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It’s a scary world we live in.

It’s scary because instead of learning how to help their neighbors and the satisfaction of manual labor, young adults are obsessing over money and fighting for top ranks in YouTube, the Kindle store, and on blogs.

It’s scary because Internet anonymity makes it easier than ever to blast other people with strong opinions  – and not have to listen to the other side, thereby learning to be more compassionate and less judgmental.

It’s scary because of how religion has become a stumbling block to people knowing their Creator…including most of the people who claim a relationship with God.

It’s scary because only a relative handful of wealthy Westerners regularly help poor people with food or money. An even smaller number actually spend at least part of their lives in the trenches with the poor.

It’s scary because young people think they know better than their elders, and refuse their wisdom.

It’s scary because so many things that have become part of mainstream culture and so considered “normal”, even “good”, actually yank people’s freedom away from them.

It’s scary because the U.S. military has decided to play God, filling the air we breathe with toxins in an attempt to modify the weather.

It’s scary because of the persistent, insidious double-standard between men and women that should have been abolished long ago.

It’s scary because people think you have to kill animals in order to get enough protein to be healthy.

It’s scary because the food and drug corporations care more about their bottom lines than about people’s health.

It’s scary because many people don’t know that sex trafficking actually exists in the United States.

It’s scary because many people don’t know that most bananas are often grown by slaves, and even more often by children as young as eight years old.

It’s scary because people regularly blame genetics, rather than diet and lifestyle, for their diseases.

This world is full of war, abuse, selfishness, indifference, injustice, and disease. But that’s not why I am frightened for our planet’s future. I am frightened because so many of the people who could fight for  justice – along with the rights of all animals, including “human” animals – do nothing.

They have the money. They have the resources. They could contact the right people.

But they are either tired, indifferent, or ignorant.

Thus, this blog

I have been all three on some level for much of my life – although not necessarily all at once. That was even after having developed a passion, as a young person, to help sexually abused women and the poor. Like most people who will read this article, the stress and pressures of the conventional, mainstream life got in my way.

No more. As I set up this blog, I am in late forties, and I am determined to pick up the cause that God planted in my heart so many years ago. The cause for health and freedom for all animals, including humanity.

My goal is threefold: first, to educate as many people as I can about the various kinds of human injustices, the many breeches to life and freedom that occur in our world thanks to the wealthy who continually vie for more money and power. Second, I hope to motivate my blog readers and YouTube viewers to take up the cause with me, to reach into their wallets and help charitable organizations to fight for human rights.

Third, yes, as a vegan, I hope to encourage some non-vegans to get on my side of the fence, to realize that animals deserve to be free just as much as humans do.

Your next steps

  1.  If you are not already vegan, consider joining the movement. Watch this video, and read this article and this one to learn why (and why there is no such thing as “humanely raised” meat).
  2. Subscribe to this blog by filling in the form at the top of the sidebar. I personally do not get your e-mail when you do thisit is only a way to subscribe to the blog’s feed and get updates automatically sent to your inbox.
  3. Share this article with everyone you know.

Thank you, and see you soon. 🙂

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Does the Bible really teach that we’re supposed to be poor? Or does it, maybe, teach that we’re supposed to be filthy rich?

Before I get into this post, I want to make perfectly clear that I do not have a problem with people who have a lot of money, and I do not have a problem with people who choose to live minimalist lives as an act of worship to Father. What I do have a problem with is people who try to manipulate Scripture to make their beliefs about money seem like the right beliefs.

That being said, let me pick on the second part of the lie first: God wants you to be poor.

The poverty doctrine

The Scripture people use to back up this belief is usually the story of the rich young ruler in Luke 18. He wants to know how to inherit eternal life. In the end, Jesus tells him to sell all he has “and give to the poor, and come, follow Me.” In another scene, Jesus tells the disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19: 24).

The money-haters use these two passages as the basis for their belief that Jesus’ followers are to have only the bare essentials, if anything.

In the first instance they make the usual “Bible-as-principle-book” error. Just because Jesus knew that the way to get the rich young ruler’s heart with Father was to get his eyes off of money, does not mean that such is the way to get everyone’s heart with Father. In the camel-needle analogy, Jesus is not saying that to have wealth is to choose hell. He is, instead, pointing out the fact that people with a lot of money tend to wrap their lives around the money instead of around the Kingdom. He does not say it is impossible, only that it is difficult.

To promote a poverty doctrine is to ignore many other teachings our Lord gave on the subject of money. In the parable of the talents, the man who made the most interest on his master’s money received the largest gift from his master (and this is about money, people, not about talents as in being able to sing, dance or paint portraits).

In addition, Jesus said that when you give you receive back even more, “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38), and promised His disciples that those who left families, houses, lands, etc. to follow Him would receive even more in this life.

Jesus was not anti-money. If He were, how is it that Judas was able to pilfer from the collective purse of Jesus and the Twelve? Jesus does teach that you have to have the right attitude toward money, and be a good steward over it. But He certainly does not teach that money is the root of all evil!

Neither does Paul, by the way. The oft-misquoted verse actually goes like this: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil [emphasis mine].” – First Timothy 6:10. Having money and loving money are two different and separate issues. If God calls you to live a life of poverty, then by all means, live that life to His glory. Just don’t force it down other people’s throats by misrepresenting Scripture.

The Prosperity Gospel

Then there is the other side of the money coin: the Prosperity Gospel. There is no end of preachers coming out of the woodwork and telling believers that God’s will is that everyone be outrageously wealthy.

I heard one of them speak one Sunday years ago, and for weeks afterward the pastor would lead us in the chant the visitor had taught us: “Moneeeey…cometh! To me! Now!” It finally died down when everybody started to realize that the confession wasn’t changing their financial situation one iota.

A self-proclaimed prophet came through another time, selling his book about God’s will for His people to be wealthy. I want you to notice, in case you haven’t before, who authors these book on the subjects: preachers with large institutions or ministries who have learned how to become great extortionists salespeople. (There are plenty of women preachers guilty of this, too.)

I once walked out of a meeting that was occurring in some stadium or other in the city where I lived at the time. Right around noon, one of the guest speakers, well-known in charismatic circles to the extent that he had his own T.V. show on a Christian network, stood up and declared that “the Lord has shown me that there are 100 people here who are to give $1,000.” He then launched into a tirade about the importance of giving, but I didn’t hear it because my stomach flipped and I had to go home and hurl.

It would be bad enough if this shit just went on in Western nations, but no. Such T.V. evangelists have been known to hold meetings in poor African nations, where they guilt-trip the natives – most of whom are barely making ends meet, if even that much – into giving money into their multi-million dollar ministries.

Africans do not like American T.V. evangelists and teachers. Gee, I wonder why?

So, where do they get off on preaching a prosperity gospel? Some point to the fact that the Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothes, therefore He must have been wearing an expensive garment, therefore Jesus had a lot of money – and we are supposed to be like Jesus, right?

It never occurs to them that a wealthy Jew may have gifted Jesus the garment, or that the Romans figured it might be worth something on the black market simply because Jesus had so many followers.

