Religion Why is cannibalism glorified by Christianity?

When you think about it, one of the most fundamental requirement of any Christians is to eat human flesh and drink human blood, or at least the bread and wine that symbolise it. But the way it is written in the Bible is ambiguous and could be interpreted as the duty of all Christians to eat human flesh.

Jesus said: "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you."
Human flesh is said to resemble most pork. When Europeans first arrived in Hawaii, the cannibalistic Hawaiians called them the 'long pigs' as they tasted pretty much the same. Pigs and humans share many similarities beyond the taste of their flesh. They both can have pinkish or black skin. Both species are omnivorous and, while humans can eat pigs, the reverse is also true. It is one of the rare cases of two animal species that can eat one another.

Eating pork was prohibited in Judaism long before the birth of Jesus. In fact, it was already prohibited in ancient Syria and Phoenicia during the Late Bronze to Early Iron Age. As Jesus was a Jew himself one can wonder why pork was not banned from the Christian diet. Even the Muslims adopted the old Jewish ways in that regard.

The reason could be that it would cast doubt on the validity of the Christian Eucharist. It may not be obvious to 21st century Westerners because cannibalism is no longer culturally accepted as it was in most tribal or ancient societies. Cannibalism was not only common in Stone Age tribes, but even among metal age cultures. The Aztecs, a Copper Age culture, practiced a form of ritual cannibalism. The Austronesian and Melanesian people, who practiced cannibalism until recently (and still do in parts of Papua New Guinea), were/are Iron Age societies. Pliny the Elder explained that the Celts practiced ritual cannibalism, eating their enemies' flesh as a source of spiritual and physical strength. According to Herodotus, the Scythians regularly drank from cups made from the skulls of their enemies. Some Eastern European, like the aptly named Androphagi, were also man eaters. In fact ritual cannibalism was so widespread in tribal societies that it is hard to believe that the very concept of Eucharist wasn't itself a variant of ritual cannibalism, but in a more purified form more suitable to a monotheistic religion.

In all cases it seems that the rituals involve the passing of the deceased people's power or energy to the people who consume their flesh. A similar belief is found among many hunter-gathering tribes, in which the hunters will eat their prey's heart to absorb its strength. This tradition was found among many Native American tribes from the Great Plains and among several African tribes. It is likely that most humans had similar practices during the Palaeolithic.

It has been suggested that one of the reasons why pork was prohibited so early in the Levant was the similarity of swine meat with that of human flesh and the inevitable link with cannibalism. Other reasons were that pigs are scavengers and will eat almost anything, including human corpses - a relatively common sight in ancient times when wars and epidemics frequently left plenty of dead, unburied people to be eaten by scavengers.

By reviving a form of ritualistic cannibalism ("eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood"), early Christians may have felt it safer to lift the taboo on pork consumption, lest the association with cannibalism put the whole concept of Eucharist in jeopardy. Once again, it may sounds incredible to modern minds, but not if you try to think like Iron Age people, at an age when cannibalism was still common in other nearby societies (e.g. the Galatians in central Anatolia or some Steppe tribes).

The question I wanted to raise here is: Why is cannibalism so glorified by Christianity? Do Christians hope to obtain their god's power by reproducing a ritual in which they supposedly eat Jesus's body? Is it basically the same thing as our Stone Age hunter hoping to get the power of the freshly killed animal by eating its heart, but orders of magnitude larger, as Christians hope to enter communion with an omnipotent god and obtain eternal life? If so, that shows how little the human mind has evolved in the last 30,000 years or so. People just got more megalomaniac over time as small tribes of hunter-gatherers evolved into cities, kingdoms and empires, and humans asserted their dominance over Nature, believing that they were gods or that god(s) looked like them.
 
When I was young, I was told about Jesus in school, and every week we had to go to church and during wholy communion these words were told.
But never I felt any link with cannibalism.
 
This thread perfectly encapsulates why Western Europeans are reaching the end of their lifespan as a people and civilization.
 
This thread perfectly encapsulates why Western Europeans are reaching the end of their lifespan as a people and civilization.

You'll have to explain that cryptic statement.
 
