Archive for July 28th, 2011

Sacred things are tearing us apart

July 28, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More
Sacred things are tearing us apart

We human animals are an irrepressibly symbolic species. So much so that any thing can represent almost anything else. A cloth flag, a firecracker or a slogan can represent a social order. A piece of bread or an animal can represent a god. The bottom of a shoe can represent a harsh put-down.

We endow some of our things with a special significance, such that we deem them “sacred.” I struggle to define what is sacred, but Jonathan Haidt gives us a big clue: sacred things seem to be the opposite of things that disgust us. But there usually seems to be something more to those thing that are the most sacred; there usually seems to be a public declaration or at least an implicit group acquiescence that the thing is sacred.

By recognizing things to be sacred, we seem to endow them with other-worldly significance; with heavenly significant. Once a thing is declared “sacred,” it would be disgusting and, indeed, immoral to consider compromising with regard to that thing.

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