Religous dietary laws bring clarity

Justyce Mirjanovic

Religion is not just about following a set of rules or guidelines. It can provide mental peace for certain individuals and give a feeling of solidarity. It can also boost one’s self-confidence and make them feel like they are a part of something important.

Religion is a way to establish oneself or identify with a certain group or culture. When some people think about religious restrictions, they may have a negative perception and not understand what it is about.

“For me, religion is a personal connection I have with God,” said Ugbad Farah, sophomore biochemistry major. “I do not have to worry about how the people around me perceive me once my intentions are good.”

In different religions there are certain foods which are considered forbidden or impermissible. In Islam and Judaism, it is against their religion to eat pork, and this can be attributed to a number of different reasons.

“All of the restrictions on what can be eaten are to only benefit us, minimize the pain inflicted on animals, and to protect us from harm,” Farah said.

Humanities and religious studies professor Harvey Stark said there are a number of ways one can look at the dietary restrictions of a religion. A group can simply be trying to separate themselves from another group, there can be health issues involved, and there is the idea that killing is wrong.

“Certain foods are impure or they may be part of the sacrifice or ritual of another group that you’ve decided that you don’t want to be identified with,” Stark said.

Stark said the development to the dietary laws is referred to as Kosher in Judaism, which basically means what you can eat and cannot eat.

Kosher laws state that mammals need to have cloven hooves and regurgitate their food, fish need to have fins and scales and scavengers are impermissible. This explains why in Judaism pork is not eaten.

“The restrictions on food are to benefit those who adhere to it- for example, wine and alcohol,” Farah said. “[In Islam] they are considered forbidden since they have a wide variety of harms both to the body and to society as a whole, due to the intoxicating influence they give off.”

In Islam, foods that are permissible are referred to as Halal. Alcohol, pork, carnivorous animals, blood, and meat that is not slaughtered in a certain way are all considered to be impermissible.

“God’s laws regarding food restrictions are to insure that Muslims consume what is good and not what is harmful,” Farah said.

In Islam, they may not eat animals who have been strangled to death, fallen to death, beaten to death or an animal that may have died from disease.

These are two of the most known religions that practice certain dietary restrictions.

In Buddhism, there were no dietary laws laid out as in Judaism and Islam. During the days of Buddha, they were to eat whatever was in their bowl, but in some other cultures of Buddhism, they choose not to eat meat because they do not believe in harming because they believe in reincarnation.

Buddhists believe at some point one’s soul may inhabit an animal, and therefore killing it would be considered murder. They are very aware of one’s mind and body and believe alcohol makes them less aware, so they refrain from drinking it.

Catholics did not adopt any real form of dietary restriction except for the practice of not eating meat on Ash Wednesday and any friday during the 40 day period of Lent. Lent is supposed to be a time when Catholics apologize for their sins and make peace with God.

“To me, and I don’t know what theology of it is, but I think the aspect of that is denying oneself luxuries at a time,” Stark said. “It has the same idea that fasting has, you know, fasting is purification.”

Vegetarianism is way of life for a group of people called Jains. In Jainism, meat, fish, eggs, butter, honey, alcohol, and figs are forbidden to consume. They believe in coexisting with all living beings.

“One of their principal ideas is something called ahimsa, which is an idea of nonviolent, you don’t hurt anything,” Stark said. “Watch out for stepping on a bug for instance, I mean just as a far off example.”

All religions have their set way of living and ideas that they practice. Religion helps bring different cultures and ideas to the world and all have their beliefs about the origins of life.

“Religion is not about being strung up about every little thing each day, it’s about living and loving in the most peaceful and just way,” Farah said.