Religion Roundtable: Are ancient dietary restrictions relevant in the modern world?
Jul 12, 2013 | 2931 views |  0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Religious traditions may be rooted in practicality


Ancient dietary restrictions are indeed relevant to those whose faith traditions encourage or require them. While many Christian traditions do not have any dietary restrictions (just drop in on any covered-dish, pot-luck, finger-food fellowship and you’ll see what I mean!), they do involve other ancient practices like prayer, the singing of psalms and hymns and fasting — which I would argue is a dietary restriction in its own way.

Dietary restrictions may have very practical roots. Think about it, if you were alive in the Ancient Near East — without our modern, biological understanding— would you want to eat the flesh of an animal that wallows in its own filth, or eat creatures from the water that look like giant insects? My guess is you would not.

These dietary restrictions may have initially been put in place as a sort of protection from potentially harmful foods — eating a kosher diet today can be quite healthy, in fact. Over time, the restrictions became religious law and practice — one abstains from certain foods out of observance of religious law and devotion.

While those of us without such dietary restrictions may scratch our heads a bit at religious traditions that require such restrictions, we ought to keep in mind that some of our own practices may seem a bit ancient and irrelevant in the eyes of others as well.

Chris Thomas, First Baptist Church of Williams

The wisdom of God needs no modern update

The divine scriptures like the Bible and the Quran both agree on certain dietary restrictions, mainly pork and intoxicants. If the divine scriptures command us, we just accept it — no matter how old or ancient the commandment.

God is all knowing and does not need to update his knowledge. If the scripture says that pigs or intoxicants are restricted food, our faith requires that we follow it. This is one of many areas in which Quran and the Old Testament support each other as the Quran says, “He hath forbidden for you only carrion and blood and swine flesh and that which hath been immolated in the name of any other than God,” (16:114) and “O you who believe! Wine, gambling, altars and divining arrows are filth, made up by Satan, therefore, refrain from it” (5:89).

Modern science proves that dietary restrictions of the scriptures are scientifically valid and relevant in today’s time. Scriptures are the word of God and science is the work of God, so they can not contradict. We are aware of the medical and social harms of eating swine flesh and using alcohol. Christian minister Joel Osteen, the most watched inspirational figure in America combining the religious and scientific aspects, says that scripture has forbidden pork because it is medically and scientifically harmful to our bodies. 

Muhammad Haq, Anniston Islamic Center

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