The Sacrifice Assumption
Updated: May 11
Before there was prayer that did not burn anything dead or alive, there was the sacrifice of countless animals to both pegan 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 have the power to tip the odds to our favor by offering the gods something to eat, in the name of a more desired future.
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 the inevitability of the uncontrollable. This gives us confidence, or at least hope, that the extent of our power in this uncertain existence does have some agency over the unknown, even if indirect.
However, the habit of increasing self-confidence can quickly change to a delusion of certainty when the "sacrifices" we make to whatever we believe in (Gods, a sentient universe, luck, etc.) actually result in our favor. Once certainty sets in, these actions turn into rituals, whether we do them collectively or individually.
You might legitimately ask why this is a delusion. I can reply that the answer is simple: let's say you had a time machine. After you 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?
If this theory makes sense, then it could be that favor-tipping actions have indeed no agency over the world beyond your reach. This is what I call the Sacrifice Assumption—the belief that one can change the outcomes of reality through animal sacrifice, prayer, and everything else regarding chance-changing through rituals.
This isn't to say that rituals are useless, nor a mockery of anyone's beliefs. My job as a philosopher is to create ideas with a sensible chance of being true, which requires honesty that could be annoying to some. I try my best not to step into anyone's territory of different beliefs, but that does not entail sacrificing my honesty; the fact that I too think differently than you, and that I expect too, to not be mocked just as I don't want to ridicule anyone else.
The probable reply to this idea is the possibility that the universe is predetermined; that all actions and outcomes were planned in advance. My counter-reply is that predeterminism can nonetheless cancel the importance of chance-altering rituals as well, since if everything was already planned, none of anyone's actions can change fate.
No matter, for example, how religious you are, in a predetermined universe, your actions still have no outcome on whatever uncontrollable events you will receive. Therefore, just as a predetermined universe can be meaningful, it can also be circled around the same idea of a chaotic universe—that nothing matters nor can change anything. Even if you can change yourself and/or the way you perceive external experiences, the uncontrollable/uninfluenced, remains just that, regardless of your endeavors.