Eden’s Diet

Christianity and Vegetarianism

Authored by: Samantha Jane Calvert

The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Animal Ethics

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138592728
eBook ISBN: 9780429489846
Adobe ISBN:


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Vegetarianism as a spiritual choice is most often associated with Eastern religions or perhaps with the asceticism of the Early ChurCh. Modern Christianity is perceived to have left these traditions behind and the mainstream churches have little to say on the subject of a flesh-free diet. Today the practice of fasting and the Lenten observance of a meat-free diet have been lost to such an extent that many of these traditions are only observed amongst religious orders or by lay people attending spiritual retreats. However, there is a long standing tradition of vegetarianism in the history of Christianity. My research considers the relationship between modern Christian vegetarian sects and the secular vegetarian movement. This paper will discusses a range of Christian vegetarian groups and considers how and why modern Christian vegetarianism developed in the nineteenth century among a radical artisan constituency and to what extent these groups influenced the secular vegetarian movement and wider society. As well as reviewing the development of Christian vegetarian groups over the last two centuries this paper will also consider why Christian vegetarianism did not take root in the mainstream churches and did not mirror the relative success of the temperance movement among the mainstream churches. Finally, it will ask what the future might hold for the vegetarian movement among the mainstream churches.

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