Should Social Expectations Follow Naturally from Anyone’s Beliefs?

I’m vegan. I chose this lifestyle for personal, moral reasons. Living a life that causes the least amount of harm as possible is the only way I know to live. I gave up animal products on August 1, 2007, and I never looked back. For a brief time between leaving the US Navy and beginning an 8-year-long (and counting) academic journey, I even worked at PeTA, believing naively that I could make a difference by changing people’s minds about eating animals. But while I have never second guessed my decision to abstain from animal products, I really don’t give a fuck about what other people eat (as long as it’s not my cat), and this position is precisely what I meant in my last post (which will be reiterated here) and a good learning experience for people with religious ideas about how society should behave.

I believe animals feel pain. It does not naturally follow from that belief, however, that we ought not consume animal products for food. My belief is my own, and it does not mean others should live by it, but more important—I have not demonstrated that we actually ought not consume animals. Many vegans merely assert it as if it naturally followed their own beliefs. It’s like saying, “I believe I’m right, therefore I’m right.” Ok, those are beliefs. What about facts?

Grass grows. It does not naturally follow from this fact, however, that we ought to cut grass. We can demonstrate that grass indeed grows, but we have not yet demonstrated that because grass grows it ought to be cut. We have merely assumed it ought to be cut because it grows. (For many, tall grass is preferable). And to the crux:

Christian believers tell us we can only enter the kingdom of heaven through Jesus. It does not naturally follow, however, that we ought to follow Jesus. There are two reasons that I touched on in my last post. First, no one has ever demonstrated that Jesus is a bona fide supernatural agent of or part of a divine overlord. Without this demonstration, the ought cannot follow from the is. And second, even if the is is demonstrated—meaning, some future team of scientists demonstrates in a replicable way the truth of Christianity—they are still left with the burden of demonstrating that we ought to follow Christ.

Perhaps we ought follow Christ for moral instruction, the keys to heaven, or some other rule/benefit? But how would we know this? Despite fictional, future scientists demonstrating the truth in Christian claims, does anyone pretend to know what their god actually wants, thinks, or feels? Of course this is meaningless because we can’t demonstrate the truth in Christian claims, and as I mentioned earlier, therefore the oughts do not naturally follow.

In other words, I’m vegan with some deeply held moral beliefs about animals, but I don’t give a fuck if others eat animals because I don’t pretend to have an objective truth that naturally results in a human obligation to abstain from animal meat. I believe many religious people could learn a thing or two from this dilemma. Just because someone has a moral idea a) doesn’t make it right, and b) doesn’t mean anyone ought to do a god damn thing to lend that belief credit.


About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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