Human Sacrifice in Mayan-Aztec cultures:

Recently I’ve been reading about the evolution of religious beliefs and such, one thing that is really shaking me up is how human sacrifice was done in Mesoamerica. It was brutal, disgusting, gruesome. While the Ancient Near East really began to move on from the thoughts of human sacrifice from the 8th century BCE to the 6th century AD, it seems like Mesoamerica continued on until the 17th century.

I understand that many of times human sacrifice was done to please the gods, it was looked at as an honor and a privilege to be sacrificed and in cases of child sacrifice although it was tough on families emotionally (read that on Wikipedia), in a sense it was an honor to sacrifice your “pure” child and have them continue in the afterlife. They had gods, their own cultures, and sacrifice was done to really maintain society but more importantly to “please the gods”, it seems.

My question is, obviously these cultures didn’t hear about the gospel or have a sense of monotheism due to their culture, but did they simply sacrifice one another due to lack of knowledge (of who God is, his disdain for sacrifice in general and therefore God is at “fault” for not revealing himself in a way) or were there other motives involved? I’ve read that sacrificing humans in those cultures was primarily done to justify and continue war and it was also done to strike fear in the surrounding cultures of that time.

A piece of me thinks “what if God’s spirit was active but they chose their own route? In order to shift thought processes, humanity has to buy in and do their part” But another piece of me is like “Institutions of child sacrifice, slavery, etc, aren’t God-creating systems, that’s a human-based creation.”

I guess this falls under the “Problem of Evil?”

1 Like

Yeah, but it is certainly revolting and confusing to think about. I’m reminded that even some of Israel’s neighbors practiced child sacrifice and Israel was warned not to partake. I wonder if all cultures have some kind of notion of “sin” even without the use of that word, but are stuck trying to make things right by “working harder,” even when that means sacrificing someone else. But you may also be right that keeping others in fear was one way to stay in power in a dog-eat-dog world.

What’s interesting is that it seems like Child/Human Sacrifice was really an independent “culture” thing, if you will. Every culture had an idea about it, but who actually began doing so seems to be independent of others. Egyptian Pharaohs sacrificed servants so that they can continue to serve in the afterlife, but two centuries later they thought that idea was bad.

Throughout every commentary that I’ve read on the subject, it seems like sacrificing humans and children is a last resort in order to force some sort of blessing. It seems like the Aztecs took that one a step further.

1 Like

What I mean by this is, I understand it isn’t that simple when it comes to God “revealing” or “inspiring” or even “his spirit comes down to us.”

Even Ancient Israel had to experience real life circumstances (the exile) in order to finally get to their monotheistic beginnings that first started out as either Polytheism or Monolatry. So while I understand from a broad perspective, I come off like “well, God should’ve done this” but in that same breath, if he’s working with and at times through humanity, it isn’t that simple. Cooperation is needed in order to shift humanity in the way that reflect his purposes.

When the spirit is active and present, I don’t believe any one of us feel “zapped”, lol.

It was everywhere. Mesoamerica is memorable in regards to numbers of people sacrificed and how recent this was. But you find it in the history of every part of the globe: Europe, Middle East, China, Pacific, India, Slavic, Africa, as well as America.

And you find it even in modern times as well: 2020 Panama, 2019 Africa, 2006 India, 2005 UK, 2000 Italy, 1993 Brazil, 1963 Mexico, 1960 Chile. But at least you can say that widespread disapproval is making this more and more an aberration than accepted. But it is troubling that you still finds the seeds of justification for it in modern religion including Christianity.

Infanticide and exposure are common as well. Very sad.

1 Like

It seems like this is an issue where although we have the capacity to do this, that doesn’t make it necessarily God’s “fault”, if you will when someone does it.

I’m working my way through this issue, because you’d hope that if civilizations knew God didn’t like sacrifice (even more so, human sacrifice) then they ultimately wouldn’t take part in such terrible activities. But then again, in the Bible we see Ancient Israel literally do the things that God strictly told them not to do. Considering human sacrifice still happens today, it’s looked down upon surely, but it still takes place today, I don’t believe we can chalk every instance of humanity doing bad things to “if only God would’ve done ___”.

I wish all of humanity “knew” about God in this way from the beginning but I also know it isn’t really that simple. At least I think I do, lol.

Yeah, apparently it was done to please the gods, but it was an honorable thing to do. I couldn’t imagine living in a society like that.

A part of me also thinks, did anyone have a big issue with this back then? Like people had to know this was cruel. Considering on other sides of the world it was outlawed by the time we reach the CE, I don’t know. I mean people still do this today and you’d think we are way, way beyond even thinking about such an act.

But it’s so weird, wrong, terrifying.

Uhhh, “humans and children”? children aren’t humans?

I made the distinction because virtually all sites when you look at the topic of human sacrifice, break it down between children (or infants) and humans (adults? I’m guessing?).


There are a few exceptions I know of, like sacrificing people at leaders’ funerals, whether servants and wives in Viking ship burials, Scythian and ancient Iranian horse-sacrifice (grooms as well as the horses), or in the Americas. Most cases do seem to fall into the earlier categories, though.

Do you ever wonder about, if God revealed himself to other civilizations like those in Mesoamerica, do you think they would’ve stopped engaging in sacrificial rituals?

Is that a fair question? I’m really struggling with the POE right now and I don’t really know where to go on this topic

I don’t think god being revealed would make any difference. God has revealed himself to Christians who dominate America and we still have every sin happening. I’m also not sure if the religious leaders represented their faiths any better than the bulk of ours do.

For me, that’s what also leads me to believe that God is steering creation for his purposes, and we have a job to fulfill those purposes. At the same time, he is not a helicopter parent and while some cultures still practice these disgusting acts, I find it really hard to believe that the only purpose of these cultures sacrificing their own let alone other war captives was specifically to “feed the gods”. Seems like their gods fit what they did and they just projected their practices onto their belief system. Every culture seems to have done this in various ways, even the Ancient Israelites.

Can’t say. As someone who believes in the supernatural I think that evil heavenly forces could have been just as much of a part of their inspiration as their own evil. Could be a byproduct of their spiritual leaders inciting fear and ignorant people just accepted it as thinking it was truly gods will just like some say hurricanes destroyed New Orleans because of sin type mentalities.

Seems like every tribal culture has some sense of this in their theology.

The answer that I’ve been coming up with recently certainly doesn’t fully resolve the problem of evil, but I think it is showing me that the POE should not be reason in itself for disbelief, and that is the analogy of Peter getting out of the boat to meet Jesus on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). It was when he took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the stormy dark waves that he began to sink.

1 Like

This resonates with something I have been thinking lately. I imagine that a few here and elsewhere find it startling and puzzling the dichotomy between the way I do science and the way I do religion. Namely, where is the objectivity I apply in science when it comes to religion? They think there must be some cognitive dissonance in this. But there is not. I do not believe that objectivity is appropriate for religion. Sure you can do a scientific study of religion but that is not religion. Like I often say, you cannot live your life as an objective observer and religion is a part of the subjective participation in life.

So an objective treatment of the Bible? No thank you. I will leave that to the atheist Biblical scholars. When I read the Bible, I am not going to do anything of the kind. I am not going to treat it like historical literature of an ancient Semitic culture but as a communication from God.

So yeah, while I can objectively judge that the Problem of Evil is the best argument against the existence of God – always has been and always will be. It has little effect on my decision to live my life in a relationship with the creator seen through lens of Jesus life and teachings.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 6 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.