Christianity does not support vegetarianism and hence it is not possible to promote vegetarian diet using Christian religion. I know there would be a lot of vegetarian Christians out there who would protest, but then they are in a minority. Even they do not know what their number is. This theme will be read a lot of times in this article – if Christians believe that their religions supports vegetarianism then why is it that there are so few Christian vegetarians? If you would like to prove me wrong, then please turn into vegetarians!!!
Else, believe me that Christian philosophy and vegetarianism are at the two ends of the universe.
Would Jesus be a Vegetarian?
I recently read in an online post titled “What would Jesus Eat…Today” that “we believe that, if Jesus were among us today and witnessed the wastefulness, environmental destructiveness, human health hazards, and animal mistreatment inherent in modern animal agriculture’s methods, he would choose to abstain.”
If Christians really believed that, then the percentage of vegetarians amongst them would have been far greater than the measly 4-5 percent that it currently is. And this number is also my guesstimate on the higher side. I tried to find the percentage of Christians that are vegetarians but did not get any authoritative estimate anywhere. The nearest that I could get was from Vegetarian Resource Group’s website which quotes from US Census of 2000 that 2.8% of Americans are estimated to be vegetarian, that is they never eat meat, poultry and fish/seafood. Now it is quite possible that out of the 2.8% mentioned here not all are Christians. However even if I assume at least 2.5% are Christians and if the worldwide Christian vegetarians are twice the number of American Christians, the total number of Christian Vegetarians does nor exceed 5%.
Bible and Vegetarianism
I also read in a few places that the Bible depicts vegetarianism as an ideal, with a peaceful, vegetarian world at the Creation and at the end of time. I am certain that at the time of the creation the human beings were vegetarian and that is a subject of one of my future posts under the positive reasons to be a vegetarian. And I am also certain that before the creation ends, humans if alive would again be vegetarian – again subject of an article in the future under the positive reasons for being a vegetarian.
The fact that Bible depicts vegetarianism as an ideal is similar to the vegetarianism being promoted in Hindu scriptures – enlightened people ahead of their times advising masses to be vegetarians. That however does not mean that the religion itself promotes vegetarian diet. Amongst Hindus at least 30 percent are vegetarians. If Christianity indeed promoted vegetarian habit, the number of vegetarian Christians would not have been so low – especially when Christian religion is far more organized than Hinduism.
Christian thought and Vegetarian Lifestyle
I think some of the following facts also give Christians enough reason to eat meat:
- Genesis 9:2-4 describes God giving Noah permission to eat meat. Christian vegetarians state that this may have been because all plants were destroyed by the Flood. Again, I disagree. God could have created enough plants in no time if he really wanted people not to eat animals. But he did not. So it would mean that God has no problem with us humans eating animals. I have not read this as an argument, it is my own. And that is why I say that religion is not the reason why you should give up eating meat.
- Jesus says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God…. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7). This passage relates that God values humans more than animals. A vegetarian would say that God remains concerned about all creatures and has compassion for animals, and allow them to live full and normal lives, without equating human and animal life. It is that last bit which gives the non-vegetarian enough leeway to consume animals. After all God does not equate animals to humans, and therefore it is all right to eat them.
- The issue of sacrifice of animals is a widely debated issue among Christians. It is believed that God accepted sacrifices at an earlier and more primitive time, but that sacrifices are neither required nor desired now, since Jesus’ death atoned for our sins in a very final way. I have read that several prophets, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Amos, and Hosea, objected to sacrifice, often emphasizing that God prefers righteousness. Vegetarian Christians would go to the extent of saying that Jesus chose to sacrifice himself to fulfill God’s will. And therefore for a meat eater what better argument in favour of killing and eating animals – if God can accept a human as sacrifice (who was actually his own son) then what is the status of animals?
- Luke 24:43 relates that Jesus ate fish. That’s would mean that Jesus himself was a non-vegetarian. If Christ can eat meat, surely the ordinary mortals can. Many Christian vegetarians would argue that if Jesus lived today, he would be a vegetarian. Again as I said, I disagree. It is their desire that is stating this. Most Christians do not think so. Else they all would be vegetarians.
- Peter is instructed to “kill and eat” all creatures (Acts 10:13, 11:7).
- Timothy 4:4 says, “Everything created by God is good”? This is seized by meat eaters to argue that God created animals for us to eat.
- Paul also condoned meat-eating nearly 2000 years ago in 1 Corinthians 10:25. There are many such examples that illustrate that vegetarianism was not top of the agenda.
- A majority of Christian saints and leaders have eaten meat and kept humans as slaves. A vegetarian Christian might argue that just because they acted badly in some respects does not mean that we should follow them in these respects. Good intent, but bad argument. Especially when you want us to follows them in all other respects.
This is why I keep saying religion and vegetarianism are not on the same side of the divide. Religion is a negative reason for being a vegetarian.
In my next post we will try and see what is the stand of Islam on being a vegetarian – Is vegetarian food halal or haram?