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Archive for Monday, September 24, 2012

Faith Forum: Should religion or spirituality play a role in how we eat?

September 24, 2012

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Judy Carman, Lecompton, author of “Peace to All Beings” and co-author of “The Missing Peace”:

Driving down Sixth Street, I saw a bumper sticker that read “Lovingkindness is my religion.” Who can argue with that?

At the root of nearly all religions, lovingkindness and nonviolence are the spiritual ideals. As people of faith, we hope to apply these ideals as best we can in all areas of our lives. But what about how we eat? If we want to eat with lovingkindness, then we must face the brutal and violent process that sentient beings endure before ending up on our plates.

Very few of us have been on the killing floors of slaughterhouses or stood on the decks of ships that haul in thousands of suffocating and dying fish, turtles, dolphins and others. So it is easy not to think about the animals themselves. Yet while you read this short article, millions of animals are being raised and killed in ways most of us could not bear to witness. Nevertheless, although we may not see them suffer, our souls hear their cries for mercy.

“Spiritual progress,” Gandhi said, “demands from us at a certain point that we stop killing our fellow living beings...” Schweitzer, St. Francis, Jesus, Einstein, Tolstoy, Rachel Carson and many others have taught us that nonviolence toward all sacred life must be our aim. The nearly universal spiritual ideal to “love one another” requires us to embrace all beings, not just people, in our circle of compassion. As our faith grows, so does our desire to live by our highest ideals. When we stop eating animal products, we are no longer eating violence, and our hearts and souls can at last be at peace.

We are here, not to destroy but to celebrate life and to love and care for all God’s miracles — all animals and all people — who share this world with us.

— Send email to Judy Carman at judycarman@ymail.com. She blogs at peacetoallbeings.com.

Moussa Elbayoumy, community outreach coordinator, Islamic Center of Lawrence, 1917 Naismith Drive:

Religion should not be something we practice one day a week in our place of worship, but a consistent way of life that plays a significant role in shaping our identity, our culture, our thinking and almost everything we do. An individual who chooses a religion also chooses to have specific values and mores that direct the ways he acts.

For the most part, all the religions of the world share the same basic morals in spite of the variance in the practice of their traditions and values. These basic morals address how to conduct your own life and how to deal with others around you.

Food is an important part of our daily lives and is hugely influenced by our religion. Some specific foods are prohibited in some religions while the specific mix or way to prepare is regulated in others.

Those who believe in a supreme creator also believe that God the creator created us with built-in instincts such as the desire and enjoyment of eating and drinking as a means to our survival and well-being, but each instinct had to be regulated to ensure that same purpose.

Eating the wrong type of food (such as poisonous plants) or the wrong amount of food can cause disease, injury or death. We may not fully comprehend the reason behind a religious prohibition of a certain type of food, or the command to fast on certain days, but generally a believer accepts these commands as inherently for his or her benefit.

For example, we all know that drinking alcohol is very injurious for our health, thus drinking alcohol is prohibited for a Muslim. Similar arguments can be made for prohibiting eating pork, or for fasting during Ramadan.

Each individual needs to make a conscious decision first of what religion to believe in, then how strictly to follow the commands of that religion in every aspect of his or her life. That is the real test of faith.

— Send email to Moussa Elbayoumy at community@islamicsocietylawrence.org.

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