Vegetarianism and Environmentalism: Tickets to Hell

September 19th, 2010

Some of my favorite posts by Rechelle are those that address religion, particularly those that deal with her conversion from Christianity to atheism. However, I was puzzled to read in a couple of these posts that before her conversion, Rechelle had considered vegetarians and environmentalists members of the hell-bound hordes she felt obligated to pray for. In the course of correspondence with her, I asked about it, and I found her answers quite illuminating. Theorizing that many blog readers appreciate illumination, I’ve decided to post our exchange on this topic. I’ve eliminated most of the irrelevant parts of the correspondence to create a dialogue that is reminiscent of the Socratic dialogues that Plato took such delight in rendering and that still provide endless hours of enjoyment for us today, with Rechelle as the Socrates figure and me as whatever upstart questioner gets put in his place by Socrates in any given dialogue. I think I’m safe in saying that 3,000 years from now, this dialogue will be as highly regarded in academic circles as Plato’s Meno is today, and we’ll be walking around in hell (if we were environmentalists and/or vegetarians when we died) with a feeling of giddy superiority because we were familiar with it before the rest of the world cottoned onto its brilliance.

Before you delve into the exchange below, a little background information might be helpful: we had been speaking of vegetarian cooking.

CHARLES: Speaking of vegetarian cooking, I notice that in a recent post you say that you used to pray for people dabbling in (among other things) vegetarianism and environmentalism, and I know that you mentioned vegetarians in another post (I’m pretty sure it was your apology post). How are vegetarianism and environmentalism at odds with Christianity?

RECHELLE: Clearly.  Vegetarians and environmentalists are headed to hell because they are liberal!!  Here is the deal.  God is coming back (the Jesus God) and when he does there is going to be all sorts of wars and rumors of wars and then some people will get raptured and some won’t and a remnant will get left behind and then there will be beasts with horns and one of those horns is Israel and then the desert will bloom and Jesus will appear in the sky with a three headed harlot which is actually either Iran or Saudi Arabia and at some point there is a burning coal getting pushed on someone’s lips and four horses and one of those horses is the color of ashes and then the world explodes!

But don’t worry!

Because there is a new heaven and a NEW earth that comes down and it is even better because only Christians live there!  So it is a complete waste to be an environmentalist if there is going to be a new earth anyway and only people who don’t believe the bible and don’t believe the new earth would be environmentalists!

As to vegetarians – well they don’t accept the natural order as God ordained.  Which is that all creatures are subject to man because God said so.  So if they are subject to us, we can eat them and people who don’t eat them don’t accept that God put people in charge so they too are miscreants and wholly deserving of the fires of hell.

Sorry about that vegetarian/environmentalism/going to hell/thing.  But I didn’t say it.  God did.

CHARLES: Thanks for explaining God’s views on environmentalism and vegetarianism, but there are still some points that need clarification. Even if you do believe there will be a new earth, what’s wrong with taking steps to keep the old one livable as long as it exists? If one’s plan was to demolish one’s house in three years and then build a new one, wouldn’t most people keep the house they were going to occupy for the next three years clean and in fairly good repair? I suppose the repairs would fall off as the demolition date approached, but is it a requirement to believe that the earth switch will happen soon in order to avoid the fires of hell? I know the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that a prophesied battle in heaven took place in 1914 and that all the Revelationy type stuff will happen before everyone who was alive in 1914 is dead, and I know that other people have believed for hundreds of years that the rapture would happen any day now, but I didn’t think that was a universal Christian belief. Is there anything in the Bible that says it can’t take another 500 years for these things to happen?

With regard to vegetarianism, is there any reason that a guy can’t be benevolent to his subjects by declining to eat them even though he firmly believes that he has God-given dominion over them? Must he eat them just because he can in order to avoid being roasted for all eternity himself?

RECHELLE:

1.  It is clear from the get go in Genesis (which means after all – the beginning) that God wants us to eat meat and also just to sacrifice an animal and burn it occasionally because of the pleasing aroma that rises in the smoke up towards the heavens where God lives and this puts God in a better mood so that he doesn’t infest your tribe with oozing boils. This accounts for the 99% of Evangelicals who like to grill their burgers as opposed to microwaving them.   Also – if God didn’t want people to eat meat (and lots of it) then why did he command (in one of the less popular versions of the 10 commandments) not to boil the baby animal in its mother’s milk?  Clearly, it’s not only okay to boil the baby animal, but we are commanded to!  Just not in its mother’s milk.  And then you are supposed to eat it.  This is why Jews refuse to eat burritos.  Because of the cheese and the meat being all smooshed deliciously together inside that white flour tortilla.  Even though most burritos are not at all boiled, they are certainly milk and certainly meat and this is terrifying because one never knows if that cheese came from the mother of that meat.  Of course Christians long abandoned the whole meat/cheese thing because one time a long, long time ago, shortly after the burrito was invented, Christians decided to make the body and blood of Jesus more valuable than the obeying of the ten commandments which includes the baby animal boiled in its mother’s milk being off limits.  So now Christians eat the bloody corpse of Christ and then, after church, they go home and feast on a beefy cheesy burrito and don’t even feel an ounce of guilt for totally disobeying God’s holy word.

