Springingtiger's Blog

Thou Shalt Not Eat Bull.

I have been vegetarian for many years. A few years ago I was feeling unwell and run-down until I gave in to a craving for eggs which immediately made me feel better. This reminds me of a story of the Dalai Lama who being brought up in Tibet ate meat because of the paucity of vegetables. When he escaped to India, in common with other buddhists, he decided to give up meat, but his body was so used to having some meat in it’s diet that he became ill. Not every craving has to be indulged, my periodic cravings for fish are satisfied by Kelp tablets.

TheDalai Lama’s compassion caused him to try and avoid meat a prescribed by his religion. Many religions impose dietary  restrictions on their followers, When  people use these restrictions to develop self-discipline they are of value, but  when they merely bring on the one hand shame and guilt and, on the the other, self-righteousness, they are positively detrimental to spiritual and personal development.

Worse still to use someone else’s religious rules as an excuse for hatred. Yes, it may be true that halal and kosher slaughter is cruel, but it is only so from our modern viewpoint, it would not always have been so. Perhaps our greatest fault is to cling rigidly to religious commandments irrelevant to the age in which we live. Our religious practices should be given by tradition, but informed by science, so that they preserve the intent to help us be disciplined and responsible, while remaining relevant.

That some religions like Islam have very enlightened rules on fasting demonstrate that the rules were originally intended for the benefit of people rather than to oppress them. The founders of our religions were not cruel men, but were trying to make people’s lives better using the knowledge of their time. Rather than adhere rigidly to outmoded rules which is, in fact, a form of idolatry, it would be better to allow them to evolve. They should, as they have always done, hold people to a challenging ethical standard, but they should not offend their intelligence. It can justly be argued that this age needs discipline more than any that preceded it, but people are turning from religion. Some are turning, as they always will, because of selfish weakness, but many are turning because the intent of the rules has been abused. Religion has been turned from a way of liberation to a tool of oppression, and doctrinaire atheism is no different in it’s rejection of an individual’s right to make their own choices.

I do not call for any diminution in religious discipline, but I do believe it should be a matter of personal choice rather than a despotic imposition. People’s disciplines and observances should be appropriate to them, and their religious guides, whether one calls them priests, imams, rabbis or ministers, should be leading not by dictat, but by example. Spiritual observance should enrich one’s experience of life, if it does not than it is necessary to reevaluate it. Wrong observance is as damaging as no observance. If in doubt the mo
st important observance found in all religions and cultures, but often ignored, is that of love and respect for other people, for other creatures, it is the measure of all religious observance.

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[…] was recharged – we still had no internet – I expanded the piece,edited it and retitled it, “Thou Shalt Not eat Bull!” (I giggled, neigh laughed myself horse at that […]

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