In our world, we consider human life to be precious and valuable. It is meant to be preserved, and a deliberate act of taking a life is considered deplorable by society. This is considered normal. The people of this setting also consider life to be valuable, as it was given to them by God. As it is precious, human life is the only thing worthy of being sacrificed.
This continent is controlled by a theocracy that promotes a culture of self sacrifice. God demands tribute from his people, and being sacrificed to him is the highest honor one can achieve. However, only a select few are worthy of such honor. Slaves, the destitute, and average people are not applicants for this. The gods want those of merit, who have achieved great things and made many contributions to their society. Warriors, scientists, top athletes, etc. These are considered the best of the best, and are the people who the gods look to for this prestige. During this sacrificial ritual, the individual is killed and their soul is offered to the heavens, where they will be reincarnated in the god realm and become deities.
The religion demands for society to kill of its best people routinely. This makes it hard for it to advance technologically. It also may serve as a deterrent for people who want to achieve great things. I need this to be a culturally viable long term model. How can this society advance as a civilization while it sacrifices it's best and brightest?