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Conversion to end child sacrifice: In ancient Israel and now

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 21, 2023

A friend recently sent me an article on the new “climate-change religion”, in which the author wondered whether human sacrifices would be the next step in warding off environmental disaster. Of course, there would be a certain logic at work if the rich and powerful begin killing off the poor and weak in order to restore environmental balance—on the assumption that the rich are more resource-sensitive than the poor, or at least can purchase the kinds of products that prove by their logos and EPA statements that they are deeply dedicated to the preservation of mother earth. It is one of the dirty little tricks of this theory that the wealthy always have a far larger carbon footprint than the destitute.

But this idea of human sacrifice strikes a chord, because we are actually offering people as sacrifices almost continually in the modern world through both abortion and euthanasia—without even mentioning the ravages of war and starvation. We do this, as it has always been done, primarily to get our own way.

Ancient Israel

It is apparently not unusual even for those who should know better to fall into (ahem) “bad habits” when it comes to sacrificing the lives of others to their own goals. This was so endemic in ancient Israel that even some of the kings (not all of whom were named Biden) sacrificed their own children on the fires of the Canaanite god Moloch, who was known throughout the region to desire as much burning of children as he could get. (In some texts, Moloch is referred to as Baal, who is also associated with Satan.) One of the purposes of the “high places” which so many kings of Israel and Judah failed to tear down and destroy was to keep these sacrificial human fires burning.

As recounted in 2 Kings 16:2, Ahaz King of Judah “even burned his son as an offering, according to to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.” King Manasseh was guilty of the same offense. Here is the passage:

…he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put my name.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. [2 Kgs 21:3-6]

Allowing for differences of time, place and culture, this is actually a fairly accurate description of the policies of the “Catholic” President of the United States today. The contemporary equivalents to pagan idolatry had previously been prohibited in Europe and the Americas just as such evils had long been prohibited in Israel and Judah, as noted in the Book of Deuteronomy (18:10). Yet if some of the Jewish kings themselves were practicing and promoting child sacrifice, it is not hard to imagine that it rapidly became widespread among the people as a whole (see, for example, 2 Kgs 17:7). Indeed, Psalm 106 laments this widespread evil:

They did not destroy the peoples,
  as the Lord commanded them,
But they mixed with the nations
  and learned to do as they did.
They served their idols,
  which became a snare to them.
They sacrificed their sons
  and their daughters to the demons;
They poured out innocent blood,
  the blood of their sons and daughters.
Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
  and the land was polluted with blood.
Thus they become unclean by their acts
  and played the whore in their deeds. [vv. 34-39]

Jeremiah (7:31, 19:15) and Ezekiel (16:21, 20:31, 23:37-39) continued to denounce these sins, but largely in vain. If you thought the Jews had simply failed to observe certain religious rituals, think again.

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Modern Christianity

Today we are less likely, of course, to give names to our projected desires and call them gods (though I am pretty sure this is slowly changing). But the same powers of deception remain at work, and the rate of slaughter is higher in the twenty-first century after Christ than ever before (perhaps not proportionately to the population, but that we have no way of knowing). Most of the child sacrifice is now done less visibly in the womb, but the motives are astonishingly similar: We can reach our own goals only if we sacrifice our children, either in their very possibility, in lives of harmful formation and development, or in gruesome bodily fact.

Even more astonishing is the similarity in practice between those who are nominally Christian today and those who were nominally Jewish then. Were it not for Christ and the ultimate indestructibility of His Church, we would surely be exiled by the Lord once again. As it is, our earthly future is bleak, and not (as so many think) because of a purely environmental change. Consider how William Butler Yeats expressed it in his great poem “The Second Coming” in 1919:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” This seems to be the hallmark not only of Yeats’ early twentieth-century world but of our world today. We look to media and find that the most aggressive and widespread presentations merely purvey the values of a corrupt human culture. We look to politics or we look to business and we find pressure from both to extend that corruption. We look to Christian churches only to find them in decline and division, with a huge percentage of even Christian persons and groups seeking to justify what every preceding Christian generation back to the Apostles has regarded as serious sin.

And in all this turmoil, we look to the Catholic Church herself and find her all too frequently rudderless and confused, bent on endless discussions in which every conceivable point of view must be heard. Worse still, the sophisticated “Catholic” voices raised in favor of an ever-increasing corruption all too frequently drown out the voice of Christ Himself. Even if we try to hearken back to the teachings of our Savior and His Apostles, we might well be told—sometimes by bishops or cardinals—that none of them understood human anthropology sufficiently to make reasonable moral claims.

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Now, I know both from emails received and from the growth rate of’s mailing list over the past year that discouragement is on the rise. Our list is still growing, but not as fast as when people’s hope in the Church was stronger. Humanly speaking, it is easy to understand why. So much of the news is bad that tuning in to honest Catholic coverage is not for the faint of heart. I might also add that competitive financial demands from would-be politicians (who hope to make a difference but rarely do) are at an all-time and even continuous high. Over the next twelve months in the United States, the political claims on our attention will intensify until the next Presidential election is held on November 5, 2024. Yet no matter what we do and how we vote, the odds will remain in favor of what we have experienced for my entire lifetime of now 75 years: Despite occasional “victories”, we will witness the continued moral decline of a once-Christian Western culture.

Unless we ourselves turn frankly to Christ and foster conversion in others.

No matter where we live, we must do everything we can to ensure that a continuing spiritual collapse is not the ultimate fate of our families and friends. The truth is that we are at war primarily with principalities and powers, and we always have been. We are at war with Moloch. Even many nominal Christians are still sacrificing their children, whether bodily or spiritually, on the pagan altars of affluence, secular education, and worldly acceptance. Yet the only sure way to renew any culture is through conversion to Christ and His Church by those who populate that culture. Each new or deepening convert has already won with Christ, even if the victory does not result in a broader and more visible cultural blossoming. But at the same time, conversion is the one and only route to cultural health.

While it is true that the Kingdom of God is present here on earth, it is not made present through politics, or economics, or education, or technology, or anthropology, or psychology, or sociology. As with all human activities, these things can certainly be improved by Christian faith and commitment, and shaped to the service of Christ. But the Kingdom of God is made present exclusively through personal conversion.

It is not enough for anyone to be on the outside looking in, even if he or she is not looking askance. There is no substitute for proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ because there is no substitute for personally responding to Christ’s message through a change of heart. Even within the Church, conversion day by day is absolutely essential. This is the only way we can stop sacrificing our children—not to mention ourselves—to the demons that demand our very lives.

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Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: vboast4348 - Nov. 27, 2023 7:30 AM ET USA

    I am so grateful for your steady encouragement and calling out the facts. We need to be reminded that we "have already won with Christ" even if the victory seems not to have a "cultural blossoming". Reading Joseph Plunkett's poem today (I see His Blood upon the rose...) has cheered me.. we are counter cultural revolutionaries too now.

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - Nov. 22, 2023 10:18 AM ET USA

    This is powerfully stunning, true, and frightening. Living in the Twin Cities, I feel justified in saying that the fiery destruction of Minneapolis two years ago is burned into my mind as evidence extraordinaire of your proposition. And, the state of Minnesota has declared itself in law a, a destination for abortion shoppers in the United States. Not to be outdone, my former home of Ohio has done so to large extent also. I can't foresee how this is to end except in supreme sadness.