When I was young, I was told about Jesus in school, and every week we had to go to church and during wholy communion these words were told.
But never I felt any link with cannibalism.

The opposite would have surprised me. I also received a Catholic upbringing and was forced to go to catechism. In the absence of knowledge about the history of cannibalism or any notions of anthropology, one cannot easily make the link between the Eucharist and ancient ritualistic cannibalism. There are so many things in our culture and traditions whose origins are so distant and foreign to modern minds that it takes some effort and research to unravel them.
 
This thread perfectly encapsulates why Western Europeans are reaching the end of their lifespan as a people and civilization.

That's a peculiar way of putting it. Why do you associated Christianity with Western Europe in particular, when most of the Christians today live outside Europe, and that Western Europe is less religious than Eastern Europe?

Christianity is dying in Europe, but that surely does not impede the development of civilisation. On the contrary! The most civilised countries generally happen to be the least religious. The best example are Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands. There is a very strong correlation between irreligiosity (in developed countries at least) and human development, democracy, individual rights, etc.

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The Christian Communion is something that pertains to the spiritual realm or spiritual ideas...not corpse munching
 
The Christian Communion is something that pertains to the spiritual realm or spiritual ideas...not corpse munching

That does not mean its origin is not a form a ritual cannibalism.
 
In the case of the plane crash that a group of my compatriots had in the Andes in 1972, the symbolism of the Eucharist had a practical application. Trapped in a snowy valley at almost 4,000 meters, a week after the accident, there was nothing edible left in the wreckage of the plane. Only the corpses of his friends remained. When they finally made the decision to feed on them, only a few were encouraged. Until one of them remembered the Eucharist (they were all members of a Catholic school) and said: Christ died to give me eternal life...my friend died to give me life in this world. And then he put a piece of meat in his mouth. This argument ended up convincing the reluctant ones. Apparently, in this extreme circumstance, the rituals recovered their original value...
 
That does not mean its origin is not a form a ritual cannibalism.

I think this highly educated argument made in the first post is nonetheless missing the finer points of religious thought. At best it could be argued ritual cannibalism has persisted as a subconscious cultural relic, not that it is glorified.
 
I think this highly educated argument made in the first post is nonetheless missing the finer points of religious thought. At best it could be argued ritual cannibalism has persisted as a subconscious cultural relic, not that it is glorified.

Well let me say up front, I still hold to the Faith of My Fathers and hold to the Nicene and Apostles Creeds. Now, not looking to get into a tit for tat with anyone on what they believe and who was once Catholic or say Eastern Orthodox (who hold similar Eucharistic theology) and no longer hold those beliefs. Only prefacing my comments by "what I hold to". Now with respect to the Eucharist and charge of Cannibalism, the charge in my view does not hold. So I agree with Carnimirie that some points of theological thought are missed.

As early as the 2nd century pagan Romans, Pliny the Younger (Circa 110 AD), not to be confused with Pliny the Elder (the Uncle of the Younger) investigated early Church practices regarding the partaking of the Eucharist which was understood early on a partaking of the Body of Christ. So this charge is not new. So one has to realize what Cannibalism is and what is partaking the Eucharist (Communion, Sacrament of Christ Body and Blood, etc.). 1) Cannibalism is the killing of ones own species and eating the Flesh of another human which in its substance is human flesh. Thus, one is eating the flesh and blood of a human in the "form' of human flesh and blood and involves killing another human (Murder) 2) Communion or the Eucharist is partaking the Body and Blood of Christ (substance) under the form of ordinary Bread and Wine. And here lies where modernity, materialist, rationalist have rejected all forms of metaphysics and Greek Philosophy make a comparison that does not hold water.

