Saturday, March 5, 2011

Losing My Religion

Lately it seems I have been thinking about this in great detail. As you all have seen, and guessed that I have been somewhat aloof lately. I've been trying to wrap my head around all of this. Over the last few months I've amassed a fair amount of followers on Twitter, and I have been witnessing a lot of differing levels of individuals "commitment" to their chosen lifestyle. I also see a fair amount of challenges and accusations and statements about what it means to be a "real" vegan. Let it be known that I have never been challenged on my "veganism", but then I don't think I am an entirely open book, so perhaps the challenging chapters have not been published (yet).

I really think it compares closely to a religion, or ones passion they have for their faith, and the desire to project their faith on others. As far as that goes, lets take a step back. I was raised a Catholic, but never really practiced it that much. Pretty much once I was confirmed back in junior high school, church became somewhat "optional", and I don't have a recollection of going much in my high school years. I think I went to church once or twice in college, but that was mostly because a friend of mine was a rather devout Catholic, and I used to like hanging out with her. After that I pretty much went "alltheist" (see urban dict for that one).  I dabbled in Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Wiccan, Devil worship... just kidding,.. I never went Lutheran.

It was recently (in relative terms) that I went back to the Catholic church, and I can mostly thank (blame?) my wife for that. Well before we were married, she used to talk to me about the benefit of going to church, taking that time out of your week to calm your soul, and be thankful for what you have. Also, to introduce it to my son and daughter, who had no knowledge, or desire to learn. My parents gave me the benefit of the introduction, but it was up to me to establish a relationship. Unfortunately relationships have never been one of my strong suits. Coming back was my decision, my desire, and all by my doing. I don't agree with a number of things, but I do it for me, and I leave others to make up their own mind. This is about the extent I even talk about it. Its my choice, and as far as I'm concerned, I am a Catholic.

My ex-wife was raised Southern Baptist.  Her folks are split up, and remarried.  Her mother ("born again"), and her father-in-law became very "assertive" church goers. Very aggressive Christians. So much so, that it would really start to put you off. I've had a number of discussions and arguments with her FIL, as I just didn't get the point that only those, who are "saved", would be saved. I didn't buy the fact that most of the planet was doomed because they didn't know how to utter the words. I finally stopped arguing. My point would never be made. I can see how my ex, and her sister became very put off by the religion. So much so, that they are put off by any and all of them. I was more impressed by what it was that made her FIL so convinced he was right. I didnt think he was, but he sure as hell thought he was (interesting choice of words I realize)

But I was thinking about the passion my FIL invoked whenever it came up in conversation. In his mind, this was the path to salvation. He really seemed convinced he was right. So if you really knew in your heart that this was the only way to be "saved", would you be passionate enough to try to convince others?

I'm learning also how passionate people are about their veganism, and how far they take it. I'm understanding the nuances of a "foodie" versus an "abolitionist" (seriously, I never really encountered those terms), and seeing how outspoken everyone is about this. There is a lot of activism in this "club". A lot of people that are very passionate about their cause. Its a righteous one, admittedly. Simply put:
  • End cruelty. Live a cruel free life. 
  • Don't purchase or consume products that contain animal content. 

Its that simple, right? Well people get pretty emotional when it comes to this, lots of opinions, calls for letters, boycotts, it can get very heated. Well why wouldn't it? So many people need to be educated, so many people don't know. Well they don't know what they don't know right? I recall someone tweeted that we should just talk to one person a day about veganism,.... well its almost like talking to them about Jesus being your personal savior, right? Interesting, maybe my FIL had a point. At least I can understand his passion. Whether I choose to believe it or not is another matter. I have to respect where he is coming from.

So is there a difference?  In veganism there is no "god" per-se, but the ideal we seek, is not unlike the ideal one seeks to live ones life as Jesus. So if I don't claim Jesus my savior am I dammed? If I don't abolish all animal based products, am I dammed? I don't know, maybe I am. But maybe I just need to find out where I fit in. I will admit, I stressed out when I discovered there was probably bone dust in my Oreo's.

