Religion loosely speaking consists of the major and minor religions, like Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, etc., plus spiritual approaches to existence that address the issues that religions typically do.
As we approach Easter, it is worth reminding everyone why Jesus was killed: because of his opposition to animal sacrifice.
This opposition led him to go into the temple and disrupt the animal sacrifice business. Shortly thereafter he was crucified by the Romans, doubtless because of his actions in the temple. Christians often remember the incident in the temple as “Jesus drives out the dishonest money changers,” but it is clear from both the gospels as well as the history of Christianity that the money changers had little to do with it. It is one of the few incidents in Jesus’ life that is found in all four gospels (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:13-17). Continue reading →
Whenever I discuss Jesus’ vegetarianism, one of the most frequent questions I get concerns the “fish stories” in the New Testament—stories where Jesus is depicted calling fishermen as disciples, serving fish to the 5000, miraculously helping the disciples catch fish, or in one case actually eating fish. The problem with these stories, which I’ve explained elsewhere, is that they are all stories fairly obviously added many decades after Jesus’ life by people who never knew Jesus personally. As evidence of an actual historical event in Jesus’ life, they are worthless.
What most people don’t know is that there is also a fish story about Pythagoras, which strongly resembles the “miraculous catch of fish” stories told about Jesus. What is especially interesting is that these stories about Jesus seem to be copied from the story about Pythagoras—but with the ending completely changed. Continue reading →
UPDATE Jan. 6, 2022: the replay of my conversation with Victoria Moran has been posted here. The interview part goes from about 25:07 to 48:32 (starting with an introduction by Victoria).
I’ll be the guest speaker at the Compassion Consortium online service on Sunday, December 26. The service will be at 4 pm Eastern time (= 1 pm Pacific = 2 pm Mountain = 3 pm Central) via Zoom, and last 90 minutes; the conversation with me will be about 15 or 20 minutes.
The Vegan Revolution. Saving Our World, Revitalizing Judaism. By Richard Schwartz. Lantern Publishing and Media, 2020.
Any other book titled The Vegan Revolution, if one didn’t look at the subtitle, would not necessarily seem to have anything to do especially with Judaism or Israel. But from page 1 forward Richard Schwartz starts talking about why Jews should be vegans. Surprise! The title is accurate. He really is talking about a world-wide vegan revolution. The vegan revolution taking place in Israel and among Jews is, in effect, the model for the world-wide vegan revolution. Judaism and Israel just provide the spark. Continue reading →
Jesus in the temple (detail) – Scrovegni – public domain image
The historical Jesus would have completely rejected the casual torture and killing of animals. This practice of compassion was quite clear in the early church but was then lost as Christianity spread into the wider Roman world.
What does this imply about Jesus’ practice of compassion? Definitions of veganism vary, but the basic concept is not to kill or harm any sentient creature, especially for food. There is no word in ancient Greek or Latin for “vegan.” In fact, there was no word in English for it, either, before the first Vegan Society was formed in 1944. But the concept was present even in ancient times. It is roughly analogous to the ancient Sanskrit term “ahimsa,” referring to non-harming of sentient creatures, found in Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Veganism is not about purity; it is about compassion, “which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose,” as the Vegan Society puts it. Continue reading →
Jean-Léon Gérôme, Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (public domain image)
NOTE (December 14, 2020): I’ve now expanded and revised this post here.
The historical Jesus, as I’ve argued elsewhere, was clearly vegetarian. To recap: (1) The controversy in the early church over vegetarianism shows that the leadership of the early church promoted vegetarianism and opposed animal sacrifice. (2) The testimony of later Jewish Christianity echoed and preserved this vegetarian, anti-sacrifice tradition. (3) Jesus himself was killed after disrupting the animal sacrifice business in the temple. But can we say that Jesus was a vegan? This is somewhat trickier. Continue reading →
[The following article by Keith Akers was published in The Ark, No. 234, Autumn/Winter 2016 issue. The Ark is the publication of the Catholic Concern for Animals.]
Is vegetarianism part of Christianity, or are they incompatible? Christianity and vegetarianism don’t have to be in competition, but in practice they are. While many become vegetarians for health reasons, the heart of vegetarianism is its ethical component — the practice of not eating meat out of concern for the suffering of animals. Continue reading →
Yesterday was Palm Sunday, which commemorates (in the Christian calendar) Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in the last week of his life. Sometime during this week he disrupted the animal sacrifice business in the temple, the action for which he was executed. Below I have included a second clip from the January 14 interview with the Vegan Spirituality Online Gathering. In this clip, I discuss Jesus in the temple, a rather dramatic model for animal liberation. (The “chimes” that you occasionally hear during the interview were generated when someone joined the call.) Continue reading →
On Thursday, January 14, the Vegan Spirituality Online Gathering (a project of In Defense of Animals) interviewed me. They recorded the whole call and have made it available on YouTube. Besides me, Lisa Levinson and Judy Carman were also on the call. It’s rather long — over an hour and twenty-two minutes — so I’m just including a short clip in which I discuss Jesus’ family and vegetarianism, including James, the brother of Jesus and the first leader of the church after Jesus. I’ll add a second clip later. Continue reading →
On Christmas day, WCUW radio (91.3 FM, in Worcester, Massachusetts) will broadcast an interview of me on Marlene Narrow’s “Vegan Nation” show. It will be on Friday, December 25, 2015 at 12:30 pm to 1 pm Eastern time (10:30 – 11:00 am Mountain time). (The interview has been pre-recorded.) The content will center around Jesus and vegetarianism. You can listen online by going to their website and click on the button on the left-hand side that says “WCUW Live / Listen Now!”
Was Jesus a vegetarian? The long answer is to investigate both Jesus and the movement that he was part of, something I’ve done in my books The Lost Religion of Jesus and Disciples. This post will give a shorter answer that briefly discusses three key points: the controversy over vegetarianism in the early church, the later history of Jewish Christianity, and Jesus’ attack on animal sacrifice.
The dispute over vegetarianism in the early church shows that the leadership of the Jerusalem church was vegetarian. Continue reading →
The End of Captivity? A Primate’s Reflections on Zoos, Conservation, and Christian Ethics. Tripp York. Cascade Books, 2015. 135 pages.
The End of Captivity? is a short, open-ended Christian meditation on humans and their effects on wild animals. The book is both challenging and infuriating at the same time. It is challenging because it asks us to question the basic logic that puts animals in zoos. But it is sometimes infuriating because, as the author points out, human dominion over the planet is so complete that there isn’t very much space around for wild animals. Where, exactly, can we send them? Continue reading →
A lot of people, reading my previous two posts on defining veganism — including some people who commented on them — reacted by saying: “it’s all semantics.” Who cares about the precise definition of veganism? This will never matter.
Actually, yes, words do matter, and here’s a major case in point — the history of Buddhism. The first precept of Buddhism is expressed in various ways, often as “not to take life” or “not to kill any sentient creature.” The Detroit Zen Center gives the precept as “Do not harm, but cherish all life.” That is very close to a vegan commandment. Continue reading →