Human and Animal Sacrifices Within Abrahamic Religions
Christianity, Judaism, Baha'i Faith, Islam and many, many lesser known and smaller religions are all considered Abrahamic religions. Since these faiths are largely linked to Abraham it only makes sense to take a look at the life of this man.
In the time that Abraham would have lived, human sacrifices were as acceptable as the sacrifice of any animal. These sacrifices were a means of basically offering the Gods a gift, and in return the people believed that the practitioners believed that the Gods would show favor towards them, answer a prayer or at the very least the animal sacrifice would appease the Gods.
Mesopotamian culture; which would have been the culture Abraham was accustomed to, centered its religious worship around sacrifices. The ultimate homage that could paid to a deity was the offering of a human sacrifice. And so it would be a reasonable assumption that these practices were nothing that would have been appalling to Abraham.
The Bible has within it a story that deals with Abraham and human sacrifice. In this story, Abraham believes that God is asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac on Mount Moriah.
Abraham believed that God was asking this of him as it was the ultimate proof that Abraham was offering his life totally and without question he (Abraham) would be completely submissive and obedient to what God asked of him without hesitation of question. And so Abraham began his three days of hard travel from his home in Beersheba to Mount Moriah. Mind you, this entire time he knew once he reach Mount Moriah he would have to kill his son; whom he loved dearly, as an offering unto God.
When Abraham and Isaac finally reach their destination they began preparing for the sacrifice. Isaac himself carried the wood that would be used for his own sacrifice as his father instructed him to do.
Abraham went to the exact location on Mount Moriah that God told him to and he built an alter there. He then tied Isaac up and place him upon the alter; on top of the wood. As Abraham raised his knife to kill his son an angel appeared. The angel told Abraham to not kill his son or harm him in any way.
When Abraham looked around he saw a ram that had become entangled and trapped in a bush. Abraham thought this was a sign that God had provided another suitable sacrifice and so the ram was then offered as a brunt offering in Isaacs place.
The moral of the story; if you will, was for Abraham to prove himself to God. Once Abraham proved himself God was pleased and allowed Isaac to live. This biblical event marked an end to human sacrifice for Abraham and the decedents that followed him.
The majority agreed human sacrifice was not what God desired and eventually that spread into a belief that no sacrifice of any living thing; animal or human, was acceptable. In fact, Israel's most respected prophets prohibited it and marked it as an abomination to God.
A cult of sorts did rise up and disagree fully with the belief that live offerings displeased God. These Hebrews continued the ritual of animal offerings until 578 BC when Jerusalem was defeated by the Babylonians.