atheism/Vegetarianism: Is there a link? Vegetarians and Meat Eaters alike please! Help with online ethnography for a postgrad..

Hello fellow atheists,

My name is Rob and I am conducting an online ethnography of atheists who wish to discuss Vegetarianism. Any potential topics whether they are mutually exclusive or indeed personal or academic arguments please feel free to express them here.

For those who are interested: I am a chap from England - UK living in London finishing an MA on the Anthropology of Food. I am 25 with a girlfriend who is a principled agnostic and Vegetarian. I however am not a Vegetarian, I do not eat a lot of meat but have several times considered my choice to eat meat. Similarly I am also interested in philosophical and scientific debates around the subject of Vegetarianism, this has led me to the personal interest of atheist-Vegetarianism of which little has been written about anthropologically (possibly it has been assumed to originate from 'a universal moral' associated with mainstream meat avoidance or for health reasons). I have a belief that something else appears to be going on amongst the high rates of atheist or secular Vegetarians compared with those of the Abrahamic religions, and it is my vision to understand this.

If anyone is willing to get involved please do and remember that your information will be kept confidential and used only for academic purposes (see my universities code of ethics):

Any responses I use within the work will be portrayed with first names only, no other content will be used such as email addresses.


I would like to start the discussion by asking what or is there a link between atheism/Vegetarianism?

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There have been many discussions on Nexus about eating meat and being vegetarian. I think there is significant misinformation on both sides. I speculate that the idea of being vegetarian is independent of being atheist,but with s ome overlap.

I atheist and strongly so. I am also vegetarian and strongly so but I take a live and let live approach. I have been vegetarian for around 35 years and I cant imagine that ever changing. For me it is multifactorisl and any of several reasons would suffice. I have never tried to convert anyone. People have tried to convert me, and equally bad, scam me into eating meat-containing foods. That last issue, pisses me off very much.

sorryt for typos. damn tiny keypad/ fat meaty fingers

Yes I agree, it appears multifactorial and yet somewhat overlapping... and not to be cynical I would say some information has been manipulated into certain ways (lets say traditionally by 'nutritional advocators' i.e media), I remember a time when people who say "but how do you get your protein???"  

Now we know a Vegetarian diet is completely suffice ( ideally planned) and the most interesting thing for me is the adoption or partial adoption of scientific discourse and this nagging form of meat eating rhetoric which says "buy me" "eat me" which completely normalises (irrationalities) legitimate scientific study. I sadly suspect this is part of  agribusiness agenda..

Eating well requires learning about nutrition regardless of vegetarian or omnivore. I think for me it is second nature. I never think sbout what to eat instead of meat. It would be like asking an atheist, what do they do instead of going to church. Most of us never think sbout that, either.

I probably get much less protein compared to omnivores, but for years I bike commuted to work and hiked mountain trails as well or better than any omnivore I knew. Prople used to joke I took the on death marches. We pee out most of the nitrogen that we take in as protein. After major surgery I healed as fast as anyone, and returned to full work sooner. I am not saying that is because I Dont eat animals, but not eating animals doesnt seem to hurt me.

The one link I might suggest is that in a majority christian culture, atheists stand out as counter to the mainstream. In a majority omnivory culture, vegetarians stand out as counter to the mainstream. Both have to make conscious decisions that involve thinking for themselves and choosing a path much less taken. Both can be in uncomfortable positions when surrounded and sometimes pressured by the mainstream. Both can get family and friend pressure to conform. Both can be singled out for not being mainstream.

meat eating rhetoric which says "buy me"

Oh, the world is absolutely permeated with animal-food advertising.  It's seen as a luxury.

Once you start watching for it, it's amazing how much animal-use advertising there is. 

It's actually better for people not to get a lot of protein.  I read about a study where low protein consumption was associated with a lower rate of cancer.

Older people tend need more protein, it helps them keep their muscles. But the typical omnivorous American diet has far more than the RDA of protein - twice as much maybe.  Americans really overdo it, and probably court cancer, osteoporosis etc. by doing so. 

I eat a vegan diet and I have no shortage of protein or any essential amino acids, and I keep track of what I eat with a nutrition program.  I eat a lot of vegetables, that's how.  Also amaranth and quinoa, which have all the essential amino acids. 

