Archive for January, 2012

January 27, 2012

40 Questions for Fundamentalist Christians

From Reflections from the Other Side: My reasons for leaving Christianity
Introduction
The mark of a person’s intellectual honesty is that they actually care about what is true—not what they feel is true or want to be true. I was raised as a Christian, but as I got older, I realized that I had never really questioned my faith. I set out to learn more about the alleged problems with Christianity, and I was astounded by the diversity and depth of the criticisms I found. Because I cared about truth, I didn’t resort to excuses and rationalizing when I reached the conclusion that Christianity is false. I embraced that verdict, and I don’t regret doing so in the least.

I formulated this list of 40 questions in order to express why don’t I think fundamentalist Christianity is a tenable position. It covers four basic topics: introspection, doctrine, errancy and morality. Not all of the questions are meant as direct objections to Christianity: some are meant to encourage critical thought over dogmatic thinking. I urge you to go through and answer them with an open mind—with an attitude that truth is important even if it doesn’t align with your wishes. Even if these questions don’t change your views, I sincerely hope that you will emerge from this experience with a more contemplative, critical approach to your faith.

Part 1: Introspection
1. Your religion makes some truly extraordinary claims about the world. Do you have any strong, verifiable evidence to back them up? If not, why believe?

2. Many adherents of other religions believe just as strongly as you do. They may even cite many of the same reasons for belief that you do, and cite reasons for not believing in your religion that mirror your reasons for not believing in theirs. Do these parallels concern you?

3. Religious people overwhelmingly follow the religion of their parents, their surrounding culture or both. If this applies to you, don’t you find it suspiciously convenient that you seemingly stumbled upon the right religion purely by chance, out of thousands of potential options?

4. Have you ever done any serious investigation of these thousands of other religions— open-mindedly rather than merely to prove them wrong? If not, why not?

5. If faith is a reliable pathway to truth, why does it lead people to such inconsistent conclusions? Why does it result in so many thousands of religions, and even thousands of conflicting Christian sects?

6. Meditating Zen Buddhists feel a state of transcendent bliss and oneness with the universe, and their brain activity looks the same as that of Franciscan nuns communing with God. “Religious” experiences also occur in other religious adherents, in users of drugs like psylocybin mushrooms and even temporal lobe epileptics. Why would God give us brains that could be so easily fooled by false religious experiences—and how do you know your experiences aren’t among them?

7. What specific evidence would convince you that Christianity is false? If there is none, does it concern you that if Christianity is false, you would have no way of knowing it?

8. Would you notice any changes in the world if God suddenly disappeared from existence? If so, what would you notice? If not, does it concern you that a world in which God exists is indistinguishable from one where he doesn’t?

9. Just a few thousand years ago, God supposedly performed incredible, widely seen miracles even in the presence of unbelievers: the plagues of Egypt (Ex. 7–12), Elijah calling down a pillar of fire (1 Kings 18:20–40), resurrection of the saints at Jesus’ death (Matt. 27:51–53), etc. Doesn’t it seem suspicious to you that broadly verifiable miracles like these don’t happen anymore?

10. You may expect God to have a positive impact on the world. But both good and bad things are bound to happen even if God doesn’t exist. If you credit God for the good things that happen and never blame him for the bad, all without any sort of evidence, isn’t your expectation self-fulfilling?

11. God is often said to answer prayer in three ways: “Yes,” “No” and “Wait.” But if God’s responses are so vague, how could you distinguish them from the results of prayer to any other god?

Part 2: Doctrine
12. The core of Christianity seems fundamentally unjust: In what courtroom would temporarily punishing one innocent man be an acceptable substitute for endlessly punishing billions of guilty people?

13. This core seems not only unjust, but patently illogical: God (the Father) has another part of God (the Son) killed to save humanity from being punished… by God. Why couldn’t God just decide to forgive us without killing Jesus?

14. Our salvation depends on belief in an event that occurred at a specific time and place. This makes it impossible for most humans who’ve ever lived—those who lived before Jesus, human zygotes (two thirds of which abort spontaneously before birth), the mentally disabled, people in remote parts of the world—to even know of it. Why would a system of salvation devised by an omniscient God look so inefficient and poorly conceived?

15. What happens to unborn babies and children who die before they can accept Jesus? If they go to hell, how is this consistent with a God of love? If they go to heaven, doesn’t this undermine their free will to choose or reject God’s gift of salvation?