Then there are verses like Psalm 35:27 – “Let the Lord be magnified, who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant”; Deuteronomy 8:18 – “…it is He who gives you the power to get wealth…”; Joshua 1:7-8 – Obey God, “for then you shall make your way prosperous…”; Psalm 1 – The godly man will prosper in whatever he does; Luke 6:38, the “running over” verse again; the parable of the talents; and a number of other passages related to blessing, riches, prosperity, or wealth.

Another highly popular “proof” is that Abraham was extremely wealthy, and we are called “sons of Abraham”, and therefore if our faith were only strong enough we would be extremely wealthy.

Such verses are used as proof that God wants every single believer to be rolling in the dough. The first problem is that here again, the Bible is being used mainly as a principle-book. The second problem is that “wealth” and “prosperity” do not by definition infer having loads of money or owning loads of stuff. They have to do with having more than you need. Many people have more than they need, but are far from being able to own mansions, hundreds of acres, or their own private jet!

The biggest problem is that there are some – perhaps I can even dare say many – faithful believers who love the Lord so much that they would give their lives for Him, but they live in dire poverty. Some are unemployed people in the United States who have to live in homeless shelters. Many more are natives in developing countries like Haiti, India, and various African nations who must watch their babies and children die of starvation and disease, go hungry for days on end themselves, and perhaps even suffer persecution at the hands of members of other religions.

They are not doing anything wrong. God is not punishing them. They are unintentionally living out another Scripture that the Prosperity Preachers blithely ignore: “In this world you will have tribulation…” – John 16:33.

I believe that, generally speaking, God will and does provide for His children who are being faithful to do the work He has called them to. For some, that will eventually lead to large amounts of money.

At the same time, I know that not everybody is born into the right circumstances to allow them to become materially prosperous. I know we live in a fallen world full of sin and corrupt government leaders. Our job as believers is not to wonder why our poverty-stricken brothers and sisters are where they are, to falsely accuse them, or to browbeat them with the Prosperity Gospel and a set of wealth formulas.

No. Our job is to have compassion on them, to pray for them, and to do whatever we feel Father asking us to do to help them. In other words, we are to show our love to them. And like the great theologians Paul McCartney and John Lennon sang so many years ago, “Money can’t buy me love.”

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Can You Live On Bananas?

Today I want to address the claim that you can live on bananas. Over the years, I’ve heard this claim several times by Raw Vegans who were either fruitarians or followed the 80-10-10 diet. How true is this claim? The best way to find out is to look at the nutrition in bananas.

But first, we need to determine how many bananas you would need to eat a day in order to feel satiated. Right there we run into the first snag, because many of us simply cannot thrive on a diet that is so high in carbohydrates and so low in protein and fat. If we do not eat some seeds or nuts with fruit, at the very least we will not feel satiated no matter how many calories in fruit we eat. At the worst, our blood sugar might crash. Even if we do include nuts or seeds with the fruit, if we eat more than two or three servings of fruit at one sitting we will experience similar undesirable results.

But let’s say a person’s biochemical makeup enables them to eat a high-carb, low-fat fruitarian diet. If they decide to do so, they will need probably at least twice as many calories per day from the fruit than they would from more dense calorie sources, such as grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, in order to experience satiation. Fruitarians typically consume 3 to 5 thousand calories per day. Since one banana has about 100 calories, in order to hit the 3,000 calorie minimum that would equal thirty bananas a day. That would be cheap for a raw food diet, equaling ten pounds of bananas which would cost around $7.00.

Let’s keep the number thirty in mind as we study out the claim that you can live on bananas.

I’m getting the following information from the book The World’s Healthiest Foods, which is as good a source as any. Bananas are a great source of vitamin B6, with one banana providing 34% of the daily value of the nutrient. The 30 banana minimum would go well over anybody’s daily requirement for B6. Ditto for vitamin C. Thirty bananas would provide over 530% of the daily value for vitamin C. They would provide over 150% of the DV for folate. In addition, thirty bananas would also provide a nice chunk of a few of the essential minerals as well, such as 180% of the DV for copper and iodine, as well as over 240% of the DV for both magnesium and manganese. They would even meet the daily value for most of the essential amino acids.

Looking good, isn’t it? Except that I haven’t even mentioned half of the essential vitamins and minerals needed for a person to thrive. Take vitamin A, for example. Plant foods do not contain vitamin A. In order to get vitamin A from plant foods, you have to eat foods that contain a lot of beta carotene, say 50,000 to 100,000 I.U.s every day. Thirty bananas would not even get close to that amount of beta carotene.

To get the recommended daily value of biotin would require you to consume 100 bananas a day, not thirty. Ditto for vitamin K. To get enough vitamin E, thirty bananas may or may not be enough depending on your individual need. Fifty to sixty bananas would be a better bet.

Calcium is a critical nutrient that many vegans like to blow off – to their future peril. You would need to eat more than 100 bananas to get the recommended 1000 mg of calcium. And for you parents who are thinking about raising your children as fruitarians, the daily value of calcium for kids is even higher, at 12-1300 mg. Thirty bananas a day would not provide enough iron for women in their child-bearing years, especially during their time of menstruation, and would fall way short of providing zinc.

But the amount of molybdenum would be negligible, as bananas are listed in this book as not having any of that mineral. And of course, being a plant food, bananas provide no vitamin B12.

Back to the original question: can you live on bananas? A body can live on almost any kind of diet, including one that consists of only bananas. But I think what everyone is really asking is, can you thrive on a diet of just bananas? Looks like the answer is yes…if you do not have any blood sugar problems, if your biochemical makeup allows you to eat fruit all day, if you are willing to eat at least 10,000 calories – that’s 33 pounds – of bananas per day, AND you are willing to supplement with both B12 (which all vegans should be doing anyway) and molybdenum.

Hope you love those bananas.

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Is the Bible a “principle” book? How to interpret the Bible? Keep reading, and you might just experience a little more freedom in your spiritual life.

(Again, if you’re coming to this article cold and wonder what it’s doing on a vegan blog, read this post and this post.)

Every year, thousands of Bible teachers and preachers collectively make millions of dollars (some make millions all by themselves!) by setting up conferences and seminars and writing books that teach people the three steps to this blessing, four steps to that blessing, five steps to another blessing. Everything they say they proof-text from the Bible. All believers have to do, they say, is follow principles X, Y and Z, and life will be nothing but bliss. If believers fail to follow those principles, their lives will fall apart.

Sometimes, the word “key” is used instead of “principle,” especially in reference to Jesus’ teachings. This comes from Matthew 16:19, where Jesus tells His disciples (not just Peter; the Greek word for “you” is in the plural form there) that He will give them the keys of the Kingdom. These “keys” supposedly include prayer, Bible reading, attending religious meetings, giving, and fasting, to name just a few.

I don’t know where people come up with this crap, because Jesus mentioned ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THOSE THINGS in this verse, nor in the verses prior, nor in any of the verses following. The extent to which Jesus explained His statement was that the keys would enable His followers to “bind” and to “loose” (this part of the verse has been so grossly abused, especially by the charismatic institutions, that the subject is worth its own book).

Let me give you a hint: if you don’t understand a portion of Scripture, leave it the heck alone! You don’t make up a flippin’ doctrine about it, pretending like you get it.

That being said, that verse isn’t as mysterious as many religious leaders make it out to be. Keys allow you to open and close doors. Jesus is saying that His followers will be able to open up the door of heaven others, or keep it locked up, depending on how they lived out their walk and obeyed their calling.

