I’m vegan, have been almost my entire adult life. There are many other atheist vegans out there, by the way, although admittedly we are a minority in a minority. And I’m not here to argue animal rights. I really don’t care what you eat, so long as I’m not being forced to eat it. But when we look to the gospels we see a major ethical conundrum. Follow Jesus’ laws and stop being a vegan/vegetarian, or don’t enter god’s kingdom, which probably means go to hell. Off to examine the gospels, shall we?
Jesus lays down in the strictest and sternest terms exactly what we must do to enter god’s kingdom in Matthew 5:17-20.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
The laws of the Pharisees to which Jesus refers is called the Mitzvot. It’s a list of 613 hoops through which every Christian must jump (because Jesus didn’t “come to abolish the law…but to fulfill” it). Actually, not everyone must follow all of them, because many are gender-based, but you catch my drift. These laws can be found here. Some are pretty easy to follow. Number 25 says “Not to lay down a stone for worship.” Easy enough. Some are just plain silly. Number 127 says “To count forty-nine days from the time of the cutting of the Omer.” But others ask vegans and vegetarians to violate their ethical standards against harming animals. There’s an entire section dedicated solely to animal sacrifices (#459 – 560).
For example, numbers 460 and 461 require that we slaughter and eat lamb for Passover, as commanded in Exodus 12:6-8. Number 473 requires that if we sin we must slaughter an animal and eat part of it (Exodus 29:33). 475 commands us to make burnt offerings (Lev. 1:3). In 537 we must kill two lambs every sabbath (Num. 28:9). There are tons of Mitzvot commandments to slaughter, burn, and eat animals.
In other words, if I were to suddenly convert to Christianity, I would also have to give up my veganism, build an altar, and start slicing animals up left and right. If I don’t then I’ve offended Jesus’ commandment in Matthew 5:17-20. And if I’ve offended his commandment he’s pretty clear: I will never see god’s kingdom.
Of course I implore you to check out the list yourself in the link above. It’s pretty thorough, and I’d be willing to bet that no one — not even the strictest Jews — follows this list to the letter. It’s unlikely that anyone will enter god’s kingdom.