Stephen Batchelor, the Historical Buddha, and Vegetarianism


Stephen Batchelor spoke at the Tattered Cover Bookstore on March 16 plugging his book, “Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist.” I was intrigued by his interest in the question of the “historical Buddha,” which has rarely been investigated. I asked him whether he (Batchelor) was a vegetarian, whether the historical Buddha was a vegetarian, and how this all related to the first precept (not to take the life of any sentient creature). Continue reading “Stephen Batchelor, the Historical Buddha, and Vegetarianism”

Peak Animals

A key cause of climate changeA lot of the questions people have about the WorldWatch article “Livestock and Climate Change” (Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, in the November / December 2009 WorldWatch) comes down to a simple problem: it’s difficult for many people to wrap their brains around what the authors are saying. All they see is something about livestock and a jumble of data. Maybe this is the way we should leave it, so that only the serious scientists will consider the idea. But the spread of an idea depends on its making intuitive sense. Here’s how I would pitch their thesis: you’ve heard of peak oil, the time of maximum production of oil on the planet. This is peak animals. We have an unprecedented (and unsustainable) amount of animal biomass on the planet, and climate change is just one of the symptoms. Continue reading “Peak Animals”

Livestock The Main Cause of Global Warming?

At first this sounds like some PETA press release, but it’s right there in the current issue of WorldWatch: “Livestock and Climate Change,” by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang. The key conclusion: livestock-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are 51%, or more, of all human-caused GHG emissions.



If this stands up, it completely changes the politics of fighting global warming. Continue reading “Livestock The Main Cause of Global Warming?”

Superinsulation: the Process

IMGP2719 SuperinsulateHeating of buildings is a significant chunk of the nation’s energy consumption, and many buildings are quite wasteful. This has huge consequences for climate change and resource depletion, and decisions about buildings have consequences that last decades.

So, in the summer of 2007 we decided to superinsulate our house. In 2009 we took further action to reduce heating consumption, installing a tankless hot water heater and further sealing the house. This post is a visual depiction of what happened. Continue reading “Superinsulation: the Process”

“Be the Change”: Did Gandhi really make this statement?

GandhiNOTE: I first published this on my web site on June 5, 2009, as a static file. I’ve now rather substantially changed my ideas on this subject; Arleen Lorrance is the author of the earliest written source of this saying, from 1971. But I include the present article in case people are interested in how I reached my conclusions.

One of the most widely-quoted aphorisms of Mahatma Gandhi is, “We must be the change we want to see in the world.” But when, and where, did Gandhi make this statement? Or did he say it at all? Continue reading ““Be the Change”: Did Gandhi really make this statement?”

Dear President-elect Obama

(UPDATE July 18, 2020: This article was first published in November 2008 and was for some years on the website as a static page, but later dropped. I have now converted it into a blog entry. Some of my ideas at that time, such as that an economic collapse would start during his term of office, obviously are not true. But I am re-posting it so that people will know what I have been thinking about over the years.)

Everyone’s got their memo to the new President. Here is mine.

Dear President-elect Obama:

All of the critical problems that the country faces come down to a single problem, the environmental crisis. Environmentalists have warned for decades that our industrial economy based on indefinite growth could not go on forever. Now it is we, not our children or grandchildren, who must face the crisis. There are three immediate manifestations of this problem: (1) global warming, (2) depletion of oil supplies, (3) the rise of new epidemic diseases. Continue reading “Dear President-elect Obama”

Buddhism and Heifer International

Tricycle-Jan-2008-cover[The Spring 2008 issue of Tricycle, the “independent voice of Buddhism,” published the following letter to the editor from Kate Lawrence]

To the editor:

I was glad to see “Gifts That Keep Giving,” encouraging readers to give gifts through compassionate charities, but shocked to see that Heifer International was included in the list.

As Buddhists, a donation through Heifer violates the First Precept about not killing. These animals and their offspring will be killed, and killed specifically at the request of the donor. Do we really want to celebrate the holidays by sending animals to slaughter? Even if the donated animal is kept for milk or egg production, there is still killing involved: the female animals’ unwanted male siblings have most likely been slaughtered sooner rather than later.

Buddha’s teaching considers animals to be sentient beings, yet to Heifer, Oxfam, and similar organizations they are simply commodities to be used. For example, rabbits are described in a Heifer brochure as “a great source of protein” instead of being recognized as intelligent beings worthy of respect. (I live with three house rabbits, so I’ve been able to observe firsthand what complex creatures they are.)

Secondly, farming animals is an inefficient, expensive, and environmentally destructive way of producing food. Non-native livestock are being introduced to fragile habitats, where grazing destroys the fertility of the land, and reduces the amount of farmland available to local people. Maneka Gandhi, former Indian minister for social welfare and animal protection, comments, “It is madness to send goats, cows, and chickens to areas where they will add to the problems of drought and desertification . . . Within two years the people who get goats have an even poorer lifestyle.” In addition, many recipients of gift animals are unable to feed them to maturity, much less feed and raise offspring.

