Why is eating meat considered a sin in some religions?

If you ask me, there’s nothing more delicious than a nice, juicy steak.

But in some religions, I’d be considered a sinner for making that statement.

Here’s why…

Why is eating meat considered a sin in some religions? The top 10 reasons

1) Meat-eating is considered to be cruel in Buddhism

Buddhism teaches that we are born and reborn until we learn to stop harming ourselves and other people.

The primary cause of suffering and endless rebirth, according to the Buddha, is our attachment to the physical realm and our obsession with satisfying our fleeting desires.

This behavior tears us up inside and links us to people, situations and energies that cause us to become stifled, miserable and disempowered.

One of the chief teachings of Buddhism is that we must have compassion for all living beings if we hope to attain Enlightenment and overcome the cycle of reincarnation and karma.

For that reason, the slaughtering of animals is considered a sin.

Taking the life of another living being in Buddhism is wrong, whether or not you feel like having pork ribs tonight.

It seems clear that Buddhism leans away from meat eating and regards the practice of animal slaughter – even for food – as an unnecessarily pain-filled action that causes suffering to another being.

It’s not quite as simple as that, however, since the majority of Buddhists still eat meat regardless of the beliefs of their religion.

2) Cows are worshiped as sacred beings in Hinduism

Hinduism is the religion that Buddhism was born from.

It is a fascinating faith full of deep theology and spiritual insights that guide and inspire millions of faithful worldwide.

Hinduism is opposed to eating the meat of cows because they are considered sacred beings who signify cosmic truth.

They also symbolize divinity of the goddess Kamdhenu as well as the priestly Brahman class.

As Yirmiyan Arthur explains:

“Hindus, who make up 81 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people, consider cows to be sacred embodiments of Kamdhenu.

“Krishna worshippers have special affection for cows because of the Hindu god’s role as a cowherd.

“Stories about his love of butter are legendary, so much so that he is lovingly called ‘makhan chor,’ or butter thief.”

Slaughtering cows is also believed to be a violation of the Hindu principle of non-harm (ahimsa).

Many Hindus choose not to eat any meat whatsoever, although this isn’t explicitly required. The majority of the vegetarians in the global population are people of the Hindu faith.

3) Meat is considered sinful on Orthodox Christian fasting days

Although meat is permitted in most Christian sects including Orthodox Christianity, there are fasting days when eating it is sinful.

For Orthodox Christians from Ethiopia to Iraq to Romania, there are various fasting days when you cannot eat meat and rich foods. This is generally every Wednesday and Friday.

Orthodox Christianity includes fasting and not eating meat as part of its more rules-based view than some other forms of Christianity such as the Protestant denominations.

The reason is that not eating meat is considered a way to discipline yourself and lessen your desires.

As Father Milan Savich writes:

“Fasting in the Orthodox Church has two aspects: physical and spiritual.

“The first one implies abstinence from rich food, such as dairy products, eggs and all kinds of meat.

“Spiritual fasting consists in abstinence from evil thoughts, desires, and deeds.

“The main purpose of fasting is to gain mastery over oneself and to conquer the passions of the flesh.”

4) The Jain faith strictly bans all meat-eating and considers it deeply sinful

Jainism is a large religion mostly centered in India. It bars the eating of all meat and considers that even thinking about eating meat is a grievous sin.

Jains follow the principle of complete nonviolence or ahimsa, as mentioned above under the Hinduism category.

Although some consider Jainism to be a denomination of Hinduism, it’s a unique world religion that’s one of the most ancient in existence.

It is based on the idea of refining your desires, thoughts and actions in order to leave a positive and love-giving footprint in the world.

It’s based on the three main pillars of ahiṃsā (non-violence), anekāntavāda (non-absolutism), and aparigraha (non-attachment).

As members of the religion Joyti and Rajesh explain about the non-meating eating rules:

“We as Jains believe in reincarnation and we believe that all living things contain a soul.

We therefore aim to cause as little harm as possible to these living things so restrict what we eat accordingly.”

5) Muslims and Jews consider pork products to be spiritually and physically unclean

Islam and Judaism both eat some meats and forbid others. In Islam, halal (clean) rules forbid the eating of pork, snake flesh and several other meats.

The Muslim holy book the Qur’an states that Muslims may eat pork and break halal if they are starving or have no other source of food, but should firmly comply with halal if at all possible in all circumstances.

As the Qur’an reads in Al-Baqarah 2:173:

“He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah.

“But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him.

“Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”

In Judaism, kosher (allowable) rules prohibit the eating of pork, shellfish and several other meats.

Kosher rules also forbid the mixing of certain foods such as meat and cheese, due to a verse from the Torah (Bible) which prohibits mixing dairy and meat as ungodly.

According to Judaism and Islam, God forbid his people from eating pork because pigs are physically and spiritually unclean. Under Judaic law, pigs simply don’t fit the bill for human consumption:

As Chani Benjaminson explains:

“In the Bible, G‑d lists two requirements for an animal to be kosher (fit to eat) for a Jew: Animals must chew their cud and have split hooves.”

6) Sikhs believe that eating meat is sinful and wrong because it makes you ‘impure’

Sikhism started in 15th Century India and is now the fifth-largest faith in the world, counting around 30 million followers.

The religion was started by a man called Guru Nanak and continued to be led by more gurus after his death who Sikhs believe also contained his soul.

Sikhs are monotheists who believe that we are judged for our actions towards others and should practice kindness and responsibility as much as possible in our lives.

Sikhs follow the five Ks. These are:

  • Kirpan (a dagger carried at all times for protection by men).
  • Kara (a bracelet which represents the link to God).
  • Kesh (never cutting your hair as the Guru Nanak taught).
  • Kanga (a comb you keep in your hair to show you practice good hygiene).
  • Kacchera (a type of sacred, simple underwear).

