Do any major religions promote or require a vegetarian diet? If so, what is the reason for this?

14 Answers 14

up vote 25 down vote accepted

Jainism:

Jainism preaches vegetarianism and Jains follow an almost-vegan diet (but eat yogurt and curd cheese). Jain monks leave the rest of the food if they see a strand of hair in their plate feeling the meal is contaminated. The reason behind this is the tenet of non-violence.

Buddhism:

Some schools of Buddhism follow vegetarianism and some schools do not.

From Wikipedia:

According to the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, a Mahayana sutra purporting to give Gautama Buddha's final teachings, the Buddha insisted that his followers should not eat any kind of meat or fish, even those not included in the 10 types, and that even vegetarian food that has been touched by meat should be washed before being eaten. Also, it is not permissible for the monk or nun just to pick out the non-meat portions of a diet and leave the rest: the whole meal must be rejected.

Hinduism:

TL;DR: Doesn't prohibit but advises practising vegetarianism and non-violence.

Hinduism prohibits consuming meat and advises some sort of diet at different stages of life. It prohibits intake of meat and some diets which increase anger and bodily laziness for students and persons in the teaching field. This includes, for example: stale food, spicy food, etc
But these foods are not prohibited for communities who are engaged in occupations which involve physical work.

Eating beef is considered a sin. The cow is considered to be a holy animal by followers and is worshipped.

Christianity:

Christianity does not put restrictions on consuming meat and vegetarianism. Jesus himself ate fish and meat (including lamb). Jews are meat eaters and Jesus Christ is believed to have followed the contemporary Jewish practices. But Jews do not eat certain animals which are considered unclean, including pigs. Source

Islam:

There is no restriction on meat. In fact the founder of this religion followed non-vegetarian lifestyle and instructed his followers to do the same.

However, any meat that is eaten must conform to the principles of Halal. Disobeying of that law is Haram. Muslims also consider the following meat haram

  • Dead meat, i.e. carrion
  • Blood
  • Flesh of swine (pork, etc.)
  • Meat on which the name of any thing, person or deity is invoked other than the name of Allah. Alcohol is also prohibited in Islam.

  • if it is killed by strangling.

  • if it is killed by a violent blow.
  • if it is killed by a headlong fall.
  • if it is killed by being gored to death.
  • if it is killed after being partly eaten by another animal.
  • if it is killed by sacrifice on a stone altar, as a part of an idolatrous rite.

“O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, idolatry, and divining arrows are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. So avoid that so that you may be successful. Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist?” (Verses 90 and 91 of Surat Surat Al-Ma’idah).

Source

  • Isn't there a restriction on meat of certain animals? – GameDeveloper Feb 1 '17 at 3:27
  • @DariOO in which religion? If I am not clear, point those. – Nog Shine Feb 1 '17 at 3:29
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    @SreeCharan It didn't offend me, and I can't speak for others. However, it is just not common practice on SE to add such remarks to answers. What would you think, if that was stated at the end of every answer? Also, this remark is already given when downvoting an answer in a red pop-up. It is just an unnecessary statement. – wythagoras Feb 1 '17 at 17:34
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    @SS. I know I just thought because this was the top post which encompassed all major religions it was worth noting. – beckah Mar 1 '17 at 14:45
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    Just as a note, I've known a few Muslims who just end up eating veg because they can't be sure whether the meat is haram. – Azor Ahai Aug 10 '17 at 20:24

Not a religion, but a philosophy, the Taoist

I didn't know until today when I got this answer Reasons for being vegetarian or vegan other than ethical reasons?

As stated in Wikipedia

Taoist religious orders and literatures often encourage practitioners to be vegan to minimize harms, because all life forms are considered sentient. Taoist levels of dietary restriction, however, are varied

Vegetarianism and religion are strongly linked in a number of religions that originated in ancient India (Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism). In Jainism vegetarianism is mandatory for everyone, in Hinduism and Buddhism it is advocated by some influential scriptures and religion authorities. Comparatively, within the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) vegetarian diet is not promoted by mainstream authorities. In Christianity, however, there are minority groups promoting vegetarianism on religious grounds. -- Vegetarianism and Religion

As an aside, Jains don't eat anything that grows underground, including carrots, potatoes, garlic. It must be a tricky diet.

One Christian denomination that promotes vegetarianism is the Seventh-Day Adventist church. According to the LA Times, studies have found that Seventh-Day Adventists live up to ten years longer on average, due in part to their adherence to a vegetarian diet.

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    The premise of Seven Day Adventists branch of Christianity, is to live with the same values as if living in the Garden of Eden, where all creatures lived in harmony. news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2014-07-14/… Genesis 1:29 says, ‘...I give you every seed-bearing plant, every tree which bears fruit; this shall be your food.’ – M.Mat Apr 4 at 0:36

Jains are vegetarian. Their diet also excludes various vegetables such as potatoes, eggplants (aubergines), onions and garlic. Some Jains also exclude all root vegetables from their diet.

