I've been wondering lately about why we are so deeply affected by stories about religious martyrs.
I'm guessing it goes back to worshipping bronze age gods and deciding to sacrifice a prized calf or first-born daughter in return for a bountiful crop or success in the battlefield. The person willing to sacrifice their child (or themselves) was doing it for the good of the tribe and we learned to treat them as holy figures. Fast forward a few thousand years and people still go weak for the idea of "he died for our sins".
I was thinking about the Mormons yesterday and postulating that one,of the reasons their particular cult survived was because Joseph Smith was assassinated and martyred.