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Vegetarianism and atheism

post #1 of 98
Thread Starter 
Hi

I have been veggie 25 years and I am also an atheist. I joined an atheist forum to see what their ideas were on how the two related to one another. This is a link to the discussion.

http://www.thinkatheist.com/forum/to...-vegetarianism

The audience was mainly American but I was surprised how much they want to stick with their meat eating despite what I thought were good arguments. Some of the posts were quite aggressive from people who consider themselves free thinkers.

Anyone had similar experience? Take a look at the thread and let me know what you think. If toy have views, would be grateful if you could post them on the Think Atheist forum. Thanks
post #2 of 98
Frankly I am quite amazed that anyone would think that the proportion of genuine free thinkers would be higher in the thinkatheist herds than it is in herds elsewhere.

I'm off to have to have a lttle look-see anyways..
post #3 of 98
What exactly is a "free thinker" and why would it not be aggressive?
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post #4 of 98
It's an interesting read I will say that, and I actually agree with some of what has been said there. I don't inherently think that eating meat is evil by itself. There's no proof that plants are any less sentient than humans or animals, and I don't presume to know the mind of God or Mother Nature, so I don't know that lettuce isn't just as beloved of Him/Her as humans or cows. And it is the nature of life that for us to live, something else must die. Broccoli dies too, you know.... But the logic escapes me of continuing to eat meat, when we have reached a point where it's no longer necessary for survival.

For example, if I'm living alone in the wilderness, hunting and eating meat may be my own means of survival. That strikes me as acceptable, because I'm always going to place my life above that of a wild boar. In return, I fully expect the wild boar to put his life above mine and act accordingly by trying avoid me and if unable to avoid, try and kill me first. But I'm not out in the wilderness. There's a perfectly stocked supermarket in under a mile in ever direction I go and it's loaded with produce, and foods that are not from animal sources. So why would I need to hunt? Even if "hunting" is among the cello-wrapped parcels in the meat department? Same thing with fur and leather. If that's all you have, then that's one thing, but there are so very many alternatives out there, there's no reason for it.

Waste bothers me enormously. Cruelty bothers me enormously. I think in this country the way we treat our food animals is horrendous and spiritually demeaning to ourselves. I would have far fewer problems with eating meat if it weren't "factory produced" like some worthless commodity that greed has made nothing more than dollar signs on hooves. But I would also still question it if I can get everything I need without have to sacrifice the life of someone/something else. Put everything we need to maintain our health and vitality in one little pill, and I'm so there. In the meantime we do what we can and act according to our moral consciousness the best we can. And we keep trying to learn and make better and better choices.

In the case of the original poster, it depends on why someone is an atheist, just as the why is important to the person making the food choices. For some, it's truly free thinking. For others it's an antagonistic approach to organized religion. From those atheists who are free thinkers, you may have a high number of vegetarians. For those who are antagonistic, not so much.

'Rani
post #5 of 98
Thread Starter 
Rani thanks for your thoughts. I agree with much of what you have said. In the wild boar scenario I think we would act the same as I would place my interests first on the basis of the relative capacity to suffer. I do not think that plants have the same capacity to suffer as mammals, birds etc, there is little evidence to support this. Your last comment is right on the button. I went in naively thinking they had arrived at atheism through free thinking but I agree with you, this is apparently not true. Based on the evidence of some of the comments, many are antagonistic to religion, or more importantly, the moral hold it has. Breaking free from religion therefore in no way indicates the individual has an alternative ethical or moral code. Maybe they just don,t want to be told what to do.
post #6 of 98
Thread Starter 
I think you are right. I was quite naive.
post #7 of 98
Thread Starter 
"]Frankly I am quite amazed that anyone would think that the proportion of genuine free thinkers would be higher in the thinkatheist herds than it is in herds elsewhere."

I was quite naive to think that way
post #8 of 98
Thread Starter 
"What exactly is a "free thinker" and why would it not be aggressive?"

It is a way of thinking based on science, logic and reason Without influence form tradition, dogma, etc.

I asked for an ethical consideration of the interests of other species given the acceptance that we all evolved from common ancestors. I suggested discriminating on the basis of species was as arbitrary as discriminating on the basis of skin colour.

I expected some debate around the ethics that reflected the forum's commitment to free thought. So the aggression and lack of engagement on the issue was a surprise. No better than in society in general.
post #9 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikeymike1 View Post

"What exactly is a "free thinker" and why would it not be aggressive?"