Enough of that. Let’s get back to the original premise: principles. Here is a very short list of just some of the principles I was taught during my years as part of a religious institution:

  1. If you have “enough” faith for what you are asking God for, He will give it to you (Mark 11:23-24, otherwise known as the “name it and claim it” doctrine).
  2. If you find yourself in dire straits, you should sing and praise God as loud as you can, and He will set you free (Acts 16:25-26).
  3. If you literally get on your face before God, He will move heaven and earth to give you what He has promised, and in short order (Genesis 17).
  4. If you are a true believer, you will never experience financial difficulty (Psalm 37:25).
  5. If you give everything you have, Jesus will like you better than others who give only part (Luke 21:3).
  6. You must give lavishly if you want God’s highest blessing and/or forgiveness (Luke 7).
  7. Tithing guarantees God’s protection and financial prosperity (Malachi 3).
  8. To get into God’s manifest presence, we must have a corporate worship service that begins with fast praise music and transitions into slow worship music (Psalm 100:4).

I could easily go on, but I think you get my point. If you will kindly notice, some of these principles conveniently guilt-trip people into participating in certain religious activities, like attending religious services or giving money into the institution – or to a person who is illegally giving himself a label (such as, oh, I don’t know…pastor?).

Granted, some principles could actually be helpful for a person trying to walk through a tough situation (because who needs principles when everything is going right?), but so would be sitting down and using some good old common sense, and/or receiving counsel from someone who has walked down that same road before.

In my experience, however, trying to follow most of these principles leads to frustration and confusion. Why? We are not supposed to be following principles, we are supposed to be following a Person. Father did not inspire people to write the Bible so we could follow a bunch of principles (or laws, if you look at it another way), He did it so we could follow Him.

Look at a few of the examples above. Do you know anybody who has tithed faithfully and even given well above that, yet experienced serious financial difficulties? Ask enough people, and you will find them. And if they are honest, some will tell you that their religious friends and family members told them that they must have some sin in their life, since the principle wasn’t working for them.

If you have been part of the charismatic zoo, as I have, you will also find people who gave ridiculous amounts of money to a visiting evangelist or prophet. They wrote out a check and noted on the bottom what miracle they were believing for, having been promised that by making a sacrificial offering and naming their request they would receive a miracle.

Usually, the next day, a miracle does happen – the visiting preacher is miraculously able to buy a brand-new Lexus!

Need help shaking the idea that the Bible is a principle book? Look at Jesus’ healing ministry. You rarely see Him restoring someone’s physical health in the same way. One person touched Him; another person, He touched; yet another, He touched and touched again; somebody else had to get mud rubbed in their eyes; with still another person all Jesus did was speak a word.

He did not have a formula for healing. He did not walk around with a book of principles about how to cast out demons, raise the dead or get rid of leprosy. He treated each individual as – well, gee, guess what? – an individual. Every person on earth is unique. And each person is dealing with a unique set of circumstances, and has developed a unique perspective about life.

The human life experience was not designed to be boxed up by a set of principles or formulas, but isn’t that what we are seeing that religion does? Religion boxes up both God and people and limits both from revealing all they can be.

The Bible is not a book of principles, formula, or even law. While there is certainly plenty of wisdom and counsel that can be gained from the writings contained therein, Father primarily had it written so that we could come to know and understand Him and His ways better. It is about showing us how His plan unfolded in the earth, His loving plan to redeem us back to Him.

It is a compelling story, at times beautiful, at times ugly, at time mysterious. But if we take it for what it truly is, the history of God and human kind, it becomes much easier to understand.

God works with each one of us according to what we need – and His workings vary greatly from person to person and circumstance to circumstance. And He is loving, so meets us where we are, without putting a boatload of unrealistic works-related expectations on us. We don’t have to worry about getting all the right steps in all the right order at exactly the right time. That’s Father’s job. Follow Him, and He will get you where you need to be.

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Do Vegans Need A B12 Supplement?

Today I am going to end one of the most burning controversies among the vegan community: do vegans need to supplement with B12?

If you’re reading this post, it’s probably because you’ve heard conflicting information on the issue. Some say you can get all the B12 you need from your diet, others that your body makes its own B12, and still others say that not only vegans, but many meat-eaters as well, will become deficient in this vital nutrient if they don’t supplement. Who’s right?

Well, first of all, let’s establish the fact that if you get deficient in B12, you’re in deep dog doo. In fact, nutrition experts say that by the time you develop some symptoms, you may not be able to recover some of the damage the deficiency caused. Why?

For one thing, vitamin B12 is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system. When a body is deficient in this nutrient, the coating around the nerves known as the myelin sheath does not form properly. Messed up nerves equals messed up brain. Yep.

For another, the vitamin is needed for red blood cell development. Without it, and I quote from the book The World’s Healthiest Foods, “synthesis of DNA becomes defective, and so does the information needed for red blood cell formation. The cells become oversized and poorly shaped, and begin to function ineffectively, a condition called pernicious anemia.” End quote. Bad red blood cell formation leads to problems in getting oxygen delivered around the body.

So it is critical that you get on the right side of the B12 supplement controversy. No sitting on the fence allowed. In order to realize which is the right side, you need a little more information.

Vitamin B12 myths that could kill you

The first thing you should know is that none of the so-called gurus who are claiming that you can get all the B12 you need from either your diet or your body have any serious education in nutrition or physiology. That said, let’s examine some of the claims these gurus make.

First claim: Many vegetables contain B12. True…BUT.

Don’t get excited.

The reason some vegetables from some farms or gardens contain B12 is that the growers have used manure as a fertilizer, and the plants have taken up the B12. However, the amounts of B12 are much smaller than what most people need – and many people cannot absorb it.

I feel compelled to add that produce that is grown in manure is not vegan in the first place, and so in a vegan world vegetables would never contain B12.

Certain sea vegetables such as spirulina contain a substance that is related to B12, but in actual fact is inactive. In other words, it doesn’t do squat for your health. And even if this B12 analog were active, vegetables do not contain nearly enough of it to meet the human body’s requirements for the vitamin.

Second claim: As long as you eat unwashed vegetables, you will get enough B12 by accidentally eating small amounts of insects and dirt. Again, false. Yes, unwashed vegetables often contain tiny insects, as well as their feces, and dirt. And yes, these things contain B12. But again, the amount is negligible and won’t meet your needs. And that’s saying something, because the actual amount of B12 you need on a daily basis is small.

Third claim: Your body produces its own B12, so you don’t even have to worry about it. If you have ever taken nutritional advice from anyone who has ever said this, do not listen to them anymore. Yes, your body produces its own B12 – in your colon. However, your body absorbs B12 through the small intestine. And there is no magical travel of the vitamin back up into the small intestine. Once the bacteria in your colon produce the vitamin, you poop it out. So unless you are willing to eat  our own feces, you cannot get B12 from your own body.

Get smart about B12!

If you are on a vegan diet, you need to supplement with B12. And not in three years. Many people do not have this mythical three-year supply of B12, including many meat-eaters. You need to start supplementing YESTERDAY. What can happen if you don’t? How about developing symptoms of the first stages of Alzheimer’s?

