Is veganism a religion? Depends how you define religion I guess. Here’s one broad attempt:
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
- a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe… What is the nature, cause, and purpose of the vegan universe? I think one word sums up the purpose of veganism: nonviolence- to do no harm to animals we share the planet with. The nature of the universe and our place in it? This one is a little trickier because we find ourselves very removed from the natural order of things. We’ve taken ourselves out of the food chain by eliminating or caging in anything that can eat us. Is this how it was supposed to be… was this preordained by some higher power? Is it our place as vegans to attempt to rectify the gross injustices committed as the dominant species by changing the rules of survival or re-imagining ourselves as non-flesh eaters? And there will never be adequate answers to the cause aspect. There are forces at work in the universe beyond our comprehension and no one (creationist or evolutionist) really knows who or what set the whole thing in motion and what it all means and where it’s all headed. It’s all open for interpretation, and as vegans we’ve redefined our place in the universe on faith that we’re doing the right thing which is in keeping with the definition of a religion.
- especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, involving devotional and ritual observances… Can’t see how veganism is religious in this regard. We don’t worship a Supervegan higher being (well maybe some of us do, but that’s a separate topic) and we don’t have praise music, or holy days, or shrines, or divinely inspired scripture… We do have a significant preoccupation to the stuff we put in our mouths, but I’d hardly call it devotional or ritualistic in the religious sense. I’m coming at this from a judeo-christian perspective so feel free to correct me if I’m missing the mark here. (I’d like to know the Buddhist or Hindu take on this is if there’re any of you out there)
- often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs… Okay! Now we’re talkin! As vegans we’re absolutely governed by a distinctive moral code that demands more of us than the cultural norm. Are we all in agreement about the specifics of what it means to be vegan? Well no, but ask a Catholic, Baptist and a Lutheran about the significance of communion or baptism and you’ll get three very different answers. Yet, they all subscribe to the same basic moral code that governs their affairs. Do unto others and all that.
Looking at all this- it does seem to me that veganism could be considered a religion in the broad definition of the word. All we’re lacking really is a vegan friendly god to prostrate ourselves to and a priesthood to enslave us. If you know of a vegan god out there, please let me know. Don’t want to piss him/her/it off now do I. I’m already in enough hot water for turning my back on the Lord of Lords, and that guy really knows how to hold a grudge!
Being vegan certainly feels religious to me a lot of the time. When we stepped away from the church, I was left with a huge void in my life. No, not a god-shaped hole- I missed the meaning and purpose of it all. I missed having the answers to the big questions. And, I missed the feeling of community and solidarity that is stripped from you when you leave your church “family”. I’m also a born counterculturist which meshed nicely with a fundamentalist christian world-view. Being vegan has given back to me all those things I missed about religious life. I have renewed purpose, fellowship, and devotion to a higher cause. Okay, so I don’t yet have all the answers, but I’m searching…
So, to answer the opening question: Yes, veganism is a religion. It’s mine anyway.