It is a way of thinking based on science, logic and reason Without influence form tradition, dogma, etc.

I asked for an ethical consideration of the interests of other species given the acceptance that we all evolved from common ancestors. I suggested discriminating on the basis of species was as arbitrary as discriminating on the basis of skin colour.

I expected some debate around the ethics that reflected the forum's commitment to free thought. So the aggression and lack of engagement on the issue was a surprise. No better than in society in general.

I think what's key to almost any type of discussion is to know our own motivations. (I'm a philosopher by nature, and literally EVERYTHING is in shades of grey in my mind. So bear with me if I sound like I'm rambling......) Sometimes we are seriously trying to create a positive influence in the world, and sometimes we're just needing to feel superior. But even the need to feel superior isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you've been treated or taught to feel inferior your entire life, making a change that allows you to feel superior is only the pendulum swinging to the other side and countering the prior effect. Eventually if people don't fight you on that need, it will likely lessen and bring you back to center where it's not superiority but a balanced confidence in your actions. Then your motivation is simply a positive influence. That whole growth and maturing thing, lol.... Sometimes it's really hard to avoid interfering with where they are in the process at the time because we're looking at it from our standpoint with our own egos involved and man, it's tough to listen to at times.

I think your discussion on the atheism board is really, really good. It's important to keep those kinds of conversations going even if you feel like you're arguing against a brick wall. Their "pathway" for the moment may be the need to feel superior but if you don't rise to challenge and threaten that need, there's a very real likelihood you're going to, slowly, through the exchange of information give them reason for moving into free thinking mode and once that door opens lives can change. So don't give up and don't feel like you were naive. Just keep talking. You never know when a tiny little ripple can become a tsunami!

Oh, and there was a book written maybe 20-25 years ago called "The Secret Life of Plants". If it's been reprinted or available in an ebook, I highly recommend it. It will absolutely make you reconsider whether or not plants are sentient, I promise.

'Rani
post #10 of 98
I think that the proportion of atheists who are vegetarian or vegan is perhaps higher than the general population, but not by a great deal.

Despite how some atheists like to give lip service to rationality, they're just as predisposed to emotional thinking as everyone else. I think many have an aversion to animal ethics issues because they assume vegetarians and vegans are simply sentimental (something this young wave of atheists is opposed to). And I'm painting broad strokes here, but I am an atheist so I'm not doing it with any malice. Many of these atheists are young, white males with a hefty sense of privilege and who use their courses in logic to beat people over the heads with and shout down any criticisms that challenge those privileges. This is why many of these young atheists (some of them who strongly align with libertarianism) reject feminism, animal rights, and other traditionally progressive causes. I know this because I used to be like that. Thankfully I've got my head screwed on a bit better now.
post #11 of 98
Thread Starter 
Thanks Rani. I have heard of the Secret Life of Plants but had heard it had been widely discredited. Nonetheless, I will look into it some more. I think though that even if plant pain was proven, my ethics and simple logic would still mean I would avoid meat. It takes an awful lot of plant material to raise a cow, for example. Eating a cow would necessarily entail the infliction of pain to many plants. A more ethical position for me would be to avoid the meat and use less plants as a result, cutting out the middle man so to speak.
post #12 of 98
Pretty Sure the Secret Life of Plants is filled with a lot of pseudoscience like dowsing and radionics.
post #13 of 98
Thread Starter 
Despite how some atheists like to give lip service to rationality, they're just as predisposed to emotional thinking as everyone else. I think many have an aversion to animal ethics issues because they assume vegetarians and vegans are simply sentimental (something this young wave of atheists is opposed to). And I'm painting broad strokes here, but I am an atheist so I'm not doing it with any malice. Many of these atheists are young, white males with a hefty sense of privilege and who use their courses in logic to beat people over the heads with and shout down any criticisms that challenge those privileges. This is why many of these young atheists (some of them who strongly align with libertarianism) reject feminism, animal rights, and other traditionally progressive causes. I know this because I used to be like that. Thankfully I've got my head screwed on a bit better now.[/QUOTE]

Thanks Alain. I do sometimes feel that some atheists just want to feel superior on the back of science and enjoy 'trashing' religious views as they see it. It's the arrogance theists often complain of.

