Questions for Atheists: Why Vegetarianism?

Mike Clawson here again:

Hemant just posted about a column in the Dallas Morning News that advocated the ethical treatment of animals raised for harvest. I’m all for that. However a few of you suggested that it didn’t go far enough in advocating full vegetarianism. This raises a question for me that I’ve wanted to ask for a long time now: leaving off health reasons and environmental sustainability reasons (both of which I think are very good reasons), why would an atheist be a vegetarian? That is, is there any reason for an atheist to ethically object to the idea of killing animals for food.

What I mean is isn’t animals (like human beings) eating other animals simply part of the natural process? Isn’t that how nature functions? Why would it be unethical for us to fulfill our role as omnivores? What is the rationale for concluding that this is morally wrong?

I mean, I understand the Jewish and Christian arguments for vegetarianism based on the Bible, but obviously those wouldn’t be relevant to atheists, so I’m just curious what your reasons are. For those of you here who are atheists and consider it ethically wrong to kill animals for food, why? I’m not saying you’re right or wrong either way. I honestly just want to know.

  • Siamang

    My wife’s an atheist and a vegetarian for reasons of animal empathy.

    Since we ARE animals, we can show empathy for them and their plight. We are no different from them in how we experience pain and fear and love. So if you can get through life just fine and healthy and happy without causing that harm unnecessarily, why do it? Just because your food is a different species of mammal doesn’t mean we should have no empathy for them. We don’t need to eat meat to survive. So then the question becomes: if you feel empathy for animals, and they feel fear and pain just like you do, why add to the tally of pain and suffering in the world just for a cheeseburger?

    I think the reason can be expressed as an emotion. If it pains you to think of the animal dying for your lunch, you probably won’t eat meat. It’s as simple as that.

  • http://jtron.livejournal.com jesse

    Well, there’s the ecological argument for vegetarianism. That combined with a distaste for cruelty, even by proxy, and a love of animals (the cognitive dissonance involved in decrying cruelty to animals while still eating meat is amazing), was enough to make me go vegetarian thirteen years ago.

  • chancelikely

    I agree with Siamang: the only reason I can eat meat is that I can sort of mentally block the steps between cow and hamburger patty.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    So, again just out of curiosity, do you follow the same rationale as your wife Siamang? And if not, why not?

  • Siamang

    And now that I’ve expressed that so well, I think I’m having a salad for lunch.

    I’m not a vegetarian. I probably perform some mental compartmentalization when I eat meat. Or my empathy is underdeveloped.

  • http://blueollie.wordpress.com/ ollie

    Why? Because I DESPISE plants!!! :)

  • http://www.xanga.com/drew85 Drew

    The compartmentalization thing bothers me. I don’t know if this is valid, but I’ve always felt if you wouldn’t go out yourself, at least once in your life, and cause the death of a cow, you shouldn’t eat a hamburger.

    I’m not saying everyone HAS to kill a cow, but if you’re going to eat meat, and you ever find yourself on a tour of a meat plant, and someone asks you to push the button…

    I’m not a vegetarian, and I’ve been to my grandma’s farm and beheaded chickens before. I think I can defend my meat-eatingness, but that’s not what this post is for, so I’ll save it.

  • TheElectricMonk

    I have no problems eating meat, even though I am a naturally incredibly empathetic person. I think this is because I see it as being natural(and I enjoy the energy from all the protein). Never have I felt the need to mentally block anything about the process, making many of my friends uncomfortable, I generally refer to meat as “dead animal”. This isn’t because I’m a sociopath, or numb to the pain the animal may have felt, I simply prefer to call it what it is. Often, I believe due to my Native American Heritage, I will thank the animal for it’s sacrifice, and apologize for it not having a choice in the matter.

  • Mark

    Religion–with its moral universe of souls, karma, and what-have-you– doesn’t enter into it at all. It’s strictly an ethical issue. If you feel that one should avoid bringing about suffering and death, that one has no ethical right to use another, and (the real crux) that other species of animal aren’t exempt from such consideration simply because we deem them to be different or “lesser” in intelligence, then vegetarianism (and indeed a consistent stance against animal cruelty) is the logical and necessary ethical course of action. I’m not saying anything animal-rights proponents haven’t said a million times, of course, but I wanted to emphasize that, for many, reason and compassion dictate these values, not religion and dogma.

  • Milena

    I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m considering it. The reason for this isn’t necessarily a question of animals eating other animals being wrong. I think the process of mass-producing meat and animal by-products is wrong — modifying the animals’ genetics, keeping them cooped up, changing chickens’ perception of the day-night cycle in order to speed up the production of eggs, etc.

  • http://t3knomanser.livejournal.com t3knomanser

    My only reasons for not eating humans is the threat of Crutzfeld Jabobs disease and the fact that they protest a lot. Seriously, they get all pissy about it.

    In all seriousness, I don’t think humans are capable of consciously directing their activities. I’m not convinced in our sense of self or “consciousness” or “thought” (there’s a fine difference between thought and cogitation; all mammals cogitate to lesser or greater extents).

    This doesn’t excuse anti-social behavior, like murder. Sure, you may have a biological predisposition towards violence. But we also have a biological predisposition to take the actor of violence out of our environment to protect us.

    Okay, I’m getting off the track, there’s no need for me to write a thesis on the concept of unconscious morality. The point I’m getting at is this:
    Morality is dictated by the fact that we are social animals, and bind together for mutual survival. We exclude most animals from our society due to their lack of capacity to meet us in our social terms. The exception of course is pets, upon which we project social behaviors that do not exist. And that’s why most folk think it’s okay to eat cows, but not kittens.

    If, as I believe, humans don’t have an individual capacity for thought, vegetarians are a misfiring of our social instincts. The same projection of social roles that are visited on pets are extended to livestock.

    I wouldn’t extend this towards people who oppose meat for environmental reasons. It’s an expensive way to collect energy for our biology, and it carries an environmental cost that’s a threat to society itself. Hence, it’s entirely explicable to oppose meat on this ground within the framework of unconscious morality.

    Myself? I won’t trust anyone that doesn’t eat bacon. There’s something wrong with bacon-abstainers.

  • Mark

    Religion (with its moral universe of souls, karma, and what-have-you) doesn’t enter into it at all. It’s strictly an ethical issue. If you feel that one should avoid bringing about suffering and death, that one has no ethical right to use another, and (the real crux) that other species of animal aren’t exempt from such consideration simply because we deem them to be different or “lesser” in intelligence, then vegetarianism (and indeed a consistent stance against animal cruelty) is the logical and necessary ethical course of action. I’m not saying anything animal-rights proponents haven’t said a million times, of course, but I wanted to emphasize that, for many, reason and compassion dictate these values, not religion and dogma.

  • Cade

    why would an atheist be a vegetarian?

    I think that atheists and theists alike become vegetarians for the same reasons. Previous posters already said it’s because of empathy for animals. Your distinction between atheist/theist vegetarianism confuses me a little.

    Now, I’m not a vegetarian because meat tastes too good. I guess I’m just selfish like that. :S
    (although I’d prefer a human baby. Or a fetus. Mmmmmmm, fetus)

  • http://groundedinreality.blogspot.com Bruce

    We don’t need to eat meat to survive.

    First, I am not a vegetarian. But I totally sympathize with the mistreatment of animals in the food industry and would love to see a more humane system in place everywhere. But do I consider the killing of an animal for food to be inhumane? NO, not if it is done in a humane manner. Just as I don’t think there is an afterlife for humans, I also think that once animals are dead, they cease to exist. So treat them well why they are living to avoid suffering, but their death is not suffering for them anymore than it is for us.

    Now on to the quote. I’m not sure I entirely agree. If you look back through history, many peoples depended almost entirely upon a specific animal or two for their survival. Take for instance the Native Americans and the buffalo. Just like some animals act as prey for others, I don’t know why the same can’t apply for humans and animals? The problem is that we humans think we are so smart that we can alter the natural relationship between ourselves and our prey. Instead of eating the occasional meat dinner, we think we need to eat meat at every meal. And we want it to be cheap, even if the costs of raising all that meat is destroying the environment. To me, that is the real problem, over-exploiting the natural relationship between humans and animals.

  • Lucas

    I don’t think that it is unethical to eat meat, and I think there is validity to the ‘natural order’ argument that you mention in the post. Just because it’s not unethical and wrong to eat meat doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of reasons not to though, or that you should based solely on the fact that you’re an omnivore. It’s also possible to still have empathy for animals and eat meat.

    The reason I’m an atheist is because I don’t see convincing evidence that any religion isn’t just a man made fabrication, but the reason I like being an atheist is that the responsibility for my actions truly rests on me and not some higher being that I can cop out to and say “this is all his plan” or “he gave me dominion over animals”. So when you ask “what is the rationale for concluding that this is morally wrong”, I don’t think that it necessarily has to be a hard drawn line in the sand that says it is. I think that as a person who’s already demonstrated that they prefer to make their own decisions based on what they’ve learned, atheists would be less likely to feel the need to refer to a rationale outside of themselves in the case of why they shouldn’t kill something.

    Atheists have already demonstrated that they don’t need the ten commandments to tell them that murder is wrong. I think that in the case of vegetarianism, they’re fine just saying that they’ve decided not to kill animals for food.

    I think it’s pretty rare that someone needs to defend their choice to not kill something.

  • http://blackskeptic.wordpress.com blackskeptic

    I don’t think that it’s about being an atheist – it’s just about having any form of compassion. It’s one thing when animals are hunted, and eaten, but it’s another thing when they’re raised in windowless crates and pumped full of steroids for growth for our consumption. Animals have feelings, and suffer also. They fear dying. It’s not like they’re robots.

    Plus, I didn’t know that the bible endorsed vegetarianism. I thought that pork and shellfish were no nos, but that as long as one gave thanks for their food, then it’s all gravy because god supposedly put all of it on earth for human consumption. Hemant also made a post with quotes from the bible about how “vegetarians are pussys.” (Yes, I know it’s ies, but that’s what the post had).

    And I watched a video about how since humans only have two canines, we’re not meant to be meat eaters. I’m not necessarily taking it’s word, but I do find that interesting. So in short, I think that eating meat is cruel (not b/c it’s against our nature, but because of how the animals are raised and treated).

  • Goddamn Chicken

    Why should we force any omnivore to eat vegetables? If evolution gives us the ability to eat meat, then if considered alone, there should be no reason not to eat meat. There is no such thing as good and evil in nature. Survival is the reason that drives life.

    However, evolution has also given humans the ability to be empathic to other people and sometimes other animals. Every individual has different degree of empathy towards non-human animals. This is the beauty of the diversity of personalities. Hence, i believe it’s really up to the individual.

    But, we also have an analytical brain that can grasp complex and abstract concepts, like environmental damage, overpopulation, overconsumption, extinction and disease. Hence, further (non-moral) reason to be vegetarian.

    In fact, there is absolutely no reason why our race can develop artifical ways to produce meat in the future. We have the intelligence. In theory, there could be a future where humans have wiped out all large animals on the planet and still survive. But do we want this future?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Your distinction between atheist/theist vegetarianism confuses me a little.

    To clarify, since many atheists tend to say that science is the only legitimate way of knowing anything about our world, and since science would tell us that there is nothing unnatural about animals eating other animals, I wasn’t sure of the reasoning for saying that it is still morally wrong.

    So as a follow-up question, would most of you say that reasons like empathy and compassion are scientific rationales for not eating meat? Again, just curious.

  • Chas

    Although I can understand an empathic argument, he’s asking for a moral one. I can’t think of one in the terms one the goes very far without breaking down. You can’t give all animals the same rights and expectations that humans have because you would draw the line somewhere (cute calf to mosquito). In a “natural setting,” some animals are the prey of others, do they have different expectations of their life and how they are treated because of it?

    I believe passionately that for environmental reasons (less so for health) that we should reduce our food production footprint which means drastically limiting all meat intake, and can make the sustainable (and from there a moral one) argument form that point.

    It’s an interesting problem. Looking forward to smarter people replies.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    But, we also have an analytical brain that can grasp complex and abstract concepts, like environmental damage, overpopulation, overconsumption, extinction and disease. Hence, further (non-moral) reason to be vegetarian.

    Why are those “non-moral” reasons? The things you mention seem to get to the heart of morality for me, i.e. how our actions affect others.

  • Jen

    Hi Mike! As an atheist vegetarian (or vegetarian atheist) I gave up eating meat after Easter dinner in the 8th grade. In all honesty, I tend to live my life going whim to whim, and for me, vegetarianism was something where I woke one morning and decided to become one. My mother hated it, and made me promise to read up on nutrition and learn to cook (oops…). In my research, I have found many things I dislike about eating animals:

    1. The inhumane treatment of animals- overcrowded conditions, and painful slaughter, oh, and cannibalism, which is gross (often, they feed chickens dead chicks ground up in their feed…). I think it goes back to the question: “It’s not ‘can they think?’ or ‘can they reason?’ but ‘can they suffer?’” For me, I want to minimize the amount of suffering that happens in the world. For me, that does not stop at vegetarianism, but I think it is a good start.

    2. Starvation in the world- a meat-filled diet generally uses more resources than a plant-based one. For instance, it takes 16 pounds of grain to make one pound of beef, which is wasteful- why not just eat those 16 pounds of wheat? Also, adult cows drink enough water (which is a scarce resource, really, and something we are going to have wars over before I die) to float the Queen Elizabeth II ship. That is ridiculous. Now, I am not necessarily saying that if all of America were to switch over to vegetarianism tomorrow, that the resources would be properly allocated all over the world so that no one would starve again. But again, its a start.

    3. Other environmental issues- from farting animals causing ozone problems to destruction of South American rain forests for grazing land, meat eating is terrible for the environment.

    4. Americans eat too much protein anyway. Certainly there are some unhealthy vegetarians and some meat eaters with fantastic diets, but generally it is easier to eat healthier diets when you move away from a meat-based meal ideal.

    Why would it be unethical for us to fulfill our role as omnivores?

    Just because our ancestors did something doesn’t mean we have to. One thing to consider is that anthropologists are now leaning away from the popular idea that men in prehistory were fighting wooly mammoths to make their meal. Likely the diets of pre-historical people were much more gathering-based than hunt based. Also, is it unethical to shop at a store instead of growing it all on my own, or catching my own turkey for dinner? If we are going to act pre-historic, let’s go all that way (by the by, you are going to have to worship some older gods now).

  • Becky

    Just had to weigh in, I’m honestly a vegetarian simply for health reasons. I like to cut out the animal fats and it makes me open up more to healthy foods. I grew up eating nothing but junk food, and still at 24 rarely ate vegetables. Going Pescatarian (I can’t give up fish) helped limit my menus going out and eating in, and now I love vegetables. I will still eat meat on special occasions. For example, a manager came in to work today so we had (including myself) buffalo wings for lunch.

  • Ron in Houston

    I’m a proud member of PETA. People for eating tasty animals.

    Actually I’ve tried both. I tried vegetarianism for the health benefits and not because of worrying about animals.

    To truly look at it from a scientific point of view, perhaps it has something to do with the evolution of our natural fear of being prey rather than predator.

    Good discussion.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Plus, I didn’t know that the bible endorsed vegetarianism.

    Some would say it does. One of the arguments would be that since humans were vegetarians in the Garden of Eden, that is the ideal that we ought to be striving to return to – that eating meat was a result of the Fall and is therefore sin. Another argument is that since animals are said to contain God’s “breath of life” (cf. Genesis 1:30), which is the same word used for God’s Spirit, that killing an animal therefore disrespects the Spirit of God.

    I’m not saying I necessarily buy those arguments, but I have heard them.

  • http://www.jenniferbick.com Jenni

    I am an atheist and a vegetarian. I’m not sure if its all part of the life cycle, us eating animals and all, I’m a vegetarian because I don’t agree with the way feed animals are treated. From what I’ve read, milk is not good for you. Meat is not good for you. There is a link between the environmental issues and animals being raised for food. I’m sure you are all bright, thinking!, individuals and can all do your own research on the web. I have chosen, for myself, not to eat meat, poultry, eggs, milk, seafood, etc. For a long time I had a guilty feeling knowing that some poor cow was mistreated so that I could have a hamburger. I finally decided to make the change in my life. I have never been happier about my decision when a few weeks ago another beef recall happened and the footage of the cattle being mistreated was shown on the news. I saw my co-workers watch the video, get all up in arms about how terrible it was, then go to Taco Bell for lunch. I personally, get a good feeling about being an atheist and a vegetarian, knowing that I am not a hypocrite while I watch all the meat eating Christians complain but do nothing about it. AND – I really liked that comment about how “But to the best I’m able to provide, it will be meat raised by Christian small farmers in the Dallas area or otherwise produced in a morally responsible way.” Because, you know, all those current meat processing plants are run by atheists that don’t care about animals? We are a very small portion of the population…I’m going to venture a guess that the meat processing plants are run by “good Christians”.

  • Mike

    I am a vegetarian precisely because I’m an atheist. After all, the bible says the earth and all its life is here for us to use and abuse as we please (it’s possible they actually word it differently, however).

    I believe that I don’t have the moral right to decide who lives or who dies, and as expressed by Siamang above, I am not above the other animals in some way. Yes, animals do kill each other as a matter of course in nature. They also pee on the floor. My one advantage as a human being is all this grey matter jiggling around in here – that means I have the power to make the choice not to kill and eat everything smaller than me. Civilization means thinking things through, not just acting as other animals do. It’s so funny when people try to use the argument that animals do it (or that our teeth are built for it). They never try that with anything else – “Why not hump peoples’ legs? Dogs do!”, “Hey, fists are great for knocking people down and grabbing their wallets. What are you waiting for?” We spend enormous amounts of effort trying to be as unlike other animals as possible, why is eating meat suddenly the opposite? Our physical form and our ancestry are our limitations to overcome, not a prescription for our existence.

    So because I know I can survive (and be healthier anyway!) without meat, there’s no logical reason to do it. That’s just the really simple equation. Anybody can ask themselves that question: “Would I be healthy without meat?” And the only reason you would then stick to meat is because it’s easy and it tastes good. Or, as one person told me “No, you can’t survive without it!”, apparently unaware of the existence of the entire country of India.

    I actually wasn’t a vegetarian until about 5 years ago. I always logically knew I should be, but meat is YUMMY. Then I met my wife, told her about my philosophy and she just said we should go for it. So now we are. And it turns out that it is actually very easy! Breaking the addiction was much easier with support.

    There’s so much more to it than just the ethical philosophy. It’s a logical choice because it is better for the world in every way – it’s ethical, it’s environmental, it’s the best use of our arable land (your meat uses up a lot more grain getting fattened up than my bread does), it’s healthier, and it’s less dangerous (I love not being afraid of what germs lurk in my cutting boards anymore). There is no way in which it makes more sense to eat meat than not, except for your own gratification. It’s pure hedonism. Of course, your mileage may vary if you live on the Alaskan tundra and whale blubber is all you’ve got. I’m speaking of life in big fat America.

    I only miss ribs. I want to market fake ceramic bones that you can mold seitan or something around and broil into ribs.

    And no, I never bother other people about their eating choices. You asked! Unless they eat Peeps. Why!?

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    I’m not a vegetarian but I wish I was. I think it’s disgusting to raise and kill animals to eat, especially when the animals are treated like they are in the meat industry.

    I also don’t think it’s viable to have enough free range meat to feed everyone. I really laugh at these people who think that we can. I mean, has anyone been to a food distribution center? Do you have any idea how many cows, turkeys, chickens and pigs are slaughtered every year? There’s not enough land for all of these animals to have free range. It sounds nice, but in reality, I think it’s a dumb idea promoted by well-meaning people who don’t think things through.

    Eating meat is also wasteful and I’m well aware that I consume way more than I should, not just in meat but in every way. If everyone lived the way we Americans did, I don’t think the planet could sustain more than 1 billion (if that) humans.

    I guess if there were a way for all the animals to live happy lives and to be killed with no stress or pain, I might think it was OK. But basically I think eating meat is immoral. It’s probably the only thing I do that I feel guilty about when I think about it.

    There’s an excellent discussion about this in “I Am a Strange Loop” by Doublas Hofstadter, BTW.

  • http://friendlyhumanist.blogspot.com Tim Mills

    Mike,

    My wife and I recently became vegetarians, and we see it as a direct consequence and expression of our values as humanists. I wrote about it on my blog, Friendly Humanist.

    Here is a quick(ish) summary:

    As a humanist, I believe in the inherent value of human life. To me, that value is based on two characteristics humans share: sentience (the ability to sense the world around us) and consciousness (the awareness of ourselves as participants in the world).

    We all know that other animals have sentience – this is the basis of animal rights legislation, preventing wanton cruelty to other animals. And, although we can never prove that another being is conscious, we have almost as good evidence that many “food” animals are conscious as we do that the person next to us is conscious.

    So if human rights are based on sentience and consciousness, and non-human animals have sentience and consciousness (albeit in varying degrees), then I have no principled excuse for eating their flesh for my own pleasure.

    Contrary to your (understandable) assumption, my humanism and my vegetarianism are both important expressions of the same underlying ethical system.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Hi Jen. Those are all great reasons. However, I had sort of excluded those from my question. I totally get the environmental and social justice issues surrounding meat eating (my wife is actually writing a book partially on those subjects right now, and doing a lot of research on the topic, so I’m surrounded by books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, The Ethics of What We Eat, and Fast Food Nation.) It’s just the killing of animals for food as a moral issue that I’m primarily curious about.

  • http://t3knomanser.livejournal.com t3knomanser

    I think it’s disgusting to raise and kill animals to eat

    Why? It’s an interesting choice of words- to use disgusting carries with it all sorts of connotations. More importantly, “disgust” is a value judgment. I could be disgusted by fecophelia without making a moral judgment on it.

    To me, that value is based on two characteristics humans share: sentience (the ability to sense the world around us) and consciousness (the awareness of ourselves as participants in the world).

    And that’s where I have to disagree. I don’t have any proof that I’m conscious, let alone another human is. In fact, I’d go so far as to claim that there is no consciousness. It strikes me as a shifty ground for a moral foundation.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    since science would tell us that there is nothing unnatural about animals eating other animals,

    I disagree with that. I don’t think science has anything to say on the issue. How do you know science wouldn’t say it’s wrong to eat animals through some research involving scanning the brains of cows and measuring their degree of suffering? But again, I don’t think science can answer ethical questions. At least not yet. (However scientific knowledge can inform our ethical judgments by gathering, discovering and clarifying useful facts or new information.)

