As some of you know who read my blog posts or listen to the podcasts I do with my cohosts already know. I call myself a vegan and also an atheist. In my experience there has been much misunderstanding about both of these labels. In this post I hope to explain why both of these labels go together for me personally, however they may not apply to every vegan or every atheist.
However, if you follow my reasoning. You will see exactly how it became impossible to believe in the existence of a “good” god who is also extremely powerful. I think that one doesn’t need to believe in an omnipotent god in order to understand this. For the most part, one only need to believe that a god exists that is the creator of all things. All monotheistic religions teach this and claim that everything was designed by God including every part of the planet and our own genetic code or DNA.
In the past, I believed this. I was raised as a Christian and attended church with my mother up until the age of 18. I also visited other churches in my early 20s. You can safely assume that I know my fair share of what is taught in churches and what is in the bible. I have read the entire new testament as well as most of the old testament including every word of the first five books of the old testament.
Let me begin with what is the most obvious fact but that many Christians deny. The bible contains contradictions.
In the following verse, we see one of the most famously quoted parts of the old testament. It is believed to be God commanding the jews not to kill.
Exodus 20:13 Thou shalt not kill.
However, there are plenty of places in the bible where God commands people to kill other humans as well as tons of animals in ritual sacrifices. The most famous example of this is most likely this part where god commands Abraham to kill his son Isaac.
Genesis 22:1-17 King James Version (KJV)
1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.
10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.
15 And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
I do not need to go into the hundreds of other examples of God commanding people to kill things. You can read them yourself if you want.
The point that I want to make is that no matter what your belief is about killing, this God described is a very contradictory God who sometimes wants people to kill others and sometimes does not.
This simple fact was something I knew for a long time but wasn’t sure how to process. However I came to believe that killing is wrong. Basically I preferred the “Thou shalt not kill” more than I did the other commandments about killing bulls, goats, sheep, and other humans in war.
However, as soon as I came to accept that killing is wrong. I realized that it must mean that God is morally wrong when he himself kills or commands others to do so. However most Christians hold God up as the standard of morality and they must do as he commands whether or not they want to and whether or not it contradicts with God’s other command not to kill.
So what happens is that the Christians who believe in the God described in the bible have no actual standard for morality. Morality can change from one day to the next. Tomorrow God may command someone to kill, rape, lie, or steal and it would be immoral to disobey god if he commands such things and is the moral standard upon which you base your life.
So anyhow, I hope that wasn’t too boring. Now on to my major point. I do not base my life on the writings of an ancient book. I do not wish to kill any animals if it can be avoided. For this reason I am a vegan who also tries not to kill even insects that are annoying me. I wasn’t always this way but became more committed to the principal of ahimsa after leaving behind religion and evolving my actions to be consistent with what I think morality is.
I’m not here to debate whether morality or ethics is objective or subjective. I also don’t expect someone to agree with me that killing is wrong. The larger point that I don’t want anyone to miss is:
I try my best to live consistently with what I believe is the right thing. Everything else including the Veganism and Celibacy that I promote in my podcast with Monique is consistent with the belief that killing is wrong and I want to avoid it when possible. Also keep in mind that I do not believe in the existence of a God who is going to reward or punish me in an afterlife based on my actions. In short, there is no reward for me for my avoidance of eating animal products or staying a virgin for life. I do it because I want to and that’s all the reason I need.
Now the final point I want to make is that the reason I call myself an atheist isn’t just because I don’t believe in the existence of the Christian God of the Bible. It’s true that I don’t believe it anymore because I think that the entire concept of gods and goddesses is a fairy tale invented by humans who loved to create their own stories about the meaning of life and heroes and villains who are fighting some huge cosmic battle. I think the entire bible is just a work of fiction and should be recognized as such.
There is a much larger point to make. Whatever gods or goddesses exist is not my concern because I do not view them as a moral authority. That is to say that if it was possible to prove the existence of any of the gods of the many world religions, my behavior would not change because I don’t think we should obey anyone just because “they said so”.
So while it’s true that I am an atheist, the MOST important point is that I am also an anarchist. By this I only mean what I have already basically said. Killing is wrong even if your mother, father, government, or a god tells you.
If there is anything at all that I believe in which could be described by some people as a god or a moral standard, it is the golden rule, which ironically happens to be in the bible as well as other sources.
Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
And right now that’s all I have to say about that.