16. God is supposedly a single being. But in what sense can the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be considered one and the same God when they have different wills (Luke 22:41–42), different knowledge (Mark 13:32) and different levels of authority (John 14:28; 1 Cor. 11:3)?

17. We would expect a perfectly wise, good God to have a composed, even-handed personality. Yet God brags that he’ll make Israel’s enemies eat their own children and grow drunk with their own blood (Isa. 49:26; Jer. 19:9), he delights in animal sacrifice (Lev. 1:1–9), he’s so jealous of other gods that “Jealous” is his very name (Ex. 34:12–16), and Moses has to calm his fury to keep him from killing his own people (Ex. 32:1–14; Num. 16:41–55). Does this sound like a transcendent deity or a vindictive tribal leader invented by a barbaric Iron Age culture?

18. Frontotemporal dementia can alter one’s entire worldview, including one’s religion, and severing connections between the two brain hemispheres reveals that they respond independently and hold different desires and beliefs. In one case, a brain’s right hemisphere professed theism, and the left, atheism. How do you explain the concept of the soul in light of such phenomena? Do these souls go to heaven or hell?

19. In Mark 16:15–18, Jesus lists several signs that “will follow those who believe,” including handling snakes and drinking poison with no ill effects. (Note: Please do not attempt this.) The few who try this generally fail unless they take special precautions, like ingesting poison in small, harmless amounts. Why is this? (If you believe the ending of Mark is a forgery, as most scholars do, why would God allow it into the Bible?)

20. God already has a perfect plan for the world. If we pray for something that’s already in that plan, the prayer is redundant. If we pray for something that’s not in that plan, the prayer is futile. What, then, is the point of asking for things in prayer?

21. If God made the universe for us, we would expect a hospitable, human-scaled universe. But the universe is billions of light-years across, composed mostly of dark energy and filled with black holes, cosmic radiation and the vacuum of space. Why is the universe so full of vast, uninhabitable emptiness?

22. If God wants everyone to believe in him, why doesn’t he provide enough evidence to nonbelievers—many of whom have earnestly sought him—for them to believe? Note that this would not be “forcing” them to believe any more than providing evidence for Christians forced them to believe. If God knows what exactly what evidence it would take, why doesn’t he provide it?

Part 3: Errancy
Note: The following questions assume that you believe the Bible to be the literal, inerrant and inspired word of God.

23. The Genesis creation story directly conflicts with evolution. Endogenous retroviruses— remains of viruses embedded in the genome millions of years ago—appear at the same place in human and other primate genomes. We’ve found many key transitional fossils like Tiktaalik (fish to tetrapods), Archaeopteryx (dinosaurs to birds) and Homo habilis (human ancestors). Atavisms like teeth in chickens, legs in whales and tails in humans sometimes reappear as relics of evolutionary history. Can creationism offer a better explanation for this and other evidence?

24. Biblical genealogies imply that the universe is about 6,000 years old instead of 13.75 billion. This is disproved by data from tree rings, ice layering, coral reefs, lunar craters, continental drift, distant starlight, human civilizations and more. As another example, scientists have traced back the orbits of the Baptistina asteroid family and found that they were formed by a collision that occurred 80 million years ago. Can the young earth view offer a better explanation for this and other evidence?

25. If 2 million Israelites resided as slaves in Egypt, wandered in the desert for 40 years and conquered a host of rival nations, we would expect to find massive, widespread archaeological evidence—but we don’t. Instead, excavations have revealed the Israelites as a relatively small Canaanite tribe whose “conquered” cities were often uninhabited at the purported conquest date (e.g. Jericho was already in ruins a century earlier). How can inerrantists account for this?

26. Careful study of the Bible reveals many internal contradictions. For instance, Matthew 2:1–20 says Jesus was born a few years before Herod the Great died in 4 BC. Yet Luke 2:1–2 says Jesus was born during the Census of Quirinius, which occurred in 6 AD—well after Herod’s death. Why do the two gospels contradict each other?

27. The Bible contains several instances of failed prophecy. For example, Ezekiel 26 prophesies that King Nebuchadnezzar would utterly destroy the city of Tyre, and it would never be rebuilt. But not only did he never destroy Tyre, but the city is still standing even today. Why did Ezekiel, a divinely inspired prophet, make such a serious error?

