I hate that story and recently I've thought about it. And I concluded that if I were god I would have send Abraham to hell. Just because someone in power told him to do it doesn't mean he should break laws that same someone made. I think it teaches a very wrong thing. We shouldn't follow god as mindless sheep and do what He or worse His 'emissaries' on earth say. There are examples in history that this faith in god and power that those 'emissaries' had have been misused.
You are right Abraham would have been called madman in this age and the people who say that god wouldn't ask for it now I wonder if they think that the god is frighten or considerate of human laws? Considerate probably though I'm not sure then why He wasn't considerate towards Isaak. It must have been a great trauma having been sacrificed to the god by his father.
Could you imagine being dragged up to the altar where you sacrifice sheep, only this time you bring no sheep then your father forces you onto that altar and raises his dagger all while talking to the sky. The entire time his eyes filled with murderous conviction, only for at the last moment he changes his mind. I would never trust the man again. And Christians think this was a good thing.
"I mean, God, who's supposed to be benevolent, just told him to MURDER his own son. Why would he command him to sacrifice any human being to him, let alone his son?"
well, two things:
1) this is Old Testament God we're talking about. he didn't play around.
2) Abraham had faith in God; most generally, that whatever God needed to be done was pretty important and thereby worth the life of whoever he took. Abraham believed in a concept greater than himself and everyone else, and he was prepared to kill accordingly. what's a human life in the face of God?