    And what do you mean by natural? Are you saying our scientific knowledge about how humans lived 10,000 years ago defines what is natural? Is everything that is “natural” good or ethical? So driving cars or flying planes are also unnatural. Most of our modern life is unnatural by that definition.

    I believe humans are animals. There is nothing wrong with being an animal. But one thing that makes the human animal special is our ability to choose our actions. A lion has no choice but to kill the antelope in a horrible way causing the antelope to suffer a great deal. Humans can choose what they eat and can choose to minimize harm.

    Getting back to the comment I quoted I think we have to be careful about phrases like “science says…”. “Science” isn’t some board of directors proclaiming this or that. “Science” is either the method or the body of knowledge gained through that method. It might be OK for cut and dry facts (Science says the Earth orbits the sun, not vice versa.) but how about “Science says vanilla ice cream tastes better than chocolate.” Not every question can be answered clearly or meaningfully with “science says…”

    would most of you say that reasons like empathy and compassion are scientific rationales for not eating meat?

    Maybe, in the sense that science can inform us about the origins and causes of those empathic feelings, but not directly. Is my enjoyment of sugary sweets a scientific rational for eating too much candy? Not exactly, but science can tell me why my brain interprets glucose molecules as sweet and the associated emotions. Will knowing those reasons stop me from tasting sweetness or enjoying candy?

  • Aj

    What I mean is isn’t animals (like human beings) eating other animals simply part of the natural process? Isn’t that how nature functions? Why would it be unethical for us to fulfill our role as omnivores? What is the rationale for concluding that this is morally wrong?

    A natural process like rape? I don’t understand how you came to think that atheists are amoral and follow directions from our ancestors. If you think atheists consider vegatarianism to be unethical because we used to be omnivores, do you also think we consider cars, planes, computers, and other things are unethical because of our previous role as hunter gatherers?

    We do not have a role, we simply are, as agents with free will we can make choices, however this is determined by the past through causation and chance.

    I am not a vegatarian but philosophers interested in ethics like Peter Singer and Colin McGinn choose not eat meat because of the inevitable suffering to the animals the process of meat production entails, and the lifestyle does not cost them anything in terms of health. They have just extended the empathy behind the ethics most of us have towards humans, to other creatures that are also related to us, especially the ones that may suffer like us.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    After all, the bible says the earth and all its life is here for us to use and abuse as we please (it’s possible they actually word it differently, however).

    Actually I would argue that it teaches exactly the opposite, but whatever…

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    And what do you mean by natural? Are you saying our scientific knowledge about how humans lived 10,000 years ago defines what is natural? Is everything that is “natural” good or ethical?

    I’m not saying anything. I’m just asking the questions. I want to know how others think about it.

    Though if you’re curious, I would agree with you when you say:

    I don’t think science can answer ethical questions.

    and

    Not every question can be answered clearly or meaningfully with “science says…”

  • Andrew

    Very interesting posts all around. I have to agree with some others here, that humans have eaten meat for hundreds of thousands of years. Some human diets relied almost entirely on the meat of only one animal (mammoth, buffalo, reindeer, etc…). So naturally, we are meat eaters. Even some proto-humans were meat-eating scavengers… it’s what go us out of the trees and into the plains. Talk that “our teeth weren’t meant to eat meat” misses the whole point of the adaptation part of evolution.

    Some points I found interesting were that the meat-industry’s efficiency is now cruelty. I tend to agree that we eat TOO much meat. And the market has too keep up. It’s not the industry’s fault, it’s ours. On this topic, I can understand a desire to not eat meat. Not as an immoral act, but as an act of protest against overindulgence and the realities of our demands.

    But there are some vegetarians out there who won’t even eat free-range meat products. These people have empathy for the animals (like for your pets as someone pointed out above) to the point that they refuse to eat meat entirely. I lived in Austin for some time and there is a large Vegan community there (from restaurants to markets). I came to the conclusion that their arguments are emotional not rational. The world is cruel. It’s always been us vs. them. And the development of ranching and livestock was instrumental in pushing human culture forward. To deny it as cruel or even inhumane is just a reflection of how the world really works…

    But did you guys know that we may not even be having this argument in a couple of decades? Scientists have been working on ways to clone meat (by itself) for some time. Eventually we won’t need ranches for our meat products… just labs. Can you imagine eating a big piece of chicken as large and bone-free as a steak? They will also be able to mix meats for all kinds of tastes. It will change everything… if any of us live to see it.

  • Goddamn Chicken

    But, we also have an analytical brain that can grasp complex and abstract concepts, like environmental damage, overpopulation, overconsumption, extinction and disease. Hence, further (non-moral) reason to be vegetarian.

    Why are those “non-moral” reasons? The things you mention seem to get to the heart of morality for me, i.e. how our actions affect others.

    These are problems. Nothing to do with morality.

    These reasons may or may not hurt other people. It depends if we have a solution. In theory, we could development technologies to live in a polluted, overpopulated and heavy consumed planet (ie. we develop technology to isolate ourselves from everything else). If we isolate ourselves enough, we won’t affect others. So what I’m saying is that these are non-moral reasons because we currently don’t have the technologies to fix the problems. They’re technological reasons.

  • http://www.xanga.com/drew85 Drew

    it’s another thing when they’re raised in windowless crates

    I don’t think this is a common practice. Even gestation crates aren’t windowless, they’re usually made of bars. Veal would be the only exception that I’m aware of, and being anti-veal isn’t the same as being anti-meat.

  • Trancer

    For me, becoming a vegetarian was inevitable once I had stopped believing in the god of the Bible.

    God said it was OK for us to eat meat, so I ate meat. It was not something to think about really.

    Once I realized that the whole god thing was a cruel fantasy I had to re-assess my values and actions and determine a code of ethics for myself.

    Vegetarianism was a natural outcome of that.

  • http://friendlyhumanist.blogspot.com Tim Mills

    Had to add: there are some people in this discussion (not just Mike, but Lucas too) falling prey to an age-old logical fallacy: the idea that something being “natural” makes it good or ethical.

    Leave aside the hundred problems with the definition of “natural” (I always use scare quotes because it’s such a slippery word), I would think that a Christian, at least, would understand that “natural” and “ethical” aren’t equal. After all, human nature is seen (by most Christians) as inherently sinful (ie, unethical).

    And atheists tend to pride themselves on their superior grasp of logic. Surely the centuries-old is-ought problem identified by Hume is known to many of us?

    Science can tell us how we came to have the ethical leanings we have as a species (as well as other psychological and phyical traits). It cannot tell us whether we ought to give in to these leanings or resist them.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    I don’t think science can answer ethical questions.

    Neither can religion.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    But did you guys know that we may not even be having this argument in a couple of decades? Scientists have been working on ways to clone meat (by itself) for some time. Eventually we won’t need ranches for our meat products… just labs.

    Yep. So science will remove the need to answer the ethical question at all.

    Anyone remember the genetically engineered cow from The Restaurant at The End of the Universe (Hitchhiker’s Guide Series) who was smart enough to talk and recommend which parts of itself were the tastiest? Now that would be an ethical dilemma. What if the animal enjoyed to be eaten?

  • Adrian

    Hi Mike!

    An atheist and a vegetarian, here…

    leaving off health reasons and environmental sustainability reasons (both of which I think are very good reasons)

    Um yeah, and especially environmental issues will continue to grow in our consciousness (I hope).

    why would an atheist be a vegetarian? That is, is there any reason for an atheist to ethically object to the idea of killing animals for food.

    This first strikes me as another “how can an atheist have morals” question which I really thought you’d gotten over. Guess not.

    The question sounds like a funny sort of way of asking if there is a moral component to bringing suffering and death to animals purely for our own convenience. I’d say there is.

    Frankly, all I need to see that is an understanding that the traits which make humans feel suffering and which make our lives valuable are present in other animals. What does a belief in God have to do with anything?

    FWIW, I don’t have any problems per se with killing animals or even killing humans for that matter, but I do think circumstances matter. Killing in self-defence or for survival is justified, but we don’t need to eat meat to live, we aren’t even healthier eating meat. If there are people who do have health concerns, the sheer tonnage of meat that is consumed is vastly, grossly in excess that it can only be seen as an indulgence or a convenience.

    And I for one cannot morally justify bringing suffering and death to another animal just for my own convenience.

    I’m tempted to ask how, even with a belief in a god, you can justify this.

    What I mean is isn’t animals (like human beings) eating other animals simply part of the natural process? Isn’t that how nature functions? Why would it be unethical for us to fulfill our role as omnivores?

    Huh? I don’t get what you’re saying.

    The “natural process” is descriptive, not proscriptive. It tell us what does happen, not what should happen. We should no more kill other animals to justify some mystical “natural process” than we should demolish buildings because that’s how gravity functions. At best an understanding of our evolution could help us select a diet that is healthiest, but the vegetarian diet seems to be healthier so I just don’t see how “nature” could be a justification. Not unless you want to worship Nature as some sort of goddess (I believe one native american responded above with this sort of answer – meat is okay, but you need to give thanks.)

    Re “role”: Organisms evolved in a niche, but this niche changes and when we developed agriculture, we took ourselves out of any past evolutionary niche and it’s foolish to imagine that we can go back. It’s like a hunter justifying killing deer because it’s the role of humans to cull the weak – if even 10% of humans followed this advice, we would drive every deer, every bear, every wolf, every wild animal to extinction in under a year. It’s sloppy thinking.

  • Jen

    Alright, fair enough (and tell us when your wife’s book comes out- that sounds fun!) and now that I am reading the post, I see that you said not to include those, and sorry for that.

    There is no specifically atheist reason to not eat meat, from my perspective, other than that I, as an atheist, try to follow the general moral of “do no harm” (secretly, I am a doctor). For me, that is my first reason in a nutshell- lower the amount of suffering of the world, which, I suppose, is also related to social justice (social justice is a favorite topic of the Jesuits, who ran my college, so I have a difficult time not thinking in those terms).

    As for following the natural process and all that, I think we can easily dismiss that by pointing out all the other artificial things we do that animals don’t- sky-scrapers, worshiping gods, computers, medicine, raising children that wouldn’t make it without modern medicine (rather than leaving them to die of exposure), trying to have life-long monogamy (fairly rare in the animal kingdom, and likely not something people did millions of years ago, at least according to Anatomy of Love. Clearly we are avoiding our natural instincts, and I see no reason to go without medicine just because animals don’t have any in nature.

  • DM

    This sort of logic stretches across all aspects of religio-reasoning:

    PASTOR: We should follow biblical commands when it comes to killing animals because we should follow all biblical commands.

    ME: Uh … except have you SEEN the barbaric cruelty on National Geographic and Discovery Channels? I don’t see too many of nature’s darlings humanely killing their prey.

    PASTOR: But really, it’s a matter of NATURE you know. Similar to my feelings that we should only have sex in the missionary position because it’s natural. If we do it from behind we would be mimicking homosexuals. That’s unnatural.

    ME: Uh … except that most animals do it from behind.

    PASTOR: But c’mon. Homosexuality! That is also not natural you know. ;-)

    ME: Uh … except that there are numerous examples of homosexual behavior in nature outside of the human species.

    PASTOR: Well, fine, you don’t believe me regarding homosexuality. What about how god has punished the gay community with AIDS and STDs.

    ME: Uh … except that lesbians have the lowest rate of STD’s and AIDS than gay men AND heterosexuals. Why are they getting preferential treatment?

    PASTOR: (silence …)

    ME: My feeling? I guess God loves him some hot girl on girl action! I guess he is a dude after all.

    dm

  • Steven Carr

    I don’t believe in Santa Claus.

    What reason do I have not to kill reindeer?

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Again, to clarify I did say science can’t answer ethical questions directly, but it can inform them. What if, hypothetically speaking, science somehow showed with good evidence that plants felt pain? It’s silly, but you have to admit that new discovery would influence your ethical judgments on how to treat plants.

    Also, other questions like “is it morally wrong to take illegal drugs” can’t be answered by science directly, but research in medicine, psychology, and sociology will certainly inform those decisions a great deal.

    And as writerdd implied so succinctly, I think science gives a lot more information about making those decisions than religion does.

  • Peter

    Natural selection is a theory of genes. It is fallacious to apply concepts of natural selection, ‘survival of the fittest’, etc, onto the organism as a whole. While it might make for an interesting metaphor, it is not appropriate for a factual claim.

    When you think Natural Selection, when you think Darwinian, the first thing that should pop into your head is nucleic acid. That is the theory – the natural selection of nucleic acid, and its creation of survival machines.

  • Adrian

    Andrew,

    But there are some vegetarians out there who won’t even eat free-range meat products. These people have empathy for the animals (like for your pets as someone pointed out above) to the point that they refuse to eat meat entirely. I lived in Austin for some time and there is a large Vegan community there (from restaurants to markets). I came to the conclusion that their arguments are emotional not rational.

    Even Mike understands that there are environmental sustainability issues with eating meat. Yes, it is possible that some select animals can be raised in a way that does not impact the environment. Free range isn’t sufficient, but grazing cattle on land that isn’t arable would do it. The bigger problem is that the demand is so huge for meat and the capacity to raise cattle responsibly is so small, that by choosing “responsible” meat, you’re just shifting the demand elsewhere. You’re fooling yourself if you think this is enough. We need to reduce the demand for irresponsibly raised meat, and the way to do that is to reduce the demand for meat in general. That means that the best way to reduce the suffering and environmental damage caused by the meat industry isn’t to buy better meat, but to buy no meat.

    You are attacking people who recognize this and act upon it as being “emotional” and “irrational”, but they seem to be the ones that actually understand the full impact of their purchases. You appear either ignorant or irrationally attached to your diet.

    The world is cruel. It’s always been us vs. them. And the development of ranching and livestock was instrumental in pushing human culture forward. To deny it as cruel or even inhumane is foolish

    Now this is just silly. There is no “us vs them” when it comes to chickens, cows or pigs. They aren’t rising up against us. You’ve really gone off the deep end with this argument.

    Yes, ranching helped when our population was smaller but we’ve outgrown it. Who is denying this? We can acknowledge that slavery and the slaughter of native Americans was instrumental in pushing the current US culture forward, but you wouldn’t be stupid enough to think this was a good reason to continue doing it, would you? So don’t act like what was good in the past must be good in the present.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    Human beings are morally complex. Atheists are even more morally complex, since they are less dependent on the illusion of absolute authority that Christians and other believers have created for themselves. Many vegetarians are motivated by empathy or environmental or health concerns, all of which have a moral component. That’s not a problem for me, since I think that human morality is a product of social evolution (society ultimately a product of biological evolution). I guess from a religious perspective the question of why atheists behave morally at all would be just as valid.

    Of course, I don’t think that eating meat is immoral, even though the methods used by the modern food processing industry may be (for both cruelty and environmental reasons). If PETA’s goal was to rehabilitate that industry in order to minimize the cruelty, they’d have my unwavering support. As it is, I don’t think that eating meat is the equivalent of either a crime or a misdemeanor. I am a product of living evolution, a process that has included predation for over 700 million years. And although my Australopithecene ancestors may have been vegetarians, the advancement of the Homo line was clearly in the hands of hunters. It is as much my birthright to stalk and kill my dinner as it is that of the tiger or the wolf or the shark, all my brothers by some common ancestor (as of course is the cow and the chicken and the tuna). That I don’t actually do the stalking and the killing myself doesn’t seem that relevant to me. That I leave it in the hands of cruel men may be, but the activists tend to draw such absolute moral lines with regard to the issue that there is almost no way to support the elimination of cruelty in the meat processing industry without supporting its elimination altogether.

  • Andrew

    Tim Mills, I have some questions for you.

    First, I understand what you are saying here:

    there are some people in this discussion (not just Mike, but Lucas too) falling prey to an age-old logical fallacy: the idea that something being “natural” makes it good or ethical.

    My question is how could something (eating meat in this case) be wrong if it has been practiced by us and our ancestors for millions of years? How could something be wrong that was essential not only in our physical evolution, but in our cultural evolution?

    Was it always wrong? Or has only recently become wrong? Please explain your reasoning here…

    I could make the same argument that you are making but insert language in its place. Language was instrumental in our development, but it is used to do so many bad things now… etc… This argument is emotional, and I think yours is as well.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    why would an atheist be a vegetarian? That is, is there any reason for an atheist to ethically object to the idea of killing animals for food.

    This first strikes me as another “how can an atheist have morals” question which I really thought you’d gotten over. Guess not.

    Nope, that wasn’t what I was getting at at all. I was assuming that you do have morals and asking the reasons for them.

    Which I noticed you went on to provide, so I assume you must not have thought it was such a stupid question after all.

  • Andrew

    And Adrian, I already commented on just that fact in the paragraph above the one you are quoting… Don’t put words in my mouth. I understand how the industry works, and the Vegans I am talking about would NEVER EVER EVER eat meat no matter the circumstances. That is a Vegan in my book, others are just vegetarians.

  • http://jimloomis.deviantart.com Jimmy

    While I agree that many animals that we eat are mistreated, and that the mass production/processing of meat is detrimental to the environment, I firmly believe that many vegetarians and vegans are missing the point severely. The mass growing of vegetables is just as harmful to the environment as the mass production of meat.

    Rivers are dammed up to irrigate crops. Those dams, while extremely beneficial to society, have a terrible effect on anything downstream. The natural flow of the river is severely disrupted, and can destroy habitats, disrupt important mating cycles, and cause droughts in areas that depend on the river downstream. The transportation of vegetables is also just as harmful as the transportation of meats. Veggies need refrigeration, just like meat. Refrigeration consumes energy.

    Either way you look at it, as long as the human population is beyond what the Earth can naturally support, everything we do is detrimental. Until the human population declines (instead of growing exponentially), we’ll be doing more harm than good.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Even Mike understands that there are environmental sustainability issues with eating meat.

    Yes, even the ignorant immoral Christian cares about the environment. Imagine that! :roll:

  • Adrian

    Mike,

    Nope, that wasn’t what I was getting at at all. I was assuming that you do have morals and asking the reasons for them.

    Which I noticed you went on to provide, so I assume you must not have thought it was such a stupid question after all.

    No, it wasn’t a stupid question. I think it’s a strange phrasing, implying that you think that there should be some difference in the way atheists and Christians approach this decision, but it wasn’t a stupid question.

    Yes, even the ignorant immoral Christian cares about the environment. Imagine that! :roll:

    Um yeah. Just thought that there was a certain “I’m-atheist-and-therefore-totally-rational” block on his shoulder and thought it could do with knocking off. I think you see and understand more of the issue than he did and you were handy… No offence intended, to you at least :)

  • http://blog.lib.umn.edu/fole0091/epistaxis/ Epistaxis

    Mike Clawson (original post):

    I understand the Jewish and Christian arguments for vegetarianism based on the Bible

    Really? The only passage of the Bible that ever I’ve heard cited about such things is right there on the first page (Genesis 1:26):

    And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

    Like a previous commenter, I’m a vegetarian because I’m an atheist.

    Mike Clawson, followup comment:

    To clarify, since many atheists tend to say that science is the only legitimate way of knowing anything about our world, and since science would tell us that there is nothing unnatural about animals eating other animals, I wasn’t sure of the reasoning for saying that it is still morally wrong.

    I find this bewildering for a couple of reasons. Yes, we endorse science. And what science doesn’t tell us (but religion tends to) is that humans are fundamentally different from animals because we have souls that survive our deaths, etc. So to me it seems like the ethical conclusion to draw from that is we’re all closely related, and suffering is equally bad whether it happens to a human being or to some other being. I’m also surprised you haven’t heard of the “naturalistic fallacy” – just because it is so doesn’t mean it ought to be so. Science tells us many animal species practice theft, rape, cannibalism, even murder and war, but neither believers nor nonbelievers think that means humans are obligated to behave the same way. Likewise, we are descended from omnivores – that means we have a choice as to what we eat; it doesn’t mean we’re obligated to eat everything.

    So your information is different from mine (the Bible says we must respect creepy crawlers?), but even after that, you draw different conclusions than I would from the same premises (rape occurs in the wild, so we must be rapists?).

  • Adrian

    Andrew,

    I understand how the industry works, and the Vegans I am talking about would NEVER EVER EVER eat meat no matter the circumstances. That is a Vegan in my book, others are just vegetarians.

    What words did I put in your mouth? And I understand the difference between vegans and vegetarians, and I think I addressed how the choice to be vegan can be rational and consistent. Many vegans tend to have a bit of New Age in them, but it doesn’t mean all of their decisions are bad.

    My question is how could something (eating meat in this case) be wrong if it has been practiced by us and our ancestors for millions of years? How could something be wrong that was essential not only in our physical evolution, but in our cultural evolution?

    I answered this one earlier as well.

    Our morals change, our niche changes, our ability to control our environment changes. Just because we practised something in the past doesn’t make it right. What’s the problem?

  • Andrew

    Now this is just silly. There is no “us vs them” when it comes to chickens, cows or pigs. They aren’t rising up against us. You’ve really gone off the deep end with this argument.

    Survival of the fittest. This essential facet of evolution describes why humans are on top. Because we are the fittest. Who is in the deep end? Who is projecting human thoughts and feelings onto farm animals? Not me.

    Yes, ranching helped when our population was smaller but we’ve outgrown it. Who is denying this? We can acknowledge that slavery and the slaughter of native Americans was instrumental in pushing the current US culture forward, but you wouldn’t be stupid enough to think this was a good reason to continue doing it, would you? So don’t act like what was good in the past must be good in the present.

    We haven’t outgrown ranching, we are just over-indulging right now. That needs to stop.

    Comparing slaves to cattle is deceptive and a morally repugnant tactic. Slavery was instrumental in our nations development, but it was wrong and was always wrong. You are saying that raising livestock for the slaughter didn’t use to be wrong, but it is now… WHY? WHY? WHY? You have a remarkable ability for self-deception. You don’t want to tell us or maybe even acknowledge to yourself that you may have empathy for animals… That might sound emasculating. But that is the reasoning I see behind your arguments. And I am not saying it is wrong. Just be honest with me and explain to me why animals that are bred for no other purpose than our food deserve to be treated as equals?

  • Peter

    Epistaxis – well said!!

    MikeC: Animals eat animals. So why don’t some atheists eat animals?

    Alternative world MikeC: Animals rape animals. So why don’t some atheists rape other atheists?

    Alternative world MikeC: Animals eat their young. So why don’t some atheists eat their young?

    Alternative world MikeC: Animals eat their own poop. So why don’t some atheists eat their own poop?

    Ahhh, the endearing output of the christianized brain.