28. Jesus repeatedly said he would return to earth before the disciples and the rest of that generation had died (Matt. 10:23, 24:34; Mark 9:1, 14:61–62). The New Testament writers said his return was imminent and would not be delayed (1 Cor. 7:29–31; Heb. 10:36–37; 1 John 2:18). So why hasn’t Jesus returned after almost 2,000 years?

Part 4: Morality
Note: The following questions assume that you believe your God to be all-powerful, all-knowing and perfectly good.

29. Is whatever God does good by definition, or does he merely follow some outside standard of goodness? If the former, God would be good even if he did everything that we now call evil, so does it even mean anything to call God “good”? If the latter, shouldn’t we judge him according to that standard?

30. Why is there so much manmade evil in the world? The most common response is that God values our capacity to freely choose between goodness and sin. But in heaven, a place supposedly free from sin, people would presumably have free will. If God is capable of somehow allowing these two conditions to coexist, why not do the same on earth and prevent tremendous suffering?

31. Why does God allow naturally occurring evils like floods, earthquakes, wildfires, famine, hurricanes, pestilence and disease? If these phenomena are a punishment for human sin, why are they doled out indiscriminately? For example, why is it that about 17,000 children starve to death every day?

32. The animal kingdom thrives on suffering and death. Many billions of animals have suffered tremendous pain over the millennia simply to maintain the balance of nature. Why must they suffer through no fault of their own?

33. The billions of people who don’t believe that Jesus died for their sins will supposedly suffer everlasting punishment in hell. Take a moment to really think about the gravity of a punishment that has no end. How is God justified in carrying out this punishment? Why is it that any sin, however small, is so heinous that it must be met with infinite suffering?

34. Scriptural ambiguity has resulted in countless conflicting Christian sects, often with violent results. There’s even widespread disagreement over what’s needed for salvation. By making the Bible more clear or just appearing to Christians directly, God could have prevented copious bloodshed and millions being sent to hell for choosing the wrong sect. So why didn’t he?

35. In the Bible, God directly sanctions permanent slavery (Lev. 25:44–46), as well as the beating of slaves to within an inch of their life (Ex. 21:20–21). There’s even a loophole allowing Israelites to use emotional blackmail to permanently enslave entire families (Ex. 21:2–6). Is this the same God that you believe to be the personification of love?

36. In the Bible, God bemoans the idea of female leadership (Isa. 3:12), says through his servant Paul that women are to be silent and submissive in church (1 Cor. 14:34–35; 1 Tim. 2:11–14), and sanctions the forced marriage and rape of female captives by the very men who had just slaughtered their families (Deut. 21:10–14). Is this consistent with a perfectly just God?

37. In the Bible, God instructs the Israelites that the penalty for gay sex is death (Lev. 20:13), and rains fire on Sodom, Gomorrah and the surrounding cities for sexual immorality including homosexuality (Gen. 19:24–25; Jude 1:7). Why did God deem homosexual acts a crime worthy of death?

38. In the Bible, God kills approximately 25 million people. He kills millions of innocent animals and children in Noah’s Flood (Gen. 7:21–23), the firstborn of the Egyptians (Ex. 12:29–30) and countless others. Do you believe that in every last case, killing was the best possible course of action?

39. In Deuteronomy 13:6–10, God says that if an Israelite’s loved one came to them suggesting serving other gods, the Israelite was to help stone that loved one to death—a slow, gruesome, agonizing fate. Imagine that you and your dearest loved one were Israelites, and they suggested worshipping some other god. Would you aid in killing them, or would you defy your God’s monstrous command?

40. If you see all of the above passages as perfectly good and just, would you still see them that way if you had read them in the Quran?

Conclusion
If any of these questions have challenged your beliefs, I urge you not to just push them out of your thoughts—nor should you simply choose the least implausible of a group of far-fetched Christian explanations. Seek the truth with an open mind, look at arguments from both sides carefully and critically, and change your views according to what you discover. Whether you continue in your faith or start a new path as a non believer, I think you’ll find that intellectual honesty is always the best policy.

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January 16, 2012

Good God…

“Good God,

how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include tooth decay in His divine system of creation? Why in the world did He ever create pain?”

“Pain?” Lieutenant Shiesskopf’s wife pounced upon the word victoriously. “Pain is a warning to us of bodily dangers.”

“And who created the dangers?” Yossarian demanded. “Why couldn’t He have used a doorbell to notify us, or one of His celestial choirs? Or a system of blue-and-red neon tubes right in the middle of each person’s forehead?”

