On Atheism and Veganism, Part Deux
"On Atheism and Veganism" created what was for the most part a respectful, interesting discussion that brought up a couple of items I'd like to clarify or explore.
First off, I began the post with, "For me, atheism and veganism go hand-in-hand." I went on to explain why that is and my penultimate sentence was, "I see these counter-culture positions as parallel and based on the same evolution of thought and deconstruction of the stories of childhood."
I never stated a belief that atheism and veganism are actually connected in some way that many people are missing. Yet, for instance, the twittosphere was full of childish comments and ridicule in that direction. Again, I was making a personal observation about the evolution of my own thought process and asking if anyone else saw things similarly. And I thank everyone who read those words, treated them respectfully, and responded accordingly.
Next I'd like to acknowledge the Norm Phelps article Gingerlks (thanks!) linked to that you may have seen called "Why the Animals Need Religion." Phelps writes:
If the abolitionists had thrown up their hands in disgust at the level of support for slavery in White churches and condemned religion, they would have sabotaged their own cause by alienating almost the entirety of the American public. If we throw up our hands in disgust at the level of support for animal abuse in America’s churches and synagogues, we will set back the animals’ cause by at least a generation and probably more. Like the old abolitionists, we must convert the churches, not write them off.
I don't disagree with that, but I also don't advocate for atheism when I advocate for veganism. If I'm speaking with an atheist I might use my personal thought process in my vegan advocacy, but if someone wants to believe there is a god, and that belief is helpful to them, and they're not hurting anyone because of that belief, I have no problem with that. When it comes to believers, I agree with Phelps that all religious traditions have some kind of basis for mercy or compassion or relieving suffering that we can use in our advocacy. They might not have a rights position, but we use what we have. I say I don't mind someone's belief in a god if "they're not hurting anyone," but in my mind they are and I explore that notion with them in my advocacy.
Finally, and this will be an entire post someday, there are the people, many of whom I am surrounded by, who subscribe to some kind of Eastern tradition, and probably who have a living guru whom they "follow," and who eat animals. These folks hold that their spirituality includes the recognition that all sentient beings are part of the same larger "consciousness" of the Universe, and that we humans are no better than any other animal.
Ask them what they had for breakfast.
Far more than any Judeo-Christian tradition, these individuals whose lives are governed by karma, choose to have someone create and kill animals for them to eat. And that is something I just don't understand. But in my vegan advocacy that's the perfect place to begin (or end).
In other words, I don't talk about veganism and atheism to anyone but atheists. Just like I talk about karma and veganism with people who have allowed the idea of karma to rule their lives. And I talk about doing unto others to people who like to believe they live by The Golden Rule.
We do need to reach religious people. It would be a tad disingenuous for me to advocate within the Judeo-Christian community as I've never been known to be part of it. But I can and do advocate for animals among "spiritual" types as well as atheists, as I know the language and the practices of those people better than I know that of traditional religious people.
Ninety-nine percent of us are not vegans, so heaven knows there are enough people who need to hear a story that is different from the one they are telling themselves. Most of those people believe in a god or call themselves "spiritual." I am not advocating for trying to change their minds about that, but for using what they believe as a link to why they should consider veganism.