  • Randy

    I love the myth of “ecological sustainability”. If you look at the “bread basket” of the US, the Midwest, you will find this land is NOT made for agriculture. It is grazing land that is being destroyed by forced agricultural processes. The best answer would be to stop feeding the cattle grain and chemicals and graze them. I know it will never happen because we need to keep the vegitarians in thier soy!

    If you want good meat, hunt for it!!

  • http://blog.lib.umn.edu/fole0091/epistaxis/ Epistaxis

    Tim Mills:

    As a humanist, I believe in the inherent value of human life. To me, that value is based on two characteristics humans share: sentience (the ability to sense the world around us) and consciousness (the awareness of ourselves as participants in the world).

    At the risk of going on a tangent, though I hope this helps Mike Clawson see where I’m coming from too, I take issue with your semantics. I think you and I have the same beliefs, but I don’t respect an inherent value or sanctity of human life, just the sentience and consciousness. “Human life” sometimes has neither. That’s why I’m pro-choice, for example – I don’t ascribe any intrinsic ethical status to an undeveloped fetus. It has the potential to gain that status, but so do a sperm and an egg before they even meet (I’m pro-contraception too), and so do the cells I rub off in the shower every morning (I could freeze them until human cloning is perfected). I consider “the sanctity of human life” to be political code for “souls,” like “moral values” means “Christianity.” Only the capacity to experience desires and suffering determines the ethical status of any being, human or not, even organically alive or not (I wouldn’t waterboard a sufficiently advanced AI).

    So I’m actually hesitant to call myself a “humanist” at all, but sometimes I do if it’s the only way to be clear that I’m an atheist with ethics.

  • Andrew

    Adrian:

    What words did I put in your mouth?

    Your response to me asked questions and made statements as if I hadn’t JUST addressed those in the paragraph above the one you quoted. Your tactic was to make me look like a boob by taking what I say out of context.

    And I understand the difference between vegans and vegetarians, and I think I addressed how the choice to be vegan can be rational and consistent. Many vegans tend to have a bit of New Age in them, but it doesn’t mean all of their decisions are bad.

    I don’t think you have, otherwise you would have at least given me pause. Veganism is heavily laced with New Age, and being as they have that foundation upon which to base their beliefs, I have no problem with it. But the majority of atheists (in this country, and forgive me for generalizations here) base their beliefs on objective skepticism, method, etc… So someone who is a Vegan and an atheist (no New Age) is going to need to back up what they say with a logical, reason-based argument that doesn’t reek of self-deception or they are either not a Vegan or not the kind of atheist that shares my world-view.

  • Adrian

    Andrew,

    Survival of the fittest. This essential facet of evolution describes why humans are on top. Because we are the fittest. Who is in the deep end?

    Wow, so many misconceptions of evolution! There is no “top”, all organisms alive today are equally evolved and equally fit. You’re trying to describe a Might-Makes-Right morality which, frankly, is abhorrent.

    Go with that if you like it, but no need to act like it’s justified by evidence.

    Comparing slaves to cattle is deceptive and a morally repugnant tactic. Slavery was instrumental in our nations development, but it was wrong and was always wrong. You are saying that raising livestock for the slaughter didn’t use to be wrong, but it is now… WHY? WHY? WHY?

    But, but, but… But we kept slaves in the past and it was instrumental so it must be right! I don’t understand!

    Or maybe it could be that it is as I said, our morals change, our circumstances change. We recognize that practices which once seemed normal and acceptable in the past are wrong and shouldn’t continue. If you understand that works with slavery, your argument is toast for everything else. Sorry, that’s reason for you.

    Yes, raising livestock was a good idea in the past but not today. You must have an inking about the reason. Somewhere between total human population of 5 thousand and 6 billion, our impact on the earth changed. We are no longer living hand-to-mouth, no longer need to kill to survive, no longer have the land to allow cattle to graze, no longer can dispose of waste effectively. What was once necessary for survival has become a convenience.

    Tell me: do you see no difference in killing if it means the survival of you and your family, and killing ’cause you just felt like it?

    That’s the change in livestock production over the last few millenia.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Survival of the fittest.

    A phrase Darwin never actually used, and not exactly what evolutionary theory is all about. It all depends what “fit” means, and it isn’t often what people think it means. “Fit” might mean not having eyes in a dark cave for example.

    This essential facet of evolution describes why humans are on top.

    On top of what? We haven’t got to the end of the story yet. A million years from now alien biologists might say our big faulty brains led to our eventual extinction.

  • http://thislittlepiggyhadtofu.blogspot.com Al

    I’m an atheist vegan. I’ve been vegan longer than I’ve been atheist.

    I don’t like to cause suffering. Consuming meat, eggs, dairy, etc. indirectly causes the suffering of animals.

    It is NEEDLESS suffering. I can live just fine without these things. In fact, I live better. So if I can reduce the amount of suffering I cause in this world, I will. It takes little effort to be vegan. Sure, it may seem awkward to my friends and family, but so does atheism!

    I like this page, when it comes to answering questions about veganism: http://www.flashback.se/archive/ar_man.html

    And here’s a quote from Thoreau that sums up my position quite nicely: “A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.”

  • http://blog.lib.umn.edu/fole0091/epistaxis/ Epistaxis

    Randy:

    I love the myth of “ecological sustainability”. If you look at the “bread basket” of the US, the Midwest, you will find this land is NOT made for agriculture. It is grazing land that is being destroyed by forced agricultural processes.

    Randy, most of the grain we grow in the former grazing lands feeds former grazing animals that are locked up in cages until we eat them. If we ate the grain directly, we’d use those resources much more efficiently, and waste much less land and water. We’d also emit less carbon, which is why the IPCC endorses vegetarianism.

  • Andrew

    Anyway, I have to go to work. Check back later tonight.

  • Troy

    I’m a vegetarian because our treatment of animals is barbaric. It’s not the actual killing aspect, it’s the complete lack of compassion for these creatures as living things while we raise them. Have you seen how turkeys and chickens are treated?

    I actually see no reason for a Christian to feel this way. They have diminion over the animals. They are here simply for our benefit in the eyes of their version of God. I however see them as sharing the planet. How does it make sense to call a dog a member of the family, but a pig a snack?

    Since there is no need to eat animals, why do so? I prefer harvest to slaughter. It’s a personal decision and I make no claim that anyone else should do so.

  • Adrian

    Randy

    I love the myth of “ecological sustainability”. If you look at the “bread basket” of the US, the Midwest, you will find this land is NOT made for agriculture. It is grazing land that is being destroyed by forced agricultural processes. The best answer would be to stop feeding the cattle grain and chemicals and graze them. I know it will never happen because we need to keep the vegitarians in thier soy!

    Between 92-96% of all crops grown in the US are fed to cattle. Didn’t you know that? The vegetarians that eat your soy are the livestock.

    If you tried to graze on all that land, not only would meat production decline hugely, we may not have enough grains left to feed ourselves.

    Sheesh. Educate yourself before railing against others.

    If you want good meat, hunt for it!!

    Yeah right. How many days would it take before all deer go extinct if they listened to your advice? Think, man.

  • Adrian

    Andrew,

    So someone who is a Vegan and an atheist (no New Age) is going to need to back up what they say with a logical, reason-based argument that doesn’t reek of self-deception or they are either not a Vegan or not the kind of atheist that shares my world-view.

    I’ve given you plenty of reasons, as have many others here. You may not like them (clearly you don’t), but you’ve given no reasons to reject them. So far, you seem to have pointed at some New Agey people that are also vegans and tried to imply that because they’re New Agey, all of their decisions must be bad. Come on, if you’re asking us for logical or reason-based arguments, you should come up with some yourself.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Epistaxis, et al.

    Let me state just one more time that I think some of you are reading far too much into what you think I’m saying with my question. I’m not saying anything one way or the other regarding atheist morals regarding vegetarianism. I’m simply asking the question and listening to the responses. For instance, I’m not assuming you do or don’t buy into the naturalistic fallacy – if you don’t, say so, but don’t assume that I thought you would. If I had assumed that I wouldn’t have asked.

  • Kai

    Much like how the universe will continue to thrive without any kind of dependence on a god, humans will continue to thrive without any kind of dependence on meat.

    Given the option, it is only logical that we evolve and remove meat from the equation–and all the negative effects it has on the one life we have to live.

  • Ron in Houston

    Peter – Ahhh, the endearing output of the christianized brain.

    And we wonder why atheists have such a bad reputation? MikeC has a good point. If you don’t believe in a cosmic law giver why even be concerned about things like vegetarianism.

    My honest opinion is that we engage in psychological projection about animals. Does the antelope think “oh, how dreadful” when it’s in the mouth of the lion? Probably not; however, it is very human to see that act and in our humanity say, “oh, how dreadful.”

    I eat meat because first, I like it, and second, because there is no God to madate that it’s wrong to eat meat.

    Some of the things that religious people believe seem to me as simply moronic. However, having beliefs does not make them morons.

    I’m off for a big plate of ribs.

  • Aj

    MikeClawson,

    I’m not saying anything one way or the other regarding atheist morals regarding vegetarianism. I’m simply asking the question and listening to the responses.

    Yes, because when you ask people questions it contains no content on your assumptions. For example:

    Mike Clawson, as a Christian, do you murder kittens?

    It is called a leading question, or loaded question, and if your questions aren’t leading questions, I’m Julius Caesar, and you’re Jesus.

  • http://thislittlepiggyhadtofu.blogspot.com Al

    Well, Ron, there’s no god to mandate that it’s wrong to rip the heads off kittens either. Doesn’t mean we should do it.

    There’s no god to say eating babies is wrong either, but, well … I guess you didn’t specify which animal the ribs were coming from, so maybe I’m assuming too much.

  • http://friendlyhumanist.blogspot.com Tim Mills

    I think you and I have the same beliefs, but I don’t respect an inherent value or sanctity of human life, just the sentience and consciousness.

    You are quite right, Epistaxis. In fact, we don’t disagree at all – I was just sloppy in my language. Sorry.

    How could something be wrong that was essential not only in our physical evolution, but in our cultural evolution?

    I avoid absolutes unless they’re absolutely necessary. In my current situation – where the only real reason in favour of me eating meat is because it’s yummy – the reasons against eating meat are stronger.

    My argument is that non-human animals are entitled to some of the ethical consideration that human animals receive, because we share the properties that those ethical considerations are based on. But not all animals have those properties (sentience and consciousness) equally.

    Human life trumps non-human life, and for much of our evolutionary history that was a legitimate dichotomy. You ate meat or you suffered from malnutrition. Thus, what was okay before is not okay now, for me.

    Comparing slaves to cattle is deceptive and a morally repugnant tactic.

    Why? Because there are differences between human slaves and cattle? There are differences between male and female slaves, but comparing them to one another is fine. The differences between them are irrelevant to the question of slavery being immoral.

    When I compare cattle to slaves, I am not saying they are the same. I am saying that the same reasons that slavery is immoral apply to cattle as well. I have argued those reasons above. What is deceptive or repugnant about this?

    explain to me why animals that are bred for no other purpose than our food deserve to be treated as equals

    This is the genetic fallacy. Read Frankenstein. Did the creature (originally a gentle, philosophical, loving being) deserve to be treated as a monster just because his creator loathed him? If someone has a child for the purpose of putting that child to work in a factory at age 5, does that justify child labour? Of course not.

    My honest opinion is that we engage in psychological projection about animals.

    We certainly do. Which is why we have science – to systematically remove as much bias as possible in order to make more reliable, objective claims about the world.

    So we look at the empirical correlates of human sentience – things like aversion to pain, yelping when hurt, repeating pleasant actions. And we find that non-human animals exhibit sentience in similar ways to human animals.

    We look at the empirical correlates of consciousness – things like memory, planning ahead, indecision. And we find that non-human animals exhibit consciousness in similar ways to human animals.

    Just because we are irrationally predisposed to see something doesn’t mean it isn’t actually there. It just means we need to be particularly careful in our empirical evaluations.

  • Chris

    I think I have an odd take on it, but it wouldn’t it seem that an atheist who choose to be a vegetarian, regardless of reason, is going against our evolutionary direction as a species? Granted, you could say that we’ve reached a stage where intellectual evolution has supplanted physical, and that our ability to overcome those base instinctual behaviors is one of the things separating us from lesser animals…but you can’t deny that our current physical stage as a species is still very predator-like. While we can subsist on meat-free diets, both at the individual biological level and at the societal argicultural level, we are still built for a meat inclusive diet. That said, would a conscious effort to deny that be akin to “going against” evolutionary science, in the way that a believer is a hypocrit when they knowingly sin?

    I’m not even sure if I believe that, it just seems like one of those interesting, thinking-out-loud, philosophical questions.

  • Siamang

    Mike Clawson wrote:

    To clarify, since many atheists tend to say that science is the only legitimate way of knowing anything about our world, and since science would tell us that there is nothing unnatural about animals eating other animals, I wasn’t sure of the reasoning for saying that it is still morally wrong.

    I’m going to say that this is probably a straw atheist we’re discussing.

    Can you name any such hyper-scient-ists? These would be people who either never felt the warmth of the sun on their skin without a thermometer, or enjoyed a painting by Gustav Klimt without estimating the melt-down value in gold content.

    Or they view such knowledge of the world as non-legitimate. Have we met any of these “many atheists” who refuse to say they know anything that can’t be put in a test-tube?

    Here’s a quote by Christopher Hitchens

    And here is the point, about myself and my co-thinkers. Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason.

  • Mriana

    Most people I usually just give the answer as being “spiritual reasons” and let them draw their own conclusion, but I’ll be honest here since I preceive a geniune interest from Mike. There are a lot of replies here already (and such a short time too). I haven’t read them all yet, but in response to Mike, this is why I’m a vegetarian, which is a very deep seeded reason and close to my heart, however logical or illigical it maybe preceived:

    I gave part of a reason already in the other thread, but it goes far deeper than that and a lifelong “belief”. The word belief is questionable though.

    I was born into a home with pets and haven’t really known a life without pets. My mother had the opposite problem than most mothers in that instead of “eat your vegetables” it was “eat your meat”. I never did have a taste for meat and my grandmother would feed me raw veggies quite often when she was preparing them. Raw corn on the cob and green beans are good, but too many can give you a serious tummy ache. :( I haven’t forgotten that one, but it was partly my grandmother’s fault because she was feeding them to me as she snapped them/husked them.

    That’s not the entire reason either though. As a child, one of my great uncles had a cow named Old Bossy. She was the sweetest cow you ever met and I saw something her eyes that was special to me. I also raised and bottled fed bull calves by hand- literally got in the pin with them. Also had a pet runt pig among other unusual pets as well as the usual. Yet they were my friends, my “siblings”, which will become clearer in a moment.

    Now as a child of sever abuse, that some psychologists have compared to victims of the Holocaust, I had a special relationship with my pets. Now mind you, this was long before I ever studied psychology and learned the neurology and psychology behind this experience, but after the trauma, I sought solace in my pets, who were also sometimes the target of my bio-father’s abuse. They would cuddle up next to me and when I looked into their sympathetic eyes, I felt transcendence and equated it with “god”. This god had no form or mass, but was all encompassing and numinous. I felt as one with my pets who showered love and appreciation on me. The feeling was extremely comforting. (Scarlette, one of my cats currently is drowning me in affection right now, making it even more difficult to type.)

    The other thing is that such a bond came about also when my mother took me and left to her family’s home to escape my bio-father, only to be sent back due to religious reasons found in the Bible. Religion was used to keep us in this situation. Again, I sought solace in any and all my pets that I had. Something in their eyes, even Old Bossy, who we inherited eventually. They were “my salvation” so to speak and not the hellfire damning deity my minister great uncle spoke of in his services. I did not know that god and did not wish to know it because it was so cruel and hurtful.

    Of course, as an only child I also felt a special bond with them, which I compared to as like brothers and sisters. They were the ones who somehow kept me more or less sane through all of this and I found it to be an offense to me when they were harmed and abused, because they were “my family”. Note: Under such abuse, few parents, which I found out later in life knew about the abuse and did nothing, allowed their children to come to our home- at least not alone. I was angered for a while that these parents who had an idea of what was happening in my home did nothing. Be that as it may, the unknown psychology behind my relationship with my various pets was beneficial to me.

    My bio-father sent Old Bossy to the slaughter house. He said she was turned into jello. At the same time, my bull calves he also sent to slaughter, and they were turned into veal. My pet chihuahua was tied up in the hot sun in temps over 100 degrees. My beagels were tied in an old pig pen that became a cesspool (spelling?) of maggets and died horrid deaths I do not want to describe here. My cats were treated slightly better, but not by much and I lost a siamese to the weather because he threw her out of the house. My other chihuahua wasn’t treated too much better by my bio-father, but he was spared any horrendous death because he came with us when my mother finally left him for the last time (with her parents’ approval finally). Wilber, my pet runt pig, was killed by a dog that was part wolf and was subsequently shot for it. He was denied food though, so who is to blame? Not his natural instincts, that is for sure. :mad:

    I’m older now and not only had therapy, but I also studied psychology and received a degree in it. I now understand what I called god as a child isn’t God at all, but rather a neulogical affect that pets (any animals, even nature itself) can trigger in us. Pets are a good stress reliever and the more traumatizing the stress more likely one is to experience extreme feelings of transcendence and alike. In effect, they helped to keep me sane as a child, even though it might not sound like it. They gave me something to fight for and not give up on finding help. Yet the courage to get help was partly misplaced because the will/drive to find someone to help me was within me, just as the feelings of transcendence when I looked into their eyes, but yet this love gave me a reason to keep going until someone listened to me and then when that happened I felt the same thing again as I looked into the eyes of a human being who eventually helped us. It was not my grandparents though, but rather a social worker, who I thought wasn’t going to help, but somehow eventually did by telling my mother that if she did not get me out there, I would be taken away from her.

    I now call this love and compassion. This is not the same love as family, but it is the kind that gives overwhelming feelings and no one can tell me animals don’t have feelings of love and compassion. They do sense our emotions, but have no names to attribute to them, of course, and return affection and sympathy. No one can tell me that animals don’t feel emotions, as well as physical, pain and misery either. They need us as much as we need them, esp domesticated ones.

    This is NOT attributing human qualities to them, but they do have feelings and we are dependent on each other in various ways, including care for one another- even those in the wild should have consideration, IMO, because they too are needed in our vast ecosystem. They are no different than the ones we have domesticated, except for being wild. They are not human, but even so, they should have rights, starting with the right not to be harmed. Jane Goodall and many others who work with animals can attest to some of the psychological qualities/attributes that other animals have, so this is not some contrived idea from my childhood either. It is both animal and human psychology at play with my reasoning.

    The precious baby on my lap (although 8 y.o.) deserves and has the right to far more better treatment and should be given that dignity. If I did not learn anything else as a child, I did learn empathy for others, be they human or some lower form of life. I also learned that it is humans who can do harm and humans who can prevent it and/or stop it. Not some sky deity. (no offense, Mike.)

  • Roe

    As animals and predators I don’t feel that we as humans have any ethical reasons not to kill and eat animals. There is nothing evil in the pain that is felt by prey animals that are killed to sustain predators and as a result the same is true when we kill animals for food. It is true they feel pain and this pain offends our delicate constitutions at times, but just because this act causes us distress does not mean that the act itself is evil.

    On a different and related note, animals are slaughtered every day and while I do think we can and should work to get their housing situations improved I myself will continue to eat them and I will feel no guilt no matter how they were killed because at the end of the day there’s too much other more important human suffering that I can concern myself with.

    To Mriana, you had a sick and twisted father whose actions were inexcusable, but I fail to see how his actions of animal cruelty relate to the ethics of eating animals.

  • Chris

    Given the option, it is only logical that we evolve and remove meat from the equation–and all the negative effects it has on the one life we have to live.

    There’s nothing intrinsically harmful about eating meat, only the subjective nature of current mass production processes. Vegetarians must also pay more attention to their diet in order to remain nutritionally sufficient, which is not as much an issue for omnivoires. Thus, vegetarianism, and espcially veganism, is antithetical to evolution as it provides no biological benefits, only additional hurdles.

  • Ron in Houston

    AL nice one – eating meat = baby killer

    Where’s your compassion for all the grubs, worms, and locusts that you kill in your vegetarian life style? You slimy locust killer you.

    I don’t see eating meat as a moral or ethical issue.

    BTW – I usually eat beef or pork ribs, but I have some Chinese friends who tell me that cat is quite tasty.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    To clarify, since many atheists tend to say that science is the only legitimate way of knowing anything about our world, and since science would tell us that there is nothing unnatural about animals eating other animals, I wasn’t sure of the reasoning for saying that it is still morally wrong.

    I’m going to say that this is probably a straw atheist we’re discussing.

    You think so? It seems to be a pretty common arguing point around here most of the time from what I recall. How many times have I heard atheists claim that they refuse to believe in anything without “evidence” or dismiss things that can’t be scientifically tested? Now you’re saying that they don’t really believe this across the board? Maybe they were just saying that in order to win the argument or prove how intellectually superior they are to theists?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Not some sky deity. (no offense, Mike.)

    None taken. Most Christians don’t believe in sky deities either.

  • http://blog.myspace.com/johnpritzlaff John Pritzlaff

    I am surprised how often people (usually Christians) imply in their writings that if evolution by natural selection is “natural” then for some reason we shouldn’t go against it. I’ve always thought it was extremely obvious that natural selection is something that we as human beings should be (and are) trying to supercede. Just because it is how we got here doesn’t mean we shouldn’t somehow try to put it in the past. This was Darwin’s position (“What a book a devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature.”), is Dawkins’s position (“Natural selection is a deeply nasty process.”), and is my position as well, and I’m always surprised and frustrated when other atheists don’t point it out before I do. The most obvious and blatant example of humans going against natural selection is birth control, which already has helped to mostly stop the evolution (at least by natural selection) of our species, by crippling the “selection” part of it (we are now evolving in different ways, such as through technological advances, but we are not really evolving by natural selection any more, chiefly because we are now allowing the weaker off to live and reproduce just as well as the fitter people, and obviously this is an example of great moral progress, and is definitely not something you would find much, if at all, in nature, except where animals are starting to throw off their oppressive genes, as in our case).

    “What I mean is isn’t animals (like human beings) eating other animals simply part of the natural process? Isn’t that how nature functions? Why would it be unethical for us to fulfill our role as omnivores? What is the rationale for concluding that this is morally wrong?”

