Many things separate humans from all other animal life on Earth. One difference involves cannibalism. Scientific research has shown the extent of cannibalism in animals. In the wild, there are countless examples of animals eating their own offspring, the offspring of others, or even a mate. Cannibalism is an easy way to get food, and among predators, nearly all animals who are carnivores sometimes practice cannibalism.
Population density is a significant factor leading to cannibalism in animals. Also, a sick animal unable to get food in the usual way will frequently resort to cannibalism. Some animals will eat other animals’ young to avoid their offspring having to compete for food. Animals such as bears and lions will kill and eat their offspring to stimulate the females into early estrus. Many reproductive issues are involved in animal cannibalism.
Why do some tribal groups practice human cannibalism? The answer is almost never because of food shortages which often lead to cannibalism in animals. However, there is one biblical case where hunger led to cannibalism. Second Kings 6:24-29 tells about a war that caused famine in Samaria, leading two women to agree that they would boil their two sons and eat them. The first woman’s son was cooked and eaten, but the second woman hid her son. The response of the King when he hears of this shows that it was not an accepted practice.
There are cases where people in extreme duress have eaten human flesh. However, human cannibalism practiced in jungle civilizations involves religious reasons, not the desire for humans as food. Instead, they would eat an enemy’s brain to gain their knowledge or their body to gain their strength.
It isn’t just our culture that finds human cannibalism repulsive. Christianity teaches that the human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). Our Christian heritage has taught us that human life and the temple in which it resides are special and sacred.
Jesus told His followers to love their enemies. The Greek word “love” here is “agape,” which means “to consider of enormous value.” Our enemies are still unique with eternal souls, making them of incredible worth. This is far from the atheist philosophy of “survival of the fittest.” Killing a human is contrary to all that Jesus uniquely taught. As society drifts away from Christ and His teachings, spiritual cannibalism takes over, leading to war, suffering, and perhaps even physical cannibalism.
— John N. Clayton © 2022
Reference: Scientific American November 2022, page 19