I don't know how far this goes. I wonder, because I know at some point it is really going to affect those around me. I don't want to be the kid that sits at the special table, or someone who has to bring their own food. I don't want to question my mom, dad, or my in-laws about every ingredient that went into a meal. I hope I can find the right groove, feel like I am really doing the right thing, on the right path, but not alienate those around me.

It is interesting to see two groups as polar opposites, yet so much alike. I guess I have to respect the abolitionists, but I am clearly not there. Maybe I never will be. I respect the "saved" for their opinions. Maybe they are right. But it doesn't matter. They think they are.

So according to some, I'm neither Vegan, nor am I going to Heavan. I, however, think I need this T-Shirt


  1. You don't have to be one extreme or the other. Be who you are and be true to yourself. It is that simple (and it is what Jerry would do, too;)

  2. Don't let it be stressful. I had to take a break from being around too many other vegans because often time you can get the vibe of "not doing enough/not good enough". Not saying you should, because you'd miss some support, but take some people's words with a grain of salt.

  3. Great post, Brian! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I've been exploring some of this controversy on my own blog and in my own personal journaling,. I'm with Lee--be true to yourself. :)


  4. thanks for the comments (the WWJD was for you Lee). i don't let it stress me out too much, i'm having too much stress just dealing with the situation, let alone how others perceive i am doing. i hear you all loud and clear, but i admit i am sometimes swayed by public opinion, hence you probably don't ever hear me get controversial on twitter. i just don't need the drama.

    the parallels were uncanny, and i thought it would make an interested post. thank again!

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  6. Aw shucks, my comment disappeared! I only edited it to say that I totally want the 'polar opposites' t-shirt!

    I think the rest of my comment said something along the lines of... (I've had a hangover since then)

    I'm pretty ambivalent by nature and having not been raised in a religious environment or had particularly religious friends or friends who were overly passionated about anything (yes, I had a big bunch of stoner friends), I always find zealots of any kind a little worrisome. I also find it difficult to deal with the way that veganism can seem (to some!) like this totally rad super cool trendy ubermenschen thing... when really I just like grubbing around on an allotment and eating veggies and think it's the right thing to do. As veganism gets a little more cult-like it actually alienates me a bit, but never enough to not be vegan.

    I think that having the 'support' network of vegans out there is helpful in keeping newbies in the fold, as such, by giving encouragement when needed and helping out when things seem a bit hard at first. It's also great to share knowledge of potential health issues and stop people being unwittingly hypocritical (in retrospect, of course).

    Sometimes though, I do feel that some vegans aren't in it for the long haul and that the lifestyle is more of a fad. There are those who turn from avid vegans to rabid paleos (or whatever that odd subset call themselves), and those who begin to proclaim the joys of eating raw endangered species of animal because it helps their survival or some such illogical nonsense. Sometimes these people are easy to spot, but often not. I don't know if veganism as a whole is let down by those who pick it up, promote it aggressively and then move on to their next fad but I suspect there is some damage done.

    As a general rule I tend to think that 'methinks the lady doth protest too much' is quite apt for many people... and that this can turn new vegans off the path.

    I'm glad you're sticking things out Brian and am, as ever, impressed at the way in which you do this in public in such a rational but emotionally available fashion; that takes a certain kind of bravery that only comes with experience I think.

    As some religious activities seem extremely odd to me, there are those who seem to practice veganism in a similar way, like it's a way to purity and self-healing and such things. My body is not a temple and I'm not religious; I get no spiritual enjoyment or salvation from eating steamed broccoli or a delicious cupcake. Perhaps by making veganism seem as extreme as a snake-handling baptist ritual it attracts some people, but I don't think this is how to perpetuate the cause in general.

    Rational discourse that appeals to an empathic and consistent intelligence is much more likely to allow people to become vegan and stick with it.

    That's my two-pennies-worth anyway - hope it doesn't disappear this time!