When Jimmy Moore emailed me a week or so ago to announce that he was drafting a post about the potential conflict between a Paleo lifestyle and Christianity (literally practiced — pay attention, cause that’s the theme), and wanting my input, I, for whatever reason, didn’t understand that my input to him would be published verbatim. That’s quite alright I should hastily add. I generally conduct my online affairs assuming anything I write can and will be used against me in the court of public opinion.
But anyway, Jimmy, a devout Christian, had the balls to do a post on it. Jimmy embodies my eternal conflict with the thing; and, as with certain devout family, there’s a special place in my heart for those whose hearts are in the right place, as it certainly is with Jimmy Moore. I loath the left end of the political spectrum, especially the collectivist end (but I repeat myself). It chaps my hide that I have to go to people whom I consider to be living in a fantasy world to get some semblance of reality in terms of public policy. But that’s where it’s at. Yea, I suppose I could be a friend of even someone like Sarah Palin, even though I think she’s either a moron or, so ignorant on so many levels as to make the distinction meaningless. But you know what: I trust her to leave me alone to a far greater extent than your average Prius driving, NPR sticker sporting, miserable commie — who would have me in the social cannibal pot in the blink of an eye.
On some days I wonder if the essential antagonism between left and right politics is one of lazy fear vs. irrational certainty. Lazy fear meaning, they can’t bear to take their own chances with what life tosses their way. Irrational certainty meaning, it doesn’t matter anyway because this life is merely a dress rehearsal. But I digress…
Shifting gears, do note that many of your humble farmers producing your most nutritious food in the world are devoutly religious. And many or most believe it literally I’d speculate. Oh, well. There’s that.
In this particular case Jimmy’s post is the result of a reader question / conflict, the gist of which is:
I am a Christian, as are my parents. I know that you are, too, so perhaps you can put this into perspective for me. My mom keeps saying, “Why did God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, eating from the fruits and vegetables that grew there, if human digestive systems were not designed to eat those things? Why did God even create edible grains if we weren’t meant to eat them?”
The people in the Bible routinely ate “bread” and even Jesus used the metaphor, “I am the Bread of Life.” Christians “break bread” together as part of the commemorative act of Communion. You see where I’m going with this. At what time in human history were we hunter/gatherers?
The results of low-carbing speak for themselves, but this perplexes me.
I wanted to write something on this primarily to acknowledge Jimmy Moore for having the fortitude to raise the issue on his blog. As you can tell by the comments, he has quite a following of Christians who take things very literally. It’s been a while since I was steeped in such ways of what I now clearly see is: cognitive dissonance; but at the same time, I can’t help but have a soft spot in my heart for these people. Indeed, I once was one. Young, yes, but I was also single, with no kids. I literally had nothing to compel me to remain in fear of spirits, demons, and sooper powerz.
So here was my contribution to the fray, in company with Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf, Nora Gedgaudas and Diana Hsieh on the non-religious side.
OK, what’s going on here, and I’ve seen this before in my own family of many “born-again Christians” is she’s pointing out an apparent contradiction. In other words, she’s right: either Paleo dietary principles are right or Christian doctrine. They can’t both be. Contradictions don’t exist in reality. That said, here’s a post I wrote sometime back to confront that exact thing.
It’s not important how it is that after being raised with a Lutheran dad, a Mormon mom — who then both converted to Evangelical, born-again Christianity when I was about 10 — I became a non-believer: the A-word. From ages 10-18 I attended school at the Baptist church my parents were involved with and then a second one they helped start. I actually got a great education, though deficient in science. Here’s the self-guided curriculum that was used.
I attended Divinity or Bible School for a year out of high school: Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, Tennessee which pretty much ended up being the beginning of my downfall from faith. But it took a long time, another 10 years roughly until I came to grips with the fact that I just did not believe any of it. And that was 20 years ago now. I want to be as inclusive in all of this as possible so I don’t think it’s important to force confrontation of the contradiction. As one friend of mine, also a non-believer, raised a Catholic says: religion is an intensely personal issue. Leave it alone. Focus on actions.
Virtually everyone lives with some form of cognitive dissonance. It’s probably an evolutionary survival adaptation. So, why single out religion when there are people who, for example, hold a marriage together where both people would be happier otherwise (and sometimes, the kids too). Or, staying in a job you hate and makes you miserable. You could go on all day.