    The rationale is that natural selection is a blind process of extreme cruelty, and we should try to transcend it as much as possible. Our moral concerns should be based off how much suffering is going on in the world, whether in humans or other animals, and our moral goals should be based off making the world more and more happy and pleasureful, for both humans and other animals that have the capacity to feel pain (as well as, if the situation arises, artificial intelligence/robots). Wherever pleasure can be had and suffering can be had, we should be concerned in tipping the scales towards the former. It does not matter if the subject is our “species” or our “kind” or if it is “unnatural”, what we are doing. All that matters is the amount of suffering, sadness, and dis-ease in the world on the one hand and the amount of happiness, contentedness, and pleasure in the world on the other. This, in my opinion, should be the only basis for our moral system.

    And so, while I am not a vegetarian and feel disgusted with myself from time to time for it, but so far have not been able to give up meat, I recognize the moral importance of being or striving to be a vegetarian, and I fully support those who have the moral courage and strength to give up meat. I suppose, as Richard Dawkins once suggested in an interview, it would be very helpful if one day we all gave up meat at the same time and supported each other in doing so. This hypothetical worldwide event, which may occur in many decades or centuries, would be a huge moral leap for the human race comparable to the throwing-off of slavery in the nineteenth century.

    John Pritzlaff

  • Mriana

    Aj said,

    March 11, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    MikeClawson,

    I’m not saying anything one way or the other regarding atheist morals regarding vegetarianism. I’m simply asking the question and listening to the responses.

    Yes, because when you ask people questions it contains no content on your assumptions. For example:

    Mike Clawson, as a Christian, do you murder kittens?

    It is called a leading question, or loaded question, and if your questions aren’t leading questions, I’m Julius Caesar, and you’re Jesus.

    AJ, why do you keep attacking Mike? I don’t see his question as being leading. I think he is interested in our answers. If he were to target anyone based on their answers, which he won’t, it would be me because I included religion in what I said as being cruel and I don’t base my reasons for being vegetarian on anything in the Bible, even though it has verses that address both the eating of meat and not eating meat. In that simple paragraph, esp the last sentence, one could easily conclude that I spit on their god by refusing to know that deity, if it were possible that is. In the mind of such religious belief though, their cruel behaviours are following the will of God and they do take that statement as me spitting on their “God”.

    Even those who defend such beliefs, but say they do not adhere to them sometimes take offense. So, if anyone is to take offense, it could be Mike, because we aren’t being very nice in response to his question and trust me, I got in a couple good stabs too, depending how he views the comments, and have no remorse for it, because I don’t believe in such a deity, but rather attribute all behaviours that people do to them.

  • Aj

    Mriana,

    AJ, why do you keep attacking Mike?

    You assume, incorrectly, that I wouldn’t have submitted the same response to another who also asked the same questions. If you have any doubts about my commitment to express my disapprovement to others, stick around.

    I don’t see his question as being leading.

    That’s perfectly acceptable, I do, and I have put my case forward with an example of another leading question. It seems perfectly obvious to me what a leading question is, and that these questions were leading. I am partly vindicated also, in that I wasn’t the only one to see this.

  • Mriana

    Roe said,

    To Mriana, you had a sick and twisted father whose actions were inexcusable, but I fail to see how his actions of animal cruelty relate to the ethics of eating animals.

    Yes, he was sick and twisted. It just does because I see the captivity of animals for slaughter to be a form of slavery (which I mentioned in the other thread). I can’t bare the site of blood because I know those animals also went through a lot of pain at the hands of humans. Granted, it’s not as twisted, but I still sympathize for them and could not stomach the idea of eating them.

    Remember, I also had a “special” relationship with them too because they were a source of comfort for me too. Most farmers do not make pets out their cattle. I did, but my intention was not to eat them either.

    MikeClawson said,

    March 11, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Not some sky deity. (no offense, Mike.)

    None taken. Most Christians don’t believe in sky deities either.

    That’s good. Guess most Christians are coming up in the world. :lol: Just teasing and glad you didn’t take offense. :hug:

  • Raghu Mani

    MikeClawson said,

    To clarify, since many atheists tend to say that science is the only legitimate way of knowing anything about our world, and since science would tell us that there is nothing unnatural about animals eating other animals, I wasn’t sure of the reasoning for saying that it is still morally wrong.

    Actually, that’s not quite what science tells us. As per science, humans have been hunter-gatherers for the vast majority of our existence as a species. Meat from wild game is considerably different that meat from domesticated animals. In addition, in primitive hunter-gatherer societies, meat is quite often hard to find and there is considerable reliance on the gathering end of it. So, in that sense, our current meat-based diet is as “unnatural” as a completely vegetarian diet.

    Having said that, the reasons why atheists are vegetarian are many and have little or nothing to do with science. Science is essentially descriptive in nature. It tells us how things work, how they got to be the way they are – it does not attach any moral value to any of these things. Humans got their moral sense as a result of evolution but that does not mean that we should consider everything that happened during the course of that evolution to be, in any sense, moral.

    So why are people vegetarian? I suppose the answer to that would depend on who you asked. Some people do it for health reasons, some do it because they feel empathy for animals. Another reason that could cause people to give up meat is there seems to be a connection between large-scale factory-farming of animals and global warming. Calling meat-eating natural is over-simplification. As I mentioned before, modern meat-based diets are quite far removed from being natural. Also, what’s so great about ‘natural’? Nature can often be horribly cruel – so assuming natural = good is a big fallacy, IMHO.

    Raghu

  • http://skeptigator.com Skeptigator

    why would an atheist be a vegetarian?

    I am an atheist and I’m not a vegetarian but have been considering it for about a year, but honestly it’s more about environmental and health reasons than for moral reasons. The morality of killing a chicken (or more precisely having a chicken killed, doing it myself would be icky :) really never entered into my thought process.

    Maybe I’m way off here but your question has a major assumption that I’m not sure anyone else has picked up on or perhaps everyone just buys it and I’m the nitpicky one.

    Your assumption, if I may be so bold, is that “Atheism” itself has some moral foundation or core value system. But last time I checked Atheism isn’t a Something it’s a Not Something. Your question implies (or I am inferring) that everyone knows Atheism 101 and this is a more advanced Atheism 102-type question.

    I think it was Tim Mills? or Exispsissomethingorother(sp?) that had the best angle on this conversation. Tim says, “As a humanist…” which is exactly correct, a Humanist is a Something (an atheist with ethics, I believe someone said).

    I’m rambling I can tell but let me give an example. I often here the old “Stalin was an atheist and you’re an atheist so you have no morals,blah, blah, blah” accusation and my response is “You’re right. That’s entirely possible”, which often garners surprise from someone who thinks they just “got me”. I usually expand and say, “my atheism doesn’t tell you anything about what I actually believe”.

    I’ve even heard the same from this very blog and many, many others that they are tired of that same old line but then here’s a post that in it’s very question assumes that atheism and atheists have a belief in some value, and here’s the important part, *because of their atheism*. If you look under the covers, it’s exactly the same argument as the old Stalin was an atheist argument.

  • Roe

    Mriana,
    Here’s the question, maybe you didn’t read it:

    Why would it be unethical for us to fulfill our role as omnivores? What is the rationale for concluding that this is morally wrong?

    Your terrible experiences while tragic have absolutely nothing to do with this discussion, they are appeals to emotion that have no place in a rational discourse about ethics.

    Your other points about animals feeling pain are legitimate points however incorrect they may be in my view at least they have relevance to this conversation.

  • Stephanie

    Something about this question sounds like; “If you’re an Atheist, why do you have problems with hurting or killing things when there’s no theistic dictate telling you not to?”
    I know you don’t mean it that way, but I face a lot of confusion between morality and religion so I’m extremely sensitive to it. Personally, I would think those with religious dogma would be at least as inclined to exploit small animals because although Genesis specifically advocates vegetarianism, it also grants ‘dominion’ over all other animals.
    I’m not a vegetarian, but I do believe meat from ethical sources is worth the money. I grew up in a rural area, so I have strong feelings about it from personal experience. There is a price for being an omnivore and if we don’t want to pay for the expense of properly raised meat, we pass that cost along to the animals themselves.

  • Mriana

    Roe said,

    March 11, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Mriana,
    Here’s the question, maybe you didn’t read it:

    Why would it be unethical for us to fulfill our role as omnivores? What is the rationale for concluding that this is morally wrong?

    Your terrible experiences while tragic have absolutely nothing to do with this discussion, they are appeals to emotion that have no place in a rational discourse about ethics.

    Your other points about animals feeling pain are legitimate points however incorrect they may be in my view at least they have relevance to this conversation.

    I beg to differ. My experiences are what formed MY ethical reasons. A lifetime of not eating meat actually. I do not believe in harming animals in anyway, shape, or form. Experience can and often does form a person’s ethics. I do not call it an appeal to emotion, for it is MY experience and it is what has contributed to my not eating meat today. I find it unethical to do harm to any animal.

    Animals do feel pain also and I find it very naive to think otherwise. IMHO it shows ignorance to think they don’t. Ask a vet, they will tell you animals do feel pain. They also feel emotional distress too. It would be not only ignorant, but an obvious lack of knowledge concerning animals.

    I gave both reason and rational, whether you can see it or not, I answered Mike’s question. I’m sorry if you don’t see experience as contributing to one’s ethics, but they do in fact contribute. They are my ethics and I would not impose these ethics on anyone, but if they want to know, I will tell them IF they have a geniune interest.

    You did not ask the question, but IF you had, you would have gotten my “avoid ignorant responses” answer- “Spiritual reasons”. You have no interest in knowing, because you have no idea what forms one’s ethics.

  • http://skeptigator.com Skeptigator

    @John Pritzlaff

    Interesting about your thoughts on Birth Control having being a significant factor in why humans may not be “evolving as quickly” as other times in our very recent past.

    I always thought that the biggest reason why humans wouldn’t necessarily evolve is that we have a very outbred, stable population and there are essentially no selective pressures or any meaningful environmental isolation.

    I will have to look into this birth control thing, considering a signficant portion of the global population doesn’t have access to any.

  • Mriana

    What is the rationale for concluding that this is morally wrong?

    I mean, I understand the Jewish and Christian arguments for vegetarianism based on the Bible, but obviously those wouldn’t be relevant to atheists, so I’m just curious what your reasons are. For those of you here who are atheists and consider it ethically wrong to kill animals for food, why?

    Roe, these were the questions. He asked for the rational, I gave it as I interpreted his question. Secondly, the last question is why do I consider it ethically wrong (the words “you” and “your” are in there). My ethics are not based on religious texts or even religion, but rather on experience.

    Mike did not ask for scientific reasoning, but if that’s how you want to interpret his question, be my guest. I do not interpret it that way.

  • cautious

    Hmm. A lot in here has been said about our evolutionary heritage, so let’s investigate that.

    Our extant sister taxa, chimpanzees and bonobos, both incorporate animal protein into their diet. To throw out a good average number, they eat meat once a week.

    One of the dominant hypotheses on how human brain size increased so much was that an increase in animal protein in our diet allowed us to grow bigger brains. So hominins in the Homo genus mighta eaten meat three times a week.

    Nowadays some members of Homo sapiens eat meat multiple times every day.

    What happened here? It was not that our species needed to eat more meat for biological reasons,but that modern human culture and factory farming has allowed us to eat much more animal protein than ever before.

    I’m not going to go into the effect that this has on our planet, since, as everyone intelligent above has mentioned, it’s not beneficial. Human over-consumption is the biggest immediate threat to our long-term survival, and meat-eating feeds into that.

    Basically, every time I eat a cheeseburger, I tell the rest of the world to go to hell. This has nothing to do with the feelings of other organisms, this has to do with every human’s choice on whether they want to make the world a better place, or not give a shit.

  • Roe

    Mariana,
    This response would have been all you needed because it is your entire argument:

    I do not believe in harming animals in anyway, shape, or form.

    The fact that you got to this belief through a traumatic experience has nothing to do with this discussion. Perhaps if you had said that your experiences visiting slaughter houses or farms and the conditions of the animals shaped your beliefs that would have been relevant but the sadistic acts of your father to your beagles and you’re guilt and regret for doing nothing about his cruelty don’t belong in a rational discourse about the ethical treatment of cows.

    Yes animals feel pain and I said that in my post. In the future you’d do better to read for comprehension instead of skimming if you’re going to call people ignorant and then be shown to be wrong publicly.

    I just have to say again that it amazes me how you became a vegetarian because a sadistic father tortured your animals. There’s a big, giant, huge leap from sadistic torturing of animals to killing animals for food. If you had said that your experiences witnessing this cruelty had lead you on a lifelong campaign to stop the abuse of animals I could understand that but to say that you are a vegetarian for the reasons stated don’t make sense.

    Why didn’t you stop your father, did you not love your dogs or other animals? Do you still feel regret for not stopping him? Is that why you wont eat animals today? Anyway all this is irrelevant and I don’t plan on responding again.

  • Raghu Mani

    MikeClawson said,
    You think so? It seems to be a pretty common arguing point around here most of the time from what I recall. How many times have I heard atheists claim that they refuse to believe in anything without “evidence” or dismiss things that can’t be scientifically tested? Now you’re saying that they don’t really believe this across the board? Maybe they were just saying that in order to win the argument or prove how intellectually superior they are to theists?

    I think just as often atheists have said that when it comes to things like right and wrong science cannot tell us much, if anything. Same for aesthetic judgments. There is no ‘scientific’ way of proving that something is right or wrong, beautiful or ugly. Atheists would be among the first to admit that there is large degree of subjectivity in all such judgments. We most definitely use science to inform our moral judgments on occasion but that’s as far as that goes. It is religious people who insist on absolute objective standards of right and wrong – not atheists. It is religious people who want ‘evidence’ for something being moral – of course, it isn’t scientific evidence they look for but evidence that something is or isn’t there in their particular holy book.

    Raghu

  • Matt

    I like eating meat. I suppose I rationalize that they’re not cognitive enough to be aware of their impending doom. As long as they’re not abused or mistreated I have no ethical problem with slaughtering them for food. It also has a bit to do with the fact that they’re so tasty that I bend the rules a bit for myself. Fwiw, I try to purchase my beef from organic suppliers, though thats kind of hard when you go out to eat.

  • Aj

    Mriana,

    I beg to differ. My experiences are what formed MY ethical reasons.

    The charge is that you’re using your emotion to dictate your ethics, which can’t be described as “reasons”, if a reason is what it commonly means. Whether you did or didn’t, I don’t know.

    As for emotions and ethics. My emotions and ethics are separate because they often conflict. I know I would not like to kill someone, but I know that there are certain circumstances where it would not conflict with my ethics, and I would not feel guilt. Sometimes my emotions are dispicable to me, they go against my ethics.

    On the other hand, my emotional experience certainly does inform my ethics, because I rely on my experience which in turn informs my treatment of others:

    “Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature.” – Kant

    “Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you.” – Socrates

    The emotional experience isn’t the reason though, but it certainly informs. Yet if I were asked why I thought something was unethical, I would not tell of my emotional experience, I would tell of my reason, because my emotions wouldn’t make sense to anyone else without the context of reason.

    Animals do feel pain also and I find it very naive to think otherwise. IMHO it shows ignorance to think they don’t. Ask a vet, they will tell you animals do feel pain. They also feel emotional distress too. It would be not only ignorant, but an obvious lack of knowledge concerning animals.

    Many different species of animals feel pain, including plants. However, the important part, “suffering”, is a much more complicated issue. I’d say there’s an almost complete lack of knowledge of the suffering and emotional distress concerning animals. We may know that there are similarities between us and animals, but we can’t be sure that each human has the same experience, let alone animals. I find it unlikely their experience is exactly like ours, but perhaps say a cow’s experience is much more similar than a plant’s, we do not know. We know that our reaction to pain is different than even our close cousins of different species.

  • Mriana

    Roe said,

    March 11, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Mariana,
    This response would have been all you needed because it is your entire argument:

    I do not believe in harming animals in anyway, shape, or form.

    The fact that you got to this belief through a traumatic experience has nothing to do with this discussion. Perhaps if you had said that your experiences visiting slaughter houses or farms and the conditions of the animals shaped your beliefs that would have been relevant but the sadistic acts of your father to your beagles and you’re guilt and regret for doing nothing about his cruelty don’t belong in a rational discourse about the ethical treatment of cows.

    Yes animals feel pain and I said that in my post. In the future you’d do better to read for comprehension instead of skimming if you’re going to call people ignorant and then be shown to be wrong publicly.

    I just have to say again that it amazes me how you became a vegetarian because a sadistic father tortured your animals. There’s a big, giant, huge leap from sadistic torturing of animals to killing animals for food. If you had said that your experiences witnessing this cruelty had lead you on a lifelong campaign to stop the abuse of animals I could understand that but to say that you are a vegetarian for the reasons stated don’t make sense.

    Why didn’t you stop your father, did you not love your dogs or other animals? Do you still feel regret for not stopping him? Is that why you wont eat animals today? Anyway all this is irrelevant and I don’t plan on responding again.

    1. Roe, I do not attack your reasons for your ethics.

    2. In order to understand a person you have to understand where they are coming from also. It is not a big leap to see cruelity and base one’s ethics on that nor is it a big leap to relate to animals as being therapeutic and needed for human well-being. You totally missed the psychological value animals gave in all that I said too.

    3. I did try to stop him and got the hell beaten out of me. I was a child and it was NOT my fault. None of it was and to even THINK that is sheer stupidity! No, I do not feel regret because I could not stop him, I just don’t believe in contributing to such cruelity and see slaughter houses as being right up there in being cruel to animals.

    IMHO, your statememts are plain ignorance and stupidity of others. I’m sorry if you don’t base any of your ethics on experience. Maybe you’d be a nicer, more compassionate, and enlightened person about people in general if you did. I don’t know. Then again, maybe you don’t care, but again, YOU did NOT ask the question. Mike did and I was answering to him, NOT to you, and I gave him an honest answer as to how I base my personal ethics and why.

    I find it a shame Mike is getting a lot of different ideas about non-theists, but maybe this is a good thing. He can see that NOT ALL non-theists are alike anymore than NOT ALL Christians are alike. He can see who bases their ethics from the heart and who bases them from the head. To me, people who base their ethics from the heart are far better people because they don’t do things out of a sense of duty or musts or some external source such as scriptures or scientific head knowledge.

    And as for campaigning against animal abuse, I do that too, but I am not a PITA person. I am an ASPCA and WWF person.

  • Miko

    I don’t have time now to see if this has already been mentioned, but I’d say that being natural doesn’t automatically make something good. The word ‘natural’ is so vaguely defined that basically anything that’s theoretically possible could be described as natural. But I’m not a vegetarian (although people sometimes develop the false impression that I am, since I don’t eat much meat), so I can’t answer the overarching question.

  • http://thislittlepiggyhadtofu.blogspot.com Al

    AL nice one – eating meat = baby killer

    I didn’t mean to imply that they were equal, just comparable. And to point out the flaw in your argument that it’s OK to eat meat since is no god to mandate that it’s wrong.

    Where’s your compassion for all the grubs, worms, and locusts that you kill in your vegetarian life style? You slimy locust killer you.

    Yeah, it sucks. I take a little bit of solace knowing that less of those things are being killed as a result of my veganism, since MORE land has be be farmed to sustain an omnivorous diet (it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of edible animal muscle).

  • cautious

    Aj, please correct this. hurry, the moderation time limit is almost up! (edit: moderation time limit is up!)

    Many different species of animals feel pain, including plants

    Roe, here’s a good paper from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Sustaniability of meat-based and plant-based diets

    I don’t know if the 16:1 ratio is totally supportable, or if it’s an average of the American meat diet, which is highly beef-skewed. Beef is an extremely environmentally demanding foodstuff.

  • Roe

    Hey Al,

    it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of edible animal muscle

    I’m curious where did you get that statistic?

    I should resist, but I can’t:

    Mriana,
    Nice to see that your better heart has led you to be the “better person” and resort to name calling. It’s not my fault that you can’t see the gaps in your own argument, and I’m glad that I’m not the only one on here who does see these gaping holes.

    I’m not saying that it’s evil for you to be a vegetarian. I’m saying that right and wrong have no relevance when it comes to killing plants/animals for food.

    There is however evil present when you talk about suffering. Animals that we kill for food should suffer as little as possible both in the way they are raised and the way that they are killed. Slaughterhouses do pretty good killing the animals quickly but the animals need better housing. This is my position restated here so that there can be no confusion.

  • http://thislittlepiggyhadtofu.blogspot.com Al

    “The Food Revolution” by John Robbins.

    I’ve seen different figures elsewhere, and some of them have less grain per pound (but why would I quote those, right?).

    The point is that less land needs to be farmed for a vegan diet than for an omnivorous one.

  • Mriana

    Aj said,

    March 11, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Mriana,

    I beg to differ. My experiences are what formed MY ethical reasons.

    The charge is that you’re using your emotion to dictate your ethics, which can’t be described as “reasons”, if a reason is what it commonly means. Whether you did or didn’t, I don’t know.

    So what if I do? It’s better to do things from the heart than out of sense of duty or musts, IMHO.

    As for emotions and ethics. My emotions and ethics are separate because they often conflict. I know I would not like to kill someone, but I know that there are certain circumstances where it would not conflict with my ethics, and I would not feel guilt. Sometimes my emotions are dispicable to me, they go against my ethics.

    Mine are not in conflict. I’m sorry yours are.

    On the other hand, my emotional experience certainly does inform my ethics, because I rely on my experience which in turn informs my treatment of others:

    “Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature.” – Kant

    “Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you.” – Socrates

    Precisely my own reasoning. It angers me to see harm done, therefore I do not do it. I feel pain when others are harmed, therefore I do not do it. I empathize when I see suffering, therefore I avoid being the cause of suffering.

    The emotional experience isn’t the reason though, but it certainly informs. Yet if I were asked why I thought something was unethical, I would not tell of my emotional experience, I would tell of my reason, because my emotions wouldn’t make sense to anyone else without the context of reason.

    Again, you did not ask and if you had, I would give you my standard answer to those who don’t honestly want to know: Spiritual reasons and drop it. And again, I was answering Mike’s question, not yours. I even said, “I’ll address Mike’s question.”

    To be EXACT I said:

    Most people I usually just give the answer as being “spiritual reasons” and let them draw their own conclusion, but I’ll be honest here since I preceive a geniune interest from Mike. There are a lot of replies here already (and such a short time too). I haven’t read them all yet, but in response to Mike, this is why I’m a vegetarian, which is a very deep seeded reason and close to my heart, however logical or illigical it maybe preceived:

    How many times do you see the name “Mike” in that statement? Do you see yours? NO! So, butt out! I was NOT addressing YOU.

