After sitting through the Narnia movie, it reminded me that I have a real problem with the notion of sacrifice as demonstrated by Aslan the noble [vegetarian?] lion, who gives himself over to be murdered by the White Witch and her rabble of hideous snot-covered trolls. Sure he goes willingly to his death, which is not going to be fun, but he does it knowing full well that he will return; in effect he is simply exchanging a rather unpleasant and painful experience for a higher state of being. He knows he will be resurrected, stronger and purer than ever. It sounds more like a bargain than a sacrifice to me.
Show me someone who would give their life up for a friend or a cause even when they see nothing but oblivion waiting for them and I will be impressed. I think the Christian story would be a much more powerful one if Jesus had accepted total destruction (or perhaps eternal exile) so that we mere mortals might live on in the hereafter… rather than just experiencing the worst of our hospitality (after a life of being mostly revered) and then returning to sit at his father’s right hand and rule over heaven until the end of days. It makes the whole “so loved the world that he gave his only son” thing seem totally melodramatic; it would be more correct to say “so liked the world that he lent his only son.”