People imbue the actions of large umbrella organizations like ‘the church’ and ‘the state’ with all of these strange capabilities and inherent moralities, as if just having people follow you means that you’re going to be making the right decisions, or have gained even a shred of decency. Ain’t so. Power, as they say, corrupts. The more authority someone has, the more temptation there will be to use that authority in ways that make things easier for yourself, or for the people you like, or make things harder for the people you don’t.
It doesn’t start big, either. It starts small, and subtle, in ways that nobody would get upset about. Things that seem perfectly reasonable and forgivable on a personal scale. And if they were being done by a normal citizen or subject… they would be. But because they’re being done by those in power, they represent a violation of the trust that the masses place in their leaders.
That trust, and the responsibility for upholding it, is part of the job. It’s not even a small part of the job. It is, in fact, the primary responsibility of leadership that they must be worthy of the job. A leader who cuts corners, who abandons principle and ethos in order to ‘get things done’… they have to go. The really good ones recognize this. They might do that horrible thing because it needs doing… but that will be followed by their own departure from their position, so that the masses can be served by someone who will remain worthy of their loyalty.
Killing people in the name of the state or the faith… in a war, that’s necessary. In peace, it’s just killing. With all of the resources at the disposal of modern cosmopolitical entities, there really is no excuse for failing to find some way the offender can justify their existence through continued contribution to society.
In the case of sacrifice, consent comes into play. If the person being sacrificed has consented to it… then that brings up all of a society’s potential dealings with suicide and self-annihilation. If they haven’t… it’s murder, no matter how you pretty it up. And no-one should trust leaders who murder people who are helpless in their care: if they can do it to someone, after all, they can do it to anyone. All they need to do is come up with a justification. And really, justifying lashing out at people who annoy us… it’s not a difficult thing. Most of us learned to do it before we learned to walk.