  • Roe

    Al,
    That’s not the point, the point is where did you find those statistics? I’ve never seen those statistics anywhere except vegan/vegetarian websites, so I can’t trust them due to their bias inherent. I’m not saying that I don’t believe what your saying, I’m just saying I wish you knew of a reliable source to quote for that statistic.

  • Siamang

    MikeClawson wrote:

    How many times have I heard atheists claim that they refuse to believe in anything without “evidence” or dismiss things that can’t be scientifically tested?

    Anything?!? I think you’re overstating their skepticism.

    I think they quite rightly refuse to believe extraordinary claims without any evidence whatsoever.

    That’s a fundamentally different prospect than saying one doesn’t believe in anything without scientific evidence, even things outside the purview of science, like asthetic judgements, questions of taste or moments of existential experience.

    The first one omits the extreme and uncommonly rare and elusive, phenomena, as well as all nonexistent phenomena.

    The second one potentially omits all but the thinker’s own thoughts (and maybe not even those).

    I could also ask “how many times have I heard theists try to smuggle in supernatural phenomena by a reasoning chain that goes vaguely like: “you can’t put love in a test-tube, …therefore Jesus died for your sins and is your only hope for living forever in a mansion in the clouds”.

    I think they skip a little crucial step, and that’s between a mundane claim of a universally-accepted daily experience: “love is an abstract word for a physical and emotional experience that we all have some experience with and cannot (as yet) be duplicated as an experience in a laboratory setting” and an extreme claim that tips the scale as a doozy of a fish-story: “therefore all supernatural promises made by men with funny white collars are true and should be accepted without regard to calls for evidence”.

  • Roe

    Mriana,
    I apologize, you did state in your initial post that your reasons were illogical and I guess I missed that. I’m sorry I tend to expect rational people to answer things logically and not respond to, “what color is the sky?” with “The sky is butter”. You can see how we had a hard time understanding your post since you said from the beginning we wouldn’t.

  • Mriana

    Mriana,
    Nice to see that your better heart has led you to be the “better person” and resort to name calling. It’s not my fault that you can’t see the gaps in your own argument, and I’m glad that I’m not the only one on here who does see these gaping holes.

    AJ, I did not call YOU names, I called your statements and behaviour names. Not one was directed to you as a human, but rather your behaviour and statements. Again, there is a difference.

    I’m not saying that it’s evil for you to be a vegetarian. I’m saying that right and wrong have no relevance when it comes to killing plants/animals for food.

    Maybe it doesn’t to you, but it may have relevance to Mike. You didn’t ask the question, Mike did.

    There is however evil present when you talk about suffering. Animals that we kill for food should suffer as little as possible both in the way they are raised and the way that they are killed. Slaughterhouses do pretty good killing the animals quickly but the animals need better housing. This is my position restated here so that there can be no confusion.

    That is your perception, not mine. However, I am not attacking your stance on the matter in any way, shape are form. I see no reason for you to attack mine and say it is not rational, etc. That was the same tactic I used on your statements and behaviour, yet you seem to preceive I am calling you names personally. Either way, it seems to me you are attacking my ethics and saying they are irrational. That is a matter of perception, just as you feel me calling your statements and behaviour ignorant.

  • http://skeptigator.com Skeptigator

    Everybody here are using too many broad statements.

    get it

  • Roe

    Mriana,
    This is a forum for discussion or can’t you tell? You seem to be hanging on the belief that you are having a private conversation with mike and that we all should just but out! That’s not what this is, this is a comment thread about this blog post where we all interact and discuss the topic.

    Saying that some one is acting stupid is calling them stupid, so knock off the 5 year old semantics, and yes I was saying that your statements were like that of a child, but let’s not get confused I was calling you a child not just your statements.

  • Mriana

    Roe said,

    March 11, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Mriana,
    I apologize, you did state in your initial post that your reasons were illogical and I guess I missed that. I’m sorry I tend to expect rational people to answer things logically and not respond to, “what color is the sky?” with “The sky is butter”. You can see how we had a hard time understanding your post since you said from the beginning we wouldn’t.

    :roll: I said “however logical or illogical it may be preceived”. I leave that in the eyes of the beholder- in this case, Mike, since he asked originally. Personally, I expect better of Mike and I did get better of Mike. Gee, who’d ever have thunk it! And he’s a Christian!

    In all actuality, I look at the person’s heart and their character. I take Mike at his word when he says, “I honestly just want to know,” because I have seen good character from him and he gives as good as he gets. Therefore, if he asks a question that is close to my heart, he is going to get a straight answer, not some contrived answer that has no understanding of me as a person.

  • http://thislittlepiggyhadtofu.blogspot.com Al

    Al,
    That’s not the point, the point is where did you find those statistics? I’ve never seen those statistics anywhere except vegan/vegetarian websites, so I can’t trust them due to their bias inherent. I’m not saying that I don’t believe what your saying, I’m just saying I wish you knew of a reliable source to quote for that statistic.

    Actually, yeah, that was my point. The point of my comment was to illustrate that less land is farmed for a vegan diet.

    Anyway, here’s an unbiased source that I didn’t have much trouble finding. This New York Times article says that in the US it’s a 10 to 1 ratio for beef. It also says that 2 to 5 times more grain is needed to produce the same amount of calories in livestock in general.

    Here’s the full paragraph in case you don’t want to go to the story:

    “Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.”

  • sasha

    you’re right that health and environment are my biggest reasons for being vegetarian. but its also just more ethically correct – just because meat-eating is natural, that doesnt make it right (rape is also natural). i dont agree with how cows and chicken are treated before they are to be slaughetered. so i dont support that industry.

  • Roe

    Thanks Al,
    Like I said it wasn’t that I didn’t believe you I just wanted a source to back it up for my own reference. Nothing worse than quoting something that you can’t backup ya know.

  • Aj

    Mriana,

    AJ, I did not call YOU names, I called your statements and behaviour names. Not one was directed to you as a human, but rather your behaviour and statements. Again, there is a difference.

    That wasn’t me.

    So what if I do? It’s better to do things from the heart than out of sense of duty or musts, IMHO.

    I disagree entirely. Emotions are highly changeable and inconsistant. What kind of person do we call “emotional”? Again, passions are used for what we love, but that word is also used when we do great harm. I am reminded of a study I heard about on Radio Lab.

    http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2006/04/28

    People presented with an ethical problem, 98% of people will take wildly different action, that is thoroughly consistant, when not given time to think about it. If you think that what is wrong now, will be wrong an hour from now, then hopefully you value consistancy that emotions cannot give you.

    Again, you did not ask and if you had, I would give you my standard answer to those who don’t honestly want to know

    Are you freaking high? You treat people this way, and think that people don’t notice, not just on this either. You don’t appreciate honesty from others either.

    How many times do you see the name “Mike” in that statement? Do you see yours? NO! So, butt out! I was NOT addressing YOU.

    Fuck you, too. I wasn’t addressing you earlier, yet you responded to me, and I gave an honest, polite response, to an honest, polite challenge.

  • Mriana

    Roe said,

    March 11, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Mriana,
    This is a forum for discussion or can’t you tell? You seem to be hanging on the belief that you are having a private conversation with mike and that we all should just but out! That’s not what this is, this is a comment thread about this blog post where we all interact and discuss the topic.

    Yes, it is one for discussion. Not for cutting down someone’s personal values, ethics, and beliefs.

    Saying that some one is acting stupid is calling them stupid, so knock off the 5 year old semantics, and yes I was saying that your statements were like that of a child, but let’s not get confused I was calling you a child not just your statements.

    Right. No, that is talking about their actions, not 5 year old semantics. You confuse actions with a direct assult on the person. If you are acting like a child, I’m going to say your actions are childish. This does not mean you can’t do better. I think you could, but you don’t want to and prefer to attack a person who doesn’t agree with you by saying their bases for ethics is not rational or scientific. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes it can be heartfelt rationality and not head rationality.

    What? Would you prefer I use excuses like, “God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill’, ‘Do onto others as you would have them do onto you’, and alike rationality for the basis of my ethics? Which would you prefer? Someone who basis ethics from their heart and on from their own personal thinking or someone who gets them from a book that’s been drilled into them for years? Or would you prefer someone who solely basis their ethics from another book that is scientific in nature and pure heady rational, nothing more?

    Sorry, I don’t base my ethics solely on books nor am I Vulcan. I’m more Betazoid in nature. This does not mean I am irrational though. It just means I base my ethics differently than some people and I don’t go around attacking people because they don’t do the same.

  • http://complexzeta.wordpress.com Simon

    As a vegan and an atheist, I guess this is the perfect place for me to comment. I became a vegetarian and an atheist (at least formally for the latter) at roughly the same time. I think they both came about as part of a re-evaluation process of my actions and habits. In general, I started thinking more on my own and not blindly believing what other people told me. As I started reading more about the process involved in turning animals into dinner, I realized that I had two options: either bury my head in the sand and pretend I didn’t know anything, or become a vegetarian. I honestly don’t have much sympathy for the former option; in general I tend to make my life a bit difficult by essentially always choosing my principles over my convenience, so when I decided I no longer wished to support what can only be described as utterly evil factory farming practices, I stopped and became a vegetarian (and eventually a vegan).

    I came to atheism in a similar manner, although possibly a bit slower. I went to a Jewish school for kindergarten through 5th grade and “secular” schools after that. In my Jewish education, I don’t think anyone ever told me that “God” is a big guy who watches people and like to pull strings in our lives; I think I would have rejected such a notion instantly (but then again, who knows). Rather, I was provided with some wishy-washy notion of God being everywhere and part of everything. So I didn’t really think too much about that for a while. I think it really changed when I realized that if I wanted to communicate with other people (that’s also something that took me a long time to figure out, but that’s a different story), then we had better define our terms in the same way. So if most people think of God as a big guy who pulls strings, then I had better do that too. So I realized that was absurd and started getting more interested in atheism on a purely intellectual level. Then I started thinking about deistic issues more seriously and realized that I didn’t believe in any of it. So now I’m an atheist.

    So another question that Mike asked is whether eating meat is natural. Well, maybe it is, and maybe it’s not. But if we did what was natural, we wouldn’t be using cars or computers. I don’t see that stopping too many people though. So obviously that’s not what the issue really is about.

  • cautious

    In much the same way that anyone who has a functioning brain can figure out that a Hummer is not a good purchase for the planet, most of us can figure out that raising livestock is not the best option for the planet.

    Why otherwise intelligent human beings fail to make this logical leap is due to two factors:

    1) We don’t see the negative impact of our decisions. If carbon dioxide was purple, toxic, and immediately caused global warming, we would do a much better job at controlling its emissions. Similarly, if we had to chop down forests in order to make grazing land for the ungulates we eat, or we all had to raise, feed, and then kill the food on our plate, then we would more quickly realize that meat-eating is not cost-efficient.

    2) “I can’t make a difference, I’m just one person.”

    I’m not speaking from the moral high ground here, I had a teriyaki six dollar burger yesterday. But I find it intellectually repugnant to defend carnivory for a species that, quite literally, has no need for it. Anyone in the world who has the option of having a meat-excluding diet, and doesn’t take up this option, has nothing but excuses. I recognize my role as part of the problem and am going to eat some unmeat to repent.

  • Mriana

    Aj said,

    March 11, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    Mriana,

    AJ, I did not call YOU names, I called your statements and behaviour names. Not one was directed to you as a human, but rather your behaviour and statements. Again, there is a difference.

    That wasn’t me.

    :oops: Sorry. :(

    I disagree entirely. Emotions are highly changeable and inconsistant.

    Compassion is the more appropriate word. That has not changed with me and I doubt it ever will.

    Interesting that you would avoid answering the question to some people who you think do not want to know, and then lie to people that you do think want to know.

    I did not lie to, Mike. Not sure how you got that idea.

    Are you freaking high?

    No, unless one gets high off potatos, broccoli, green beans etc. No, just ticked off by people who think reason and rationality is the end all and be all to life. It’s not. Compassion is too.

    Fuck you, too.

    I would say something, but since I addressed my previous comment to the wrong person originally, out of pure irritation, I’ll take that. I’m sorry I addressed that to you instead of Roe as it should have been since it was he who made the comments.

  • Roe

    cautious,
    “I don’t care about my impact on the planet” what about that option?

    I would personally like to see a global shift toward protecting this planet.

    HOWEVER, I will not be the first to pay the high price of that change, I will continue to do what is in the best interests of my family and if that means eating chicken and driving a car then I will continue to do it long after it’s gone out of fashion if it makes sense to my pocket book. I love the outdoors, I like camping, fishing, hunting and I want to see it around for the rest of my life.

    Thankfully no matter what the rest of you think the wilderness will outlast humanity no matter what we do to it, and as a result I’m not too worried about it.

    Going green is in fashion now, being a vegan is in fashion now, I wonder how many of you vegans/vegetarians will remain vegans/vegetarians the rest of your lives. Honestly it’s fine by me, the less meat you eat the cheaper my steaks are ;-)

  • Aj

    cautious,

    Aj, please correct this. hurry, the moderation time limit is almost up! (edit: moderation time limit is up!)

    Many different species of animals feel pain, including plants

    Damn my addiction to leaves brewed in boiled water. I made the sentence ad hoc, and changed “animals” to “life” in my mind, but not in the text.

    Mriana,

    I did not lie to, Mike. Not sure how you got that idea.

    I edited that part out, since I do not understand your position on this at all. Without the context of reason, emotions don’t answer your position on anything. “It makes me feel bad”, is a perfectly acceptable answer to “why don’t you eat meat”, but Mike’s question was formed much differently:

    What is the rationale for concluding that this is morally wrong?

    Emotions can’t give a rationale, or an answer to why you think something is morally wrong. Mike gives an example of Christians basing their position on interpretation of scripture.

    And if Mike had only asked this question, instead of the many leading questions, he would have got the responses you think he was honestly looking for. Why did he ask the other questions?

    No, unless one gets high off potatos, broccoli, green beans etc. No, just ticked off by people who think reason and rationality is the end all and be all to life. It’s not. Compassion is too.

    I asked because one of the effects to some drugs is strong paranoia. When do people ask you questions without wanting to know your answer?

  • Roe

    Mriana

    No, just ticked off by people who think reason and rationality is the end all and be all to life. It’s not. Compassion is too.

    Rationality is the end all be all. Compasion should be the result of our rational thinking.

    We share emotion with all the animals in the world it is our rationality that makes us different not our emotions or as you so ignorantly put it our hearts.

    The fact is our frontal lobes are too small and our adrenal glands are too big (Hitchens) and so we have an excess of emotion and not enough rationality. The fact that you can’t have a rational discussion on this board is why you’re being targeted, it’s not your beliefs, it’s the arguments that you put up in support of your beliefs.

    If you took 2 extra seconds you could have connected your experiences to your beliefs by just thinking it through but you didn’t want to or couldn’t.

    Again I never attacked your belief I just disagreed with it, assuming of course that your belief is that it is evil to eat meat.

  • cautious

    roe,

    Thankfully no matter what the rest of you think the wilderness will outlast humanity no matter what we do to it, and as a result I’m not too worried about it.

    This depends highly on what your definition of “the wilderness” is. I would say that to European settlers on the eastern coast of America, “the wilderness” included passenger pigeons. To European colonists settling Australia, “the wilderness” included thylacines. To the original settlers of Madagascar, “the wilderness” included elephant birds. …you get where I’m going.

    As a paleontologist-in-training, I grok, fully, that humanity is a short-term inhabitant of this planet and that our long-term ecological impact is going to be squat. That’s why I don’t think that arguing for environmentally-sound ideas as good “for the planet” is a good idea in the long run.

    What matters to humans is humans. If Americans can reduce their animal-protein intake… more food exists for the rest of the world, less humans live crappy lives, Americans feel like they did something to help the planet, less fossil fuels are spent on raising animals. Win-win-win-win.

    Honestly it’s fine by me, the less meat you eat the cheaper my steaks are

    While I recognize that this quote was meant in jest, I’ll throw in a serious reply. Based on how corn prices continue to rise, due to a few countries inspidly moronic usage of corn as a biofuel, isn’t corn-fed beef going to get more and more expensive as time goes by?

  • Roe

    AJ,
    Let’s take it a step further, what is the one and only thing that would help this planet.

    Fewer humans…..

    So honestly by feeding the hungry you’re only hurting the planet. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying we shouldn’t feed people I’m just pointing out an apparent paradox.

    We’ve been so good at war for so long that we’ve self regulated our numbers but honestly our peace and prosperity is what is causing us to harm the planet ;-)

    I would also say that in it’s current form Homosapians are incapable of achieving a balance with nature.

    Chew on that thought and tell me what you think.

  • ash

    i’m not a vegetarian, but i eat mostly vegetarian meat substitutes. my rationale for this is purely selfish; i tend to gag/vomit when i find a stray vein or lump of gristle in my food.

    when i eat meat, i prefer it to be ethically sourced; i find the idea of battery farmed and cruelly or slovenly treated animal life pretty abhorent. however, i will eat animals that are bred solely for their meat. my typical throwaway response to this is that, in england, i have yet to see a wild cow or chicken…

  • Becksi

    If you keep asking ‘why’ you’ll soon reach a point where you can’t give an answer any more.

    -Mr. Atheist, why are you vegetarian?
    -I care more about animal suffering than the taste of meat.
    -Why?
    -Um…

    -Mr. Theist, why are you vegetarian?
    -I care more about animal suffering than the taste of meat.
    -Why?
    -It’s God’s will and I want to follow his guidance.
    -Why?
    -Um… Well, I don’t want to go to Hell for disobeying God!
    -Why?
    -Um…

    In the end, neither atheist or theist can explain why they care about something. They are both vegetarians because they care about something.

    If you are already capable of caring at least yourself and yourself-not-being-tortured-eternally, then why couldn’t you just as genuinely care about other things, like others and animals-not-suffering-for-bad-reasons? I do not feel there’s a difference in caring about myself and others. Caring is caring.

    Most people are meat eaters for wrong reasons. They do care about animal suffering, but they are in denial of reality, make bad rationalizations and have false fears about their well being and reputation. Of course, I don’t doupt there are people who don’t care about animal suffering at all.

  • Aj

    Roe,

    Our extinction has been detailed very precisely recently, and I’m sure many species would benefit, and many extinct species probably wouldn’t be now if we didn’t exist. Domesticated animals weren’t be too thrilled with our removal though. In some circumstances, fewer humans would be good for humans I’m sure.

    We have the ability to destroy life on this planet, but I don’t believe we will do it. I think we’re one of the most successful species to have ever existed, and I can’t see that discontinuing, we’re so damn good that our descendants will survive, even if they no doubt will be different like we are from our ancestors.

    I think much of what we do, not only harms the other species on this planet, but harms us much. If you mean sustainability when you write “balance with nature”, then I must agree our current practices are not even remotely sustainable, but the result won’t be apocalypse, just severe consequences to many of us.

    We are capable of living sustainably, like we are capable of living rationally, but our current state isn’t great, it’s actually pretty dire. Yet revolutions that have created great change have come in the past, and I would rather look positively on our future.

    Perhaps Craig Venter will save us the trouble of changing ourselves.

  • Mriana

    I edited that part out, since I do not understand your position on this at all. Without the context of reason, emotions don’t answer your position on anything. “It makes me feel bad”, is a perfectly acceptable answer to “why don’t you eat meat”, but Mike’s question was formed much differently:

    AJ, I think many are mistaking compassion, something that is from the heart, as purely emotion. Sometimes compassion that is geniunely from the heart is, IMO, far better than something that is just from the head and pure reasoning.

    Mike gives an example of Christians basing their position on interpretation of scripture.

    I call that coming from the head too and not from heartfelt compassion. Something that is based on externals is not as lasting, IMO, as something that is internal.

    And if Mike had only asked this question, instead of the many leading questions, he would have got the responses you think he was honestly looking for. Why did he ask the other questions?

    Maybe, just maybe he was asking what I thought it to mean. People don’t always say what they mean and when he said,

    I mean, I understand the Jewish and Christian arguments for vegetarianism based on the Bible, but obviously those wouldn’t be relevant to atheists, so I’m just curious what your reasons are. For those of you here who are atheists and consider it ethically wrong to kill animals for food, why? I’m not saying you’re right or wrong either way. I honestly just want to know.

    He wanted to know what we personally base our arguments for vegetarianism. Basing one’s arguments on a book is also a personal choice. I chose not to do that, because I believe what is internal is more worthy than something that is external. I have an internal basis for my ethics that is genuine heartfelt compassion. No one told me I had to do it nor is it based on some book- be it scientific or religious. I have spent the majority of my life basing my own ethics from compassion. Yes, there are times it is purely rational, but those aren’t as meaningful as those I feel deep down in my heart.

    When do people ask you questions without wanting to know your answer?

    Those who don’t want the honest anwer and what is behind the answer. Reason from the head doesn’t have to be the answer all the time. Sometimes experience and heartfelt compassion is what is behind it all. You guys didn’t want to hear what was behind my reasons for being a vegetarian, but I felt and still feel Mike did and does. You all would have either taken “spiritual reasons” to mean some sort of religious view, when it does not, or that I just didn’t want to talk about.

    IF I had just said that, it would have been a 1/2 truth only to avoid being attack and even THAT might not have kept those who love to attack what they view as unreasonable from jumping on me. The word “spiritual” carries it own baggage that does not necessarily have that intent. Spiritual doesn’t have to be religious in nature, but there are some people here who would take it to mean that.

    Would you all who are jumping on the idea that my view is irrational not jumped on that? Would it have been fair to Mike to give him that answer? Somehow I think it would have been unfair to Mike and not trusting of him, as well as asking for attack. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

    I still feel that heartfelt compassion for others when it comes to ethics is better than some heady reasoning or basing it on some book. Heartfelt compassion has more meaning for me than than something external and/or heady.

    Rationality is the end all be all. Compasion should be the result of or your rational thinking.

    Not always, Roe. For me that carries less meaning than being from one’s heart. Compassion, to me, is something that comes from the heart and not from the head. If it is from the head, then it is not from the heart and one is doing said act out of a sense of duty rather than from the heart. I have no external duty based on heady reasoning from a book or what have you to animals, but I do have internal heartfelt compassion for people and animals.

    The fact is our frontal lobes are too small and our adrenal glands are too big (Hitchens) and so we have an excess of emotion and not enough rationality.

    Hitchens? You’re quoting Hitchens? OMFG! I won’t say anything. I don’t dislike the man, but he needs to have a little compassion and love for himself.

