Sacrificial altar in Petra, Jordan. Although used for animal sacrifices, there is some evidence of human sacrifice at that site as well.
For a man with neither Hell nor God,
You fear them, so.
I imagine, in the midst of all this,
Hauling the carcass to a battered stone:
The first sacrifice to a God, unnamed
And therefore beyond invocation.
Pleading for direction – whether right or wrong –
Seeking the word, to call it, choke it out
As barren and naked then as any man,
As barren as the sands. And I feel,
I know, that all our Sunday prayers
Are the same indictment of the self, the same
Confession, in any word or tongue,
To an unnamed sun in that lost wasteland.
So you stand in the sands, dagger in hand
Desperate for blood to bring rains:
You have no name, for the merciless sun.
And you, a man with neither Hell nor God
To name, still fear them, so.
I know many atheists or agnostics who have a tremendous fear inside them when confronted with eternity. It’s unsurprising, given the enormity and complexity of the universe, and the absolute uncertainty of its destination. You need no God to be awed by this. They very eloquently explain their fascination with the mysteries of a purely material existence. Even so, we don’t truly have words to describe it.
But it does make me wonder, whether in pre-historic cultures – or even before “culture” itself – there was ever a God to be invoked. Was there ever a Name, or a Word; to whom did they first call for salvation; who told them, there was a God?