That’s what happened to me once, after going six months on a vegan diet without taking a B12 supplement. It was SCARY. I wasn’t doing the usual forgetting what I was going to do after walking into a room. No. I was mixing up words. Pointing to an apple and thinking about saying the word “chair”. Knowing that “chair” was completely wrong but unable to come up with the correct word for an entire ten or twenty seconds!

And struggling with memory is only one possible symptom of a B12 deficiency. Other symptoms include depression, nervousness, red or sore tongue, tingling or numbness in feet, heart palpitations, dandruff, decreased blood clotting, pale skin, fatigue, weak pulse, and, for women, menstrual irregularities.

“But don’t B12 supplements come from animals?” No. Microorganisms produce the vitamin. Supplements are created in test tubes or petri dishes. They are vegan, and very low-cost. Every single vegan medical doctor and any vegan researcher worth his or her salt tells vegans to supplement with B12, so stop making excuses. This is your health we’re talking about. If you’re not already taking a B12 supplement, go buy one and start today.

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Is Killing Insects Vegan?

Is killing insects vegan? To some vegans, this would seem a ludicrous question because we’re supposed to respect all life, right? Even the life of a lowly insect. To others, it would seem ludicrous because veganism is about not causing suffering for sentient beings. And since the common belief regarding insects is that they are not sentient, then, yes, it’s okay to kill them.

What is veganism, really?

Before I can delve further into this issue, I must clarify what the veganism movement truly stands for. It is not just about preventing suffering for sentient beings. It is about not exploiting animals for human needs. It’s about not experimenting on them, not using them for food, clothing, transportation, or – yes, even this – companionship. It’s about not using them for the work a person should do.

We wouldn’t need St. Bernards, for example, if idiots wouldn’t go out venturing in six feet of snow. Or in a place where heavy snow is likely to fall at any moment, or where an avalanche is possible.

Just sayin’.

Of course, when we don’t use animals, we are not going to cause them suffering. Understanding that, I still want to look at the “sentient” side of things.

Defining “sentient”

When vegans talk about “sentient beings”, they are referring to mammals and birds, probably reptiles, and possibly amphibians. Sometimes they include fish as well, although some vegans don’t consider this kind of animal to be sentient.

But what does it mean to be sentient, anyway? There are two main definitions. The first is to be a living creature that experiences life with the five senses. Just as an aside, if a vegan is going to take up this definition, they need to include fish in their list of sentient beings because they are clearly uncomfortable when flopping around out of water, and in pain when being butchered alive.

The second definition of “sentient” is having a conscious mind. Here is where some vegans will throw out fish, and possibly amphibians and maybe even reptiles. Except, if you know this story you gain a whole new perspective on the “reptilian brain.” Maybe it’s not as primitive as we’ve been led to believe.

Using this second definition of sentient is how most vegans also end up throwing insects (and other arthropods and invertebrates) out of the list. After all, hasn’t science revealed that such creatures behave purely by instinct, with no consciousness at all?

Some will even argue that insects don’t really feel pain, so that they could fit into the first definition as well.

Are insects (and other creepy-crawlies) sentient beings?

Let’s look at the first idea of sentient, experiencing with the five senses. We know that insects can see, hear, taste, smell, and feel to some degree. Perhaps not to the same extent or in the same way as the larger animals, but still, they do.

But do/can they suffer because of it? In my opinion, the idea that insects don’t feel pain remains to be seen. We cannot be a fly or an ant or a spider or a grasshopper, so we can’t know whether such creatures feel pain or not. When it comes to uncertainty, erring on the conservative side is usually safer. In this case, the conservative view is that if a little boy pulls all the legs off a daddy longlegs, or rips the guts out of a large grasshopper, the critter may be feeling pain so just in case, we shouldn’t do it.

On the other hand, scientific studies of insects and arthropods have shown that their nervous systems are on the primitive end of the spectrum. They are primitive to the extent that it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that they could not possibly have conscious awareness, that their behaviors are based purely on instinct.

Again, we can’t know this for sure, but it’s a much more grounded idea than saying carte blanche that insects cannot feel pain.

And so, that brings us back to the main question of this post…

Is killing insects vegan?

From a purely physical viewpoint, the answer would be no. Ditto for those who hold that absolutely all life is to be held as sacred.

But what if we’re defining veganism as not exploiting animals for human use? Then the answer would have to be yes, it is vegan – perhaps better worded, it isn’t not vegan – to kill insects. A vegan should not kill insects without cause, and if there is cause should do so in a way that causes as little suffering as possible, assuming they feel pain.

I’m going to make a confession. I have killed probably several dozen ants during the past few days. They discovered an opening in our house and have been everywhere. Including on my legs, biting.

I swat mosquitoes and horseflies that land on me. I squash garden pests that I know from experience will wreak havoc on the food I’m growing if I let them reproduce.

Some of you will read this post and call me a hypocrite, never returning to this blog again. Feel free.

I ask the rest of you to ask yourself this question: if someone attacked you with the intent of harming you, and you had the ability to defend yourself, would you just stand still and let yourself get beat up or killed? Most of us would not. Most of us would do something to stop the other person from hurting us – even if that were to mean hurting them.

If an insect bites me, I slap at it because taking the blood of another creature is akin to disrespecting its life. I slap in self-defense. That’s not to mention the disease such a critter could produce in my body.

A nest of fire ants can kill an injured pet or a human baby or toddler (and that’s not to mention babies of other species) within a couple of hours. Keeping their populations down ensures enhanced safety for the animal kingdom at large. (The insects getting into my house, by the way, were a fire ant hybrid.)

If an insect is eating up a crop in my garden, I eliminate it. If I don’t, I could theoretically starve. So I am acting in self-defense.

I don’t kill all ants that come in the house, only when a large group has gathered in an inconvenient place.

I no longer wantonly kill horseflies, houseflies, or grasshoppers. If a wasp gets into the house, I capture it in a jar and let it go. Ditto for large spiders. (I only kill spiders by accident, anyway.)

If I feel I have to kill anything, I squash it hard so that, in case it does feel pain, I put it out of its misery ASAP.

Despite what I said about the ants in our house, I rarely kill insects (or any other invertebrates of the land kind) on purpose. When I feel I need to, I do so in a way that will keep them from suffering.

Insects and the environment

Insects have a purpose. To destroy them for selfish reasons upsets the delicate balance of nature. So does spraying poison on them, or on crops they might like to eat. (And if we would grow our food according to the laws of nature, we wouldn’t need toxic chemicals to control pests.)

In the ideal world, I would never kill another mosquito. You would never swat another housefly. But this is not the ideal world. Insects outnumber us by many, many times, and sometimes they get overwhelming. Sometimes, they can be deadly.

Is killing insects ever justifiable? Even if you don’t think so, does my squashing a bug disqualify me from being a vegan – all other vegan principles being followed?

You be your own judge. I choose to continue to call myself a vegan.

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Why Did Jesus Die…REALLY?

Why did Jesus die? Did Jesus die to placate God’s wrath? The truth may surprise you.

This post is, of course, for people of faith who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. If you’re wondering what an article like this is doing on a blog about veganism, you haven’t read this post.

Now, on with it…

What do you think of when you read or hear about Jesus’ crucifixion? What always pops into my mind is the scene where the Roman soldiers are nailing His wrists to the cross. You, too, probably picture something about the agony Jesus suffered – the horrible whipping, the crown of thorns, the walk to Golgotha, the being nailed to the cross.

