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Religious Dietary Laws


Tonyfinch
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I figure that for many a belief in a higher being or power stems from an inability to concede that our existance in the universe is of no meaning or consequence. Some folks are unable to lead there lives with an understanding that there are questions about existance that simply do not have answers. In order to construct a paradigm that fills this void a whole set of beliefs and behaviors have to be put in place. Since food and eating fills such a vital daily function it should not be surprising that the behaviors involved in eating would be incorporated into such behavior.

Edited by =Mark (log)

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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But rhe real question begged by that sentence is whether believing in a deity and harming nobody else are compatible activities.

Can you demonstrate that 100% of people who believe in a deity harm others in any meaningful way?

More to the point, can you demonstrate the harm from someone choosing not to eat something?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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More to the point, can you demonstrate the harm from someone choosing not to eat something?

FG. I don't know for sure but I would hazard a guess that the Hindu in the Steakhouse is discouraging segregation only by breaking the tenets and strictures of his relgion's dietry laws. If he was going by the book he would probably

1. Refuse to enter the steakhouse with you.

2. Do everything he can to discourage you from eating steak and tell you why you should not.

In other words the absence of a harm is in the breach of rather than in the observance of the religioius codes

Edited by Tonyfinch (log)
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Plotnicki: Let's say I'm Hindu and I don't eat beef. I'll go to a steakhouse with you, but I'll order a lobster instead of a steak. Please explain to me how that would promote segregation in any sense of the word.

It all goes to the purpose of not eating beef. I can't speak for the Hindu religion so maybe it doesn't apply to what I'm going to say. So let's say we were talking about a Jew who wouldn't eat non-kosher meat so he ordered fish. If you traced back the theology of why he doesn't eat non-kosher meat, it comes with a proffer that Jews are superior, or that people who eat non-kosher food are inferior. That's the inherent problem with religion. Jews are taught to not eat pork because it is unclean, and by implication that makes the people who eat it unclean.

It always gets back to intent. The balancing act of creating a unique and distinguishable cultural group based on both theology and custom by nature is in conflict with saying that all people are equal. And what we end up doing is balancing this ambiguity with the concept of freedom of religion. But that only works because religions do not enforce segregation to the letter of the law of their written theology. Even the most orthodox Jew couldn't live his life if he had to follow the writings of the torah literaly. Passages need to be modernized so he can sustain a lifestyle that allows him to live in the same manner as people of other faiths.

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Following on he might decide that he would be a much better server of his deity if he just burned down the steakhouse.

Unlikely. Extremes are not useful examples.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Well Jin, what do you think would happen if you tried to set up a steakhouse in a Hindu heartland with the rationale that you and a few others would like to eat beef and you think the majority population should respect that decision and tolerate it.

Is it really being exteme to suppose that it wouldn't last a week?

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The balancing act of creating a unique and distinguishable cultural group based on both theology and custom by nature is in conflict with saying that all people are equal.

Equal doesn't mean the same, and I'm not convinced that there's an implication of superiority in the adherence to a cultural tradition. Even if there is, what's the harm in it? So I believe that by not eating duck or whatever I'm superior to you. Big deal? So long as I'm not in control of any process that deprives you of rights, who cares? Everybody has the opportunity to believe that he or she is superior to everybody else; that doesn't offend the notion of equality under the law, does it? And why does religion get singled out. What if I believe I'm superior to you because I'm taller, more handsome, a faster runner, smarter, funnier, or have better hair? Does that offend your notion of equality?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Is it really being exteme to suppose that it wouldn't last a week?

Where is this Hindu Heartland? There is one Hindu kingdom on Earth and it is called Nepal. The Nepalese strike me as a fairly tolerant people. Surely, there are many Western-style restaurants in Kathmandu and nobody is blowing them up. I'm not sure if they serve beef or not, but do you have evidence that a steakhouse in Kathmandu would somehow be attacked by Hindus? Surely, plenty of Buddhists live in Nepal with no problem, and I think I read somewhere that the largest Passover seder in the world is held annually in Kathmandu.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'd be interested in a comparison of the eating habits of Muslims & Hindus ,say in the context of India.

I'd vaguely understood eating patterns for Hindus were historically slightly stratified on a caste basis? (please excuse if up wrong tree).

Wilma squawks no more

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The FG wrote (but the quote button at the post did not convert):

Regardless of the explanation, though, the existence of dietary laws in so many religions certainly demonstrates the centrality of cuisine to society.

Does it follow that the existence of all or any laws of behavior - choose your own example - in religion all demonstrate the centrality of that behavior to society?

