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on the relationship between atheism and veganism - francione

Page history last edited by pepa 14 years, 4 months ago


Gary L. Francione

On Sunday 27th December 2009, @garylfrancione said:


On the relationship between atheism and veganism:

I am absolutely perplexed at the number of Tweets that I see on my home page concerning atheism and veganism.

I would like to make some general comments because I believe that these Tweets reflect some profound misunderstandings.

First, I fail to see any necessary connection between veganism and atheism. There is, in my view, more of a connection between veganism and certain political theories. I maintain that progressive political views that unequivocally reject racism, sexism, and heterosexism are more consistent with veganism than traditions that accept these forms of discrimination in some sense. A theist can be progressive politically or can be reactionary; the same is true for an atheist.

The notion that atheists are egalitarians because they reject a superior figure is wrong empirically (many atheists are not egalitarian) and is wrong doctrinally in that many spiritual traditions do not even have a creator god. For example, Buddhism and Jainism do not have a creator god although many both traditions have a number of metaphysical doctrines.

The notion that theists are necessarily non-egalitarians even if they accept a god is not correct either. Many theists do not see their relationship to god in these power/hierarchy terms and many theists are, in any event, champions of equality concerning humans and nonhumans.

Second, I find it disturbing that defenders of atheism refuse to engage the rather obvious point that atheism requires faith just as theism does. We cannot know the ultimate truth about these matters without accepting certain propositions that themselves are the product of faith. Atheism and theism are just different sides of the same coin of faith. The faiths are different in certain respects but there is faith in both cases nonetheless.

The atheists proclaim that science is the answer. But we live in a quantum world; every scientist accepts quantum physics. Quantum physics implies that it is our observation of material things that causes them to exist and that observation of a particle in one place can affect the behavior of a particle in another place to which it has no physical connection. Therefore, the dominant scientific paradigm implies ideas about the relationship between consciousness and matter that directly clash with what we think of as our uncontroversial empirical assumptions about the nature of the world (i.e., that there is no relationship between consciousness and the existence of matter).

So, atheists, is it not a matter of faith that the material world exists as it appears to be? If quantum physics is right, the world as we perceive it is most certainly a matter of faith on some very relevant level. An atheist may respond that quantum theory applies only to the quantum world and not to bigger objects. But how can this be? Bigger objects are composed of atoms and quantum theory deals with atoms and subatomic particles.

The bottom line: if quantum physics is right, and every scientist says it is, we have one big mystery on our hands--and a mystery no less troubling than the metaphysical doctrines that atheists maintain can be ignored because they are "objectively" wrong.

Frankly, the implications of quantum physics are no less "spooky" than many religious beliefs; indeed, Einstein referred to quantum theory, which he clearly accepted, as having "spooky" implications.

Third, I think that there is a tremendous confusion between organized religions that have been used to oppress people, and religious/spiritual beliefs per se. Have religious organizations oppressed people? Absolutely. So have governments and corporations. But the fact that some people have engaged in violence in the name of religion does not say anything about religious belief. Jesus Christ was a major proponent of nonviolence and yet many pro-violence people claim to be Christians.

We must not confuse religious or spiritual belief per se with the misuse of these beliefs. Can religion be used to beat people up? Sure. So can baseball bats. So what?

Fourth, all of the philosophical/legal writing that I have done over the past 20+ years relies on an expansion of the liberal doctrine of equality. My work does not presuppose any religious or spiritual belief or require any such beliefs to come to the conclusion that we have no moral justification for exploiting nonhuman animals. My work relies on reason and rational argument. But there are many reasonable and intelligent people who do not agree with my view and yet have no substantive response to my arguments. I suppose that what separates us—and what caused me to become interested in animal ethics in the 1980s—is the sense of kinship that I feel with nonhuman animals. And I would suspect that this sense of kinship was and is related to my longstanding acceptance of Ahimsa, or the principle of nonviolence, as my foundational spiritual belief.

In sum, I am puzzled by this discussion. A number of people I like personally are involved in it so I am not going to unfollow them, but I probably won't participate much more than I have. I have raised issues that atheists just let go without response. That's fine, but it means that there is no discussion going on and I really fail to understand much less accept the view that there is any necessary relationship between veganism and atheism. Although I am suspicious of most generalizations, I would venture to say that as a general matter, veganism is more connected with *some* notion of spirituality for most people. But perhaps that is not correct. There is, however, no necessary relationship between veganism and atheism as I understand it.

The problem is power, violence, and hierarchy. The source of the problem may or may be related to religion but the source is irrelevant. The solution is peace, love, and nonviolence. The source of the solution is similarly irrelevant.


Short: http://tl.gd/1cefh | Posted from Twitlonger






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