They are not generally vegan however

Jains eat cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products, rice, bread, lentils and most vegetables and fruit that do not fall into the categories mentioned above.

  • Interesting info from a food show on TV : Jains do not eating Onions and garlic because they both increase your libido. – Vikram Aug 28 '17 at 8:21

Disclosure: I am a Hindu (Brahmin)

Yes, I think that my religion helped guide me towards becoming a Vegetarian. I was taught to be kind with animals and behave gently with them.

But, on the other hand, there are other reasons why we should be vegetarian: self control, thought process, nullifying our anger. These things depend on the food we consume.

These are the things I came to know from a religious point of view.

I have also read that eating red meat causes different diseases. These things were taught by Hindu ancestors (monks) more than 1000 years ago but they were taught from religious point of view and were not (at the time) proven scientifically. As a rule we people follow this.

Lent

Christians are not typically required to practice vegetarianism, as mentioned in SS.'s answer

However, some Christians do practice temporary vegetarianism during Lent, the period of ~40 days between Shrove Tuesday (pancake day) and Easter Sunday. During this period, Jesus is believed to have fasted in the desert and been tempted by the Devil. Many Christians choose to give up a luxury during Lent, but some follow a vegetarian or even vegan diet

Throughout Christendom, some adherents mark the season with the traditional abstention from the consumption of meat, most notably among Roman Catholics.

...

Those using the Alexandrian Rite, i.e., the Coptic Orthodox, Coptic Catholic, Ethiopian Orthodox, Ethopian Catholic, Eritrean Orthodox, and Eritrean Catholic Churches, observe eight weeks of Lent, which, with both Saturdays and Sunday mornings exempt, has forty days of fasting. Fast generally implies one meal a day to be taken either in the evening or after 2.45 p.m. with total abstention from meat, fats, eggs and dairy products. Instead they use cereals, vegetables and other type of food devoid of fats.

Polish friends and acquaintances have told me that many Polish Christians abstain from meat, dairy products and eggs during Lent.

While it is not a requirement, many Jews find that vegetarianism fits well within their religion.

Judaism has a variety of dietary laws (kashrut) that lend themselves to occasional vegetarianism. In addition to not being allowed to eat specific animals at all (most famously pigs, but also shellfish, birds of prey, etc.), restrictions on mixing meat and dairy result in at least some meat-free meals.

But that's just the direct law about food consumption. The broader body of Jewish philosophy lends itself to vegetarianism in some ways, including:

  • ethical considerations (the mitzvah to not cause pain to living creatures, tsa'ar ba'alei chayim)
  • reduction in wasted resources (bal tashchit prohibits waste, and an omnivorous diet requires more land, water, and energy)
  • environmental considerations (tikkun olam, "healing the world")
  • maintaining personal health (venishmartem me'od lenafshoteichem)
  • There are also related African religions, such as the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, that are strictly vegan. – AE Grey Apr 10 at 2:34

Though it is not accepted by most, there is some evidence that hints Jesus Christ to be a vegetarian and a fighter for animal rights.

The Gospel of Ebionites is one of the few Gospels that are not part of the modern day Bible.The Gospel was followed by the Early Judeo-Christian group the Ebionites, who claimed this particular text to be the original Gospel of Matthew and accused St.Paul to have corrupted the Bible. The Ebionites, however, did not believe Jesus to be the son of God (Ebionites reject the concept of Holy Trinity) or a divine figure. Instead, they regarded Jesus to be the Messiah. This is what Wikipedia says about it:

The Gospel of the Ebionites is the conventional name given by scholars to an apocryphal gospel extant only as seven brief quotations in a heresiology known as the Panarion, by Epiphanius of Salamis;he misidentified it as the "Hebrew" gospel, believing it to be a truncated and modified version of the Gospel of Matthew. The quotations were embedded in a polemic to point out inconsistencies in the beliefs and practices of a Jewish Christian sect known as the Ebionites relative to Nicene orthodoxy.

The surviving fragments derive from a gospel harmony of the Synoptic Gospels, composed in Greek with various expansions and abridgments reflecting the theology of the writer. Distinctive features include the absence of the virgin birth and of the genealogy of Jesus; an Adoptionist Christology, in which Jesus is chosen to be God's Son at the time of his Baptism; the abolition of the Jewish sacrifices by Jesus; and an advocacy of vegetarianism.It is believed to have been composed some time during the middle of the 2nd century in or around the region east of the Jordan River. Although the gospel was said to be used by "Ebionites" during the time of the early church, the identity of the group or groups that used it remains a matter of conjecture.

And this is what the Wikipedia article on Ebionites say:

Ebionites (Greek: Ἐβιωναῖοι Ebionaioi, derived from Hebrew אביונים ebyonim, ebionim, meaning "the poor" or "poor ones"), is a patristic term referring to a Jewish Christian movement that existed during the early centuries of the Christian Era. They regarded Jesus of Nazareth as a prophet while rejecting his divinity, his virgin birth, and insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law and rites. They used only one of the Jewish–Christian gospels, the hebrew book of Matthew starting at chapter 3, revered James the brother of Jesus (James the Just), and rejected Paul the Apostle as an apostate from the Law. Their name suggests that they placed a special value on voluntary poverty. Ebionim was one of the terms used by the sect at Qumran that sought to separate themselves from the corruption of the Temple. Many believe that they were Essenes.