I am more comfortable with:

"The existence of dietary laws in so many religions demonstrates the importance of dietary laws to so many religions."

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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Equal doesn't mean the same, and I'm not convinced that there's an implication of superiority in the adherence to a cultural tradition. Even if there is, what's the harm in it?  

What's the harm in it? Millions of people have died through the centuries trying establish that their cultural tradition or belief system was superior and you're asking me what the harm is? It's the same slippery slope I've been putting my finger on. What is the difference between the Jewish community living within one of those wires so they have freedom of movement on the sabbath and the people in Waco, Texas who have segregated themselves from society? They aren't meshuganahs? Or Jewish settlements in the West Bank where Palestinians aren't allowed? I can buy that they keep people segregated for security reasons but how many Jewish settlers are there for religious reasons and just don't want to live among non-Jews?

Again we are back to intent. Imposing theology on people to keep them a unified group is good. Imposing it to oppress them is no good. Unfortunately it's a very thin line. And the problem is that if you trace the basis for keeping people unified to its source (theological writings and the reasoning behind them,) it was to control them for some reason. And when a Jew doesn't eat pork, or a Hindu doesn't eat beef, or a Catholic doesn't eat fish on Friday, there is no way around the fact that the law or tradition was originally based in authoritarianism and by continuing the tradition you reinforce the original reasoning and purpose.

And why does religion get singled out. What if I believe I'm superior to you because I'm taller, more handsome, a faster runner, smarter, funnier, or have better hair? Does that offend your notion of equality?

There is a difference between a single person believing something and systematic segregation which is what religion promotes. Laws like kashruth and not driving on the sabbath are intended to promote systematic segregation.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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Do you not know lapsed Catholics who refuse to eat meat on Fridays?

I thought this was taken out as a result of Vatican II, along with saying Mass in Latin. Maybe that would explain why the food service in our cafeteria at work serves fish on Fridays. (The food service is run by Marriott, a corporation that's backed by Mormons, so go figure.)

I could be wrong however...

SA

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Equal doesn't mean the same, and I'm not convinced that there's an implication of superiority in the adherence to a cultural tradition. Even if there is, what's the harm in it?  

What's the harm in it? Millions of people have died through the centuries trying establish that their cultural tradition or belief system was superior and you're asking me what the harm is?

Yes, and I'll keep asking until you give an answer that makes sense and isn't just as intolerant as the intolerance you're decrying. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that you're lumping the relgiously motivated desire not to eat any given food product in with genocide. And the reasoning here is some sort of slippery slope? If that's the case, do you think it's okay for any group to believe anything it eats is better in any way than anything any other group eats? What are we to do with a group that believes its cuisine is superior to that of a neighboring nation?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'd be interested in a comparison of the eating habits of Muslims & Hindus ,say in the context of India.

Well since Muslims don't eat pork and Hindus don't eat beef it is almost impossible to get either meat in a restaurant in India, although pork is available in some areas from some special butchers. Beef is completely taboo.

Lamb/mutton and chicken are the main meats eaten. Although millions of Hindus practice vegetarianism it isn't actually a religious law that they shouldn't eat meat.

Muslims are confirmed meat eaters and eat as much as they can afford.

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Do you not know lapsed Catholics who refuse to eat meat on Fridays?

I thought this was taken out as a result of Vatican II, along with saying Mass in Latin. Maybe that would explain why the food service in our cafeteria at work serves fish on Fridays. (The food service is run by Marriott, a corporation that's backed by Mormons, so go figure.)

I could be wrong however...

SA

Indeed you are correct.

In fact, there were quite a few things that were "taken out" as being hopelessly old-fashioned and not germane to current-day situations. It was determined that these items were primarily a result of ritual, habit, and tradition and had nothing to do with the core beliefs and practice of Catholicism.

Among them: refraining from meat on Friday; fasting all night before communion; women required to wear hats (or otherwise cover their heads) in church; mass in Latin, etc.

And it's also interesting to note that, although no longer required tenets of the church, a great many Catholics continued to practice them anyway.

Especially the "fish on Fridays" thing. It had become a tradition in Catholic families and many wanted to continue it because it just felt "right."

Not only are the Marriott Mormons still serving fish on Friday, check the "soup of the day" in restaurants. On Friday?? Why, it's clam chowder. Of course.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Plotnicki: Let's say I'm Hindu and I don't eat beef. I'll go to a steakhouse with you, but I'll order a lobster instead of a steak. Please explain to me how that would promote segregation in any sense of the word.