“People would certainly look silly walking around with red neon tubes right in the middle of their foreheads.”

“They certainly look beautiful now writhing in agony, don’t they?”

Joseph Heller, Catch 22

January 16, 2012

Letter From The Birmingham Jail

from  the African Studies Center-University of Pennsylvania

“Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]”

16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 15, 2012

57 Great Reasons To Become A Vegan

fueledbyveggies:

Nutrition

All of the following nutritional benefits come from a vegan diet full of foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and soy products.

  1. Reduced saturated fats. Dairy products and meats contain a large amount of saturated fats. By reducing the amount of saturated fats from your diet, you’ll improve your health tremendously, especially when it comes to cardiovascular health.
  2. Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide energy for your body. When you don’t have enough carbohydrates, your body will burn muscle tissue.
  3. Fiber. A diet high in fiber (as vegan eating usually is) leads to healthier bowel movements. High fiber diets help fight against colon cancer.
  4. Magnesium. Aiding in the absorption of calcium, magnesium is an often overlooked vitamin in importance to a healthy diet. Nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens are an excellent source of magnesium.
  5. Potassium. Potassium balances water and acidity in your body and stimulates the kidneys to eliminate toxins. Diets high in potassium have shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
  6. Folate. This B vitamin is an important part of a healthy diet. Folate helps with cell repair, generating red and white blood cells, and metabolizing amino acids.
  7. Antioxidants. For protection against cell damage, antioxidants are one of the best ways to help your body. Many researchers also believe that antioxidants helpprotect your body against forming some types of cancer.
  8. Vitamin C. Besides boosting your immune system, Vitamin C also helps keep your gums healthy and helps your bruises heal faster. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant.
  9. Vitamin E. This powerful vitamin has benefits for your heart, skin, eyes, brain, and may even help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. A diet high in grains, nuts, and dark leafy greens is full of Vitamin E.
  10. Phytochemicals. Plant-based foods provide phytochemicals, which help to prevent and heal the body from cancer, boost protective enzymes, and work with antioxidants in the body.
  11. Protein. That protein is good for your body is no surprise. It may be a surprise to learn that most Americans eat too much protein and in forms such as red meat that are not healthy ways of getting protein. Beans, nuts, peas, lentils, and soy products are all great ways to get the right amount of protein in a vegan diet.

Disease Prevention

Eating a healthy vegan diet has shown to prevent a number of diseases. Find out from the list below what you could potentially avoid just by switching to a healthy, balanced vegan way of eating.

  1. Cardiovascular disease. Eating nuts and whole grains, while eliminating dairy products and meat, will improve your cardiovascular health. A British study indicates that a vegan diet reduces the risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Vegan diets go far in preventing heart attack and stroke.
  2. Cholesterol. Eliminating any food that comes from an animal and you will eliminate all dietary cholesterol from your diet. Your heart will thank you for that.
  3. Blood pressure. A diet rich in whole grains is beneficial to your health in many ways, including lowering high blood pressure.
  4. Type 2 diabetes. Not only is a vegan diet a weapon against Type 2 diabetes, it is also “easier to follow than the standard diet recommended by the American Diabetic Association.” Read more about it here.
  5. Prostate cancer. A major study showed that men in the early stages of prostate cancer who switched to a vegan diet either stopped the progress of the cancer or may have even reversed the illness.
  6. Colon cancer. Eating a diet consisting of whole grains, along with fresh fruits and vegetables, can greatly reduce your chances of colon cancer.
  7. Breast cancer. Countries where women eat very little meat and animal products have a much lower rate of breast cancer than do the women in countries that consume more animal products.
  8. Macular degeneration. Diets with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, can help prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
  9. Cataracts. Much the same way macular degeneration is headed off by a vegan diet, cataracts are also thought to be prevented through the intake of the same fruits and vegetables. Produce high in antioxidants are also believed to help prevent cataracts.
  10. Arthritis. Eliminating dairy consumption has long been connected with alleviating arthritis symptoms, but a new study indicates that a combination of gluten-free and vegan diet is very promising for improving the health of those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
  11. Osteoporosis. Bone health depends on a balance of neither too much or too little protein, adequate calcium intake, high potassium, and low sodium. With a healthy vegan diet, all four of these points set a perfect scenario for preventing osteoporosis.

Physical Benefits

In addition to good nutrition and disease prevention, eating vegan also provides many physical benefits. Find out how a vegan diet makes your body stronger, more attractive, and more energetic.

