There is, I feel, a tragic aspect to the story of Cain, similar in many ways to the tragedy which surrounded the life of the biblical Moses. Cain renounced the sacrificial underpinnings of religious and cultural life too casually. His ritual innovation was driven by no discernible moral or religious scruple. Lacking that motivation, his renunciation of sacrifice was accompanied by no heightened sense of moral and religious responsibility. To dispense with sacrificial systems without accepting greater moral and religious responsibility is to follow Cain down a dark road that, in the Bible, led in five generations to Lamech, who declares:
I killed a man for wounding me,
a boy for striking me.
Sevenfold vengeance for Cain,
but seventy-sevenfold for Lamech. [Genesis 4:23-24]
The story of Cain shows what the history of the twentieth century shows, namely, that if we dispense with the sacrificial structures upon which religion and culture have for so long depended without at the same time renouncing the mimetic passions that made these structures necessary in the first place, then sooner or later we will become murderers.