A sacred cow is an idea, object, person, or other thing considered so sacred or valuable to a person or group that it is considered immune from criticism, or (more commonly) criticism is considered morally reprehensible in and of itself.
Sacred cows can be identified by the disproportionate personal attacks and/or censorship elicited by criticism.
Examples of contemporary sacred cows include:
- Evolution among evolutionists;
- Global warming among environmentalists;
- Atatürk among Turks;
- Muhammad among Muslims;
- Atheism and mass murder among atheists;
- The place of birth of Barack Hussein Obama among Democrats;
- Abortion and breast cancer link amongst pro-choicers;
- Liberalism among liberals
The term comes from belief in Hindu (and other ancient religions) that cows are holy, and must therefore not be eaten or otherwise harmed. In Hinduism, cows are believed to be reincarnated humans; therefore, Hindus do not eat beef or kill cows and they are left to wander aimlessly through city streets and across busy roads. Similarly, many other ancient religions (such as Zoroastrianism) woshipped cows, and the Israelites created a Golden calf to worship in the wilderness.
- The New York Herald, March 1890: "While the great ditch may be regarded as one of the commercial diversities of the commonwealth, to worship it as a sort of sacred cow is not necessarily a work of true statesmanship."
- The Galveston Daily News, September 1909: "They understand Mr. Bryan's position to be one of antagonism to the contention that raw material is a 'sacred cow,' immune from tariff reform, ever to be upon the dutiable list and in consequence enjoying the blessings of incidental protection."