  1. Body Mass Index. Several population studies show that a diet without meat leads to lower BMIs–usually an indicator of a healthy weight and lack of fat on the body.
  2. Weight loss. A healthy weight loss is a typical result of a smart vegan diet. Eating vegan eliminates most of the unhealthy foods that tend to cause weight issues. Read more about weight loss and a vegan diet here.
  3. Energy. When following a healthy vegan diet, you will find your energy is much higher. This blog post in Happy Healthy Long Life describes how NFL tight-endTony Gonzalez started eating vegan and gained energy–while playing football.
  4. Healthy skin. The nuts and vitamins A and E from vegetables play a big role in healthy skin, so vegans will usually have good skin health. Many people who switch to a vegan diet will notice a remarkable reduction in blemishes as well.
  5. Longer life. Several studies indicate that those following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle live an average of three to six years longer than those who do not.
  6. Body odor. Eliminating dairy and red meat from the diet significantly reduces body odor. Going vegan means smelling better.
  7. Bad breath. Vegans frequently experience a reduction in bad breath. Imagine waking up in the morning and not having morning breath.
  8. Hair. Many who follow vegan diets report that their hair becomes stronger, has more body, and looks healthier.
  9. Nails. Healthy vegan diets are also responsible for much stronger, healthier nails. Nail health is said to be an indicator of overall health.
  10. PMS. When switching to a vegan diet, many women tell how PMS symptoms become much less intense or disappear altogether. The elimination of dairy is thought to help with those suffering with PMS.
  11. Migraines. Migraine suffers who go on vegan diets frequently discover relief from their migraines. Read more about the food-migraine connection in this article.
  12. Allergies. Reduction in dairy, meat, and eggs is often tied to alleviation of allergy symptoms. Many vegans report much fewer runny noses and congestion problems.

Too Much in the American Diet

The typical American diet not only consists of too much food, it also relies on too much of unnecessary food products or toxins. The following list explains how a vegan diet can eliminate these problems.

  1. Animal proteins. The average American eats twice as much protein as necessary for a healthy diet and much of that is from red meat. Getting protein from beans and grains is much healthier and reduces the risk for osteoporosis (see above).
  2. Cow’s milk dairy. The human body is not designed to digest cow milk and cow milk dairy products, yet the idea of milk being healthy is pushed through advertising. As many as 75% of people in the world may be lactose intolerant and many people suffer from undiagnosed milk allergies or sensitivities. By eliminating cow’s milk from your diet, you are improving your overall health.
  3. Eggs. Many nutritionists believe that the number of eggs in the American diet is too high. While sometimes disputed, it has been shown that eggs can raise cholesterol levels.
  4. Mercury. Most of the fish and shellfish consumed has mercury in it. While some fish have less than others, it is almost impossible not to be putting mercury in your body when you eat fish.
  5. Sugar. Most people have heard that Americans consume way too much sugar. Relying on other sweeteners that are not synthetic, processed, or derived from animal products is a healthier way to eat. Many vegans do not eat processed sugar due to the fact that most of the cane sugar is refined through activated charcoal, most of which comes from animal bones.

Other Benefits

In addition to the health benefits above, following a vegan lifestyle and diet also provides these benefits as well. From helping the environment to avoiding serious bacterial infections, learn other benefits to eating the vegan way below.

  1. Animals. Many people begin a vegan diet out of concern for animals. Whether opposed to the conditions of animals intended for food or eating animals in general, going vegan will help your conscience rest easily.
  2. Environment. Growing plants takes much fewer resources than growing animals. By eating vegan, you can help reduce the toll on the environment.
  3. E. coliE. coli comes from eating contaminated red meat and is the leading cause of bloody diarrhea. Young children, those with compromised immune systems, and elderly people can become extremely ill or die from E. coli. Eating vegan means completely avoiding the risk of E. coli infection.
  4. Salmonella. Another gastrointestinal illness from animal products, salmonella food poisoning is closely related to E. coli. The most frequent way people contract salmonella food poisoning is through contact with raw eggs or raw chicken meat from chickens infected with salmonella. Again, going vegan means eliminating this risk altogether.
  5. Mad cow disease. It’s safe to say that most people would want to avoid contracting a fatal, non-treatable disease. One way to ensure you don’t get Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is by not eating animals infected with mad cow disease. While the incidence of mad cow disease is not reportedly so high in North America, it does exist.
  6. Global food supply. Feeding grain to animals meant as food sources reduces the amount of food that is available to underdeveloped nations. Many people will go hungry while that same food they could be eating is given to animals raised for slaughter. Eating vegan ensures that you have removed yourself from the participation of this imbalance.
  7. Hormone consumption. Eating animals that have been given hormones to speed growth (a common practice in the meat industry) means those hormones go into your body. Not only can this disrupt the natural balance of your hormones, but some of the hormones given to animals have shown to cause tumor growth in humans.
  8. Antibiotics. Antibiotics are frequently given to feed animals, which can lead to bacterial resistance. Many of the antibiotics used to treat human infections are also used in feed animals.