Beyond that, there is a reason He had to go through all that suffering. Most believers have been taught that our heavenly Father punished Jesus for our sins. If it had not been for Jesus’ sacrifice, because of our sinfulness God would have surely thrown us all into hell.

That belief is based on another strong one, that God will get you if you don’t behave. He is an Entity to be greatly feared, so you must obey Him at all costs if you want to be assured of a place in heaven some day.

This belief is understandable. After all, the Old Testament is replete with stories where God either kills entire groups of people, or has His earthly leaders commit genocide. Even in the New Testament, the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 seems to demonstrate that sin brings on God’s wrath in a swift and final way.

(Should the Bible really be taken literally in its entirety? Is it really without error?)

This focus on God’s judgment has skewed people’s perception of God to the effect that generations of believers have been afraid to draw near to Him in relationship. I would guess that this biased teaching came out of the third century church, after Christianity had become more or less established and the church leaders had to give people good reason to keep attending religious services and pay their dues to the religious institutions.

While God had judged, and still does and will judge, His judgment must be taken into context with the rest of Scripture as a whole. “Loving-kindness” is a phrase used to describe Father over and over again in the Old Testament. “God is love”, the Apostle John writes in the fourth chapter of his first epistle. This means that the entire person and character of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is made up of love.

How can a God who loves be so mean to do or command some of the things He did in the Old Testament? Even there, God’s mercy and grace is described or illustrated numerous times. Listen, if God was so vengeful, why did He let David live after raping Bathsheba and having her husband killed? For that matter, why didn’t he whack Abraham for lying to the Pharaoh about his relationship with Sarah?

“But,” you argue, “what about how God killed entire nations?”

We have been taught that this is some kind of proof that God is prejudiced and/or has no patience with sin. But the truth is, nowhere in the Bible does it say that all of these people went to hell. Old Testament scholars also give proof that such claims that “every man, woman and child” of a nation were killed, were a result of a literary technique being utilized, e.g. hyperbole.

In the New Testament, Peter made no prophetic declaration that Ananias and Sapphira had lost their salvation because of their little white lie.

What if Father, in His all-knowing wisdom and infinite love, took out these people both to save them from themselves and to save humanity from falling deeper into sin? What if, instead of sending them to hell, as manipulative religious teachers have implied, Father actually brought them back to Himself so that they could get cleansed from their sin and learn of His love?

When you change the focus of the character of God from judgmental and wrathful to loving, then to believe that Father punished Jesus in our place no longer makes sense. In fact, Jesus Himself said, “…I lay down My life….No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord.” – John 10:17-18.

No one. That includes His Father! God the Father did not take Jesus’ life; rather, Jesus chose to lay it down. Why? He was without sin. Why should He even make that choice? The answer is simple: He, being God very God, loves us with an infinite, unconditional and unfathomable love. He knew from before time began that His creation would fall into sin, and that if He did not intervene, our sinfulness would only grow deeper and become more prevalent.

And so, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit came up with a plan. First, they would bring the Law to stop people in their sinful tracks. The Law would bring people back to God, if only via covenant and not via relationship. Over time, they knew, this Law would slowly draw people to be ultimately cleansed from this sinful nature.

“God made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” – Second Corinthians 5:21. At the moment He was nailed to the cross, Jesus literally became the very nature of sin. So when He died, so did the power of sin. When Father resurrected Him from the dead, the sinfulness with which Jesus had died had been replaced by God’s holiness and the power of the Holy Spirit.

You may not have got that, so let me be as plain as I can:

Jesus became sin. So when He died, the human sinful nature was destroyed.

As a result, the human race was given power over sin. The only requirement to receive that power is to accept what Jesus did on the cross. We are no longer trapped by a sinful nature. We have a way out! That is worth a “Hallelujah!” or three!

“But I still sin!”

You may have accepted the gift of salvation, and still find yourself cussing, having angry or lustful thoughts, envying, even struggling with addictions. Welcome to the human world! When you accept Jesus’ gift, you don’t instantly become perfect in every way.  (If you did, God owes me an apology.) But you do instantly receive the power to overcome your weaknesses and temptation. This power grows as your relationship with Father grows.

And when you do mess up, guess what? You don’t have to spend hours on your knees, begging for forgiveness and lashing yourself with a switch. You just give it over to Father and ask Him to help you grow out of that tendency. If you have been walking with the Lord for several years, you should be able to look back and realize that you sin less now than you did before accepting Jesus’ gift. If you can’t see that change, you may not have the relationship you thought you did, or become so bound up in religious performance that you lost sight of growing that relationship, or simply need extra nutrition to balance out your brain chemistry (go ahead and laugh, but I’m serious).

God is love. His plan to deliver humanity from sin was all about love, not wrath or judgment. While the crucifixion was the hardest thing for any human to go through, it is made even harder by knowing that you will have to become sin itself in the process. Yet, Jesus willingly did it because He loved us so much and knew we could not overpower sin all by ourselves. But He knew, with the help of His Father, He could, and did.

Where do you stand with God? Do you cling to religious teachings and activities solely because you want to escape an eternity in hell? Are you not sure you have a real relationship with Him? Or maybe even know that you do not, because you don’t like the God that has been presented to you by well-meaning religious people, but are beginning to think that if I am telling the truth, maybe coming home to Father might not be such a bad idea?

Wherever you are, if your faith is shaky or non-existent, and you want to make a change, ask Father to reveal His love for you, His desire to make you clean and whole.

And He will.

P.S. – Is hell REALLY eternal? Maybe you should talk to an objective student of the Bible, rather than someone who makes money of the institution. Like, the guy in the video below.

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Today I want to talk about extreme diets. You know, that way of eating that made you quirk your eyebrow or contort your mouth the first time you heard about it. What makes for an extreme diet? Is it a diet that most people don’t follow? Is it one that doesn’t have a thousand studies behind it?

A lot of different kinds of eating lifestyles have been labeled “extreme”: raw meat, raw vegan, fruitarian, and yes, plain old vegan. But which of these are really extreme? Is there a way to know?

Yes, and I’m going to give you four basic guidelines so that you can spot an extreme diet from a mile away. Ready? Here we go.

Guideline number one

An extreme diet is one that you continue to follow…even when you it’s not working for you, just because the gurus said it was healthy. Do you have brain fog and lethargy even though you’re following the 80-10-10 diet to a tee? You must be in detox, because Douglas Graham says that it’s the perfect human diet. So it can’t be because the diet isn’t right for you (please note the sarcasm here).

Guideline number two

It is inherently unhealthy or lacks nutrition. Oh, like, say, I don’t know, the standard western diet?

Guideline number three

An extreme diet is one that you follow so rigidly that you can no longer socialize at events involving food. Lord forbid that you eat a small handful of potato chips because there is no raw vegan food available at a party. You may have a heart attack that very night (yes, you did detect more sarcasm there).

Guideline number four

Finally, the diet goes against everything that the preponderance of nutritional studies have revealed about food and health. Sometimes, you’ve got to use your head here. No, there have been no studies that correlate the consumption of Twinkies with heart disease or cancer, but what about trans fats and high fructose corn syrup, with which this popular snack food is loaded?