Yet some Church Fathers describe some Ebionites as departing from traditional Jewish principles of faith and practice. For example, Epiphanius of Salamis stated that the Ebionites engaged in excessive ritual bathing,possessed an angelology which claimed that the Christ is a great archangel who was incarnated in Jesus and adopted as the son of God, opposed animal sacrifice, denying parts or most of the Law, and practiced Jewish vegetarianism, and celebrated a commemorative meal annually, on or around Passover, with unleavened bread and water only, in contrast to the daily Christian Eucharist.


In the Gospel of the Ebionites, as quoted by Epiphanius, John the Baptist and Jesus are portrayed as vegetarians. Epiphanius states that the Ebionites had amended "locusts" (Greek akris) to "honey cake" (Greek ekris). This emendation is not found in any other New Testament manuscript or translation, though a different vegetarian reading is found in a late Slavonic version of Josephus' War of the Jews.Pines (1966) and others propose on the contrary that the Ebionites were projecting their own vegetarianism onto John the Baptist.

As you can see above, Ebionites were strictly vegetarians, opposed animal sacrifice and believed Jesus Christ to be an advocate of animal rights.

The Gospel of Ebionites has seven surviving fragments. I will quote the ones that show Christ to be a vegetarian and an advocate of animal rights:

[Jesus said] "I am come to abolish the sacrifices: if ye cease not from sacrificing, the wrath (of God) will not cease from weighing upon you."


[The disciples said,] "Where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the Passover?" To which He replied: "I have no desire to eat the flesh of this Paschal Lamb with you."


You can read the remaining fragments here.

Note: I am not talking about other religions since my friend Nog Shine has written a comprehensive answer. So consider my answer as a partial answer.

Well, it's not a religion, but Maum meditation provides self-balancing food, that is basically dried vegetable powder. They do not force you to eat it, but they promote its usage. I don't know if it is sold to regular people or only to members. I once tried to search for it, and found a youtube video on the subject, but no reseller so far (or no resellers on internet!).

Vaisnava religion is a Vedanta tradition in India, in which animal killing for food is considered a sin. Although in the Vedas, animals are allowed to be killed in certain ritualistic contexts, the Vedas fundamentally teach that killing for food is prohibited. The reason is that humans are considered to have a more developed understanding of consciousness. Vedas teach that consciousness is different from the body altogether and is considered a vehicle. Although the bodies of the living entities are different, the souls inhabiting bodies are of the same qualitative nature, as a spark of spirit.

Although the soul cannot be destroyed, as it is not a product of material nature, still destroying another living entity's body without a just cause is an act of inconvenience for those souls who must develop their consciousness in a particular given lifetime. Killing disrupts the natural sequence of transmigration and the offender must pay for the karma in a future lifetime.

Vedas considered meat eating practices to be an act of the uncivilized, since the cow which gives milk is recognized socially as a "mother of human society". It is considered very cruel to take milk from an animal to kill it at a later time. Thus Yoga societies have based religiosity on the principle of ahimsa or non violence, but more specifically nati-himsa, which means no violence as far as humanly possible.

According to the Bible, Adam and Eve and perhaps even all animals were vegetarians until after the flood.

Isaiah stated that in the messianic era the wolf will live with the lamb, indicating that the messianic era will be vegetarian as well.

You can find more information about Jewish vegetarianism in Wikipedia.

  • Interesting, but what are the implications for people here and now? This information seems to belong to a different question imho... – Zanna Aug 10 '17 at 11:06

Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic monastics abstain from meat year-round, and many abstain from dairy and seafood as well. Through obedience to the Orthodox Church and its ascetic practices. Their tradition is rooted with the popularity of ascetism with ancient Greek philosophers which was passed on to the newly formed Christian sect.

Sikhism

Not all Sikhs are baptised/initiated but once they are they are almost certainly vegetarian.

My source is my Sikh friend who told me that once baptised, amongst other things, one must avoid animal products. Non-baptised Sikhs often do eat meat though.

The opening line of wikipedia article on Diet in Sikhism states:

In Sikhism, only lacto-vegetarian food is served in the Gurudwara (Sikh temple) and Sikhs are meant to be primarily vegetarians.

I should probably also add that my perspective is UK-based and perhaps the Sikh community is different here, in terms of being more or less strict on different aspects.

  • Sikhs eat meat. They are not vegetarians. It is link like answer. Post relevant info from the link. – Nog Shine Feb 22 '17 at 11:23
  • Some Sikh's do, yes, but generally not once initiated. Have also added the opening line from that link to be a bit clearer. – David S Feb 22 '17 at 13:31

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