Healthy Eating

A vegan diet can be a much healthier way to eat. Find out how to combine the vegan diet with other ways of eating for an even more healthy way to go or discover ways to keep your vegan diet healthy but more convenient with the resources below.

  1. Raw. A raw diet lends itself to veganism by the very nature of its design. Find out how to combine live and vegan diets with Raw Inspirations.
  2. Organic. Eating organic and vegan is super easy to do. Use some of the recipes from this blog for help with meal ideas. The posts have slowed, but you can always search the archives for some great ideas on how to live and eat organic and vegan.
  3. Fat-free. Vegan eating is typically pretty low in fats anyway, but the FatFree Vegan Kitchen shows you how to make some delicious vegan food that is always fat free.
  4. Gluten-free. Due to allergies, Celiac’s Disease, or whatever your reason you avoid gluten, find out how to combine the best of gluten-free with vegan cooking in theGluten-Free Vegan blog.
  5. Eating out. Eating out isn’t usually associated with eating healthy, but a vegan diet ensures there will be a lot less of the bad things in the food you choose. Find eating out options around the world for vegans here.
  6. Lunch. Maintaining a vegan diet means you are likely to take your lunch more often than most people. Vegan Lunch Box offers recipes, tools, and ideas for carrying great vegan lunches every day.
  7. Dinner. Coming up with new dinner ideas is challenging for everyone–regardless of what type of diet you follow. Check out this amazing selection of vegan dinner recipes accompanied with mouth-watering photos of each preparation on Dinner with Dilip.
  8. Dessert. While not all the recipes on My Sweet Vegan are for dessert, you will find a large selection of sweet vegan recipes with the most delicious-looking photos.
  9. Wine. Pairing vegan food with wine may be challenging for those who rely on the old standard of “white with fish and red with meat.” Read this article for ways to compliment your healthy vegan diet with a tasty glass of wine or this blog entry for specific pairings of wine and vegan food.
  10. Fun. These ladies know how to kick it with vegan cooking. Post Punk Kitchen offers some great recipes with a ton of fun infused in them. Be sure to go through the archives for more yummy food ideas.
January 15, 2012

12 Reason to NOT Eat Dairy

12 Reasons to NOT Eat Dairy

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12.  Harvard says so.  I’m being cheeky here, but Harvard’s new “Healthy Eating Plate” food guide has pushed dairy off the plate, based on Harvard’s assessment that high intake can increase the risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer, and also suggesting that foods like collards, bok choy, and baked beans are safer choices than dairy for obtaining calcium.

11.  Cancer Prevention.  Prostate, breast, and ovarian cancers have been linked to dairy consumption.  And, if you’ve read The China Study, you’re aware of the link between casein (the main protein in milk) and cancer.  Think about how often children are pushed to eat milk, yogurt, and cheese. Childhood diets rich in dairy products are associated with cancer in adulthood.  For more, watch this video from Dr. Colin Campbell.

10.  Cheese is addictive.  That’s why it’s so darn hard to stop eating the stuff.  But, as you’ll learn in Julieanna’s brief video (and through this list), it’s best to kick the cheese (and dairy) habit.

9.  Osteoporosis.  Seems counterintuitive.  We’re supposed to drink milk to protect against osteoporosis, right?  So why do the countries that guzzle the most dairy have the highest osteoporosis rates?  We now know that it’s not just calcium intake, but absorption and loss.  When we eat diets high in animal protein (milk included), our bodies become acidic and calcium is drawn from our bones to neutralize that acidic environment – cheese is particularly acidic.  Ditch the dairy (and the meat) to help maintain a more alkaline state in your body.