Other examples are more obvious, like how the consumption of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol has been strongly linked with heart disease…and this stands, no matter how hard any of the Paleo eaters tries to refute it.

In other words, an extreme diet is one that consists of unhealthy or low nutrient-dense food, goes against science and common sense, and/or one which you persist in eating even though it doesn’t work for you. So remember, there are a lot of variations on a healthy diet. Different ones work for different people. What might seem extreme to you could be the healthiest choice for someone else.

And the next time someone accuses your vegan diet of being “extreme”, you might want to point them to this article. A vegan diet is, after all, nutrient-dense, healthy, and backed by substantial nutritional research.

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Why Free-Range Eggs Aren’t Really Free

Are free-range chicken eggs ethical? Humane? Vegan, even?

My story about Penny the hen and her life as a laying hen in a battery cage is tragic, but not necessarily surprising to many people these days. There has been an increasing amount of education about the cruel conditions in which factory-farmed animals have to live, which has driven many omnivores to purchase animal products that come from more humanely raised animals. But is there really such a thing?

I’ll talk more generally about the myth of humane omnivorism in a future post. For now, let’s focus on pasture-raised chickens, featuring the story of Freta, the free-range laying hen. But first, let me get this problem out of the way…

The cage-free deception

You may be aware that the label “natural” means nothing when you see it on any kind of food. If you’ve done any research about the “organic” label, you will know that it does not mean what the general public have been told that it means.

Food companies play all kinds of shenanigans when it comes to trying to placate consumers in order to turn them into customers, and there is no exception with store-bought eggs.

“Cage-free” sounds like a much better choice than conventional eggs that come from battery hens, right? However, just like their caged sisters, cage-free hens have their beaks clipped off (this often causes lingering pain, remember?), are not fed a natural diet, and are just as subject to abuses by the farm workers as are conventional hens.

They may not live in cages, but the space allotted each individual bird is not much more than their caged cohorts. This means they do not have much room to move, and are susceptible to disease thanks to constant exposure to their own feces and urine. They also are forced to molt via temporary starvation, and lay more eggs than is natural and therefore get depleted in calcium – leading to fractured bones later in life – and also are at just a high a risk of experiencing prolapsed oviducts (when the channel where the egg comes out, also comes out of the hen’s body).

Finally, their lives are not any longer than caged hens, and they die just as cruelly as their factory-farmed cohorts.

What about the label “free-range?” Or “happy”? The only time you can know that an egg comes from a truly free-range chicken is when you go to the farm and see hens freely walking about with plenty of space per bird.

But is even this kind of situation truly ethical? Is it vegan to consume eggs from backyard chickens who are well-taken care of and have plenty of room to roam and forage from?

Let’s listen to the story of Freta, the free-range chicken, for some of the answers.

Freta’s story

I was born in an incubator, with no mother in sight. That made me sad. What made me even sadder was that as each of my brothers were born, they were taken out of the incubator, never to be seen again. This confused me, because I know that without those warm lights imitating the warmth of my would-be mother’s feathers, I would get very cold, very quickly. Were my brothers transferred to a different incubator for males? Or were they – ugh. I don’t even want to think about the alternative.

Despite not having a mother around, I had a pretty comfortable life for the next couple of weeks. The food wasn’t all that great, but I got my fill of it, plus I had a comfortable space to sleep and room to move around.

One day, the man who fed us and made sure we had enough water did something horrifying. He picked me up  and put me into a box with several other of my sisters! There went all our space. We tried to tell him we didn’t like what was happening, but he ignored us and shut the lid on the box. It would have been completely dark in the box if it hadn’t been for the airholes that let in a little bit of light.

I was scared. Where was the food and water? Why were we in here? Did we do something wrong, and were now being punished?

It got worse when the box got moved and tumbled about over the next couple of days. About halfway through the first day, we settled down and resigned ourselves to our fate, trying to sleep and not bump into each other the best we could.

Finally, I felt someone pick up the box, carry it somewhere, and set it down again. Slowly, the top of the box opened. A smiling woman peered down at us, talking to us in a high-pitched voice. Two other faces appeared, and one by one the three humans took us out and set us in a large cage inside some kind of building. We all immediately went for the grain that was spread around the cage, and the container of water.

That wasn’t too bad, except that over the next couple of weeks we grew and the cage grew more and more cramped. One day, the woman opened the cage. We were scared at first, but after a few minutes we were all walking around, clucking and exploring what we would come to know as our coop. The only thing is, there was no food in there. If we were going to eat, we would have to go out into the open field beyond.

And I thought I was scared before! My natural instinct is to be in a place that has a lot of trees where I can hide from my predators, but this area had no trees at all. Sure, it was full of nice, green grass and tasty weeds – as well sumptuous grasshoppers and other bugs – but it was much too open for my taste.

I soon learned, however, that if I didn’t want to starve to death I would have to go out into this open field to eat. Except during the winter when we were allowed to stay in the coop and eat grain, I always felt a little scared to be out on the pasture while I was living there. My fears were later justified when one day, a neighboring dog got over the fence into our field and killed two of my sisters.

Not too long after we arrived at that place, we began to lay eggs. The first time – and the second, third, fourth, maybe more – I realized I was going to lay an egg, I called for a rooster. I couldn’t wait to hatch my own baby chick! But the rooster never came. I had to lay my eggs anyway. I didn’t know at the time that a chick couldn’t form inside my egg without a rooster, and so I still looked forward to hatching out some babies.

How angry and shocked I was when the small humans came into the coop and took my first egg away! I scolded and scolded, but they wouldn’t listen. It wasn’t long before I realized that the humans were always going to take away my eggs and never let me hatch.

I discussed this fact with my sisters, and we complained about it together. But in the end, we all agreed there was nothing we could do. If we tried to go anywhere else, we might get killed by a big, bad creature out in the open pasture. And our coop was the only safe place to roost at night, since there were very few trees around.

Constantly stressed during the day when out feeding, angry and sad in the morning when my eggs are taken away. I once heard the woman call our eggs “free range.” I’m not sure what that means, but I do know this: I am anything but free.

Why pasture-raised chicken eggs are neither vegan nor “humane”

The story above should give you some insight as to why eggs from pasture-raised chickens are never vegan, no matter how well they are cared for. The following points clarify and add to the issues alluded to in Freta’s story.

#1. Breeding domesticated animals is not vegan.

Most people who have free-range laying hens purchased them from breeders. This is not vegan. It supports the continuation of animal exploitation.

#2. To use an animal for any purpose is akin to slavery.

I don’t care to use the words “abolition”, “murder” or “slavery” in relation to animals, because they are really specialized legal terms referring to the treatment of humans. However, when someone buys – or even rescues – a chicken for the purpose of eventually getting eggs from it, this is animal exploitation, which is analogous to human slavery.

No chicken in its right mind would give a human permission to take its eggs. Eggs are for propagating their species, not for feeding people.

#3. Chickens are rainforest animals.

Surprised? I was too when I first learned that about ten years ago. But yes, they are. As such, they instinctively dislike wide open spaces – even if the wide open space is a fenced-in suburban backyard. They need trees, and lots of them, in order to feel safe from predators.

