Blood Atonement — Not Just a Mormon Thing

Yesterday the State of Utah executed Ronnie Lee Gardner using a firing squad.  Why is Utah the only state that offers prisoners the option of a firing squad, which obviously results in lots of blood?

Although I have heard some rationalizations given by Utah officials that it is “faster and more humane” than other methods (which may in fact be true), the answer can be found in Mormon doctrine.  There apparently are some sins (such as murder) which the Mormon God can only forgive if the sinner sheds blood, as explained in this fascinating article in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Blood sacrifice is of course a component of many religions, though most of the faithful find it prudent to use blood other than their own — usually a person captured in battle, a prisoner, a virgin, or an animal.  This was not the case, however, for the Mayans.

Mayan kings and queens regularly spilled their own blood, in highly public and gruesome rituals, as a sacrifice to the gods.  For reasons presumably having to do with fertility, Mayan kings would often pierce their genitalia using stingray barbs.  Ouch.

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