As early as the Council of Nicea, early Church Theologians used terms like Substance to deal with Christological issues. Christ, in rejection of the Arian position was the same substance as the Father (Consubstantial) but distinct in terms of relationship, etc. Later on Christ would be Defined as a Divine Person with a Divine and human nature, yet each nature was not distorted by the other or took from the other. His Divine Nature same substance as the Father and Holy Spirit while human nature same as humanities. With respect the Eucharist, it, like all Sacraments had proper matter and form. Baptism, the matter was Water and the form was the Trinitarian I baptize you in the Name, of, etc

With respect to the Eucharist "substance" and "form" are important concepts to clearly define and understand. Bread, ordinary bread, with all the properties of Bread is the matter used, the form of course is the Eucharistic prayer so in substance Christ is present but the form of Bread and Wine do not change, the properties or accidents as is used in scholastic philosophy, do not change. Thus, in Communion, one is partaking of the Body of Christ in the form of Bread and Wine, not human flesh, so the charge of Cannibalism does not hold. Christ is not killed, he is actually Resurrected in a glorified body, living, not dead.

My take
 
How were the cannibalism rituals of the Brazilian Indians?
Food and spirituality, Brazilian cannibalism was complex.

Human flesh was much more than a snack for Brazilian cannibals. Cannibalism, in the culture of these peoples, involved ceremonies that evoked the supernatural. “They believed that the individual gains strength by assimilating others, powerful and dangerous, be they enemy warriors or dead relatives”, says historian João Monteiro, from Unicamp.

The most powerful enemies these populations had were the Portuguese. The Portuguese became the favorite dish of the taba, which saved the adventurer Hans Staden from burning in the moquém. As a German, Staden was spared by the Tupinambás who captured him in Ubatuba (coast of São Paulo), in 1549. A prisoner of the Indians, he witnessed anthropophagic rituals. His account – illustrated by the Belgian contemporary Théodore de Bry – is the most detailed ever made of Brazilian cannibals.

It is not known exactly how many indigenous groups practiced anthropophagy. The habit lasted until the 17th century, when catechization ended with it in the territories controlled by the colonists.

But the anthropophagic logic remained strong, including the way in which the Indians assimilated Catholic rituals, which include eating the 'blood' and 'body' of Christ,” says João. Today, only the Yanomami maintain the habit of eating ashes from corpses, as a way of honoring a dead friend.

Source:
https://super.abril.com.br/historia/como-eram-os-rituais-de-canibalismo-dos-indios-brasileiros/
 
There are three types of cannibalism in human societies.

1) Actively seeking other humans as prey to kill and eat.
=> This has always been the least common form of cannibalism, but for some reason it is often the kind of barbaric image that spring in most people's mind when they hear of 'cannibals'. It conjures images of primitive people boiling their victims in a big cauldron. These images are rarely based on reality though.

2) Survival cannibalism
=> Eating dead people in time of crisis in order not to starve to death. The crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 in 1972 is a famous example of this, but it has happened more than we expect everywhere on Earth in the past during periods of famine.

3) Ritualistic cannibalism
=> It properly covers the vast majority of all human cannibalism in (pre)history. Wikipedia has an exhaustive list of cases of human cannibalism around the world. It can take the form of either endocannibalism (eating deceased members of one's own community) or exocannibalism (eating people outside one's own close social group). Here are some examples of endocannibalism.


  • The Aghoris: modern Hindu ascetics (mostly from Uttar Pradesh, India's most populated state) who believe that eating human flesh confers spiritual and physical benefits, such as prevention of aging. They claim to only eat those who have voluntarily willed their body to the sect upon their death.
  • Several Papuan tribes the ate the body of dead relatives. This could be out of love and to free the spirit, as in the Fore people (see Whitfiled et al. 2008), while others hoped that their kinfolk's spirit would keep living in them if they ate them.
  • The Wari' people of the Amazon practiced mortuary cannibalism. This was done as a form of utmost respect to those who had died. Mortuary preparation involved ritual wailing and other ceremonies, building a fire, removing the visceral organs, and finally roasting the body. The decedent's closest kin would not consume the body, but they urged the attendant relatives to eat. Consumption of the flesh would assuage the family's grief, as it meant that the soul of the deceased would be kept in the living bodies of relatives instead of being abandoned to wander the forest alone. The practice was considered equally an act of compassion, affinal love, and grief.