    The fact that you can’t have a rational discussion on this board is why you’re being targeted, it’s not your beliefs, it’s the arguments that you put up in support of your beliefs.

    It should not matter what my arguments are for vegetarianism. IMHO there are NO non-emotional beliefs for vegetarianism. I cannot base compassion for other beings (be they human or other) on a book or heady rationalism. That carries no meaning for me, but actions from the heart in such matters carries more meaning for me.

    Again I never attacked your belief I just disagreed with it, assuming of course that your belief is that it is evil to eat meat.

    Yes you did, but I don’t think you see that and no, I do not believe that eating meat is evil. I’m not sure how or where you got that idea. The belief, if you want to call it that, is that it is wrong to harm or kill anything, but that in itself does not answer what I base this idea on nor does it state that it is truly from the heart. Mike wanted to know what we base our ethics concerning animals on, but ethics do not always have to be from a book or Vulcan like reasoning.

  • Roe

    Becksi ,

    Most people are meat eaters for wrong reasons. They do care about animal suffering, but they are in denial of reality, make bad rationalizations and have false fears about their well being and reputation. Of course, I don’t doupt there are people who don’t care about animal suffering at all.

    I would agree with all of this quote, however I would add some food for thought, IMO most vegetarians mis-characterize death as suffering. I would say that only some animals suffer when used for food and those animals suffer as a result of their housing and environment not their actual death.

    Death does not equal suffering, it’s just something that we must all do, animals included.

  • Julie

    Mike,

    I don’t think there’s any great moral reason to be a vegetarian. I’ve killed fish and eaten them. I think I could kill a chicken or a cow and eat it.

    I was a vegetarian for a while for environmental reasons. I also think that while one on one, I could kill an animal, slaughterhouses and the food industry–just the vast scale of killing–are dehumanizing. Who can kill animals all day long and not become desensitized? And then we thoughtlessly consume the end result of that process. I try to be conscious of everything I eat or buy. I don’t buy anything in plastic that can’t be recycled, for example. (And LA has great recycling now, which means I can buy more stuff!) I try to understand where my food comes from. I read labels like crazy.

    But I eat a little meat now. For me, it’s about eating less meat and having less of an impact on the environment. Mostly, I still avoid it. If I buy it, I try to buy free range chicken or organic meat. If someone else makes meat for me, I eat it. I can’t insult my grandmother’s pot roast–the cow is not coming back, after all.

    Just one person’s two cents.

    Julie

  • cautious

    Roe, you need to go one step further,

    The one and only thing that would help this planet is fewer humans, living more sustainably.

    Since the First World is full of humans who are not living sustainably, the simple solution is to wipe us out and learn from our mistakes.

    Sadly, this simple solution involves the slaughter of a half billion people, so, let’s look for better solutions.

    Also,

    We’ve been so good at war for so long that we’ve self regulated our numbers

    Our previously small total population size had very little to do with self-regulation. Our population numbers were controlled by disease. Last century, we (temporarily) stopped many of these diseases, and coincidentally enough (temporarily) stopped many similar diseases in our farm animals, through the same means: massive, unprecedented usage of antibiotics. This might blow up in our faces one day. Who really knows.

    If humanity stopped making more humans tomorrow, we’d still have too many people to let all of them live the high life that the First World enjoys. To maximize overall human happiness, wouldn’t it better for the First World to eat one less burger a week, so that the rest of the world can have more food?

    Responsible human extinction involves leaving someone behind to turn off the lights.

  • Rachel

    I am an atheist and a vegetarian – atheist my entire life, and vegetarian for three years. Im vegetarian for a few reasons: for ethical reasons, my love of animals, and a bad experience (having an entire pig that I had met earlier in the day (alive and playing with the local village kids) served up on the dinner table that night on a remote island in Vanuatu, that did it for me). I think that atheists are more moral than theists, because at least when we make ethical and moral decisions, we are doing it for purely the right purpose and not because we think we will be punished by magic man in the sky.

  • Richard

    We shouldn’t eat meat because we don’t need to eat meat. The whole “this is what we evolved to do” argument is ridiculous. There are lots of things we did when we were living in caves that we don’t do now. Eating meat should be one of them. And yes, I am a vegan atheist.

  • Mriana

    In the end, neither atheist or theist can explain why they care about something. They are both vegetarians because they care about something.

    Thank you, Becksi. :) :hug:

    Death does not equal suffering, it’s just something that we must all do, animals included.

    Yes, Roe, but must we be the perpetrators of death? I think nature does a fine job of that in itself. Disease is one example and while we try to find an end to diseases, nature is continually evolving or we find new ones making our cures useless.

    Not that we should not find a means to end to disease, I’m just saying natural causes will always be with us, controlling the populations. We don’t need to live violent and cruel lives in order to control various populations and to me, slaughter houses are violent and cruel. The killing of animals is violent and cruel.

  • Roe

    Mriana,

    The belief, if you want to call it that, is that it is wrong to harm or kill anything,

    Is the same as what I said:

    your belief is that it is evil to eat meat.

    How can you say those two statements are different? Again, are you high?

    Doing wrong and doing evil are the same thing. If something is wrong how can it not be evil, if something is evil how can it not be wrong. You’re splitting hairs that aren’t there.

    Peoples emotions/hearts lead them to do horrible things. A son may keep his father alive against his fathers will so that he may selfishly have more time for him, the son views this as compassion the father may not.

    If you follow rational thinking you will generally end up in right place emotionally and have no regrets, if you follow your heart you will have regrets.

    Granted some people aren’t aware of what they need in their lives to make themselves happy so they make what they think is a rational decision when in fact it was a terrible decision. This is an example of someone making an rational decision that is irational for them to make (hehe, love talking in circles…. :-) ) and in this situation they will have regrets even thought they thought they made the rational decision.

  • Roe

    Yes, Roe, but must we be the perpetrators of death? I think nature does a fine job of that in itself. Disease is one example and while we try to find an end to diseases, nature is continually evolving or we find new ones making our cures useless.

    We are a part of nature not above it, so to say that nature does a fine job itself is correct. Human beings as a part of nature are very effective at killing cows for food.

  • Roe

    AJ,
    I fundamentally disagree with this statement, and I believe you should too even though you made it:

    We have the ability to destroy life on this planet, but I don’t believe we will do it.

    There is no possible way for us to wipe out life on this planet. There will always be micro-organisms and perhaps even fish and insects in this world, and given another billion years or so there will be animals again and plants etc, and just before the sun goes super-nova we might even get to larger animals again!

  • Aj

    Mriana,

    I think many are mistaking compassion, something that is from the heart, as purely emotion. Sometimes compassion that is geniunely from the heart is, IMO, far better than something that is just from the head and pure reasoning.

    Your responses to me so far have been confusing if you didn’t mean emotions, since I would say when I stated I didn’t know either way, you seemed to make it clear you were.

    In what way is compassion from the heart better than compassion through reasoning? Are the ends different? Are the motives different?

    When I offered my reasoning, you said:

    Precisely my own reasoning. It angers me to see harm done, therefore I do not do it. I feel pain when others are harmed, therefore I do not do it. I empathize when I see suffering, therefore I avoid being the cause of suffering.

    I don’t understand how one would get compassion, or a golden rule like statement, through pure reason. Isn’t it the other way around? An axiom like thing? An internal, not an external, what you criticize as pure reasoning and from the head may not be too different from your own reasoning.

    Those who don’t want the honest anwer and what is behind the answer.

    You were asked for a rationale, I would say that you do not want to answer that question, and that you dodged it for whatever reason I do not care. Why not just say that you do not want to answer it? If someone asked you for a rationale, I would presume they want one. If they ask for what’s behind it, then I would consider your answer an honest attempt. If you genuinely do not understand that emotions aren’t a rationale, then fine, but when someone points it out, don’t get angry, there’s a solution.

    Roe,

    There is no possible way for us to wipe out life on this planet. There will always be micro-organisms and perhaps even fish and insects in this world, and given another billion years or so there will be animals again and plants etc, and just before the sun goes super-nova we might even get to larger animals again!

    I think with our current technology we could probably do it if we set our mind to it, but with the technology we will have at our disposal in the future, I don’t think there is any question. I am aware that some organisms can withstand much radiation and live in a vacuum, yet I stand by my statement. Many organisms require others, and life isn’t on every planet I think, and we can make our planet mighty inhospitable.

  • Shane

    We don’t need to live violent and cruel lives in order to control various populations and to me

    Unfortunately, we do. I assume you are talking about hunting. The thing is that the fields we grow food on displaces lots of animals. If you don’t control their population, they will die of starvation and disease anyway. In that case, conservation officers monitoring wildlife populations and managing hunting is perfectly ethical. It is better to be humanely killed by a hunter and be eaten than to die a lingering, painful death and rot.

    The root of the problem is human overpopulation at the expense of wildlife.

    slaughter houses are violent and cruel. The killing of animals is violent and cruel.

    Mass slaughter houses may be violent and cruel. This is again a problem with human overpopulation and the industrialization of agriculture. Turning animals into factories. This is unethical and unsustainable.

    The killing of animals is not necessarily cruel or very violent. My family has raised chickens since I was very young. We feed them over a summer, let them wander around, scratch, eat bugs, and in the fall we butcher them. The life of a chicken has no intrinsic value and I have no qualms about ending its life to eat it. It is unethical to cruelly raise chickens in horrible conditions and cruelly kill them after a life of misery so in this respect I agree with vegetarians. But it is not unethical to responsibly raise chickens on a small, family farm and humanely butcher them.

    Just thought I’d add my two cents to the massive amount of posts already here. I am an atheist and not vegetarian and I would assume that atheists and theists are vegetarians for probably the same reasons.

  • Scott Talbot

    Personally I eat meat because I enjoy it. I believe also that it is hypocritical to eat plants because they have no face or that they are just more removed from me on some scale.

    Life is life. it is no more desirable (or less) to eat meat, plants, microbes or fungi.

    As far as the environment goes, Are people actually proposing that we go out and kill all the Animals because they are affecting the environment. Does anyone here believe that all farm animals would be destroyed if we stopped eating meat, is this the effect they are fighting for?

    The only valid argument, to my mind is the health effects and I suppose if I can get myself to enjoy veggies more. I will try to. But in the meantime, how about we try a little of the old live and let live.

  • Alyce

    I haven´t read through the entire list of comments, so forgive me if I am repeating a point here:

    I am frankly confused by the idea that vegetarianism is somehow supported in Christian doctrine when it explicitly states that animals were created for human consumption.

  • http://blog.myspace.com/johnpritzlaff John Pritzlaff

    Becksi, I agree with you when you say:

    “If you are already capable of caring at least yourself and yourself-not-being-tortured-eternally, then why couldn’t you just as genuinely care about other things, like others and animals-not-suffering-for-bad-reasons? I do not feel there’s a difference in caring about myself and others. Caring is caring.” This is similar to my own train of thought. However I disagree with you when you say:

    “In the end, neither atheist or theist can explain why they care about something.” I do have an answer to your “Why”‘s.

    -Mr. Atheist, why are you vegetarian?
    -I care more about animal suffering than the taste of meat.
    -Why?
    -Because there is less suffering in the world if I give up meat than if I don’t. The amount of suffering that I endure in not being able to eat meat anymore is very small compared to the amount of suffering other beings endure if I continue to eat meat.
    -Why do you care about the suffering of others, especially animals?
    -Because there is nothing fundamental separating me from them except my limited perception of the universe due to the fact that matter evolved at least once into beings that can think, and can do so independently, and that I am one of them. I have extremely good reason to believe that I am not the only being in the world that is capable of suffering, and there is no reason not to care about this fact. Happiness is preferable to suffering, and just because I cannot immediately and directly experience the suffering of others doesn’t mean that I don’t have very good reason to believe that it is occurring. In a sense, I am the others. There is no soul, no physical spirit, there is only matter. We are all part of the same universe, the same system, and it is only because we each represent such a tiny part of that system that we feel a separation from each other, that we have a tendency towards solipsism. I care about others because they are, in very serious sense, the same as me. This may sound like religious mumbo-jumbo or new age bullshit, but it is not. It is actually atheistic, and scientific, and it makes sense if you think about it, and it is not (as some will say) religious or talking about any gods. When you remove the perpetual dictator called Yahweh and the divisive concepts of a soul and immortality and the childish idea of punishments and rewards after death, this is the kind of moral philosophy that you can get. I would be very interested to hear what other atheists on this board think about my approach to ethics. What do you guys think?

  • Mriana

    Roe said,

    March 11, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Mriana,

    Is the same as what I said:

    your belief is that it is evil to eat meat.

    How can you say those two statements are different? Again, are you high?

    PLEASE! You would love to believe that! IMHO you are twisting my words to suit your own purposes. Isn’t it wrong to say atheist are evil because they don’t believe in God? Here is the word wrong does NOT mean evil, but it does mean a mistake as well as carry with is a sense of morality. It does not mean evil though. Again, it is a stratch to add meaning to my words.

    Doing wrong and doing evil are the same thing. If something is wrong how can it not be evil, if something is evil how can it not be wrong. You’re splitting hairs that aren’t there.

    No they are not. Wrong does not always equal evil.

    Peoples emotions/hearts lead them to do horrible things.

    Not always and I have yet to do something “horrible”. It is better than the alternative. Without compassion, people can be cold-hearted bastards/bitches. I cannot bring myself to be that. I have yet to do something horrible because I do things for others from my heart and not out of a sense of duty. There are times where duty plays into the equation, but my heart is still in it because I am not a cold-hearted person.

    If you follow rational thinking you will generally end up in right place emotionally and have no regrets, if you follow your heart you will have regrets.

    No you end up a cold-hearted bastard/bitch. I have not had any regrets, but then again, you are putting meaning into heart-felt compassion. It is not just following one’s heart. It is also a desire to do what is right. Not some willy-nilly pansy action. Nor is it pure cold-hearted reasoning.

    This is an example of someone making an rational decision that is irational for them to make (hehe, love talking in circles…. ) and in this situation they will have regrets even thought they thought they made the rational decision.

    I’m sorry you regert being compassionate to others. What can I say.

    Roe said,

    March 11, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    We are a part of nature not above it, so to say that nature does a fine job itself is correct. Human beings as a part of nature are very effective at killing cows for food.

    Fine Roe, you go ahead and kill the cow. I won’t be around to watch you do it. We are not lions and bears who HAVE to kill in order to survive. We don’t need to kill anything, except maybe plants, to eat. However, if you want to kill I won’t jump you for doing so, but I’m not about to do that.

    This sort of reasoning makes no sense to me either. I find it irrational logic too and based on the idea that we have to do something in order to survive or stay in a being that is similar to our caveman ancestors. I see no need for such violence and cruelity. It is not necessary and does more harm than good.

    Your responses to me so far have been confusing if you didn’t mean emotions, since I would say when I stated I didn’t know either way, you seemed to make it clear you were.

    AJ, if you want to call compassion an emotion, fine, but both you and Roe would be mistaken that it is based solely on irrational emotion. I don’t believe either of you have any comprehension and I don’t believe any amount of trying to explain it to you both is going to make it clear.

    In what way is compassion from the heart better than compassion through reasoning? Are the ends different? Are the motives different?

    IMO, there is no meaning in compassion based solely on reason alone, esp if you don’t feeling it from the heart. Yes, the motives are different. If based purely on reason one is just going through the motion and there is no meaning in it. One is doing something out of a sense of must/have to. It is not from or felt in the heart and is meaningless. Doing something because one feels they have to because reason dictates has sense of caring for others. Now if you do something because you feel a heartfelt need to do something, then there is meaning.

    This is not to say if someone is having a heart attack that you do nothing. That would be stupid, but to also have your heart in it is a plus and mine would be in it too.

    I don’t understand how one would get compassion, or a golden rule like statement, through pure reason. Isn’t it the other way around? An axiom like thing? An internal, not an external, what you criticize as pure reasoning and from the head may not be too different from your own reasoning.

    You don’t understand. The Bible is external. Reasoning is fine, but it is not always internally felt nor is it necessarily gained internally. Slaughter houses being a necessity or something like that in someone’s comment is due to overpopulation causing starvation is an external reasoning. It is not a golden rule, but the idea is similar even though it is internal.

    And Shane, starvation is more natural than us killing them to prevent starvation and find that a bad reason to kill something.

    You were asked for a rationale, I would say that you do not want to answer that question, and that you dodged it for whatever reason I do not care.

    Only based on your interpretation, AJ. However, it was not a dodge at all for me. I was being honest.

    Why not just say that you do not want to answer it?

    For you, I would.

    If someone asked you for a rationale, I would presume they want one.

    Then you give what you preceive as rationale for you. If your reason is based on a book, any book, fine. I don’t care. If your reason is all up in your head, fine. I don’t care. For me, in this case, heady reasoning is a bullcrap answer and means nothing.

    If they ask for what’s behind it, then I would consider your answer an honest attempt.

    IMO Mike did when he asked what we based our vegetarianism on, since we don’t use the Bible, in his last paragraph.

    If you genuinely do not understand that emotions aren’t a rationale, then fine, but when someone points it out, don’t get angry, there’s a solution.

    Just as some see Mike’s question as a leading question, I think you are seeing his wording differently from his intent.

  • http://blog.myspace.com/johnpritzlaff John Pritzlaff

    @Skeptigator

    I was not saying that birth control by itself was the reason we aren’t evolving by natural selection any more, I was only saying that it was significant.

    I said,

    “The most obvious and blatant example of humans going against natural selection is birth control, which already has helped to mostly stop the evolution (at least by natural selection) of our species…”

    Perhaps it isn’t very significant, but I was highlighting it because it is the most obvious example of us going against natural selection. Maybe I shouldn’t have highlighted it as strongly.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    I don’t think anything can stop natural selection. We humans are, after all, natural creatures.

  • cautious

    Scott, most of your post is difficult to find the right words to reply to it. You eat meat because you don’t “enjoy veggies”? Interesting logic. I’ll reply to this, tho.

    Does anyone here believe that all farm animals would be destroyed if we stopped eating meat, is this the effect they are fighting for?

    What I think you are trying to say here is:

    “Does anyone here believe that all farms, and their farm animals, would be destroyed if people stopped eating meat?”

    And, to answer this question…yeah. Developed countries have a very high demand for meat, therefore the supply exists. If this demand drops, the supply will, eventually, also drop.

    Humans generally don’t stop doing something that we acknowledge as ethically wrong until it’s economically a bad idea to continue that practice. To stop the mass production of meat, the mass consumption of meat has to stop.

    Taking a page from history… what stopped American whaling? Three main things: decreased efficiency of whaling (due to reductions in their numbers), technological substitutes for whale products (e.g. petroleum) and consumer disgust at where their products were coming from.

    All three of which added up to: hunting whales was no longer as profitable as it once was.

    We need to do the same thing to the meat industry.

  • raatrani

    Honestly, I became a vegetarian before I felt it was wrong to kill animals for food – or rather, before I began to truly see myself as an animal too. I actually developed an allergy to meat, and had to give it up or spend my life worshipping the porcelain goddess. =]

    As soon as I stopped consuming animals, I saw that I stopped behaving like, well, an Animal. What I mean by that was that I saw more clearly the effects of my actions on my surroundings. I suppose you could say that I felt more like the product of nature that I am. And to be perfectly honest, I can’t really look at any living creature as a source of nutrition. And as I began to explore the reasons why I feel that way, I came to realize that it all comes down to a sense of compassion.

    As sentient beings, we share with a very select few species the ability to feel compassion. And we alone, amongst those species, have the power over our environments to exercise that compassion. This has nothing to do with my atheism. If you want to call it anything, it has to do with my humanism. As a human being, capable of compassion for my fellow creatures, I cannot, in good conscience, allow them to suffer. If that suffering includes death for the purpose of nourishment, the best I can do is to ensure that the life lived previous to that death is one as devoid of suffering as is reasonably possible.

    I realize that it has nothing to do with the evolution of species, or the lack of some overseeing deity. In fact, I can say with conviction that there is nothing “wrong” with killing animals for the purpose of eating them. But my sense of compassion wouldn’t allow me to go back to eating meat if my biology allowed it. And this argument may soon become a moot point, since the study of cloned meat for human consumption is currently in progress.

  • Aj

    Mriana,

    If you want to call compassion an emotion, fine, but both you and Roe would be mistaken that it is based solely on irrational emotion. I don’t believe either of you have any comprehension and I don’t believe any amount of trying to explain it to you both is going to make it clear.

    I didn’t say compassion was an emotion. I did quite clearly read you confirming you were basing your ethics on emotion.

    IMO, there is no meaning in compassion based solely on reason alone, esp if you don’t feeling it from the heart. Yes, the motives are different. If based purely on reason one is just going through the motion and there is no meaning in it. One is doing something out of a sense of must/have to. It is not from or felt in the heart and is meaningless. Doing something because one feels they have to because reason dictates has sense of caring for others. Now if you do something because you feel a heartfelt need to do something, then there is meaning.

    What you describe does not seem plausible to me. I have said my emotional experience informs my rational ethics, and I don’t think it’s any different for anyone else as far as I have been told. I don’t think the statements “based soley on reason alone” and “based purely on reason” make sense.

    Nor do I think the statement “one feels they have to because reason dictates” makes sense at all. It’s only a means to an end, it’s not literally dictating to us, the end being compassion, I hope you understand, we’re aiming for the same end.

    It’s not that we even have to take time to think about it, we only have to consider the variables, the more complicated they are, the more time it takes. It’s not something foreign to us, we’re clearly using logic when we consider that killing one person instead of five, given only that choice, is right. If that’s mistaken to you, I fear you would kill the five for the one.

    You don’t understand. The Bible is external. Reasoning is fine, but it is not always internally felt nor is it necessarily gained internally. Slaughter houses being a necessity or something like that in someone’s comment is due to overpopulation causing starvation is an external reasoning. It is not a golden rule, but the idea is similar even though it is internal.

    Of course the Bible is external, and most likely that it’s the word of God, that God’s word is true, and God itself. I would say that the golden rule can be gained externally, like all reason, but the ability to understand and follow the reasoning is internal. The golden rule is not just easily accessible to our reason, to most we don’t have to even gain it externally to have it.

    Only based on your interpretation, AJ. However, it was not a dodge at all for me. I was being honest.

    I thought rationale actually meant something. Since Mike is asking here, and he got many responses with rationales, I’m going to stick to my interpretation.

  • Roe

    Ok Mriana last post,
    Wrong doesn’t always equal evil. However we are in a discussion about ethics and so in context they are the same thing. If something is ethically wrong I’d say it’s hard to say it’s not evil, if something is ethically evil then it’s wrong. If that’s too complicated find the nearest 5 year old and ask them to explain it.

