08 April 2021

The blood cult

Christianity has a bizarre obsession with blood.  A common metaphor for being "saved" is being "washed in the blood" of Jesus, often stated as "washed in the blood of the lamb", a reference to the sacrifice of Jesus being an extension of the barbaric animal sacrifices which occur so often in the Old Testament (and in primitive societies generally).  The basis of the metaphor isn't hard to understand.  If Jesus was crucified, he would have bled to death, and since the death of Jesus supposedly enables sin to be removed so that a person can enter Heaven, then one could imagine the deity's blood as a sort of spiritual Lysol washing sin away.  Some Christians believe that it can remove guilt for actual crimes against persons, as if the crime had never been committed.  If you're not familiar with this concept, Bruce Gerencser provides a brief discussion.

But why opt for such a revolting metaphor?  Blood has its proper place, inside the body, but humans do not normally think of shed blood as a clean or cleansing substance.  If you notice that you have blood on you, especially the blood of another person or an animal, you don't consider yourself clean until you've washed it off.  When we describe a person or institution as "bloodstained", it usually means "murderous".  When stories are told of a person actually washing or bathing in blood, the intent is to depict the person as depraved and disgusting.  The act of dying to save others is not normally described with such expressions.  When we pay tribute to those who have done so, such as fallen soldiers, we don't speak of their blood as washing away whatever threat they fought to ward off.

We all remember the Ohio woman who believed herself safe from covid-19 because she was "covered in Jesus's blood":

What kind of mind, seeking a way to express the concept of being purified and protected, reaches for "covered in his blood"?

The doctrine of the Eucharist takes the blood fetish a step further.  In Catholicism, when the priest recites certain words over bread and wine, those foods are "transubstantiated", actually becoming the flesh and blood of Jesus, which are then consumed by the worshipers.  (Most Protestant sects hold the transformation to be metaphorical, not literal, but they still take the consumption of bread and wine as a symbolic eating of flesh and blood.)  Some misguided humans do often eat animal flesh, but they usually try to avoid thinking about the fact that it is animal flesh, and eating human flesh -- cannibalism -- is almost universally condemned as barbaric and disgusting.  Drinking blood is even less acceptable.  Even in most human cultures where meat-eating is common, people do not drink animal blood.  Drinking human blood is a practice exclusive to vampires -- evil creatures of folklore.

This doctrine is, of course, rooted in the Bible itself -- see for example John 6:53-56:

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.  Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

One could argue that Jesus was speaking metaphorically here, though the actual wording doesn't at all suggest that.  But it's bizarre that he, or rather those who wrote the sacred texts and cast the mythology of Jesus in its permanent form, would choose such a repugnant method for believers to access the blessings said to flow from his mission.  And it's even more bizarre that the religion itself would make such an act the center of its most important ritual.

We often recoil from the weird and repulsive beliefs and practices of the alien religions of other cultures.  But Christianity too is awash (so to speak) in equally nauseating ideas.  We just don't easily see them for what they are because of their familiarity.


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Xtianity is like a weird snuff film, full of violence and pain and bodily fluids. That woman in ohio had dead eyes.


08 April, 2021 05:06  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

"Spiritual Lysol," LOL!

08 April, 2021 06:29  
Blogger jono said...

Yes, Spiritual Lysol is excellent! The symbolic cannibalism of Christianity reminds me that you are what you eat.

08 April, 2021 11:00  
Blogger Ami said...

The further away I get from my fundy upbringing, the more appalled and amazed I am that people actually believe this shit.

Children don't say 'eww' when presented with these lessons in Sunday school... and those lessons are constant from birth until escape. Unless of course one doesn't escape at all.

Efforts to discuss the ideas presented are not met with open minds or willingness to talk, either. In my case, I was labeled disrespectful and there were some thoughts from adults who wondered if I'd played with a ouija board or done yoga, thus leaving myself open to possession by demons.

Because of course that's the only way someone would have questions.

So weird. All of it.

08 April, 2021 12:03  
Anonymous J said...

I’m not spamming, trolling, or fight-picking, but it does seem you dismiss cultures/belief systems that are more comfortable with the fluids in our bodies. Perhaps it’s because you declare your gender to be MALE, but remember that half the world experiences blood as a normal part of life once a month. And in most religions/ beliefs systems that utilize blood in ritual observations, it is seen as a symbol of life, not death.