Here’s how I might deal with the specific complaint from a believer’s perspective, though not perfect. “God created all manner of toxins, from outright poison that will kill 1,000 people with a single drop — and snakes and other poisonous animals — to mild irritants, like poison ivy and gluten. And then there’s the whole host of things some people are deathly allergic too — like peanuts — while others can eat their fill. Perhaps these are merely bumps in the road with the occasional steep cliff to avoid. So in addition to other pitfalls that test faith and allegiance in the spiritual realm, so there may be physical and nutritional pitfalls to avoid as well.”
Now I sure haven’t always followed that advice, in that I’m regularly rather hostile. I certainly do understand that it’s a source of inspiration and meaning for a great many.
As well, I should point out that while I didn’t have the benefit of choosing parents and a particular upbringing — as no one does — I’m pretty sure I and my brothers faired in the top 5th percentile when one considers the crap so many innocents must endure. Really, I lived a rather idyllic childhood, not only with parents around 24/7 (HUGE!), but four grandparents living between 100 yards and 2 miles away (two of which were avid hunters and fishers). Let me put it this way: I would not change a thing for fear of unintended consequences fucking up the great deal my brothers and I got. My parents did their best and it was better than good in spite of the fact that today, I’d do it differently in terms of religion having any part in things.
If I were ever to have children — which I’m not going to do — the very first thing I’d want them to understand is that Santa is fun fun for a time, but that he’s not "God Lite." It ends, and you’re on you’re own, and unless real science figures it out first, you’re going to die as people have done for millions of years and the very best thing you can do is to "mold the neuron-flux," by which I mean: people will remember you. My children would certainly be brash assholes. One life to live, man. Grab it. Shake the mutherfuck out of it.
The memory you make for yourself is, as of yet, your only shot at immortality. Shame you won’t be around to enjoy it. But for goddamnsakes, be an adult about that. …What I don’t get is the need for the literalism. Burning bushes? Parting Seas? Arks & world floods? Resurrections from the dead? Falls from grace? And on and on….
Prescient and apropos to the paleo and low-carb folks, what about selective evidence and confirmation bias? You know, it’s not at all hard to find the devout quoting bible scripture. It’s everywhere. They do it al the time. And I can too:
So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the LORD gave him victory. He thoroughly defeated the Ammonites from Aroer to an area near Minnith – twenty towns – and as far away as Abel-keramim. Thus Israel subdued the Ammonites. When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter – his only child – ran out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. "My daughter!" he cried out. "My heart is breaking! What a tragedy that you came out to greet me. For I have made a vow to the LORD and cannot take it back." And she said, "Father, you have made a promise to the LORD. You must do to me what you have promised, for the LORD has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites. But first let me go up and roam in the hills and weep with my friends for two months, because I will die a virgin." "You may go," Jephthah said. And he let her go away for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never have children. When she returned home, her father kept his vow, and she died a virgin. So it has become a custom in Israel for young Israelite women to go away for four days each year to lament the fate of Jephthah’s daughter." (Judges 11:29-40 NLT) …
So they sent twelve thousand warriors to Jabesh-gilead with orders to kill everyone there, including women and children. "This is what you are to do," they said. "Completely destroy all the males and every woman who is not a virgin." Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan. …
The Israelite assembly sent a peace delegation to the little remnant of Benjamin who were living at the rock of Rimmon. Then the men of Benjamin returned to their homes, and the four hundred women of Jabesh-gilead who were spared were given to them as wives. But there were not enough women for all of them. The people felt sorry for Benjamin because the LORD had left this gap in the tribes of Israel. So the Israelite leaders asked, "How can we find wives for the few who remain, since all the women of the tribe of Benjamin are dead? There must be heirs for the survivors so that an entire tribe of Israel will not be lost forever. But we cannot give them our own daughters in marriage because we have sworn with a solemn oath that anyone who does this will fall under God’s curse."
Then they thought of the annual festival of the LORD held in Shiloh, between Lebonah and Bethel, along the east side of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem. They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, "Go and hide in the vineyards. When the women of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out from the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to be your wife! And when their fathers and brothers come to us in protest, we will tell them, ‘Please be understanding. Let them have your daughters, for we didn’t find enough wives for them when we destroyed Jabesh-gilead. And you are not guilty of breaking the vow since you did not give your daughters in marriage to them.’" So the men of Benjamin did as they were told. They kidnapped the women who took part in the celebration and carried them off to the land of their own inheritance. Then they rebuilt their towns and lived in them. So the assembly of Israel departed by tribes and families, and they returned to their own homes. (Judges 21:10-24 NLT)
Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)
If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives." (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)
A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death. (Leviticus 20:27 NAB)
Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15 NAB)
If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)
A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)
I could go on and on, and on…but before I do, may I just humbly note the obsession with intact female hymens? Quite Islamic-esque, I’d say.