In her book Toward a Theory of Peace The Role of Moral Beliefs (free on Kindle), Dr. Randall Caroline Forsberg has a whole chapter dedicated to ritual cannibalism in which she explains that: "Often, the organ to be consumed is the heart, the brain, or the liver, and the attribute to be preserved (endocannibalism) or appropriated (exocannibalism) is the soul stuff, the spirit, the courage, or the fecundity of the deceased."

Most Western people would probably be afraid to visit a tribe of cannibals, because they mistakenly believe that they are just going to kill any human they meet (from outside their tribe) to eat them. This is so completely wrong. It's the same kind of mental bias that make some straight people believe that gay people are going to want to sleep with them! Ignorance leads to fear, which leads to hatred.


As we can see, most human cannibalism is ritualistic and rooted in spiritual beliefs. This typically involve the passing of the soul or spirit of the deceased to those who consume their body (or more typically specific parts of the body rather than the whole body). It's a way early human societies found to deal with their own mortality, hoping to find a sort of continuity after death - one of the greatest preoccupation of humanity since our brains were big enough to ask ourselves: "what happens after we die?"

From a historical and anthropological point of view, the Christian eucharist fits perfectly in the continuity of these ancient rites. It aims to answer the same question about what happens after death and pretends to confer eternal life to people who "eat the flesh of the Son of Man", even if no actual flesh is consumed. Some Amazonian tribes crush the bones of their deceased kinfolk and add the crushed bone powder to their food. It is considered as a form of ritual cannibalism even though no actual flesh is eaten. There is no reason it should be different with the eucharist. The image is the same. The purpose is the same.
 
I think this highly educated argument made in the first post is nonetheless missing the finer points of religious thought. At best it could be argued ritual cannibalism has persisted as a subconscious cultural relic, not that it is glorified.

Ok, maybe I chose a title that was a bit catchy to grab people's attention. But it's hard to condense all the ideas I wanted to convey in a short title. Nevertheless, even if the eucharist is a subconscious cultural relic of ritual cannibalism, it goes without saying that the eucharist is one of the most important and defining part of being a Christian. The whole concept of excommunication, the exclusion from the Christian community, is the prohibition of an individual from receiving the eucharist/holy communion (hence the name from the Latin ex- communis, or exclusion from the communion).

So the communion/eucharist is not just glorified by Christianity, it is one of its defining features, one of the few aspects that all Christian denominations (and there are many!) almost all seem to agree on. (I googled it and it looks like only the Quakers and The Salvation Army do not partake in the eucharist. Together they represent less than 0.1% of all Christians worldwide.)

If the eucharist is a glorified and defining part of Christianity, and the eucharist is a form of ritual cannibalism, then a fortiori ritual cannibalism is glorified by Christianity.
 
The lead post uses conflation to reach a eye catching headline. I admit it worked on me.
Jesus said: "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you."
Human flesh is said to resemble most pork.
One thing that is not a logical connection is to jump immediately to pork as a type of meat.
I don’t recall anywhere in the Bible where pig is connected with Jesus or the Messiah. He is referred to multiple situations as the “Lamb of God”. Why do you focus on pork instead of lamb?
The context of the “Lamb” in ritual was a pure sacrifice. It is a bit of conflation to equate ritual sacrifice to ritual cannibalism.
Maciamo said:
As Jesus was a Jew himself one can wonder why pork was not banned from the Christian diet. Even the Muslims adopted the old Jewish ways in that regard.
This is clearly explained by Peter’s dream in Acts 10.
‘He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”’
This was so evangelizing the Gospel would not be hindered to the Gentiles.
Jesus revealed a greater truth in Matthew 15:10-11,
‘Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” ‘
The food is not that important. It’s our words.
Maciamo said:
The question I wanted to raise here is: Why is cannibalism so glorified by Christianity?
It’s not glorified. You have not logically shown the premise of your question is true. It’s an irrelevant question for us to answer.
Here’s a question for you to chew on. The Last Supper was literally with bread and wine.
In Matthew 4:4 Jesus provides relevation.
“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’“
What is or who is the word from God’s mouth? Is this not the underlying theme of Christianity?
 
