Category Archives: Religion and spirituality

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.

VS interview: Jesus and animal sacrifice

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

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

VS interview: Jesus’ family and vegetarianism

Jesus and Nicodemus (H. O. Tanner)

Jesus and Nicodemus (H. O. Tanner)

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

“Vegan Nation” interview on Jesus and vegetarianism

Vegan Nation Xmas WCUW interview 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!”

UPDATE December 26: here’s the link to the archive of this show (an MP3 file).

Was Jesus a vegetarian?

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

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? (review)

The End of Captivity?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

Sometimes words matter

This was delicious.

This was delicious.

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

Lisa Levinson and Vegan Spirituality

Lisa LevinsonLisa Levinson organizes Vegan Spirituality groups, retreats, and online gatherings across the country as part of In Defense of Animals’ Sustainable Activism Campaign, offering emotional and spiritual resources for animal activists. We recently discussed Vegan Spirituality and this is what she said.

Question: How did you get started down the idea of “vegan spirituality”? What is your religious / spiritual background? Continue reading

It’s not about climate change

Several major news sources have stated that the Pope’s recent encyclical is concerned about climate change. The CNN headline summarized the message: “’Revolution’ needed to combat climate change”. The New York Times declared: “Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change.”

Well, yes, the pope is concerned about climate change, but this view of what the pope’s encyclical is “about” is quite misleading. It is about the environment generally and the human relationship to the environment. It is worth actually reading the Pope’s encyclical to see what he does say. Continue reading

What does the Decline of Christianity Mean?

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

The latest data on Christianity comes from a recent report from the Pew Research Center on religion and public life. It sounds as if Christianity is on track to disappear as the dominant religion in America within a generation or two. In fact, it’s possible that Christianity might eventually disappear from American life altogether. Is this good news or bad news? The answer might seem to depend on whether you identify with Christianity. If you’re some religion other than Christianity, or atheist or agnostic, it’s great news; otherwise, not so much.

I’d like to ask a slightly different question — what does this mean for vegans? Even Christian vegans hold a perspective which is so different from that of other Christians, that the decline of Christianity does not clearly have a good or a bad implication. Continue reading

“Animals in Earliest Christianity”

I will be giving a talk on “Animals in Earliest Christianity” to the Animal Rights Academy in Toronto this Tuesday. Alas, I will not be there physically, but I’ll Skype in via computer, and I understand that the conversation can go in both directions and we’ll have questions and answers.

The talk will be at University College, 15 Kings College Circle, room 256, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, from 7 pm until 9 pm EST on Tuesday, February 3. There is a Facebook page for the event here.

The talk is free, so if you’re in the area, I hope you can make it and we can talk about such questions as: what was the attitude of the earliest Christians towards animals? Was Jesus, or anyone else, a vegetarian? Is animal rights compatible with Christianity? And perhaps the most puzzling question of all, should we care?

UPDATE March 24, 2016: I just found out that the talk has been uploaded to YouTube. The bad news is, the video and audio are seriously out of synch. So maybe you could listen to it as long as you don’t pay too much attention to the video portion. Otherwise the video and audio are both of pretty good quality. If anyone knows how to fix the synchronization problem, let me know. In the meantime, though, here’s the link.

Norm Phelps (1939–2014)

Norm Phelps died on December 31, 2014. An activist in the promotion of vegetarianism, veganism, and compassion for animals in spiritual traditions, he authored numerous books and articles.

He followed both the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the Unitarian Universalist tradition — neither of which, he noted, is exclusive. But he was raised as a Baptist and a Methodist and wrote about Christianity and animals as well. Continue reading

The Ebionite Christian Church, part 2

Jesus and Nicodemus (H. O. Tanner)

What role would an Ebionite Christian Church play — why would anyone want to form one at all? The main reason is to provide a place for ethical vegetarianism in Christianity. The Ebionites, whatever else you may say about them, believed that vegetarianism was part of the gospel message. When Epiphanius asks an unnamed fourth-century Ebionite why they abstain from meat, when meat-eating is in the Bible, the Ebionite responds, “Christ revealed it to me.” Continue reading

The Ebionite Christian Church

Jesus and Nicodemus (H. O. Tanner)

A reader of this blog recently asked, “When are we going to form the ECC (Ebionite Christian Church)? Or maybe EUC, Ebionite Universal Church?” Many vegetarians and vegans who come from the Christian tradition find that there isn’t really a Christian church, group, or denomination, which it makes sense to join. So why not form our own? Here are my thoughts.

Continue reading

The Church Potluck, Reimagined

Lauren Lisa Ng, an ordained American Baptist minister and committed vegan, has written a very thoughtful blog on “The Church Potluck, Reimagined.” It has direct relevance for everyone who is interested in veganism and Christianity and is well worth reading. This post describes her rapid journey, after being a Christian for decades, from meat-eater to vegan. It describes her attempt to reimagine the standard American church potluck — which is currently a vast wasteland for vegans. Continue reading

Vegan Christian Holidays

One person recently commented on this site, “Compassionate Spirit could respond [to the need for a vegetarian or vegan alternative in Christianity] by offering a religious experience at Christmas and Easter to see if it meets a need.” This request doesn’t sound that hard. Christmas and Easter are the two most common Christian holidays, and there’s all this material on vegetarianism and Christianity.

Actually, though, this request is actually a lot tougher than it sounds. Let me tell you about it! Continue reading