Could it be that some atheists just want to evade moral ethical constraints of religion and so when they break from it don't want to be encumbered with ethics? They just want their freedom.
post #14 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikeymike1 View Post

Thanks Rani. I have heard of the Secret Life of Plants but had heard it had been widely discredited. Nonetheless, I will look into it some more. I think though that even if plant pain was proven, my ethics and simple logic would still mean I would avoid meat. It takes an awful lot of plant material to raise a cow, for example. Eating a cow would necessarily entail the infliction of pain to many plants. A more ethical position for me would be to avoid the meat and use less plants as a result, cutting out the middle man so to speak.

I agree! That's all just a side note of the conversation in that we don't absolutely "know". As far the Secret Life of Plants being discredited, I tend to try and absorb for myself and ignore the naysayers. It's all part of the adding to the encyclopedia in my head thing. Because after all, a whole heck of a lot of people were discredited before it was later discovered how right they were. But enough thread jacking..... In a nutshell, your conversation on the atheist board is a good one.

'Rani
post #15 of 98
Yeah, someone has written a book, and the book has a title, and the title is Secret Life of Plants, and the book contains claims.

In the same way, David Icke has written books, and those books contain claims too.

That a book exists doesn't mean I'm going to start believing in what the book states, so no plant suffering or reptilian overlords for me.

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post #16 of 98
David Ike has some interesting books indeed ^^

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post #17 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlainWinthrope View Post

I think that the proportion of atheists who are vegetarian or vegan is perhaps higher than the general population, but not by a great deal.

Probably a correlation through socioeconomic factors more than anything else.
post #18 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikeymike1 View Post

"What exactly is a "free thinker" and why would it not be aggressive?"

It is a way of thinking based on science, logic and reason Without influence form tradition, dogma, etc.

This is one characterization of atheism, but many find atheism to be just as dogmatic as any "religion". You could hardly call atheism "free-thinking".
post #19 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikeymike1 View Post

Thanks Alain. I do sometimes feel that some atheists just want to feel superior on the back of science and enjoy 'trashing' religious views as they see it. It's the arrogance theists often complain of.

Could it be that some atheists just want to evade moral ethical constraints of religion and so when they break from it don't want to be encumbered with ethics? They just want their freedom.

Uhh no, what moral ethical constraints of religion? Most religions teach violence and hate, if you are referring to things such as don't hurt others, that's not a religious thing, that's a decent people thing. And atheists are atheists generally because they don't believe religious bs, we don't do it for any other reason, just as i guess christianity might feel natural to a christian, agnosticism/atheism is what feels natural to me.
post #20 of 98
Quote:
Uhh no, what moral ethical constraints of religion? Most religions teach violence and hate, if you are referring to things such as don't hurt others, that's not a religious thing, that's a decent people thing. And atheists are atheists generally because they don't believe religious bs, we don't do it for any other reason, just as i guess christianity might feel natural to a christian, agnosticism/atheism is what feels natural to me.

This is incredibly ignorant.
post #21 of 98
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Originally Posted by paperhanger View Post

This is incredibly ignorant.

Are you kidding? I didn't say most religious people are violent and hateful, would you say the bible isn't full of hate and violence?
post #22 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlixJ18 View Post

Are you kidding? I didn't say most religious people are violent and hateful, would you say the bible isn't full of hate and violence?

SO now your trimming down your statement that "most religions teach violence and hate" to a mere general statement about the bible? What's next?
post #23 of 98
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Originally Posted by paperhanger View Post

SO now your trimming down your statement that "most religions teach violence and hate" to a mere general statement about the bible? What's next?

It's a freaking example and a question
post #24 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlixJ18 View Post

It's a freaking example and a question

It's an anecdote used in attempt to support a ridiculous generalization, and it's not even a good one.
post #25 of 98
Here's my take, in brief.

I don't think one follows the other, but the two are compatible in that they can both stem from skepticism of and rejection of social norms. The meat industry reminds me a lot of the Bible or the flimsy foundations of almost every religion. The more you know about it the less you want to consume what they're selling you.

I do notice there are more atheists on vegetarian forums than there are vegetarians on atheist forums. There's definitely overlap between the two ideas but the overlap is unbalanced. There's probably a good reason for that. 32% of Americans are non religious as of 2012, but the percentage of vegetarians is still significantly lower, and many vegetarians come from religious backgrounds as it stands now.
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post #26 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlainWinthrope View Post

Despite how some atheists like to give lip service to rationality, they're just as predisposed to emotional thinking as everyone else.