08 April, 2021 18:30  
Blogger Mike said...

I just saw this article from Discover Magazine... https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/the-human-brain-evolved-to-believe-in-gods
This isn't anything new. There have been many other articles over the years that pretty much say the same thing.

08 April, 2021 23:39  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: The obsession with death and suffering and the disdain for "this life" and its pleasures is weird, all right.

Debra: Heh.

Jono: If Jesus's blood is spiritual cleaning fluid, and Christians drink it, does that make them like spiritual Tide-pod eaters?

Ami: Congratulations on breaking away. In most cases the only way to get people to get people to believe this stuff is to inculcate it when they're too young to question what they're told. If it's demons who get people to question received dogma instead of mindlessly following it, then the demons are the good guys.

09 April, 2021 02:14  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

J: I'll be the judge of what constitutes fight-picking, and you're being borderline.

Menstruation has nothing to do with drinking blood or "washing" with it, nor does it mean women perceive such behaviors as any less disgusting than men do.

All religions are stupid and using blood in a ritual would be evidence of some degree of mental aberration at best. I don't much care what such creepy people see it as a symbol of.

09 April, 2021 02:20  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mike: I've seen arguments like that before, and the points about how pattern recognition and other traits make us vulnerable to religion probably have some validity, but the overall claims don't account for the rapid decline of religion in developed countries over the last few decades. Yes, 84% of people globally are religious (actually probably a bit lower, since in much of the world it's still very dangerous to be publicly known as non-religious), but until a couple of centuries ago it was practically 100%, so it's falling, not rising. Yes, people keep saying the religious percentage is "expected" to rise in the future, but that seems to be mostly based on the fact that religious populations have higher birth rates, which ignores the fact that people raised religious are leaving in droves. In the US, "nones" have gone from 5% to 26% of the population in two decades, and we didn't do that by out-breeding religious people -- it mostly happened due to people who were raised religious abandoning it. The same thing is happening in Latin America and the Middle East as they get more developed and educated, and it will probably be repeated everywhere as progress spreads. Religion will continue to decline.

09 April, 2021 02:27  
Blogger Lady M said...

I always thought Jesus died of asphyxiation due to the fact that he could not hold his head up forever or due to lack of water. I would think the nails through your hands and feet would act as to staunch the flow of blood. Still Christians are obsessed with blood so I agree with you there - they drink blood and eat flesh!

09 April, 2021 11:31  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Lady M: I wouldn't recommend this as anything other than a thought experiment, but I think you'd find that if you drove a nail right through a person's wrist, it would bleed profusely -- especially if the person's weight were hanging from the nail, which would pull at the injury and tear it. The blood in major arteries is under considerable pressure as long as the heart is beating normally, which is why cut arteries tend to release blood in spurts. It's very nasty.

Drinking blood, being washed in blood, endless dwelling on the death and suffering of Jesus as what gives the whole thing meaning -- it's all morbid and disgusting. I'm just trying to help people see the reality of it.

09 April, 2021 15:49  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

I just give the Goddess something shiny for them.

10 April, 2021 12:55  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

So long as it's not shiny with blood.

11 April, 2021 06:00  
Anonymous Esme Cloud said...

In a nutshell, this is one of the reasons the Catholic religion is a cult to my mind. I was brought up as one and recall hearing all about the blood, and drinking 'the blood', also at the age of six having to wear what was clearly a small wedding dress and walk as a pair with some pool lad who was suited and booted down the aisle of the church so that we could begin to start drinking said blood. This is all genuinely crackers to my mind.

Many thanks for including me so often in your very entertaining round-up Infidel.

- Esme - escapee from a cult - now running her own from a Cloud

14 April, 2021 07:39  
Anonymous CAS said...

One of my daughter’s took an anthro class last semester. They learned, among other things, that when groups of people are forced to endure hardships together, they’ll form strong ties that last a lifetime. I just assume that various religious leaders figured this out centuries ago and have used it to their advantage. Create plenty of disgusting and scary rituals/beliefs and if you can get people to buy in, you’ve got their allegeance for a lifetime.

07 January, 2022 23:23  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

That makes sense too. Then again, the weirder and more disgusting the rituals are, the more one tends to stick to people who also participate in them, as opposed to "outsiders" who will consider the people who do such things to be weirdos.

08 January, 2022 00:46  

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