But I'm also not eating too much protein!

Robert, you stated you wanted to start the discussion by asking what or is there a link between atheism/Vegetarianism? If there is such a link, I certainly don't see it.

Jains are strict vegetarians, and one of the oldest religions on the Indian sub-continent. And vegetarianism is common among SIkhs, Hindus, and Buddhists. 7th Day Adventists, while not strictly vegetarian, do highly recommend vegetarianism, as do many other sects of Christianity.

I don't think accepting a particular diet, or believing in one, or proselytizing one, is necessarily causation for any particular world view. There can be vegetarian theists, and vegetarian atheists, the same as omnivorous theists and omnivorous atheists. How is it that one related to the other?

I agree with you Pat and you do put forward that although there is the existence of conflicting religious ideologies there is the presence of Christian Vegetarians, Sikhs, Hindus etc. 

I find this particularly interesting for atheism, not only because much of the traditional religious world sees atheism as a 'destructive force', not one in which has any 'moral standpoint' (of course we as atheists 'know' that we do not need 2000 year old rhetoric/discourse to squeeze a dichotomy of good and bad,) for my mind, 'we' like Nietzsche have begun to unpick this discourse as atheists to something new but not necessarily (a return to nature).

They can be related but of course if one makes overarching theoretical and historic observations (pick and choose very subtly), atheist rhetoric on Vegetarianism was once very lenient through the Christian anthropocentric way of justifying/denouncing meat consumption. Percy Bysshe Shelley turned this argument around instead of coming from an animal rights perspective (John Ritson, Buddhist etc) e.g As humans we should not eat meat because it harms us but also creates massive suffering...


There's somewhat of a link in that conventionally religious people tend not to be vegan. 

It wouldn't be a link with self-identified atheism, but rather a link between veganism and not being a God-believer. 

Veganism is sort of a nontheistic religion that is suitable for the modern day.  It helps to prevent global warming, it's environmentally conscious, and it's more kind to animals. 

Why would you say that Veganism is particularly more anti-god than say 'Vegetarianism'  (this is not a criticism and I know there is no reason per se) but what about Veganism is less appealing for god-believers? 

I agree that Veganism is essentially more in-tune, and 'up-to-date'. I would say which may be a partial answer to my own question that Veganism is simply more political and left-wing which is essentially the opposite to (certainly the Abrahamic religions) the right wing conservative nature of god-believers.

Why would you say that Veganism is particularly more anti-god than say 'Vegetarianism'

I wouldn't say it's at all anti-god.  It's not particularly identified with people who identify themselves as atheists or are anti-religion or anti-God. 

Actually many vegans (at least around here) may be spiritual in sort of a fuzzy modern way. 

Christians have a philosophy of using the natural world, and the idea that people are essentially different from animals.  Probably Judaism similarly, I'm not sure about Islam.  The Eastern religions don't have that idea, I think. 

Veganism has religious overtones.  People become passionate about it, when they've decided to take an ethical position against cruelty to animals.  It's quite different from how the rest of society eats, and that also creates that feeling of being ethical and set apart from the sinful animal-exploiting majority.  Which is similar to how a lot of Christians and other religious people feel.  Different and better.  It's kind of a leftist religion. 

Only the vegan kind of difference is more appropriate to our modern concerns.  Vegans are not trying to usher in the End Times.  They do things that often seem sweet to me, like rescuing chickens :) 

There's a link between religion and using animals: the gods are said to have made animals for humans, to use as they see fit. Something that never felt good to me, growing up in a fundie environment. So when I found out that all living beings are related and I left religion, I knew I had to rethink everything I had learnt so far. I decided that I don't want animals to suffer, so I don't want to eat them.

Yes, and religious ideas that people have a soul and animals don't, communicate that there's an essential difference between us and animals. 

In Eastern religions, someone might get reincarnated as an animal, so there isn't that essential difference. 

Yes there does seem to be that very anthropocentric view with comes (especially from the Abrahamic religions) it does not seem to me that it is a front line issue for 'the religious' but something which in ingrained into ones self without the inclusion of the Vegetarian debate (especially within Christianity).




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