We need to turn away from bloodshed and environmental degradation and spend our charitable dollars on more compassionate hunger relief. Give fruit trees ( or training in soybean production ( instead, or donate groceries to a local food bank.


Kate Lawrence

Note: Tricycle published a response from Heifer International which denied that their animals hurt the environment, were raised inhumanely, or were killed needlessly, but did not contest the point that contributing to their cause was a violation of the First Precept of Buddhism.

Implications of the Jesus Family Tomb at Talpiot

Jesus-Tomb3O. K., you’ve seen the DVD of the Discovery Channel program on the Jesus family tomb found at Talpiot. Perhaps you’ve even read the book The Jesus Family Tomb co-authored by Simon Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino. But, you’ve done a Google Search and found out that almost no one else likes the idea that the Talpiot tomb — with references to Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Mariamne, Matthew, and Jose — is indeed the tomb of the Jesus, the presumed founder and Messiah of the world’s largest religion. Continue reading “Implications of the Jesus Family Tomb at Talpiot”

About Shemayah Phillips and

The Lost Religion of Jesus, by Keith Akers - coverFrom time to time I get questions about a negative review of my book, The Lost Religion of Jesus, posted on by Shemayah Phillips, as well as about his web site, [UPDATE 2021: the web site “” has ceased existence and has now been taken over by someone else not interested in the Ebionites; it was last functioning during 2016.]  Phillips says that my book is terrible, suggests that the Ebionites were not vegetarian, and that I’m advocating gnostic views!

Phillips’ review is cast as a response to the vegetarian issue: “Firstly, it is an apologetic book for vegetarianism with a religious ‘seal of approval’ applied . . .  the author’s previous loyalty to vegetarianism and non-violence . . . makes him jump at questionable sources identified as ‘Jewish-Christian’ which he lumps all together as ‘ebionite.'”

What is going on here? Have I got the Ebionites completely wrong? Were the Ebionites really vegetarian? (And, worse yet, am I really “gnostic”? Are my parents reading this?) Continue reading “About Shemayah Phillips and”

Take This Bread — review

Take this Bread is an absolutely marvelous book. O. K., the author isn’t vegetarian (more about that later), but this book really conveys, better than anything else I’ve read recently, what it means to be a “believer.” If you want to get into Christian mysticism (a term that I do not recall she ever uses), but can’t handle St. John of the Cross, I’d really take a look at this book first. Belief is not something that happens to the mind, as if you have a vision of Jesus out of nowhere saying “hey, believe in me, already,” or read Thomas Aquinas and discover that he really does have the long-sought-after knock-down proof of God’s existence. Continue readingTake This Bread — review”

McDonald’s Lawsuit — What’s the Story?

French-fries-image4-FFN NOTE: The following lengthy article was first published in the March/April 2004 issue of VegNews. When it was written, the McDonald’s lawsuit decision that the article describes was still being appealed. In 2005, after the appeals process concluded, I made some minor revisions and additions to this online version. I also appended a timeline of events and the list of groups slated to receive money allocated to “vegetarian groups,” both of which were included as sidebars within the original article. Finally, I have appended a short article, “McDonald’s Lawsuit is Over,” published in a subsequent issue of VegNews. Continue reading “McDonald’s Lawsuit — What’s the Story?”

“The Origin, Fate, and Aim of Vegetarianism” by Carl Skriver

Carl Anders Skriver (1903 – 1983)

[Update July 6, 2021: This is Carl Skriver’s lecture at the 1982 World Vegetarian Congress in Ulm, Germany; he died in 1983. Translation is by Michael Skriver, his son. Skriver is the author of “The Forgotten Beginnings of Creation and Christianity.” A reader kindly pointed out that this article, which I had originally put on my web site in 2005, had inadvertently been dropped, and I am now adding it back in.]

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends:

I had the honor to speak to you last time in Ronneby, Sweden, in 1973; and in 1965 in Swanwick in England. I’m very glad to meet you now again in Germany. In my long life, dear vegetarian friends have died, while others have been born or converted to vegetarianism. I still miss many faces from the “old guard”: Mr. Rudd, Mr. Mankar, Dr. Robinson, Dr. Røgler, and others. I greet both the old and the new friends and all fellow vegetarian workers. Continue reading ““The Origin, Fate, and Aim of Vegetarianism” by Carl Skriver”

Old-time music chord charts from “Peachbottom Creek”

PBC Cover 1From about 2003 to 2005 we had an old-time band called “Peachbottom Creek.” This was the list of all the tunes that we thought we knew at one time.  We even produced a low-budget CD. The members were Jennifer Duncan (d. 2006), Doug Rippey, Kate Lawrence, and Keith Akers.

Because some people still have an interest in the chords, and because I think that old-time music GREATLY benefits when everyone in the band is playing the same chords, I put this on my web site about ten years ago as a static file. Continue reading “Old-time music chord charts from “Peachbottom Creek””