2.  Are you completely unfamiliar with the story of Cain and Abel Charles?  In this wise tale, Abel offers God a burnt animal as a sacrifice, but Cain only piles up some vegetables from his garden.  And which sacrifice does God accept?  The liberal democrat/possibly anarchist vegetarian/organic/farmer Cain or the far right winger Republican meat eating/herdsman animal sacrifice Abel?  That’s right!  God accepts Abel’s sacrifice!  And this so enrages Cain that he murders his brother Abel and then in one of the most poetic moments in the entire bible – Abel’s blood ‘cries up from the ground’ and God rushes down to see what the heck is going on.  He seeks out Cain and asks him where Abel is and then Cain says the second most poetic line in the bible, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and then God puts a mark on Cain and at some point in history this ‘mark’ came to be thought of as black or dark skin which greatly helped to enable white skinned people to enslave darker skinned people with far less guilt.  Plus the bible is at best ambiguous on slavery and at worst downright supportive of it, allowing generation after generation of white people to enslave generations of darker skinned people.  Because if Cain was cursed with the mark of dark skin everyone knows that the bible says that God causes the sins of the forefathers to visit the children and grandchildren for generations to come.  And this from a God who loves us SO MUCH that he murdered his son for us so that we could spend eternity sidled up next to the sociopathic bastard!  Lucky us!

3.  As to environmentalism Charles – While every Christian knows (from the pennies, nickels and dimes gathered in the church nursery every Sunday to the ancient elders of the church that are just about to croak and have willed large portions of their earthly fortunes to the church) that the only thing more important than money – is God.  Making changes in industry to make our country more environmentally sound will cost money Charles.  That money should be going to God instead who will magically clean up our country when we all start acting more holy.

You make a good point about taking care of a house that is scheduled to be torn down.  It’s too bad that you didn’t write the bible Charles.  Perhaps you should write a version of your own.  Thomas Jefferson did just that – removing all the things that he considered to be utterly ridiculous such as the miracles of Jesus, the virgin birth and even the resurrection!  It’s no wonder that Cynthia Dunbar of the Texas State School board wanted him removed from US history public school curriculum!  Ultimately Charles, what you fail to understand about Christianity is that the desire to please a deity has nothing to do with common sense or intelligent decision making.  Faith in any type of superstition never fails to holds one’s brain hostage.

4.  Amen.

CHARLES: I can’t dispute that there is ample biblical evidence that God prefers meat to vegetables, but I know of no directive that says we must imitate God’s tastes or temperament. If there were such a directive, we’d all go around becoming enraged when people failed to worship us properly and committing all manner of murder and mayhem at the slightest provocation. Instead, Christianity prevents us from walking across the street and killing our neighbors.

It’s great to feel needed to provide pleasant interludes for God in the form of the wafting aroma of burning flesh, but it’s curious that he didn’t just create some sort of machine that would gather animals whose flesh smells good when it’s burning and push them into a pit of fire one by one so that the aroma would be constant and always at the perfect strength, or an animal whose flesh just naturally burns constantly, or an animal that gives off pleasant fumes even when its flesh isn’t burning, instead of creating a bunch of people who seem to do little but send his divine blood pressure through the roof and expect them to take care of his needs in this area.

Your explanation of why environmentalism is frowned upon in Christian circles makes sense, but I still can’t see the biblical basis for this frownage, apart from the new earth thing, which may not happen for another 80,000 years.

I’ve always wondered why Thomas Jefferson bothered with the Bible at all. Did he think there was some divinely inspired stuff in there among the numerous parts he considered patently ridiculous? If so, why did he think that?

RECHELLE: Well – there may not be a directive, but isn’t it implied?  According to the bible we are supposedly ‘made in God’s image’ and therefore very like God ourselves.  No one really knows what the heck that means.  Does God have arms and legs?  Does God physically look like us?  Or are we alike in a more psychological image or perhaps an emotional image?  In terms of meat eating it seems clear that if God prefers meat, we should as well just because we are (according to the bible) made to be like God.

I am happy to admit however, that it was never taught to me that vegetarianism was intrinsically evil.  It was implied that it belonged within a subset of values that were liberal and therefore far more likely to decrode my faith, but I didn’t pick up those vibes until I was a teenager.  Also, vegetarians were very rare in my childhood.  In fact, I only knew of one and she was a friend of my grandmother Edna’s.  One time I went out to her farm with my grandmother and this vegetarian friend (who was vegetarian because of her religion which I can’t remember what it was, but I think it was some form of Christianity) was making some soup.  The soup was full of vegetables and texturized vegetable protein.  I tasted it.  It was terrible.  It was the worst soup I had ever encountered in my life except for maybe this particularly horrible soup that I used to eat in a cafeteria as a child when I was waiting for my mom to get off her lunch-time shift at the Vo Tech school.  That soup came out of huge industrial sized cans and it was heated up and placed in a stainless steel pot in the Vo-Tech Buffet line.  It tasted like the industrial can with a dash of cat barf and leaf decay.  The smell was so bad that it was actually kind of addictive – kind of arresting – you couldn’t turn your nose away from it.

