead, they will convince their followers in the same manner, while overcoming the temptation of depraved, power-hungry methods.


The Delusion of Certainty


The habit of increasing self-confidence through such appeal to emotion, which is a fallacy, can become a delusion of certainty. That occurs when the "sacrifices" we make to whatever we believe in (Gods, a sentient universe, luck, etc.) will necessarily result in our favor. Once the feeling of certainty sets in, sacrifice can become a normalized ritual, embedded in a society's culture and tradition.


It is no wonder, then, that bribes became commonplace in politics as well in business environments. They can be seen as the financial counterpart to the historic animal sacrifice religious settings, continuing to this day. They're capable of creating new norms, despite the corruption that is being increased as a result. To quote Northeastern University, examplyfing former soviet republics:


The burden of corruption weighs most heavily on entrepreneurs, who are the engine of growth and employment in most transition economies. A central assumption is that the only corruption and coercion associated with bribery are on the part of the public officials demanding bribes and bribe paying is portrayed as necessary for survival. However, entrepreneurs can also choose to bribe public officials in order to gain preferential treatment for their businesses. Such entrepreneurs are not only influenced by corruption, but also shaping it.

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You might legitimately ask why this is a delusion. As that university's quote suggests, sacrifice, whether stems from immorality or genuine dedication to a cause or to someone, does not have to be a necessary feature in life and in organizations. It is only "necessary" because we enable such a culture, and enable those who thirst for it with their greed.



Imagine a time machine. Let's say that, after had made your "sacrifices" and gotten the outcome you wanted, you returned to the past, before your favor-tipping rituals. What if I told you that the outcome you had could be the same nonetheless? What if your favorite football team will win regardless of your hope, that the surgery will succeed, that your crush will hit on you regardless of your wishes? What if much of the sacrifices you make are there simply to reduce your own insecurity towards the future?


If this theory makes sense, then it could be that favor-tipping actions have indeed no agency over the world beyond your reach. They might provide comfort, a sense of control, or even a focus for hope, but the outcomes themselves exist regardless of your own significance. The Sacrifice Assumption, though offering comfort, can ultimately be a delusion.


Inner Strength as the Morally-Better Means


In the continuation of the Israeli-Hamas war, I've been a refugee in my own country since October 2023. I know that no prayer, and of course no animal sacrifice, will necessarily aid me in living in a more stable future. Instead, I choose practical methods that save me money and keep me away from superstition:






In dark times like these, instead of reducing our insecurities using rituals and other forms of self-affirmation, we can regard insecurity as a force to be reckoned with and to be overcome. By emerging victorious, we can become stronger, instead, thus allowing us to focus less on our own disadvantages, and more on helping others, which is the highest form of morality -- altruism. Then, the follower will follow by the love of being alive, and the leader will lead out of genuine care for whom he or she serves!


Psychological safety isn't to be normalized when it is low! It is to be improved on, so it will stay strong regardless of the adversity we're confronted with! Much suffering can be reduced not if we escape from our sources of concern, but if we decide to endure them head-on, with no mercy! Then, by choosing strength, we can demonstrate our worth through action and logic, not through boot-licking! Then, we can lead by vision, not by the need to have our egos pat by our supperters!


One can be fuller inside, through moral means, through self work. Live and die by power, and you'll be able to live despite the struggle, by your own power. The one within you!



Ms. Tamara Moskal's Feedback


No scientific evidence shows that sacrifice to God results in the expected outcome or that the omnipotent God cares about humans, their misfortunes, and offerings. Otherwise, God would care for the well-being of people born in places prone to natural disasters, born into pain, and with genetically less favorable predispositions.
Sacrificing and praying to their deities or not, people suffer unnecessarily throughout their existence. Believing in supernatural power can't change the statistical randomness of specific outcomes due to the physical laws of nature and human actions.
Instead of waiting for help from the heavens, we should take responsibility for ourselves and the world. A wise saying goes, "God helps those who help themselves." We can live better lives and improve the world by self-improvement, learning, making smarter choices, altruism, and protecting ourselves and others from preventable harm.
Instead of just praying for a better world, let's take action in our human hands and help those in need. Let's share a meal with a hungry person rather than offering it on a sacrificial altar.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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