Should Atheists be Vegan? – Episode 20
The Bearded Vegans finds hosts Paul and Andy in a discussion dissecting all things vegan. News, reviews, interviews and in depth discussion of issues within the vegan community are regular features of the show.
This week the Bearded Vegans dive into the listener mail bag and discuss the use of road kill for fur, whether or not Michael Vick can become an animal rights advocate, PETA donating vegan jerky to the Oregon Cattle Ranching Militia. Question of the week: should atheists become vegans? Interview: Jessica Morris and Wes Allison, co-authors of The Taco Cleanse.
Road Kill Fashion
Michael Vick Is Now An Animal Rights Activist
Vegan Jerky Hand Delivered To Oregon Cattle Ranching Militia
PETA Delivers Vegan Snacks To The Oregon Militia
New Athiests Must Become New Vegans: Sam Harris, Richard Dawins And The Extra Burden On Moral Leaders
Letter From The Rubble Of A Salon Article
When you mentioned PETA’s stance on Vick’s dogs, I thought for sure you were about to segue into their stunt from last October. For Pit Bull Awareness Day, they joined forces with an anti-Pit Bull coalition (whose members advocate killing any dog that looks like a Pit Bull) to promote something called Pit Bull Victims’ Awareness Day. I knew PETA was awful, but this was just heinous.
Thanks for all the great episodes. And thank you for introducing me to Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack!
Hello. I’m a big fan of your show and I look forward to many more episodes. I have a comment regarding the “should atheists be vegans” segment of this episode.
At one point, Andy states that he thinks there is a very good case for people who are religious to go vegan. However, this depends on how the person defines religious. At root, the major religions are absolutely not compatible with veganism, and out of the major world religions, christianity is the worse offender. The bible has several passages in which they characterize animals as belonging to humans, and details gruesome sacrificial behaviors; they even have very odd statements regarding people having sex with animals: if a woman has sex with an animal then the women should be punished and the animal killed; if it is a man then the animal needs to be killed (note the implicit sexism). Religion may not outright mandate eating animals, but it definitely supports it.
At another point, Andy stated that in his outreach work he encounters religious people who use the “but god says in the bible” argument, and in response to this he asks if they think their god would want the animals to be treated in the manner we treat them. Fine, but isn’t this just really a welfare argument? The religious person could counter that they only eat “humane” meat, and really this would allow them to wiggle out of the question posed by Andy. However, when it comes to the idea that animals have rights and that they should not have their lives taken regardless of how it is done, then I think the religious person has an excellent counterpoint to this: the bible states that god gave us animals; perhaps, not to mistreat, but definitely to eat.
Point being that in order to make religion jive with animal rights, one would have to outright reject what the bible says. In her book, Animal Liberation and Atheism, Kim Socha likens this situation to the procrustean bed, which basically means trying to fit a square block in a circular opening; it simply does not fit. Yes, the bible has the message of “Do unto others” but when the bible quite literally elevates humans to the image of god, then this saying need not apply to animals. This is basically why religious people, christians specifically, do not feel morally compelled to not eat animals. Do either of you listen to the podcast, “Animal Voices”? They have a fantastic episode in which they interview Kim Socha. The name of the episode is “A secular perspective on animal liberation”. I will link it at the bottom of the comment.
Moving on, both of you disagreed with the main question: should atheists go vegan. It’s important to understand that once someone claims they are atheist, there are certain implications and questions that follow from accepting that view. If religion is the default position, and traditionally we see our values as derived from god, then the atheist must confront the question of where their morals are derived from. The answer you’ll most often hear is “science, human compassion, rationality”. Well now they’ve accepted another position that relates to their atheism: where morals are derived from. So, if that’s where atheists believe their morals are derived from, then it must follow that veganism is the correct choice to make, since science, human compassion, and rationality all point towards abstaining from harming sentient beings when there is no need to. During his part, Paul mentioned that the article in question had very little to do with atheism and more to do with smug philosophical musings. But is atheism not a philosophy? As such, should it not be subjected to philosophical analysis?
Steven Stank-vicious’ article was meant to bring into question the principles held by atheists – whether explicit or implicit – and to point out that these principles ultimately lead to veganism. He states, “..they argue for ethics, morality, rationality, and scientific reasons – all the ingredients for a vegan mindset”. Whether or not an atheist accepts that s/he is a champion of science, compassion, and rationality, s/he cannot escape the implications of their atheistic philosophy, which I discussed above. So should atheists be vegan? Well, yes they should, and not just because everyone should be vegan, but because the atheistic philosophy ultimately leads to that conclusion – science, compassion, and ethics support veganism. I disagree that there are strong religious arguments to be made for veganism, and as I have argued, I think there is a good secular argument to make for it. Once we strip away the supernatural notion that humans are supreme because they were made in god’s image (as atheists do) then what justification is left? None. Atheists need to come to terms with this.
Finally, I leave you with the following review of Kim Socha’s book, Animal Liberation and Atheism. The review was written by prominent new atheist and founder of Skeptic Magazine, Michael Shermer.
“The link between animal rights and atheism is apparent once we bring evolution into the conversation and abandon all supernatural religious beliefs about the nature of human nature, which is that we are connected to all other species. With that foundation in place the expansion of the moral sphere to include primates and marine mammals, then all mammals, and finally all sentient beings, follows logically, as Kim Socha demonstrates in this cogently argued treatise that science and reason, not religion and faith, are the primary drivers of moral progress. Socha lays out the arguments for animal rights so well that I predict you will abandon your speciesism by the end.” –Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine
Link to Animal Voices podcast featuring Kim Socha:
Hi again. I came across another reading that relates to this topic, which is the moral implications of a secular view on vegan ism. This writing focuses on Darwinism and not atheism, though the two often come hand in hand, and at the very least, Darwinism is incompatible with the bible. It’s from philosopher James Rachel’s book “Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism. I’ll provide you with an excerpt and link to the online version of his book (which is free). Basically, the argument is that if we abandon traditional religious accounts for our creation, and accept Darwin’s theory of evolution, them certain moral implications arise. If we arose from non human animals, then what does this say of our moral obligations to animals? If we reject the view that humans were created by a divine being, then we can no longer justify depriving non human animals of basic rights that are afforded to humans. Therefore, I believe the argument can be made that Darwinists (whether atheist or not) should be vegans! I think this might be an interesting show topic (Should Darwinists be Vegan?) that could play off of the atheist episode. Thanks for letting me ramble. Here is the excerpt and link as promised:
“Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work worthy the interposition of a deity. More humble and I think truer to consider him created from animals.
Darwin wrote these words in 1838, twenty-one years before he was to publish The Origin of Species. He would go on to support this idea with overwhelming evidence, and in doing so he would bring about a profound change in our conception of ourselves. After Darwin, we can no longer think of ourselves as occupying a special place in creation–instead, we must realize that we are products of the same evolutionary forces, working blindly and without purpose, that shaped the rest of the animal kingdom. And this, it is commonly said, has deep philosophical significance.”