This is a personal favorite of mine, but that’s probably because I’m vegan. But I’m not here to discuss the ethics of eating meat; this is an atheist-themed blog, not a blog for veganism. What makes this question so interesting is the fact that the bible can’t seem to give a definitive answer. In the image above, I purposely threw in a New Testament verse that supports not eating meat to get that whole “Jesus changed everything” trope out of the way. Let’s examine this more closely.
First, we have several bible verses that prohibit eating meat. In Genesis 1:29, god explicitly lays out what humans can eat. That is, he says humans can eat any plant “for meat.” There is no mention of animal flesh. Proverbs 23:20 warns us not to be meat eaters. And finally Romans 14:21 (y’know, the New Testament) says that eating meat will cause us to stumble. In other words, eating meat is ungodly.
Second, we have several verses that allow for the consumption of animals, but only some animals. Both Deuteronomy 14:7-8 and Leviticus 11:2-4 tell us that what kind of animals are forbidden. These verses are why Jewish people (and for some reason Muslims too) don’t eat pork. Of course, most Christians ignore these verses. This might be because they prefer to cherry pick the last set of verses.
Meat eaters delight! Here is what you’ve been waiting for! The bible says you can eat any god damned thing you want! Here goes. Genesis 9:3 is the most straightforward. Here god says that all animals, in addition to all plants, are fair game, literally. Mark 7:18-20 explicitly makes “all foods clean” because (and I’m not making this up) anything unclean we eat is made clean by pooping it out. Luke 10:8 tells us to eat anything offered to us. That necessarily means meat as well. In Acts 10:9-13 Saint Peter is commanded by god to go out and kill a bunch of birds, lizards, and some four-footed animals for food. 1 Corinthians 10:25 says to abandon your conscience when eating meat. Romans 14:2 calls vegans (I guess myself included) “weak.” And finally 1 Timothy 4:1-3 calls vegans and vegetarians “liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron.”
So how do you choose? The bible gives us no direction. If you want to eat meat, you have a lot of biblical references to support that decision. If you don’t want to, you can pick from several verses to support that decision. Personally, I don’t eat meat strictly for ethical reasons, and my decisions do not come from bible teachings.
I have heard several attempts to reconcile these teachings (which I anticipate will be listed below in the comments). All of these include adding things to the bible that aren’t in the bible, such as a psychoanalysis of Paul. Furthermore, every attempt to reconcile these contradictory verses lies on the proposition that a favorable verse is the correct one. Vegan Christians, for example, put all of their emphasis on Romans 14:21, whereas the more carnivorous-type Christians put emphasis on Romans 14:2. They will invariably disregard the rest of the biblical teachings.
Followers of Jesus should take no dietary direction from the bible. Either eat meat or don’t, but look not to the scripture.
This contradiction was highlighted in the following video: