We see sacred things from afar, even when they are close, so we can see them the same. I’ve previously described the main cost of this as impaired vision. That is, we don’t see sacred things as well, and so make mistakes about them. But another perhaps equally big cost of this is: sacrifice. We feel inclined to sacrifice for the sacred, and to encourage or even force others to sacrifice for it, even when that doesn’t much promote this sacred thing. And sacrifice often involves: pain.
For example, someone recently used “torturing babies” to me as the one thing we can all agree is most wrong. But we actually continue to needlessly torture babies via circumcision. We once did it as a sacrifice for religion, and more recently as a sacrifice for medicine. If we are told that doctors say circumcision is healthy, that’s a sufficient reason to torture babies.
We treat love as sacred, and we often test our lovers and potential lovers, to see how strong is their love. And these tests quite often hurt, a lot. We’d feel more guilty to hurt them in the name of a less noble cause. But love, that cause is so grand as to justify most any pain. Romeo and Juliet suffer stupendously in the Shakespeare tale, and we treat them as having made the right choice, even given their terrible end.
We start wars and we continue them, when we have other options, in the name of sacred causes. Wars result in terrible pain and suffering, which we celebrate as sacrifices for our causes.
As democracy is sacred to us, so are our political fights to influence democracy. And thus so are the sloppy biased arguments we embrace, the mud we throw, the insults we fling, the relations we break off, and the lives we cancel, all in the name of our sacred political fights.
As nature is sacred, we are eager to sacrifice for it. So we are suspicious of solving global warming via nuclear energy or hydroelectricity, as those don’t seem to call for sufficient sacrifice. We’d really rather crush the economy, that will show how much we care about nature.
We feel so elevated to be treating something as sacred. And thus are eager to cause sacrifice in its name. Which often doesn’t seem such an elevated an outcome to me.