So when I say that vegetarians and environmentalists were on my list of ‘dangerous people to avoid and pray extra hard for’ it simply means that they typically belonged to a subset that was considered dangerous and subversive (read -  made you think critically about things) and therefore it was best to maintain a healthy distance from these types of folks.  As you may note Charles, I was not very good about staying away from dangerous and subversive people like vegetarians and environmentalists.  In fact, I was always very drawn to them.  That is how I met Susie and eventually, you Charles.  You both played a role in opening my mind to the possibility of a world where Christianity was just one more myth in an ark full of myths that have plagued humanity.  And you also fed me some very good vegetarian cuisine such as Susie’s peanut butter balls.

CHARLES: I think I now get the concept of the danger in associating with environmentalists and vegetarians, and I can see now that you lived for danger in your Lawrence days, always eager to dance on any precipice you happened upon. I remember you as refusing to budge from your particular faith but being oddly open-minded about faith in general. I remember conversing with you about whether one could make oneself believe a thing one didn’t believe; I didn’t think so, and you agreed, which surprised me. But I wasn’t as surprised as I might have been had you chosen the story of Elisha and the she-bears as the Old Testament reading for your wedding like I recommended. Even though I was disappointed on that score, though, I’m happy to have had a role in laying the groundwork for your epiphany.

RECHELLE: Believe it or not your suggestion of using the she-bear story at my wedding must have stayed lodged in the back of my mind somewhere, because a few years later when Mike’s brother ‘The Oracle Known as Steve’ got married, I got my husband to read that story at Steve’s wedding reception.  Everyone was giving speeches, and when was Mike’s turn, he stood up, took off his tuxedo jacket to reveal that he was wearing a bra over his tuxedo shirt (a bra that the bride had lost earlier that day) and then he read aloud the immortal story of Elisha commanding a she-bear to murder a hoard of children who were calling him ‘baldy’ over and over again.

It was absolutely shocking and no one really understood what he was doing.  But I did.  And I thought it was GENIUS!

Comments

  • Martha in Kansas:

    Thank you, Charles. That was kind of enlightening and kind of funny. It did make me think. I was wondering how Rechelle clung to those beliefs for so long, and wondering at how tenacious she is, or seems to be. I was also wondering (and here’s a question for you), when God goes to Kohl’s (because, don’t we all?) for some new underwear and Adidas, does he buzz by the house-ware dept to see if they have some of those reed diffusers in his favorite scent? Which would be burning flesh. And while we’re imagining God (I’m capitalizing that as a given name, ok?) living just like us (or us living like God?), does he ever buy furniture or maybe a nice room divider from IKEA?

  • You so smart. You make me want to burn an effigy of my so stupid self.

  • I bet God would like those meatballs they have in the cafe at IKEA. I hear they are really good. I wonder if God shops at Trader Joe’s? Maybe I will get to see God when the open up the Trader Joe’s stores here in KC.

    You and Rechelle are almost too smart for me, Dear Charles!

  • km:

    Rechelle and Charles,
    Just as Rechelle only met one vegetarian in her life, my Euro beginnings and East Coast immigration has kept me so far away from this evangelical thought process. I am intrigued and appalled, and suddenly the past couple of presidential elections and the candidates rallies all make sense.
    The mark of Cain and minorities, the harlot and Middle Easterners …oh, my goodness. Environmentalists and Vegetarians even. The restrictiveness of it all is almost inducing a panic attack.
    The choice to eat veggies over meat………..Good luck with hanging onto Roe vs. Wade.
    I think I understand the Palin /O’Donnell and even GW phenomenon now.

    PS. Kelley, LOVE Trader Joe’s. Best snacks ever!

  • Tracy:

    “…when was Mike’s turn, he stood up, took off his tuxedo jacket to reveal that he was wearing a bra over his tuxedo shirt (a bra that the bride had lost earlier that day)… ”

    I think we need more information about this. Why had the bride lost a bra on her wedding day? We may also need a picture, just to help clarify things.

    • Kay in KCMO:

      Yes. As we say on a particular message board – This Thread is Worthless Without Pictures!

  • susan:

    Clearly I abandoned my Baptist indoctrination from the 50′s – 60′s some time ago so it is more difficult to recall all the biblisms and doctrine bs. Bottom line that made me think was the total hypocrisy that abounds in the Christian faith. Do unto others as long as they believe as they do and that everyone is going to hell if they dont believe in Jesus. My logical side always said b.s.

    By the way…that is so cool that Mike did that. Incidents like that which you embraced and got, are easily forgotten when troubles arise and you are trudging up 300 stairs in Wyoming or feeling embittered while in Europe. But that is human nature isnt it?

  • amy:

    Thank you for the laugh, Charles (and Rechelle). One of my favorite pastimes now is ridiculing my old evangelical belief system. Crazy how clear my thinking became once I discarded the crap! I’m not yet a vegetarian but I do recycle :)