I'm not sure quite what that means.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlainWinthrope View Post

I think many have an aversion to animal ethics issues because they assume vegetarians and vegans are simply sentimental (something this young wave of atheists is opposed to). And I'm painting broad strokes here, but I am an atheist so I'm not doing it with any malice. Many of these atheists are young, white males with a hefty sense of privilege and who use their courses in logic to beat people over the heads with and shout down any criticisms that challenge those privileges. This is why many of these young atheists (some of them who strongly align with libertarianism) reject feminism, animal rights, and other traditionally progressive causes. I know this because I used to be like that. Thankfully I've got my head screwed on a bit better now.

I agree with them. Ethics may be shaped by reason, but it is driven by emotion. Although I'm not sure how "simple" it is, and it doesn't just apply to animals.
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post #27 of 98
Here's the way I look at it.

Individual subcultures are microcosms of society itself, in a way. The proportions aren't exact but this is a good starting point:

Let's take one specific population for the sake of this discussion. The US population. It's a good starting point for a variety of reasons ranging from geographical size to the diversity of backgrounds.

A recent gallup poll described 32% of Americans as self identified nonreligious people. This includes atheists as well as other non religious people, but for the sake of simplification we can roughly equate nonreligious with atheist or at least near atheist.

The highest poll number estimate for vegetarians in the US I've ever seen that was reliable was 7% or so.

If we take the total Atheist population and assume the proportions are roughly the same (again, this is probably not accurate necessarily) then only about 7% of the atheist population is vegetarian. I believe it's a little higher but we'll roll with that.

But that would mean over 30% of US vegetarians are non religious, if the statistics hold true. (it could be higher or lower)

Therefore there's overlap but it favors the nonreligious, since they outnumber the vegetarians, and therefore if you examine the former group the latter group will be under represented simply because they are under represented in the general population, but if you reverse the coin there seem to be a lot of atheists among vegetarians simply because going on a third of Americans are non religious now.

Just from reading polls every year and watching the news I believe both groups will continue to grow as the decades pass, but vegetarianism will lag behind atheism for a while yet. Religious skepticism as a movement is growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, the atheist community and methodology for spreading awareness of us and what we stand for could be used as a good model for animal advocacy groups, since both groups seek social change and acceptance of new ideas.
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post #28 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by paperhanger View Post

This is one characterization of atheism, but many find atheism to be just as dogmatic as any "religion". You could hardly call atheism "free-thinking".

I'm curious as to how an absence of belief could be seen as dogmatic? I've seen plenty of dogmatic devotion to Science with a capital s, but atheism just describes the non existence of a belief in a deity.
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post #29 of 98
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Originally Posted by paperhanger View Post

This is incredibly ignorant.

and so is this
Quote:
many find atheism to be just as dogmatic as any "religion". You could hardly call atheism "free-thinking".

you seem to show up in threads to just make inflammatory statements and try to provoke arguments

Quote:
Originally Posted by Savvington View Post

I'm not sure quite what that means.

I think a lot of atheists have gut reactions and assumptions about the "character" of animal rights arguments and its proponents that predisposes them to reject them. Namely, that vegetarianism is a product of sentimental, emotional, or supernatural thinking (for example, the new agey person who believes in things like chakras and whatnot). If people like Francione dominated discussions of animal ethics, this stereotype might be less prevalent. Some atheists--especially ones who identify with liberitarianism and especially males (which atheists are statistically more likely to be)--also exhibit a great deal of privilege in their arguments. Then of course there are all the normal things that prevent people from considering vegetarianism: fear taking an "extreme" position, fear of being seen as crazy or radial as a result of taking that position, apathy, callousness, poor reasoning.

You say you agree "with them", but I'm not sure what specifically you're referring to. Are you opposed to animal rights, feminism, liberalism, sentimentality?
post #30 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlainWinthrope View Post

You say you agree "with them", but I'm not sure what specifically you're referring to. Are you opposed to animal rights, feminism, liberalism, sentimentality?

I don't really have enough of an opinion about those things to say I'm opposed to them, even though I don't think I've actively done anything to encourage them either. What I meant was that I believe the main difference between people who are apathetic to the suffering of animals (or specifically animals used for food) and those who seek to distance themselves from it by changing their diet/lifestyle is emotional (excluding cases where people simply don't believe those animals are capable of suffering, but would otherwise be sympathetic). Calling it "sentimental" seems somewhat trivialising, but in principle I think they're correct.
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