Assuming the Hindu would not not sickened or offended by just the sight of another person eating beef, he may go to a steakhouse and dine with someone who eats beef as you propose. He will tolerate another person's right to eat beef, perhaps. I suspect he will not tolerate his child eating beef and probably not not his spouse either. I think in the sense that dietary restrictions work against intermarriage they actively promote segregation of peoples into separate camps.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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There is no answer to your question that would make you happy. Jews can keep kosher but that doesn't mean that their original reason for doing so isn't based in authoritarianism and oppression. And it doesn't mean that people who uphold traditions that perpetuate something that is historcially, oppressive, authoritarian and intolerant shouldn't be described as such. To describe someone who points that out as being "intolerant" is on par with describing that someone who is against muder is "intolerant" of murder. So I guess some intolerance is good. Some is bad. Morality is the great dividing line and fortunately the world is beginning to learn that moraility is more important then religion.

Which brings us back to intent. If you segregate for purposes of supriority, you are on the slippery slope that leads as far as the supremicists are willing to push it. If you think that means genocide you are correct. Because genocide stems from supremecy. Notice I haven't said that all supremicists are genocidists, but that all genocidists are suprememcists. But if you segregate for a benign reason, I guess that is fine. But nobody has been able to point out a benign reason even though I've been asking for a few days now. Pick any religion you want and they offer you a "better life" either here or in the afterlife and there is no way to read that than with an implication that whose who do not follow will have a worse life. It's all the slippery slope from thereon.

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I don't think people's adherence to dietary laws is a serious societal ill, but it sure is annoying. In a pluralistic society, being open to eating a wide variety of foods serves the common good, because it serves collaboration and open exchange with a the greatest number of people. The US has immigrants from a jillion different countries, and I don't think it's patronizing for me to say that all other things being equal, you are better off being ready to sit down at any of their houses and eat what's on the table.

On the other hand, perhaps what I mean is that living my life that way brings me a great deal of pleasure; perhaps strict adherence to a dietary law that you find important brings you the same kind of pleasure. It's certainly not a practice without costs, though, and the cost is always that you annoy people whose food you refuse to share.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Is it really being exteme to suppose that it wouldn't last a week?

Where is this Hindu Heartland? There is one Hindu kingdom on Earth and it is called Nepal. The Nepalese strike me as a fairly tolerant people. Surely, there are many Western-style restaurants in Kathmandu and nobody is blowing them up. I'm not sure if they serve beef or not, but do you have evidence that a steakhouse in Kathmandu would somehow be attacked by Hindus? Surely, plenty of Buddhists live in Nepal with no problem, and I think I read somewhere that the largest Passover seder in the world is held annually in Kathmandu.

While there is not be overt violence in Nepal, at least religiously motivated, the demarcation of superior vs less humans is readily apparent and food is a part of this. Nepalese may be tolerant in a lot of ways, we had one of the most profound experiences of food and caste when we lived there. Our landlord invited us to 'dinner' and to chat about the US where his son was. 'Dinner' consisted of him watchiing my wife and I eat. He was of a extremely high Brahmin caste and would not/ could not dine with inferiors such as ourselves.

While this isn't overtly violent, it is the same seperation mentality that leads to upper caste members refusing development deals that would give them large profit, but would also pass some wealth on to the dalit (untouchable class) whom they regard are meriting their down-trodden position. Traversing the country-side or Kathmandu, the 'harm' is pretty obvious. Unchecked microbes from filth-ridden sewers/water pipes kill just as surely as bombs or bullets.

A.

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FG anyone who wanted to open a chain of steakhouses acrosss India would be lucky to escape the country with his life. The sacredness of the cow is of huge importance in Hindu law. The steakhouses would be destroyed within hours.

Imagine someone trying to open up an Irish theme pub in downtown Karachi-what do you think would happen?

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To describe someone who points that out as being "intolerant" is on par with describing that someone who is against muder is "intolerant" of murder.

Most religions say murder is wrong. How do you fight your way out of that paper bag of logic?

There's no honor in replacing one form of intolerance with another. You are intolerant of religiously motivated dietary restrictions. By equating them with murder, you demonstrate the absurdity of your absolutist position. Tolerance in a pluralistic society means getting off your moral high horse and letting people believe what they want to believe as long as they're not hurting anybody else.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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FG anyone who wanted to open a chain of steakhouses acrosss India would be lucky to escape the country with his life. The sacredness of the cow is of huge importance in Hindu law. The steakhouses would be destroyed within hours.

I'm impressed by your ability to see the future with such clarity. But assuming for the sake of argument that you're right, so what? It's no surprise to anybody that there are intolerant extremists in the world, both religious and secular. How does this reflect on those who practice religion and observe their dietary laws peacefully?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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