…A final note for this section of the post is to recall how, as I was going through the religious gauntlet a’la a young’n and eventually went off to study Bible, how it was that the KJV (King James Version) was so essentially emphasized. My speculation today is this: nobody could really understand it or, the language was so arcane that rape, murder, slavery — as celebrated above — didn’t really register morally; or, if it did, only in some twisted anthropological sense. So here’s a good primer: EvilBilble.com. It strikes me as interesting, the diametrically opposed notion of an "evil" bible. But consider that morality is contextual. We evolved. At a point in time, a brute proto-human male taking a female as he wanted was survival, and natural. And now we’re here. And not only does it not cost us anything to refrain from such behavior; it’s evil now because our nature as human animals has evolved. But the Bible hasn’t and the point is that for the literalists it offers literal and timeless truths. "Truths" we now see as evil, as well we should.
You might regard this post as somewhat emboldened. Where could I have gotten that? As it happens, partly from here: Atheist Ministers Struggle With Leading the Faithful. What took them so long?
"I live out my life as if there is no God," says "Adam," who is part of the pastoral staff of a small evangelical church in the Bible Belt. […]
The more I read the Bible, the more questions I had," Jack said. "The more things didn’t make sense to me — what it said — and the more things didn’t add up." […]
"Reading the Bible is what led me not to believe in God." […]
"I realized that everything I’d been taught to believe was sort of sheltered," Adam said, "and never really looked at secular teaching or other philosophies. … I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. Am I believing the wrong things? Have I spent my entire life and my career promoting something that is not true?’"
Alright, it is surely time to close this up. So in closing, I want to relay the story of a dear friend who recently passed away after a decade long battle with cancer. While I have only entered various houses of worship over many years for weddings and funerals, always with some measure of discomfort or boredom over the religious aspects of such things, I recently enjoyed a "religious" service at my friend Nancy’s Unitarian Church for the memorial service of my friend. Nancy and Kevin, both Harvard Divinity, both ministers, have been friends of mine for a few years and it’s always refreshing to discuss religion with them because they approach it so honestly, non-threateningly and most importantly: no implication of guilt for being a human being. It’s quite refreshing to stand in the sanctuary of that church having a conversation with Nancy the minister and the harpist and have them both tell me on the subject of literalism: "we just don’t know." Now that’s the healthier way to practice religion, in my view.
As simply as I can put it, they are seekers of important lessons for humanity to be found in symbolism, ritual, tradition and ancestor worship and honor. They are in search of important, meaningful metaphor and not literal "truths" based on wishful thinking and worse. Do I personally need it? No, not really because secular philosophy serves my needs just fine in that regard, but I can certainly grasp an appreciation for it.
I understand that it’s probably the case that for most literalist religious believers it’s mostly a case of not being able to grasp the notion of morality and human good will apart from such belief structures. So things like this are a step in the right direction, since I really can’t stand most forms of atheist activism — such as attempts at preventing nativity scenes on public property and other such embarrassing nonsense.
Humanist Groups Aim to Push Back at ‘Bible-Derived Morality’
Right in time to spur awkward theological discussions with extended family members, the American Humanist Association and other related groups are preparing to launch a holiday advertising blitz aimed at drawing stark distinctions between believers and their less devout brethren. The AHA campaign, in particular, highlights some of the more violent and sexist passages of the Bible and Quran and contrasts them with quotes from Albert Einstein, Katherine Hepburn and others. The ads strike a much different tone than last year’s "Be Good For Goodness Sake" campaign that papered buses and trains across major U.S. metro cities. […]
From the American Humanist Association’s statement regarding their advertising concept: "There are millions of Americans of strong moral character who don’t happen to believe in a god. Humanists have always understood that you don’t need a god to be a good person, but many other Americans have not, and that’s one reason we’ve been running ad campaigns in the past. This year, we’re going further in our attempt to challenge the intolerant view that atheist and agnostic humanists can’t be good without Bible derived morality. We’re taking a hard look at what is included in religious texts."
Looks like Anne Rice has the right idea, here, too. For whatever reasons personal to her, she’s a "believer" with her heart in the right place. …Which is probably why she quit organized Christianity and just goes it alone.
I wonder what primarily distinguishes the literal believer from the non-literal one. Is it education, experience…or pure guile? Perhaps the non-literal believer (i.e., believer in spiritual meaning, for lack of a better description) just simply has no fear of the guilt and damnation the literalists are peddling…
Perhaps in a later post, sometime, I’ll relay my own story in terms of the process I underwent from being a fear-struck believer with a deep sense of guilt to the guiltless, boundlessly happy, totally fearless non-believer I am today.