    I know you have a hard time with logic and reasoning but lets just end this with you trusting me to be right since I’m the “cold-hearted bastard/bitch” that is rational in this conversation.

    Lastly I’d like to say thanks to you for allowing me to take the high road while you slopped through the bogs of you’re own ignorance humiliating yourself and showing yourself to be lacking in reason and tact.

  • Mriana

    I didn’t say compassion was an emotion. I did quite clearly read you confirming you were basing your ethics on emotion.

    Literalism isn’t a very good trait sometimes.

    What you describe does not seem plausible to me.

    I’m sorry it doesn’t make sense to you and I don’t know how to make it make sense to you. IF I did, maybe we would not be having this stupid argument. Just know it’s based on experience and heart-felt compassion. Experience alone can be a bases for one’s ethical values too. Ethics do not have to always be based on some book. Like I said, my experience taught me two things: empathy for others as well as it is humans who can do harm and humans who can prevent it and/or stop it.

    It may just be, that unless one experiences such things (which I hope they never do), they have no idea how personal ethics can be formed from experience and heart-felt compassion. I don’t have to think about it, because doing no harm is well-engrained into me because of this and yet it has no religious bases. It just is due to my own experience. Once you understand that, then you will understand the rationale behind it.

    Keep in mind, not all the abuse was happening to my pets. There are some things you just have to read into what I said- such as my mother (who was also abused by him) taking me and leaving only to be sent back on religious grounds (and I could site the verses if I wanted to). So, the what I saw and experience goes for all animals, even the human animal. The bases of non-violence and non-cruelity is not just heart-felt compassion led by pure emotion, but personal experience. Once you comprehend that, you might understand my position better.

    There are two kinds of heart-felt actions- violence/cruelity and non-violent/compassion. The heartless bastard/bitch comment is a true statement. Reasoning from the head can be just as bad as acting on pure emotion, but learning from experience and having heart-felt compassion for others is rational and reasonable, not irrational or unreasonable.

    Saying that the smell of meat makes me nausea is not enough of answer either. There is a reason with rationale behind people’s personal ethics and it doesn’t have to be the same as yours or anyone elses. Mine is just more complex and if you only caught just the animal abuse, you missed a great deal in what I said- such as the comment about my mother’s family’s religious values which not help the situation, a child of severe abuse, trauma, etc. It’s those little comments that I made that fill in a bigger picture not explained. It seems some did not catch the little clues and I’m sure, though this maybe assuming too much of Mike, as a minister he caught on to what I didn’t say and saw a much bigger picture.

    Do you know, SOME ministers do have some degree of psychological training and trained to listen to people? Not all just have nothing but theology under their belts. I suspect, IF he has had this training, he caught more than some people here did and IF he did, what I said and what I did not openly convey in it’s entirety, spoke volumns to him as to the rationale behind my ethics, as well as had a lot of meaning to him. Meaning that some people can’t catch on to because they are looking for rationalism that meets their definition and reasoning. This is a completely different ballpark we are talking and IF I were to tell my story, in much the same way to say a Jew they could catch onto what I am trying to convey. Heck, I have a Christian friend who knows VERY WELL that the basis of my ethics is not purely emotion. Of course, she has far more details than I will ever announce here, but someone with geniune interest will catch on to those little things not described in detail. There were more animals involved than just cats, dogs, pigs, cows, etc. and they weren’t all with fur and/or four legs.

  • Mriana

    I know you have a hard time with logic and reasoning but lets just end this with you trusting me to be right since I’m the “cold-hearted bastard/bitch” that is rational in this conversation.

    I’ll meet you part way on the word “evil”, but other than that, you are not right about anything else which concerns my rationale. See previous post.

    Lastly I’d like to say thanks to you for allowing me to take the high road while you slopped through the bogs of you’re own ignorance humiliating yourself and showing yourself to be lacking in reason and tact.

    Actually, it was you who slopped off through the blogs of you’re own ignorance humiliating yourself and showing no reason or tact, because you cannot comprehend that there was more than met the eye. Again, see last post.

    Until you have walked a mile in another person’s shoes… You’re entirely cluesless and being quite arrogant in thinking you are right, when in fact, you have no idea or understanding of anything all because it doesn’t meet your standards of rationale. IMO that is the epitomy of ignorance.

  • Aj

    Mriana,

    Literalism isn’t a very good trait sometimes.

    I’m sorry it doesn’t make sense to you and I don’t know how to make it make sense to you.

    I wouldn’t have even commented, accept for your comments in response to someone else that seemed to be something rather clear and rather scary.

    There is a reason with rationale behind people’s personal ethics and it doesn’t have to be the same as yours or anyone elses. Mine is just more complex and if you only caught just the animal abuse, you missed a great deal in what I said- such as the comment about my mother’s family’s religious values which not help the situation, a child of severe abuse, trauma, etc.

    Yes, I’m assuming that there is reason and rationale behind people’s ethics, and have experience that they’re not all the same, or even remotely alike.

    I was aware of the implicit content of your first post, but I have not fealt at ease at commenting on it, even to say I am sorry for your experience, and feel empathy for you.

    If you do not wish, or do not know how to, express your ethics, because they are complex, then that’s perfectly understandable.

  • Goddamn Chicken

    I’m concern about the use of the word ethics and ethical without justification.

    Ethics is a set of values that we impose on ourselves. They are memes. They can evolve. Ethical memes built from irrational justifications (emotion such as fear, empathy) will change and adapt to the zeitgeist of the time. (eg. slaves were okay, women are inferior, etc). Who knows, in 1000 years time, things that we think are okay may be unethical. Ethics and morals are created to control a large population towards a common goal. Ethics built on logic and scientific knowledge are stronger and harder to change. They are also consistent. Hence, if we say humans have more empathy for animals, and we should all become vegetarian, we can break this ethic by suppressing empathy and emotion. Or those who have lower empathy will not understand the rationale at all. We are creating an emotional (irrational) set of reasoning about food consumption. Religion does the same thing: “Don’t eat this or God will punish you” is a moral rule built on fear. It may be hard, but sometimes we need to look at our reasoning in a complete unemotional and uncaring position. (btw, I like to use the word ethics in a secular way and morals mostly in religious context.)

    However, a population should have ethics to help guide us towards a common goal. A mechanism to nudge the populous towards an ideal. Otherwise there would be chaos.

    Because atheists do not have a “holy book” that tries to enforce a set of un-changing and out-dated morals and values, we should build our values on stronger principles. So there is nothing wrong with saying we should not eat meat because of environmental or health reason. These are rational reasons built on the science and technology at the time. We can then use emotion and gut feeling when there is a lack of science or logic to guide us, or when technology provides multiple paths.

    Ethics can also be built on logic. The logic of altruism can be use to build ethics (ie. altruism among a group of species is a win-win situation). A side effect of altruism is the good emotions that comes with it. Therefore, we could say, we should not eat meat because humans are in the position to be altruistic. We could, in theory, build a whole society on the ethics of brutality and struggle (ie. think Klingon society in Star Trek). This is the logic that evolution (survival of the fittest) is built on. We have the mental ability to switch out from the survival of the fittest into a purely altruistic strategy (ie. a different strategy in game theory). It’s our choice. In a godless world, there is no wrong or right choice. Good and evil is a religious concept (meme). As an atheist, this is liberating and profound feeling. We have the freedom to choose our evolutionary path.

    In conclusion, those people who are JUST saying we should do this or that because it is ethical, are not stating the underlying reason. Ethics may change over time as our goals and knowledge change. Also, among countries and cultures, we also don’t have a common set of ethics yet.

  • Mriana

    I wouldn’t have even commented, accept for your comments in response to someone else that seemed to be something rather clear and rather scary.

    Except for maybe misunderstanding of what I was trying to convey, I didn’t mean to scare anyone.

    I was aware of the implicit content of your first post, but I have not fealt at ease at commenting on it, even to say I am sorry for your experience, and feel empathy for you.

    Don’t worry about it. If there is anything someone can learn from it or gain from it, even through any misunderstandings after that, that is enough for me.

    If you do not wish, or do not know how to, express your ethics, because they are complex, then that’s perfectly understandable.

    It’s not that I don’t wish too. It’s a matter of being too complex to express in words, but experience has a lot to do with it.

    Not to scare, but if you remember the movie “The Ring”, what I got out of that story is a little girl who was abused and those who knew had to tell her story. Well, back in the 70s more often than not people knew, but they did not tell. However, I have been telling my story long before that movie, which my second ex-husband wanted me to watch with him. I didn’t want to watch it and as it turned out, I had nightmeres afterwards, because I understood and got the message.

    No, I don’t want you to go around telling anyone yourself. That time has long since past and now it’s up to me, but that point is, animals have no voice and even if it is heard through my experience growing up, as well as a means to explain my ethics, then so be it. It is more than just cruelity to animals. It’s a whole set of “ideology” based on human experience. I don’t mean ideology as in religion- I’m struggling for words, but it tells why I am against violence and cruelty of any kind. My vegetarianism is more than just, “I don’t like meat”.

    Mike asked for the basis of it and the basis is my experience, but that alone doesn’t quite answer the question either because there is always that, “What was your experience?” or something to that effect esp by those who honestly want to know the basis. If you know the story of the Holocaust and you meet a Jew who says they base something on life experiences, and then you see the numbers on their arm. You basically know their story and there is A LOT of reasonable complex rationale behind it. To dispute that with them would be, to me at least, incomprehensible. I don’t have those little clues to explain an answer of “My life experience”.

    Anyway, I have a headache. So I’m going to call it a night.

  • Aj

    Goddamn Chicken,

    Ethics is a set of values that we impose on ourselves.

    I don’t think I have a moral code, a set of laws as such, more a principle to use logic to inform what I consider right and wrong in any given instance, considering the consequences, and which is best for those involved.

  • http://ecstathy.blogspot.com Efrique

    Long ago (in my late teens, more than 25 years ago), I worked out that there simply were too many of us on the planet for us all to eat meat the way that we do in the western diet; clearly that needed to change. I concluded that an ethical first step was for *me* to stop eating meat.

    However, it took me another decade or so to make enough of an emotional connection to the animals involved before I was able to actually go “that time is now”. I have not eaten meat since.

    Apart from babies, of course – I am an atheist after all. And they’re delicious!

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Holy shit, I go out for the evening and 160 comments pop up!

    Seriously, thank you to all who took my question at face value and gave honest explanations for your beliefs and practices. (Yes, including you Mriana.) There were a lot of good answers and I appreciate the constructive dialogue (though not so much some of the immature sniping at each other).

    As for those who assumed my questions were “leading”, I hope you’ll at least note that I’ve not “led” anywhere with them. If I was supposed to go somewhere with them, I’m afraid I don’t know where that was. Sorry.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    For me living a “good” life mean to minimise the harm and suffering I cause and maximise the good that I cause. Not eating meat is part of that. So is recycling, composting, not pushing people who annoy me into traffic, helping my fellow living creature, not supporting hunting, etc. Being an atheist has strengthened these opinions by reducing the cognitive dissonance or increasing empathy (same effect) but it certainly isn’t necessary. It is a personal choice.

    One objection that I’ve never really got my head around is that of meat eaters who oppose the eating of dogs or turtles in China or of horse meat. I can’t see the difference just because the animal is domesticated. People keep rabbits as pets and some still eat them.

  • Mriana

    Yes, including you Mriana.

    Thanks.

    Guys, this just shows that Mike had no alterior motive. He honestly did want to know and was not necessarily looking for rationale that was based on any particular meaning of “rational”. All to often it seems people read too much into what people say or write. Mike’s been here long enough that it would seem we would be able to take him at his word. Trust and respect is earned and IMO, Mike has earned both. It makes no sense to me as to why some still read more into his questions than what is there. I honestly feel Mike wants to know what makes us tick and more often than not what actually makes us tick is something we’ve experienced in the past that gives meaning to our values and in sight to the [individual] human condition.

  • Randy

    Wow, 96% fed to livestock! I guess Cornell University researchers need to get educated also…huh Adrian? Lets look at real numbers.

    -40% of grown grain is fed to livestock (still alot)

    -Past 5 years have yeilded a worldwide surplus of 600 million metric tons

    -farmers are going out of business due to higher yields and LOWER prices

    Before you use the standars christian defense of “get educated” you need to look in the mirror my friend and stop getting your information off vegan websites.

    As far as hunting goes, get educated Adrian. The average whitetail doe has one fawn the first year and two each year after. Average lifespan is 16 years. With the increase in agriculture food is no longer an issue, for anything. State wildlife agencies are offering extra doe hunts to contain the growth. The Snow Goose population now sits around 3 million (800,000 normal) due to agriculture. Farmers here in Nebraska lose crops to deer, the estimate I was told by a farmer who’s land I hunt on was 10 rows all the way around his land. You can figure amounts if you like. So the myth of “extiction due to hunting”….who needs education?

  • Aj

    Mike Clawson,

    As for those who assumed my questions were “leading”, I hope you’ll at least note that I’ve not “led” anywhere with them. If I was supposed to go somewhere with them, I’m afraid I don’t know where that was. Sorry.

    Strange that someone who says they’re educated in philosophy wouldn’t know what a leading question is. Anyway, I’ve found a post that confirms where you were leading with the questions:

    To clarify, since many atheists tend to say that science is the only legitimate way of knowing anything about our world, and since science would tell us that there is nothing unnatural about animals eating other animals, I wasn’t sure of the reasoning for saying that it is still morally wrong.

    So as a follow-up question, would most of you say that reasons like empathy and compassion are scientific rationales for not eating meat? Again, just curious.

    If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you’re obiously not unfamiliar with how to contruct them. The ignorance… the lies…

  • http://badidea.wordpress.com Bad

    Seriously, Mike. After several of these posts, I would have hoped you’d have moved on from asking questions based on the same lousy assumptions and confusions about atheists.

    Once again:

    I mean, I understand the Jewish and Christian arguments for vegetarianism based on the Bible, but obviously those wouldn’t be relevant to atheists

    There is not a different set of logic for believers and atheists. Believers have no different or distinct explanation for moral feelings that atheists lack, and vice versa. Saying that something is “based on the Bible” is essentially avoiding saying what, in MORAL terms, it is based on, not citing a distinct or different source for moral reasoning irrelevant to atheists. At best it’s pointing to a place that might record some particular moral arguments. But moral arguments must be sound or not regardless of where they come from or who is claimed to endorse them (God or anyone/thing else).

    And AJ has pretty neatly put the lie to your claim to have not been leading anywhere. You know full well at this point, because you have been told repeatedly, that saying that science is the best or only method for knowing things about the world is not the same thing as saying it’s the only thing relevant to caring about this or that cause in the world. From someone who claims to have a background in philosophy, you’ve never heard of the distinction between is and ought? Really?

    I don’t buy it.

  • Becksi

    John Pritzlaff,

    I could still ask more ‘why’ questions. But I think feelings or conciusness are some of the things that we just have to accept that they exists just like we have to accept that matter or light exists.

    Reading you ‘why’-answer, it seem at least you too have realized that there is no reason to think that naturalism is any more cold and worthless compared to supernatural/god/souls. Not all like or understand this idea. Noticed how people often use dismissive words when describing naturalistic worldview? “Just (filthy) animals”, “just a bunch of atoms”, “just neurons firing in the brain causing an illusion of…”

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Whatever.

    Look it’s really very simple. If you’re a vegetarian and an atheist, I’d like to know what your reasons are. That’s it. No ulterior motives. Anyone reading any other intent into the question needs to get over their persecution complex and realize that not every Christian is out to get you.

    And I’d also appreciate it if you’d stop flat out calling me a liar. I’ve told you what my motives are. You can either choose to believe me or not, but you don’t have to be assholes about it.

    (BTW Becksi, it looks like we cross posted. My comments were not directed at you.)

  • Mriana

    Aj said,

    March 12, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Strange that someone who says they’re educated in philosophy wouldn’t know what a leading question is. Anyway, I’ve found a post that confirms where you were leading with the questions:

    To clarify, since many atheists tend to say that science is the only legitimate way of knowing anything about our world, and since science would tell us that there is nothing unnatural about animals eating other animals, I wasn’t sure of the reasoning for saying that it is still morally wrong.

    So as a follow-up question, would most of you say that reasons like empathy and compassion are scientific rationales for not eating meat? Again, just curious.

    If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you’re obiously not unfamiliar with how to contruct them. The ignorance… the lies…

    May I ask why you seem so determined to find fault with Mike so badly? I really don’t believe he was trying to lead anywhere. There is no purpose in it. Is he suppose to watch how he says everything for your benefit? That would be a bit contrived, IMO.

    And AJ has pretty neatly put the lie to your claim to have not been leading anywhere.

    No, AJ hasn’t. IMHO s/he desparately wants to find fault with Mike. I find it totally rediculous, because the only reason AJ wants to find fault, from what I can tell, is because Mike is a Christian. :roll: Doesn’t AJ have relatives who are Christians? Does s/he try so hard to find fault with them and therefore is constantly on guard?

    I don’t find such behaviours very becoming of a person. What has Mike done since he’s been here that’s so bad? He hasn’t tried to convert anyone. He hasn’t preached, esp not hellfire and damnation. He’s not done anyone any harm. So what’s the problem that he can’t be friends here? I don’t get, but what I do see is some people trying to find fault with him, judging him, and condemning him without any solid evidence. Over 165 posts and y’all have been looking for fault all this time. Makes no sense at all to me. Seems like a waste of time and energy.

    BTW, Christianity is not JUST a religion, but it is also a philosophy. :roll:

  • Siamang

    I’d like to ask how Mike could have asked the question without raising people’s alarm bells here. Seems to me he asked the question just fine. However, if he didn’t, there are better ways to react about it than how people have reacted in this thread.
    That is, unless this is you.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Mike, I understand you had no ulterior motives now, but I can also understand why some thought the questions were leading. Looking at your original post:

    leaving off health reasons and environmental sustainability reasons (both of which I think are very good reasons), why would an atheist be a vegetarian? That is, is there any reason for an atheist to ethically object to the idea of killing animals for food.

    Leaving off environmental and health issues leaves only ethical issues. So the question boils down to “why would an atheist have ethical reasons at all?” which is similar to the “how can an atheist be moral” question which pushes many atheists’ hot button.

    From another angle it seems like atheism has nothing to say about the ethics of killing animals for food, unless you assume a god is the only basis for saying it is wrong or right. When I first read the question it almost sounded like “why would a non-astrologer be a vegetarian?” What does astrology or lack of belief in astrology have to do with eating meat?

    Also:

    What I mean is isn’t animals (like human beings) eating other animals simply part of the natural process?

    Using the negative form here does lead the question to some extant. Compare:

    Don’t Christians approve of slavery?
    Do Christians approve of slavery?

    Both are silly questions, but the first is leading. And as you saw most atheists here objected strongly to the idea that natural things are equivalent to good things.

  • Mriana

    Siamang said,

    March 12, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    I’d like to ask how Mike could have asked the question without raising people’s alarm bells here. Seems to me he asked the question just fine. However, if he didn’t, there are better ways to react about it than how people have reacted in this thread.
    That is, unless this is you.

    ROFL! I think you said the same thing I said only a little different. I like how you said it better. :)

  • Aj

    Mike Clawson,

    Anyone reading any other intent into the question needs to get over their persecution complex and realize that not every Christian is out to get you.

    That’s funny, because I seem to remember you playing that card, “it’s because I’m a Christian”, not so long ago. It would be a bit harder to do that this time.

    Mriana,

    May I ask why you seem so determined to find fault with Mike so badly? I really don’t believe he was trying to lead anywhere.

    If you’re that credulous, I can’t persuade you. However, what you’re actually saying is that I don’t really believe he wrote those leading questions. How do you explain the other freaking people who saw them? It’s a conspiracy!

    I’ve highlighted the leading questions, I’ve highlighted the incriminating statements. Decide for yourselves.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Mike, I understand you had no ulterior motives now, but I can also understand why some thought the questions were leading. Looking at your original post:

    “leaving off health reasons and environmental sustainability reasons (both of which I think are very good reasons), why would an atheist be a vegetarian? That is, is there any reason for an atheist to ethically object to the idea of killing animals for food.”

    Leaving off environmental and health issues leaves only ethical issues. So the question boils down to “why would an atheist have ethical reasons at all?” which is similar to the “how can an atheist be moral” question which pushes many atheists’ hot button.

    It would only boil down to that if one assumes that killing animals for food is an ethical issue in the first place. But that shouldn’t be assumed since that was exactly what I was asking about. The question IS NOT “do atheists have morals?” The question was “is this a moral issue at all for you, and if so, why?”

    But I do apologize if that was unclear because of how I phrased the question. Every time I post here I try as hard as I can to word it in such a way as to be as non-offensive as possible, since I know there are going to be those here who will give me grief about it no matter what. However, I’m pretty much at the point of giving up and not posting anymore at all since it seems that no matter what I say people will read offense into it.

  • Aj

    MikeClawson,

    The question was “is this a moral issue at all for you, and if so, why?”

    That’s funny, because I distinctly remember having read this:

    What I mean is isn’t animals (like human beings) eating other animals simply part of the natural process? Isn’t that how nature functions? Why would it be unethical for us to fulfill our role as omnivores?

    Mean the same thing do they? Please, tell us all how much you think of us, tell us that it means the same thing without any extra content.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Yes, as far as what I meant by them, the two questions are equivalent. In both questions I am simply asking whether, in the opinion of the people here, eating other animals for food should be considered a moral/ethical issue at all. That’s it. You’ve really got to be determined to find something to take offense at to get anything more out of it IMO.

    But hey, if you’re so intent on being offended, that’s your right. Have fun with that.

  • Mriana

    If you’re that credulous, I can’t persuade you. However, what you’re actually saying is that I don’t really believe he wrote those leading questions. How do you explain the other freaking people who saw them? It’s a conspiracy!

    No, I believe you are trying to find fault with Mike. Credulous? I don’t think so, because I’ve gone through the posts and I only saw you making an big issue out it and one person made a lame joke. Now you and Roe jumped me, but you were the only one heckling Mike, which happens more often than not when he posts something. I didn’t see Bad say anthing about it until you took 24 hours looking for fault and find what you preceive as evidence of him leading us. I don’t THINK SO!

    IMHO, you don’t want him here because he is a Christian. That is a sorry excuse. Personally, I’d come up with something better than accusing him of leading questions. IF he was going to go somewhere with this, he would have targeted me for criticizing Christians in my posts (specifically my relatives, but defensive Christians don’t catch that) and calling that sort of deity a sky god. He took no offense nor did he target me for anything, probably because he understood I was talking about a particular group of Christians.

