“Spiritual” And “Quasi-Religious” Aspects Of Veg*ns
This article is an examination of ethical vegetarianism to determine to what extent it shows religious or spiritual themes in ideology and underlying motives.
The quasi-religious themes of taboo and avoidance behavior, reverence for life, denial of death, reincarnation, observance of disciplines and the rejection of domination and oppression are present. Quasi-religious is a term used to express the idea of something that is like, but not exactly religion.
Taboo applies to vegetarianism as it applies to the avoidance of flesh of certain animals, i.e. there are boundaries. Taboos define the self against the other and vegetarianism can be seen as being about defining who one is and what the relationship is between humans and non-humans.
Ethical vegetarianism expresses the conviction that to be fully human is to have reverence for all life, rejecting violence. Because vegetarianism is a reverence for life and a rejection of violence, it is also a denial of death and meat is a symbol of death.
Reincarnation may be a religious justification of vegetarianism as a sophisticated rationalization, that the animal belongs to the same moral community and extends the boundary of human to other beings.
Vegetarianism is a form of self-discipline that expresses the identity of the individual. A prominent feature of practice is the tendency to become very sensitive to the rules of diet and practice them beyond what is necessary.
Meat is also a symbol of violence and domination.
Evidence for quasi-religious status is based upon degree of participation in alternative therapies, human potential groups and activities, and new religious movements as compared to non-vegetarians.
All vegetarians are more involved in sects and cults than nonvegetarians.
The use of alternative therapies is high for vegetarians and low for nonvegetarians.
Vegetarians are more involved in human potential groups than nonvegetarians.
Vegetarians are more strongly opposed to issues that relate to threat or violence, except upon the issue of abortion, where ethical vegetarians are the most liberal group.