“Religions are always promoting hope and love, but their deep, underlying structure is cruelty. This is why they are drawn to fantasies of retribution and why they inevitably stir up anxiety among their adherents. The quintessential emblem of religion – and the clearest manifestation of the perversity that lies at its core – is the sacrifice of a child by a parent.
Almost all religious faiths incorporate the myth of such a sacrifice, and some have actually made it real. Lucretius had in mind the sacrifice of Iphigenia by her father Agamemnon, but he may also have been aware of the Jewish story of Abraham and Isaac and other comparable Near Eastern stories for which the Romans of his times had a growing taste. Writing around 50 BCE he could not, of course, have anticipated the great sacrifice myth that would come to dominate the Western world, but he would not have been surprised by it or by the endlessly reiterated, prominently displayed images of the bloody, murdered son.”
– from The Swerve a new book by Stephen Greenblatt about Lucretius’s poem On the Nature of Things and the 13th century humanist and book hunter, Poggio Bracciolini, who reinjected Lucretius’s subversive poem into the bloodstream of the Western world as an antidote againt the feverish tyrany of the church.