So the communion/eucharist is not just glorified by Christianity, it is one of its defining features, one of the few aspects that all Christian denominations (and there are many!) almost all seem to agree on. (I googled it and it looks like only the Quakers and The Salvation Army do not partake in the eucharist. Together they represent less than 0.1% of all Christians worldwide.)
I have attended a variety of church services in the USA. I have never thought that Communion was a high priority in most denominations in the USA other than Roman Catholic.
I have attended evangelical churches in the past years and I don’t remember taking Communion. Maybe sometimes it is done at Easter but last couple of Easter’s it hasn’t.
I think there are people evangelical churches in the USA than Roman Catholic.
 
I have attended a variety of church services in the USA. I have never thought that Communion was a high priority in most denominations in the USA other than Roman Catholic.
I have attended evangelical churches in the past years and I don’t remember taking Communion. Maybe sometimes it is done at Easter but last couple of Easter’s it hasn’t.
I think there are people evangelical churches in the USA than Roman Catholic.

You are correct regarding the religious landscape in the USA, it has a free market flavor outside the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. Communion is something largely tied to the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church. Outside of those 2, the priority of Communion is closer to the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox in churches that have some holdings earlier Apostolic Traditions such as Creeds and Liturgical worship. So Communion would be higher in protestant traditions like Anglicans and Lutherans. As you move to the Reformed/Presbyterians (Calvinist), who while holding to the ancient Creeds and having some basic Liturgical structure in their Sunday worship services, it may vary, some weekly, some monthly, etc, etc. Once you move to evangelical, Baptist or Pentecostal groups it is largely based on what the local Pastor thinks since those groups tend to not have ties to a broader communion or confession, etc.
 
You are correct regarding the religious landscape in the USA,
Thanks, but please recognize I grew up in mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. As an Irish background marrying to Hispanic, we did the classes, etc. in the Roman Catholic church.
However, I have been a member of evangelical churches for years.
I think two of your comments are quite insightful.
Palermo said:
it has a free market flavor outside the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox.
…..
Once you move to evangelical, Baptist or Pentecostal groups it is largely based on what the local Pastor thinks since those groups tend to not have ties to a broader….
The pastors do not have authoritarian control. They may try to but the “free market” votes with its feet so it is essentially democratic.
I looked up the definition for “evangelical”. There is no mention of communion or the eucharist… hardly a “defining part”.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evangelical
It just isn’t the most critical sacrament in most American churches as I have seen them. Baptism would be a more prominent ritual across the board, but is really the word - the Gospel and the Word.
 
I think there are -more- people evangelical churches in the USA than Roman Catholic.
I missed the word “more”. The Roman Catholics are in the minority overall among USA denominations. I could some change with the number of Hispanic speaking immigrants but there tends to be conversions to evangelicals over the generations. Palermo’s “free market” is at work.
“The majority of Christian Americans are Protestant Christians (150 to 160 million),”
“Today, most Christian churches in United States are either Mainline Protestant, Evangelical Protestant, or Catholic.”
(wikipedia)
 
I missed the word “more”. The Roman Catholics are in the minority overall among USA denominations. I could some change with the number of Hispanic speaking immigrants but there tends to be conversions to evangelicals over the generations. Palermo’s “free market” is at work.
“The majority of Christian Americans are Protestant Christians (150 to 160 million),”
“Today, most Christian churches in United States are either Mainline Protestant, Evangelical Protestant, or Catholic.”
(wikipedia)

Yes, if you combine all Protestant groups, they are larger than Catholics in the USA. By "more" I was referring to yes the more non confessional protestants, which Baptist, evangelicals, Pentecostals would all be part of. So free market to me is a foreign concept for religion, although I recognize it as a reality in the USA. Many groups in the USA are off shoots, of groups, that are off shoots, of another group. From my perspective, there is lots of moving from group to group and there are always a new pastor with the church of what is happening now to entice people to move from a to b. I should have been a little clearer in my views, although even among confessional protestants, there are splits, the United Methodist in the USA just had a split into 2 new confessions. That may have had to do more with moral theology and church leadership issues, vs. sacraments as the Methodist tend to have a view of Sacraments somewhere between the Reformed and Baptist.
 

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