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Debating the Legitimacy of Human Sacrifice in Modern Hinduism and Biblical Tradition

Jason Tatlock


Human sacrifice is a highly contentious issue. It brings to the fore deep-seated beliefs and powerful emotional responses. The topic is often relegated to discussions about a society’s past or to views about contemporary foreigners. There have been times, however, when a culture has engaged in an internal debate regarding its legitimacy, focusing on moral perspectives and divine sanctioning. For modern Hindu society, the practice of sati, or widow burning, has been a matter of contention, particularly following the sati of Roop Kanwar in 1987. Israelite religion, as represented in the biblical texts, similarly addressed the acceptability of human sacrifice, specifically the immolation of innocent children, from at least the late Iron Age.1 Both traditions, while separated in time and space, experienced comparable but not identical discourses of debate centering on the moral sanctioning of human sacrifice and the legitimization of the practice according to revered words.


human sacrifice; Hinduism; Sati

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Published by the University of Florida Press on behalf of the Association of Global South Studies.