Researchers have tested levels of the stress hormone cortisol in free-range chickens and discovered them to be higher than is healthy. Why? The hens must constantly be on their guard for predators because they don’t feel safe. They are not in their natural habitat.

How ethical or humane is it to raise animals outside of their natural habitat?

The incredible, deadable egg

No one who has studied nutrition will deny that eggs from free-range hens are a nutritious food. But what about the cholesterol in the yolks? If you’re like me, you’ve heard the controversies. One study will supposedly show that egg consumption is good for you. The next will show that it raises the risk of heart disease and strokes.

Who’s right?

In a study from a couple of years ago, scientists found that the more eggs people consumed per week, the greater the arterial plaque levels. (This plaque is what can lead to heart attacks and strokes.) They concluded that when it comes to heart disease, egg yolk consumption is nearly as deadly as smoking.

Of course, that study had its share of animal-eating critics. One of those stated that “it is extremely important to understand the differences between ‘association’ and ‘causation.’”

In other words, the egg study results associated higher risk of heart disease with egg consumption, rather than proving that egg consumption causes higher risk of heart disease.

Welcome to the world of studies. Do you know how many studies that have “proven” the health benefits of egg consumption based their conclusions on association rather than causation? All of them!

This is why it’s dangerous to take one study and say, “Look! This shows that X is healthful/Y is harmful.” Rather, the correct approach is to look at the range of studies done on a particular subject or testing a particular theory. This is called epidemiological research, and is much more accurate than examining individual studies by themselves.

Turns out, when you do that in the world of nutrition, animal product consumption – even occasional, and including eggs – has been strongly linked with a variety of diseases. A diet void of any animal products – including the supposedly healthy oily fish, such as salmon – has been strongly linked with all-around improved health and longevity.

So, how free are those free-range eggs?

Chickens forced to live in unnatural habitats, that usually come from breeders, and that essentially have their babies continually stolen from them to force them to continue to lay.

Oh, and did I mention that bird eggs come out of the same place that their feces does? Yum!

Free-range hens may have a lot healthier diet than their factory-farmed counterparts, and they may not suffer nearly as much disease or injuries. But they are not free animals. And as long as they are not freely giving their eggs, we are exploiting them. And that is not ethical, moral, or vegan.

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Is Tithing Really Biblical?

Is tithing really Biblical? Do Christians have to tithe in order to make God happy? Continuing my series about how Christianity puts people into bondage, I want to address yet another obligation that the institutional church puts on believers: the tithe.

Let’s start with a quick quiz. True or false: a follower of Jesus is obligated to live out the Old Testament Law. If you’ve been paying attention at your religious meetings – and have a leader who is not totally deceived – you should be able to immediately respond with a resounding, “No!”

The New Testament is filled with verses that declare we are no longer under the Law. Galatians 2:16: “…a man is not justified by works of the Law but by faith in Jesus Christ…”; 3:13: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law…”; 5:18: “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.”

Of course, the institutional church cannot have people thinking these verses mean just what they say. No. The Galatians’ specific issue was with Jewish believers teaching that they, even though Greek, had to be circumcised. Therefore, although Paul speaks generally about the Law most of the time in that epistle, it must be about circumcision.

But if you will take your religious glasses, throw them on the floor, and jump up and down on them until they are smashed to a million pieces, then read this verse with just your regular eyes and the brain God gave you, you can clearly see that Paul is talking about the Law in general, and in its totality.

But Paul is not Jesus, and as much as we would like to think that everything he wrote came out of God’s mouth first…well, right now, let’s just say Paul was not Jesus. It is always good to confirm something a mere mortal says by looking at what Jesus did or said.

In Matthew 5:17, He says, “I have not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it.” This is another horribly misunderstood verse, since it has been horribly misinterpreted for millenia. To interpret it correctly, you need to understand the meaning of one word in that verse: fulfill.

The Law was a list of obligations the Israelites were supposed to follow in order to live uprightly. Jesus said He fulfilled those obligations. What happens when someone fulfills an obligation for you? Let’s say you volunteer to help with dinner at the downtown soup kitchen on Thursday night. Let’s say that on Thursday morning, you wake up with a stomach bug. So you call your friend and ask if she will go to the soup kitchen that evening and work in your place. She happily agrees to do so, and does it. She fulfills your obligation.

What does that mean? Does that mean you still have to make up your service at the kitchen? Or do something for your friend in return?

Absolutely not! Since she fulfilled what had been your obligation, you no longer have to do anything about it. By coming to earth as a human being, Jesus fulfilled all the obligations that the Law had burdened us with. Every last one. That includes the obligation to tithe.

Let’s go a little deeper. Jesus did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. He did not give license for believers to murder, commit adultery, steal and be stingy. No! He did not destroy the Law, but He brought with Him a way to write the Law on our hearts (the Holy Spirit) so that as we draw close to Him we want to do what is right, which leads to the ability to walk more and more in love with each passing day.

Love! Ooo, let me park there for a moment. When Jesus was asked in Matthew 22, which was the greatest commandment, what was Jesus’ answer? To keep the Sabbath? To tithe? To not commit murder? No, He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God….You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, that love could only be expressed through following the Law, because the Holy Spirit had not yet been given. But now, that love fills the hearts of everyone who desires to follow Jesus and have a relationship with the Father. And when we love, we will give.

Ancient tithing

In the Old Testament, God commanded that people bring before Him as an act of worship a tenth of their harvest and livestock. There could be several reasons for this, one of which being that God knows that giving people will find loving their neighbor much easier to do. Another reason is that when you give to someone, you are more likely to set your hearts upon them.

Again, with the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us today, we do not need to follow a religious rule in order to love God and our neighbor. In addition, if you go through the verses about tithing (there are fewer than you may have been led to believe!), you will see several where Father is instructing His children on where to EAT their tithe! That’s right – under the Law, the people didn’t just dump a tenth of their abundance in some storage shed somewhere and let it rot (or let the priests use it all). Apparently, God is not into wasting food. But He did want the tithe of the food the people had raised to be eaten in a way that was mindful of Him and His goodness (see Deuteronomy 12:17).

“What about Malachi?”

If you are like me, you have heard a thousand sermons – in my case, it was almost every Sunday morning for ten years, because the charismatic club that I belonged to always had a giving sermon before the regular sermon – preached about tithing from the book of Malachi. The gist of these sermons go, “If you do not tithe, you are robbing God and the devil will get you.”

First of all, keep in mind that when Malachi prophesied Jesus had not yet come to fulfill the Law. The Israelites then were required to tithe; we are under no such requirement today. Second, remember also what the Israelites tithed, and what ultimately happened to their tithes. They tithed food, and the tithers themselves eventually consumed it!

But you will never hear that preached from a modern-day religious institution. Rather, you will hear that you must tithe to your “local house” (of worship), and the leaders of that club will use it however they see fit – typically to pay the rent or mortgage and utility bills, and pay the institutional staff. The tithers themselves never see a dime of what they have given again.

“How much, and where, should I give?”

Believers who finally realize that they are not obligated to attend a Sunday morning club or submit to an institutional hierarchy inevitably start asking the question, “Where do I give now?”, and, “Do I still have to give ten percent?”