8. Plant-Based Calcium.  Speaking of calcium sources and absorption, did you know that kale contains more calcium per calorie than milk (90 grams per serving) and is also better absorbed by the body than dairy?  And that’s just ONE plant food you can eat.  Other plant-foods boosting calcium include: beans, nuts like almonds and seeds like sesame, broccoli, collards, whole-grains, and tofu.  (And if you think eating leafy greens is hard, start making green smoothies.  It will change your leafy green intake forever!)

7. Heart Disease.  All that cheese and milk (and other dairy products) pack a wallop of cholesterol and saturated fat to one’s diet.  A low-fat plant-based diet has been shown not only to prevent heart disease, but also reverse it.  And, before you think low-fat dairy is okay, it has been linked not only to increases in allergies, but also type 1 (childhood-onset) diabetes.

6. Constipation.  Milk and cheese have no fiber.  (Neither does meat.)  Dairy is constipating for children.  Our children have never been constipated, yet I have heard parents talk about poo problems over and over.  And, grownups, if the kiddos get constipated from dairy, you will too (maybe you are right now).  There’s no need for laxatives.  Eat a plant-based diet (rich in whole foods), and you’ll poop easy.  There, I said it.

5. It stinks.  Okay, there is nothing scientifically or even ethically sound about this argument.  But, have you ever just smelled milk?  Put aside the fact that you’ve been drinking it since your wee years.  Take a glass and smell it.  It has a stink.  You can say what you want about non-dairy milks, but if you had been drinking rice milk your whole life and then took up a glass of cow milk, it would be putrid to you.  And, that’s before it goes sour.

4. Antibiotics and hormones.  The mass production of milk requires cows being stressed to unnatural levels.  This stress results in mastitis in the cows, which requires antibiotics, which make their way into the milk in our markets.  As well, synthetic hormones such as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) are commonly used in dairy cows to increase the production of milk.  Do you want to drink growth hormones and antibiotics?  Do you want your children to?  You may bypass this one point by choosing organic milk products – but that’s just one issue here.

3. Animal cruelty.  Dairy production might be the most offensive and heinous of all animal farming.  Baby calves are pulled from their mothers at birth. Mother cows will bellow and search after being separated from their young. While female calves are slaughtered or kept alive to produce milk, male calves are taken, chained in tiny stalls and raised for veal. And, since is unprofitable to keep dairy cows alive once their milk production declines, they are usually killed at 5 to 6 years of age (though their normal life span exceeds 20).

2. Lactose Intolerance.  I would guess that if any of us were tested, we would be deemed ‘lactose intolerant’.  It is estimated that about 75 percent of the world’s population are ‘lactose intolerant’, and those that aren’t (primarily Caucasians) tolerate milk sugar because of an inherited genetic mutation.  That’s because the milk is meant for cows, not people…

1. It’s COW’s milk.  Why are we all drinking milk from a cow when we wouldn’t drink the milk from our lactating dog or cat… or milk from a horse or pig?!  Would you go out into a field and suckle from a cow?!  Probably not!  Think about that connection.  Just think about it.

(via empatheticvegan)

January 14, 2012

The Logic of Prayer

Thanks to James Harless and Idaho Atheists

January 13, 2012

What Will Happen If Gay Marriage Is Legalized?

From Daily Kos

January 12, 2012

Elephants!

Elephants…

Elephants are powerful animals, able to lift logs with their trunks and knock trees over using their heads. You might think it strange then to find that circus elephants are usually kept tethered by their handlers with a length of rope that they could easily break. This because they have been conditioned. This is accomplished by trainers through the use of a heavy metal chain to tether the young elephants while they are still young. The elephants learn during their development that they cannot break the bonds and they associate them with their limits, boundaries and freedoms. Later, when they are fully grown and are of adult size and strength, they still believe they cannot break that bond and so, they never really try. From then on, only a rope is necessary to keep them from breaking their bonds, freeing themselves and realizing their true strength. You do realize I am not really talking about elephants at all don’t you?

 

Lance A. Sievert

January 4, 2012

Vegans Must HATE humans!

I am a vegan for many reasons. While I don’t generally jam it in anyone’s face, I will defend my point of view when called upon to do so. I’ve heard some real nonsense from many people, some way too stupid and ill-informed to reply to.  This video does a great job of putting some of my own views out there. I love this woman.

 

SOB

 

 

 

January 2, 2012

I Want A Physicist To Speak At My Funeral

“You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him/her that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let him/her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her/his eyes, that those photons created within her/him constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.”

~Aaron Freeman

 

SOB