    Now I suspect you have been hurt by a similar group and take it out on all Christians. That’s what I looks like to me. Truth is, some atheists are just as bad as Evangelical Fundies and give atheists a bad name. Therefore some people could take it out on ALL atheists and ALL Christians. That wouldn’t be very good, because then that person would be up there with Muslim extremists. Personally, I don’t want to be like that. I would rather find out if the person is being honest, which Mike is, and go from there. If they aren’t being honest, then I wouldn’t want anything to do with them or at least no more than I had to deal with them.

    I see no reason to jump Mike, he’s done nothing wrong.

  • Mriana

    You’ve really got to be determined to find something to take offense at to get anything more out of it IMO.

    But hey, if you’re so intent on being offended, that’s your right. Have fun with that.

    You’re right, Mike and that’s how I see it too. AJ is nitpicking because he wants to find fault with you, but only because you are a Christian. :roll:

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    “is this a moral issue at all for you, and if so, why?”

    Now that’s an interesting question, and it can be addressed to people in general, not just theists or atheists or anyone else. (Is there anyone else?? ;-) Maybe a thread could be started in the forum.

    Other questions (for no one in particular):
    1. Do you think animals feel pain? (Chimps? Cats? Fish? Ants? Amoeba?)
    2. Do you think inflicting pain on an animal is wrong? If not, does that include prolonged torture of the animal?
    3. Is it wrong to kill animals if the killing does not cause any pain or suffering?
    4. If the answer to 3. is no, then why isn’t it wrong to kill a person if you did it in a painless way and it caused no suffering? (ie. the victim had no friends or family that would suffer, etc.)

    What do you think of this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pit_of_despair

    Is Harlow “evil”?

  • Claire

    NYCatheist said,

    1. Do you think animals feel pain?

    Why would you phrase this as though it were a matter of opinion? It’s a matter of fact, not opinion, and yes, they absolutely do. Biology has advanced more than a little since Descartes, and the idea that animals don’t feel pain is long since discredited.

  • Aj

    Mriana,

    I don’t think so, because I’ve gone through the posts and I only saw you making an big issue out it and one person made a lame joke

    I said that others saw the leading question, not that they made an “issue” of it. Are you saying that only two saw the leading questions? I am more than willing to back up my statement with quotes, and times.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Why would you phrase this as though it were a matter of opinion? It’s a matter of fact, not opinion, and yes, they absolutely do.

    First, of course I agree with you which is why I added the different animals in parenthesis. Do you think ants feel pain too? How about hydra? At what point in the range of animals from people to paramecium do things stop feeling pain, if at all? (I know single celled creatures might not be classified as animals, and amoeba don’t have nerves, but hydra do.)

    Secondly I have met people who believed animals don’t feel pain. That was their opinion. How would you convince them they are wrong? It isn’t so easy if their assumption is based on the belief that animals lack souls and aren’t conscious.

  • Mriana

    Are you saying that only two saw the leading questions?

    Unlike you, others did not make a big issue out of it, because there is NO issue to make out of it. It’s making a mountain out of a mole hill.

    Tell you what, you aren’t going to convince that Mike is up to anything devious or mean and I’m not going to convince you that you are making a big deal out of nothing. That’s the beauty of freethinking. What’s even better is dropping an issue that is not there. IMHO, it’s silly to continually try and find fault with Mike. It seems that is all I ever see you do, esp when Mike posts something.

  • Aj

    Mriana,

    Unlike you, others did not make a big issue out of it…

    Out of what? You deny that there is an “it”, your stance has been that he didn’t ask any leading questions.

    I can’t say why more people didn’t take an issue with it. I can tell you why I have written more than my initial paragraph on it. Someone responded to my paragraph denying that there were leading questions. Who was that again, Mriana?

    It’s nice to see you challenge what I say by invoking evidence, and then when I say I’ll go back and look, you drop it, like you never challenged.

    IMHO, it’s silly to continually try and find fault with Mike.

    Because there’s no fault to be had, he’s freaking perfect, right? You go out of your way to protect people you agree with, even to the extent that you will lie. Sorry, but this is too obvious, too ridiculous. They’re freaking leading questions with implications about atheists that are unpleasent, based on ignorance or bigotry that Hemant posts about from other Christians all the time, and you don’t defend them.

    I don’t know whether Mike is being “devious” or “mean”, I don’t know his intentions, and I didn’t accuse him of this. I do accuse him of saying what he clearly did, and lying about it continually, even to the point of farce, where he can say one question is the same as three questions with clearly different content.

  • Mriana

    Out of what? You deny that there is an “it”, your stance has been that he didn’t ask any leading questions.

    Precisely. I don’t view it as a leading question, so I don’t see why one should make a big deal out it. It’s nothing.

    Because there’s no fault to be had, he’s freaking perfect, right?

    Oh good grief! :roll: I never said he was perfect. No one is perfect. You are reading too much into that.

    You go out of your way to protect people you agree with, even to the extent that you will lie.

    Who said I agreed with Mike? I don’t agree with him on his worldview. Lie about what?

    They’re freaking leading questions with implications about atheists that are unpleasent, based on ignorance or bigotry that Hemant posts about from other Christians all the time, and you don’t defend them.

    You know, I think that is a load of BS. I did find that Mike was implying atheists were unpleasant nor do I see him as bigotted. As for what Hemant posts, I see no one attacking him because of what he posts.

    Again, I think you are attacking Mike because he is a Christian. I don’t attack all Christians and what Hemant posts is true of some Christians. Hemant is rarely attacked and when he is, it is generally by Christians who are of that type. I am an equal opprotunist also- I’ve called the UnRRS more than once for their behaviour and I also call some Christians on their behaviour. From what I notice, you attack Mike EVERYTIME he posts. What is wrong with that picture?

    I don’t know whether Mike is being “devious” or “mean”, I don’t know his intentions, and I didn’t accuse him of this. I do accuse him of saying what he clearly did, and lying about it continually, even to the point of farce, where he can say one question is the same as three questions with clearly different content.

    Accusing him of lying and posting leading questions is saying he has some sort of malicious intent. I don’t see that from him and think this it completely off base to accuse him of such things.

    Like I said, we are not going to convince each other differently so we might as well drop it, because it is derailing the thread.

  • Aj

    Mriana,

    From what I notice, you attack Mike EVERYTIME he posts. What is wrong with that picture?

    Not everytime, and from what I notice, you defend him as much. My criticism has always been about the content of Mike’s posts and comments. I can not say the same for your defense, much of the time you don’t even seem to care what he said, only that you believe he’s good and honest.

    You know, I think that is a load of BS. I did find that Mike was implying atheists were unpleasant nor do I see him as bigotted. As for what Hemant posts, I see no one attacking him because of what he posts.

    I see whining to Hemant when he points out the ignorance or bigotry against atheists from Christians, just like the whining I am getting.

    Accusing him of lying and posting leading questions is saying he has some sort of malicious intent.

    Not true, there does not have to be a malicious intent to lying or leading questions. If you think that’s an inherent part of their nature you need to look up what they mean before you comment on them.

    I say leave it at that. We have questions made by Mike that multiple people have saw to be leading questions, and we have multiple corrobarating accounts to what they think that was, and we have a statement from Mike himself expressing exactly what we thought implicit in his questions. And if you can accept that the question Mike says is equivalent to the three, then I’m sorry, but that’s complete madness.

  • http://ecstathy.blogspot.com Efrique

    Although I didn’t address it in my response as to why I chose to become vegetarian (where I dealt with the morality relating to other humans), I do think eating animals for food is also a moral issue in relation to animals.

    As a sample of the thing I am talking about (this is not the entire issue for me, just one aspect):

    i) I believe (via observation that suggests animals can experience very similar sensations to humans in similar circumstances) that animals can experience pain and distress.

    ii) I believe that the conditions under which animals are raised for food and killed for food can cause distress and pain

    iii) I believe that humans in wealthy Western societies are in a position to choose whether or not they eat animals and remain healthy either way.

    iv) I believe that an attempt to reduce the distress and pain of creatures (both human and nonhuman) is ceteris paribus, a moral act. I may weigh humans more heavily, but that doesn’t mean I can ignore effects on animals.

    Ergo, eating animals for food is a moral issue. There are several other arguments that lead me to the same conclusion.

    I don’t expect that I will never revisit and reassess my reasons, indeed, I do it regularly (since reasoning that can’t withstand a critical examination is likely self-delusion). I don’t claim I will never again eat another animal, but even if that were to change, I expect I would never eat much in the way of meat – because my original reasoning from the other post is unlikely to remain unchanged.

    If it were possible to produce something like vat-grown animal protein without substantial environmental cost (say, on the order of crops, rather than the often many-times-more wasteful raising of animals on food and water that could be used to feed humans instead), I would not have a problem with it.

  • Claire

    NYCathiest said

    Secondly I have met people who believed animals don’t feel pain. That was their opinion. How would you convince them they are wrong? It isn’t so easy if their assumption is based on the belief that animals lack souls and aren’t conscious.

    Those people are idiots. I would ask them what the hell having a soul has to do with the ability to feel pain, then smack them. Really, really hard, and probably more than once.

    Then, if I felt they had the smallest chance of understanding, which I doubt, point out that pain is a simple biological response, one which can be observed in humans AND in animals in a variety of ways, from high tech to low. PET scans and fMRI both show pain response in the brain, in humans and animals. Brain lesions can remove the ability to feel pain in humans and in animals. If you anesthetize a body part, neither humans or other animals feel any pain there. If either has a hurt foot, they try not to walk on it. If you step on a critter’s tail, it yelps. There are objective ways to measure pain, and those show that animals feel pain as well as fear and other forms of suffering. What part of that do they not get?

    Or more to the point, why do they feel obliged to deny the obvious? The only reason to maintain that animals don’t feel pain is if a person stands to gain from causing pain to animals. Those people are scum.

    About the second half of your question – research shows the cut-off point is probably vertebrates. Below that it’s hard to tell if there is recognizable pain.

    For the record – I’m not a vegetarian. I mostly buy my meat at farmer’s markets and other places where I can be reasonably certain it was humanely raised and slaughtered.

  • http://skeptigator.com Skeptigator

    If it’s any consolation when I made my comments I thought Hemant posted this not the Big Bad Evil Christian guy. [insert scary face]

    Unlike a couple of other posters here my criticism of the question was actually directed at the question itself not the questioner.

  • Stephanie

    [quote]I am frankly confused by the idea that vegetarianism is somehow supported in Christian doctrine when it explicitly states that animals were created for human consumption. [/quote]

    Alyce,
    I don’t think anybody answered your question because there was quite the lovefest going on that deluged these comments. I can’t speak for anyone else, but the passages in question that I was citing are in Genesis, 1:28 and 1:29.

    1:28: And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
    1:29: And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

    If there are later directives (and there probably are) I haven’t the foggiest because, hey, it’s not my book. But I welcome anyone to find them and post them if they’re relevant.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Of course realizing that in King James era English, the word “meat” simply means “food”, so that v. 29 can be taken to mean that God is establishing a vegetarian diet for humanity.

    And, as I understand the meaning and context of the word “dominion” in v. 28, it should not at all be taken to mean we can do whatever we like with creation. Rather, the idea is that we are “stewards”, charged with caring for creation as kind and responsible “rulers”.

    Another way to put it is that God is saying to humanity “I’ve created you with greater abilities than the rest of creation, with intelligence and freedom, and with greater ability comes greater responsibility, so take care of this place.”

    At least, that’s what many Rabbis and theologians have taught from that passage throughout the centuries. Of course in the Enlightenment/Colonial era Westerners often seized upon that word “dominion” and misinterpreted it in order to justify their plunder of the natural world. That reading still prevails in the more fundamentalist sects, but truthfully these days even the conservative evangelicals are recognizing their responsibility to care for God’s creation.

  • Mriana

    Mike said,

    And, as I understand the meaning and context of the word “dominion” in v. 28, it should not at all be taken to mean we can do whatever we like with creation. Rather, the idea is that we are “stewards”, charged with caring for creation as kind and responsible “rulers”.

    Another way to put it is that God is saying to humanity “I’ve created you with greater abilities than the rest of creation, with intelligence and freedom, and with greater ability comes greater responsibility, so take care of this place.”

    Amazingly, you are the first person I have heard interpret it correctly. I have disputed that with so many Christians, insisting that it means we should take care of the earth and they took so much offense by the idea, insisting it means we do what we want with it. I have even argued this with my mother and her family, in which I got no where. :roll:

    And you are right, [most reputable] theologians and rabbis teach that it means to take care of the earth. Now, you have some preachers, and I’ve ran into them via my mother’s family who will argue that or have. I can hope they are changing their minds. Using religious text for one’s own means can do more harm than good and nothing upsets me more than not telling it as it really is, whether it is negative or positive.

    The other day a woman tried to tell the Bible explicitely orders us to eat mean and “if it was good enough for our Lord, it’s good enough for me.” Talk about a long rant on what the Bible does NOT say. She laid into me for being a vegetarian using the Bible. :roll: I didn’t tell her I am a Humanist and my son is a Buddhist. I can see the next rant from her coming a mile away though, esp since the crazy woman’s daughter is my son’s friend. Where do these people get their ideas?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Some Jewish ceremonies (Passover for one) involve eating meat, and of course the animal sacrifices in the Temple did too. However, I’m not aware of any general command to eat meat, and in the New Testament there seems to be some dispute about the matter among Christians (cf. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 ) about whether they should eat meat at all.

  • Mriana

    MikeClawson said,

    March 13, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    Some Jewish ceremonies (Passover for one) involve eating meat, and of course the animal sacrifices in the Temple did too. However, I’m not aware of any general command to eat meat, and in the New Testament there seems to be some dispute about the matter among Christians (cf. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians about whether they should eat meat at all.

    Yes, I’ve been to a Sedar and I’m well aware of the meat eating. However, I was able to get out of the meat. The rabbi (a woman) and I discussed that ahead of time and it was alright to pass on it. As far as I know though, there is no meat command. There are rules for preparing meat, what meat is clean and what meat is not, but beyond that, there is no command that we are to eat meat, as far as I know.

    Actually, Romans 14:2b (NKJV) which says he who is weak eats only vegetables 14:3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.

    Funny thing from my Christian friend when I told her about that woman. She not only said there is no commandment to eat meat, but God doesn’t give a shit what we eat! She also gets tired of Evangelicals having a go at me for whatever reason.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I think God might give a shit about the ethical implications of what we eat… i.e. how what we eat affects others. And “others” may include animals. I’m personally on the fence with vegetarianism. I just don’t know if I can give up meat altogether, though I’ve tried to reduce my consumption as much as possible because of my concern for the environmental impact of factory farming, and try to make sure that all my meat is free range, organic and local if possible.

  • Mriana

    Granted, I don’t want to harm the environment either, but I do find some of the ideas that people come up with concerning what THEY think people should eat and on what basis are pretty messed up.

  • ash

    Mriana,

    Amazingly, you are the first person I have heard interpret it correctly.

    there’s a correct way of interpretation now?

  • Stephanie

    Actually, I believe I did originally say; ” While Genesis specifically advocates vegetarianism, it also grants ‘dominion’ over all other animals.”

    So I can interpret the text pretty accurately too, I just don’t abide by the Bible or any other religious doctrine. I have no issues with other’s diet choices but I’ve just seen too may ex-vegetarians come back to eating meat after ten or fifteen years because of health problems to quit eating it myself. Subjective empirical evidence, to be sure. But it’s made enough of an impression for me.

  • Randy

    Interesting that so many proclaimed atheists are praying at the alter of animal rights. Another false religion. Pretty funny and sad at the same time.

  • Mriana

    Randy said,

    March 14, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Interesting that so many proclaimed atheists are praying at the alter of animal rights. Another false religion. Pretty funny and sad at the same time.

    What? Animals have no rights?

    Stephanie said,

    March 14, 2008 at 7:42 am

    Actually, I believe I did originally say; ” While Genesis specifically advocates vegetarianism, it also grants ‘dominion’ over all other animals.”

    So I can interpret the text pretty accurately too, I just don’t abide by the Bible or any other religious doctrine.

    I thought you were saying it says they are for human consumption, which isn’t quite what that says. Guess I miss understood what you were saying.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    praying at the alter of animal rights.

    That sounds like an interesting ritual. What kind of praying is it? Do they sacrifice animals on the alter? Oh wait…

    Another false religion.

    Funny, I know some Christian vegans and animal rights activists. How many religions can a person have?

  • Randy

    “What? Animals have no rights?”What?

    No, not the rights your typical AR is trying to give them. Humane yes, if they are needed for research or farmed they should be treated as humainly as possible.

    “The holders of rights must have the capacity to comprehend rules of duty governing all, including themselves. In applying such rules, the holders of rights must recognize possible conflicts between what is in their own interest and what is just. Only in a community of beings capable of self-restricting moral judgments can the concept of a right be correctly invoked.”
    –Carl Cohen, New England Journal of Medicine, October 1986

    Enough said.

  • RollingStone

    As someone who is both an atheist and an ethical vegetarian, I started to write a response to this post, and two days later, I’m STILL writing it. So for now, I’m going to let someone else do the talking by recommending a great book about vegetarianism that does a wonderful job of discussing the ethical issues and arguments in a passionate yet very rational, non-judgmental way. It’s called “The Vegetarian Alternative” by Vic Sussman, and unfortunately, it seems to be out of print, but you might be able to find it at a library, and I know that you can still buy used copies at Amazon for as little as one cent! (Plus shipping and handling, of course, but it’s still a great deal.) Here’s the link:

    http://www.amazon.com/Vegetarian-Alternative-Guide-Healthful-Humane/ dp/0878572279/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205518452&sr=1-1

    (Sorry about the length; you might want to copy and paste it or just look up the book at Amazon yourself.)

    This book discusses ALL aspects of vegetarianism, so if you’re only interested in the ethical part, you should read the Introduction and then skip ahead to Chapters 7, 9, 10 and 11. Especially Chapter 10.

  • ash

    “The holders of rights must have the capacity to comprehend rules of duty governing all, including themselves. In applying such rules, the holders of rights must recognize possible conflicts between what is in their own interest and what is just. Only in a community of beings capable of self-restricting moral judgments can the concept of a right be correctly invoked.”
    –Carl Cohen, New England Journal of Medicine, October 1986

    to parody Mriana to make a point…

    “What? The severely mentally disabled have no rights?”

  • Randy

    You guys are slipping, almost 2 hours for a very perdictable and worthless response. If you REALLY need to ask that you may fall in that category I’m afraid to say.

  • Mriana

    Randy said,

    March 14, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    “What? Animals have no rights?”What?

    No, not the rights your typical AR is trying to give them. Humane yes, if they are needed for research or farmed they should be treated as humainly as possible.

    Animal research is not needed. Even Jane Goodall opposes this, esp because it is not humane.

    Randy said,

    March 14, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    You guys are slipping, almost 2 hours for a very perdictable and worthless response. If you REALLY need to ask that you may fall in that category I’m afraid to say.

    :roll: Like we sit at the computer all day? Please! I do have a life.

  • AnonyMouse

    Thanks to this thread, I’ve done a lot of thinking into why I’m not a vegetarian. It was kind of a fun place to go, but I think I’ll keep eating meat.

    My first reason has to do with health. Now, I realize that many people believe that meat is bad for your health. Causes cancer, or raises your risk of heart disease, or other nonsense. I call it “nonsense” because I am fairly sure, based on the data available, that meat alone will not cause these things. I believe – and you might say that I am using myself as a living experiment to test this hypothesis, although I am woefully inadequate as a range of test subjects – that the problem is caused by the amount of refined sugar and other processed foods that have been introduced into our diets recently.

    There are more immediate health issues, too. My digestive system is not equipped to live on nothing but plants, beans or otherwise. Whereas some of the individuals here – Hemant being the most notable example – come from groups with a lengthy history of low-meat diets, my ancestors grew up in a somewhat different part of the world; there, meat was plentiful and plants rather scarce. Evolution, which also gave me the fair skin and blonde hair that was advantageous to the climate, has equipped my body to work with a similar diet.

    There is, of course, the moral argument. Unfortunately, animal use is a huge moral gray area; lines are as arbitrary as the individual chooses to draw them. It is true that, if I think about it, I don’t really care for the idea of consuming my fellow animal. Nor do I care for the idea of killing hundreds of innocent arthropods to protect my vegetable garden, or killing the hundreds of innocent plants that I eat in a year. True, they are not sentient, but they are still a form of life, and it bothers me.

    Unfortunately, that is the way things work. I cannot prolong my own life except by taking it from others. This is not a human-exclusive trait; every living being, short of the most primitive sun-fueled beasties, is wired to do the same. Whether I like it or not, I am no different from the lifeforms that surrounds me; my very existence necessitates another being’s death.

    To that end, I take pains to ensure that the death I cause is as responsible and painless as I am able. For instance, I can minimize the suffering experienced by an animal I eat by killing it at once and then eating it afterward. (I have never seen anyone extend the same courtesy to plants; even I have had no qualms digging my teeth into a whole carrot or hacking apart an onion that has started to sprout in the fridge.) I can minimize the environmental impact by choosing certain kinds of meat or by getting it from certain sources. (For instance, the beef now in our freezer is post-industrial waste — it came from a pair of dairy cows who died before their time. While it is not ideal, it saves resources that would otherwise be used to grow two beef-only cows.)

    The last thing I would like to cover is the bit that squicks out many people: the fact that, as you are sinking your teeth into this wonderful juicy hamburger, you are feasting on the remains of something that was once a live, mooing animal. I am thoroughly aware of this, and it does not bother me. I have seen the meat in many different phases, from live cow to skinned carcass to meat slab to ground hamburger – in fact, I was personally responsible for chopping that meat for grinding – and not once did it make the meat less appetizing. I am repulsed by neither the look nor the smell of raw meat (though the feel leaves a little to be desired), and it does not shake my psyche to associate it with the animal.

    When you get down to it, the issue of what you should eat comes down to two opposing philosophies: the Golden Rule and the Law of the Jungle. In my experience, the Golden Rule is best applied in the way it was intended: in situations where a benefit, or at least a lack of detriment, can be derived. I care for the Earth because it supports me, I care for anything that I am raising for food because it will provide me better food, and I try to minimize extraneous suffering because it is pointless and weighs on the conscience. I will, however, not allow my emotions to overrule my dietary needs.


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