Let me address the second question first, as it seems to be the stickier issue. Knowing that you are not under the Law, you should know that you don’t have to give anything. On the other hand, as I stated earlier, giving people tend to be more loving because you can’t be generous and self-centered at the same time. In fact, I could even reasonably argue that anyone who is serious about growing to be more like Jesus will discipline themselves to give simply because of the effect the action has on the human heart.

But do you have to give every time you get paid, as some religious institutions teach? And does it always have to be money? What about the percent question? Generally speaking, believers who have opted to leave religious institutions (and there are many more than you are aware of) find themselves giving more than ten percent of their income. Remember, however, you don’t have to be religious about this, arbitrarily looking for individuals or organizations to give to every week or every month, and keeping track of every dollar you give.

In addition, there are some circumstances where giving ten percent of one’s income would not be the best option. What about a single mother of three who brings home $2,000 a month, and her basic bills come to $1,990 per month? To ask her to tithe on her income would be cruel, both to her and her children! She could go ahead and give the last ten dollars, or she might volunteer a few hours a week tutoring inner-city children or helping neighbors with their landscaping or gardening.

I once read a story in a personal finance book that, at the time, made me angry at first. I was still attending a Sunday morning club where I was beat over the head every week that not to tithe was to rob God and loose a hoard of demons over your life. But after getting over my anger, it made me think.

The author was a financial planner who had advised a client to stop tithing for a couple of years. The reason was that the client had on his heart to set up some sort of charitable fund, but he couldn’t set aside money for it and tithe to his local religious institution, too. The client took the planner’s advice, and a couple of years later had so much money in the fund that he was able to start giving out of it much more than he could tithe from his take-home pay.

It was a wake-up call for me, and I think probably the first time I questioned the obligation to tithe, although it would be years later before I finally stopped. The New Testament requirements on giving are simple: give according to what you have purposed in  your heart, and with a cheerful attitude (2 Corinthians 9:7).

The question of where to give is much simpler to address. Find a need, and fill it (Ephesians 4:28)! If you need a tax deduction, give to your favorite charities. If you don’t, buy groceries for a neighbor or friend who is struggling financially. Send money to a down-and-out relative (who you know will be responsible with it!).

My favorite thing about no longer tithing to an institution is that I no longer have to consult with my budget to see if I can afford to give to that organization I like that just sent me a request for funds in the mail, or to help a friend or family member who has a serious financial need. I feel like my money is going to much more needful places than paying utilities for a building, and giving has finally become the fulfilling activity that it is meant to be!

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Are seeds good or bad? Are the omega-6 essential fatty acids in seeds a heart attack waiting to happen?I’m talking here about the seeds that are harvested from flowers or fruits, such as sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds, rather than grains which are the seeds of various grasses. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty, or should I say, crispy-crunchy.

A while back, I made a very brief visit into the Paleo world. While I was there, I heard a disturbing fact: seeds are high in the omega-6 fatty acids, and therefore should be avoided at all costs. I was disturbed because I had been eating seeds, mainly sunflower and pumpkin, for years because they are and inexpensive food compared to the nutrition and calories they provide. But heaven forbid I whack out the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in my body, so I obediently cut seeds out of my diet.

Even when I ditched the Paleo diet, the words of warning against seed consumption continued to nag at the back of my mind, and so I continued eating  other foods, such as nuts and raw milk, instead. Long story short, after doing this for a couple of years I discovered that my iron-deficiency anemia (which, by the way, I was diagnosed with after I’d been on a Paleo diet for several months) had become even worse. Throwing caution to the wind, I added seeds back into my diet, and what do you know? My iron levels went back up.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. First, let me elaborate on the popular idea that seeds are unhealthy. It’s not only the meat-eating Paleos that spread it, but also some parts of the vegan community as well, particularly the high-carb, low-fat part. For them, the emphasis is less on the omega-6 content and more on the fact that seeds are a fatty food, period, and are thus to be consumed in very small amounts, if at all.

What nobody is saying, however, is that when you soak seeds for at least twelve hours – eighteen is even better – the fat content is reduced by around 30%. In other words, a fourth cup of sunflower seeds, when soaked for 24 hours, no longer contains 17 grams of protein per serving, but a third less than that, something between 11 and 12 grams per serving. Of course, the calories come down a corresponding amount, as well.

Not only that, but much of the omega-6 fatty acid converts to omega-3 fatty acid. This all happens because when you soak a seed that long, it begins the germination process, and when a seed begins to germinate the fats break down into healthier substances and the proteins begin to break down into more digestible forms.

With the understanding that sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds are perfectly safe to eat when they have been soaked for at least twelve hours, and that a truly healthy diet is going to have no more than about 30% of its calories coming from any kind of fat, let’s look at five reasons to include these seeds in your diet.

First reason:

Soaked seeds are much healthier than whole grains for those of us who are sensitive to whole grains. They do not contain the digestive tract irritants found in the germ and bran of whole grains, and so don’t cause bloating and gas.

Second reason:

Seeds, even in their unsprouted form, are highly nutritious. Think about it: they contain everything needed to grow a large plant. A fourth cup of unsprouted raw sunflower seeds contains about 55% of the daily value of thiamin, 14% of B6, over 90% of vitamin E, over 20% of folate, almost 14% of iron for women and 30% for men, 32% of magnesium, 36% of manganese, and over 30% of zinc. Pumpkin seeds have twice as much iron, and more of both magnesium and manganese. It also contains 22% of vitamin K, a vitamin most often associated with greens. Sesame seeds have a similar nutritional profile as the other two seeds, but with much more calcium – a whopping 35% for a fourth cup. That’s more calcium than what you get in a cup of milk!

Now, keep in mind these numbers are for seeds that are in their raw, unsprouted form. It’s common knowledge that the process of soaking seeds increases the quantity of many of the vitamins, especially the B vitamins.

Third reason:

Eating seeds for your daily mineral supply is much cheaper, not to mention much easier, than eating enough greens to get your minerals. This is especially good news for raw food vegans, who generally do not consume grains. Strict low-fat raw food vegans rely solely on greens to obtain their minerals. That sounds like the natural and healthy way to go, but did you realize that this translates to ten to fifteen cups of raw dark, leafy greens every single day? Unless you have a huge garden, indoors and out, this kind of diet is beyond the average family’s budget. Not to mention the amount of time it takes to properly chew that amount of greens.

A fourth cup of sprouted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds is easily incorporated either into a salad or a smoothie, and soaked sesame seeds are good blended with bananas and/or mangos. They will only cost you something between fifteen and thirty cents per fourth cup of dry seeds, and take no extra time and energy to consume.

Fourth reason:

Seeds boast a healthy amino acid profile. Pumpkin seeds are especially high in amino acids. A mix of any of these three seeds every day, and you will get plenty of protein.

Fifth reason:

Seeds are easy to store. Greens need to be either refrigerated or frozen. Until you decide to soak and sprout them, seeds can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container. Even after you soak and sprout them, if you own a dehydrator you can always dehydrate them so that you can again store them at room temperature. I don’t recommend you do this for all the seeds you eat, however, because some nutrition will be lost during the dehydration process.

Bottom line: it’s time to stop being afraid of seeds because of their overall fat content, and specifically their omega-6 fatty acid content. Soak them for over twelve hours, and as long as you keep your daily total fat intake to below 30% of the calories you consume, they will serve as a healthy, nutritious, and economical part of your vegan diet.


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