Sikhs also believe that eating meat and drinking alcohol or doing illicit drugs is bad and puts toxins and ungodly contaminants into your body.

“The Sikh religion forbids the use of alcohol and other intoxicants.

“Sikhs are also not allowed eat meat: the principle is to keep the body pure.

“All gurdwaras [temples] are supposed to follow the Sikh code, known as the Akal Takht Sandesh, which comes from the highest Sikh authority in India,” notes Aftab Gulzar.

7) Some yogic and spiritual traditions discourage the eating of meat

Some yogic traditions such as the Sanatana school believe that eating meat prevents the purpose of yoga to join the atman life force with paramatman (the supreme self, ultimate reality).

As Sanatana practitioner Satya Vaan explains:

“Meat eating increases the ahamkara (desire to manifest in the physical world) and it binds you with further karma — that of the animals you eat…

“The rishis who lived in the forests in their ashramas lived on roots, fruits, and milk products handmade from the milk of Satvically raised cows…

“Onions, garlic, alcohol, and meat all promote tamasik (sleepy, dull) consciousness. The cumulative effect of such a non-satvik diet over time, manifests in various ways in life.”

Although there are plenty of people out there doing forms of yoga that eat meat, it’s definitely true that the satvik diet encourages vegetarianism.

The basic idea here – and in some related shamanic and spiritual traditions – is that the life force, desires and animal drives of the dead creature you are eating seep away your ability to have emotional and mental alertness and make you more animalistic, dull and desire-based yourself.

8) Zoroastrians believe that when the world is saved, meat-eating will end

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The Zoroastrian faith is one of the world’s most ancient and sprang up in Persia thousands of years ago.

It follows the prophet Zoroaster, who taught people to turn toward the one true God Ahura Mazdā and away from sin and wickedness.

In particular, Zoroaster taught that Ahura Mazdā and wise immortal spirits who worked with him gave people freedom to choose good or evil.

Those who persevere through the temptations and trials of life are the worthy, ashavan, and they will be saved and obtain eternal life.

Zoroastrianism still has about 200,000 followers, mainly in Iran and India.

They believe that when the world ends and is restored to a utopian and pure state, meat-eating will end.

As Jane Srivastava says:

“In the ninth century, the High Priest Atrupat-e Emetan recorded in Denkard, Book VI, his request for Zoroastrians to be vegetarians:

“‘Be plant eaters, O you men, so that you may live long. Keep away from the body of the cattle, and deeply reckon that Ohrmazd, the Lord, has created plants in great number for helping cattle and men.’

“Zoroastrian scriptures assert that when the ‘final Savior of the world’ arrives, men will give up meat eating.”

9) The Bible’s position on meat isn’t quite as open as some Jews and Christians think

Many modern Jews and Christians eat meat (or choose to be a vegetarian) without thought to how it may be referenced in their religious texts.

The assumption is that the Jewish Torah and Christian Bible is fairly agnostic on the question of eating meat.

A closer read, however, shows that prominent Scriptures display a picky God who’s not a huge fan of people eating meat.

As God tells Noah in Genesis 9:3:

“Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

“But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”

God goes on to say that killing animals is a sin, although not a capital sin worthy of the death penalty like killing humans.

Interestingly, most ancient Jews were more vegetarian and leading Torah scholars such as Rabbi Rashi of 12th Century Judaism advised that God clearly meant for people to be vegetarian.

Other leading scholars such as Rabbi Elijah Judah Schochet advised that while eating meat was allowable, it was preferable not to do so.

10) Do these rules about meat and food still matter today?

The rules about eating meat may strike some readers as outdated.

Surely choosing what to eat is up to you?

The majority of vegetarians I have met in Western countries have been motivated by either dislike of industrial meat cruelty or concern over unhealthy ingredients in meat (or both).

Although I have various friends who do follow religious prescriptions on eating meat, the majority of my vegetarian or pescatarian friends are motivated more by their own constellation of secular reasons.

The consensus of most non-religious folks is that rules around not eating meat or certain animals are the relic of a bygone time.

These commentators also tend to see religious dietary laws as a way to signal group belonging more than a heartfelt religious conviction.

As Jay Rayner says:

“Once upon a time eating pork in a hot country might have been a bad idea but not now.

“The prohibition of mixing meat and dairy arises because of a passage in Exodus, in which it is declared an abomination to cook the baby goat in its mother’s milk.

“Well, I’m with the Bible on that. But that’s not a reason for banning cheeseburgers.

“So it’s just a thing my Jewish brethren do. Why? Because it defines difference. It sets them apart.

“Just as the strict veganism of the Jains sets them apart from the vegetarianism of the Buddhists.”

The bottom line: Is eating meat bad?

If you are a member of the religions above then eating meat, or eating it at certain times, can indeed be considered “bad.”

There will always be rules and spiritual and religious teachings, and there is a lot of value to be gained from that.

At the same time, you have the choice in most free nations to decide what you want to eat and why.

The truth is that you can live your life on your own terms.

So what can you do to set your own values and priorities?

Begin with yourself. Stop searching for external fixes to sort out your life, deep down, you know this isn’t working.

And that’s because until you look within and unleash your personal power, you’ll never find the satisfaction and fulfillment you’re searching for.

I learned this from the shaman Rudá Iandê. His life mission is to help people restore balance to their lives and unlock their creativity and potential. He has an incredible approach that combines ancient shamanic techniques with a modern-day twist.

In his excellent free video, Rudá explains effective methods to achieve what you want in life without depending on outer structures to tell you what to do.

So if you want to build a better relationship with yourself, unlock your endless potential, and put passion at the heart of everything you do, start now by checking out his genuine advice.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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