An examination of the practice and philosophy of sacrifice in three religious traditions In the book of Genesis, God tests the faith of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham by demanding that he sacrifice the life of his beloved son, Isaac. Bound by common admiration for Abraham, the religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam also promote the practice of giving up human and natural goods to attain religious ideals. Each tradition negotiates the moral dilemmas posed by Abraham's story in different ways, while retaining the willingness to perform sacrifice as an identifying mark of religious commitment. This book considers the way in which Jews, Christians, and Muslims refer to "sacrifice"-not only as ritual offerings, but also as the donation of goods, discipline, suffering, and martyrdom. Weddle highlights objections to sacrifice within these traditions as well, presenting voices of dissent and protest in the name of ethical duty. Sacrifice forfeits concrete goods for abstract benefits, a utopian vision of human community, thereby sparking conflict with those who do not share the same ideals. Weddle places sacrifice in the larger context of the worldviews of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, using this nearly universal religious act as a means of examining similarities of practice and differences of meaning among these important world religions. This book takes the concept of sacrifice across these three religions, and offers a cross-cultural approach to understanding its place in history and deep-rooted traditions.
David L. Weddle is Professor Emeritus of Religion at Colorado College, where he taught courses in philosophy of religion, ethics, comparative religious studies, and American religions. He is the author of Miracles: Wonder and Meaning in World Religions (NYU Press, 2010) and holds lifetime honorary membership in the American Academy of Religion.