Weekly Newsletter from Christian Vegetarian Association CVA - October 24, 2021
From Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

  1. Book Review: Homo Ahimsa by Judy Carman
  2. Core Educational Subjects: Ethics (continued) - Individuals vs. Groups
  3. All-Creatures.Org Ministry

1. Book Review: Homo Ahimsa by Judy Carman

This beautifully written and powerful book lays bare the need for a loving, compassionate attitude toward each other, nonhuman beings, and the natural world. Human violence is responsible for massive degrees of violence and destructiveness, which is not sustainable. Humans call themselves Homo sapiens, but many aspects of human behavior are not very intelligent.

Though most humans directly or indirectly harm vast numbers of animals, there are groups of people (such as the Jains) and individuals living in animal-abusing cultures who choose to lead nonviolent lives. We are not programmed to cruelty, and indeed children have a natural affinity for animals that is usually quashed in our animal-abusing culture. Carman believes we can tap into that innate human goodness to create a benevolent world. More here: Homo Ahimsa.

2. Core Educational Subjects: Ethics (continued) - Individuals vs. Groups

The Socratic method, in which one asks questions and encourages students to think through problems, is often effective at both sharpening critical thinking skills and helping students increase their knowledge base. It can be particularly helpful when teaching ethics, because it encourages students to question dubious assumptions that their culture has taken for granted. One pernicious, self-serving assumption frequently derived from our culture is that nonhumans exist for the benefit of humans.

Another commonplace assumption is that we should gauge whether a certain action or policy is ethical by evaluating its impact on groups. We see this repeatedly when considering “wildlife management,” in which attempts are made to maintain herd populations or to protect species, with little or no regard for the well-being of individuals. However, groups are human inventions designed to help us find useful patterns in the world. While practical, groups are human constructs and, as such, should not carry inherent moral value. Giving moral value to something that is largely a product of the human imagination is a kind of idolatry.

In contrast, sentient beings exist as individuals. If I prick my finger, it hurts me and nobody else, and if anybody experiences a pricked finger, I feel nothing. The experiences of other individuals who happen to populate a human-defined group to which I belong do not impact me as an individual. I might be pleased if an American wins an Olympic gold medal, but an American winning a gold medal carries no inherent moral weight. From an ethical standpoint, it does not matter whether or not this person is an American citizen.

When it comes to things that can significantly impact the quality of our lives, such as the freedom to choose life partners and employment issues, the stakes for individuals are much higher than whether a preferred athlete or team wins. Here, in general, we care a great deal about how we, as individuals, fare. If we think we have been treated unfairly, we receive little solace from the success of another member of a human-defined group to which we belong.

Relatively poor economic or other outcomes for a given group compared to other groups suggests, but does not prove, past and/or present unjust treatment of individuals on account of their belonging to that given group. If there is or has been injustice, there are many possible corrective actions, but at the end of the day all of us want to be treated fairly as individuals. We do not sense justice if groups are treated equally at the expense of individual justice, particularly if we find ourselves victims of unjust treatment.

I think Jesus appreciated that ethical conduct is directed at individuals. Jesus repeatedly drew his attention to individuals, such as his welcoming the tax collector Zacchae'us while he was addressing a crowd (Luke 19:2-7). The parable of the lost sheep illustrates the concern for an individual, even when this might be to the detriment of the larger group.

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

3. From All-Creatures.Org Ministry

Here are our recent All-Creatures Newsletter, which we hope you like and share with others to help stop the exploitation and killing of animals.

Newsletter Archives 2006-2021