What is a religion?
Simply put a religion is a belief system. In a belief system, hard fact often makes no difference. A belief system is a deeply personal affair. The person who holds the belief has made it a part of their identity and therefore can not afford to be shaken by any fact that might jeopardize themselves. They take any attack or denial of their beliefs, indeed any refusal to adopt and share their beliefs as an assault on their very essence.
A religion is popular to the extent that it gives the person adopting it the absolute position of moral certainty and justifies their behaviour. To anyone searching for meaning, a religion is a safe harbour and an anchor. Once adopted it offers a structure around which to build one's way of life, complete with safe limits and boundaries - anyone sharing the belief system is a safe person, while anyone who is not part of the religion is unsafe. The approach to the unsafe person is to first treat them as uniformed, so an attempt at conversion is often made. If the information does not bring them into alignment, they are then treated as not only unsafe but also undesirable - a person to be pitied for their misguided beliefs or to be shunned, lest one be contaminated by their undesirable beliefs.
Briefly a religion contains these components :
1. It is adopted at a deeply personal level.
2 It frees the person from having to make their own decisions.
3. It provides a structure, a way of life.
4. It provides safety from outsiders.
5. It gives one a moral high ground - others are to be converted, pitied or shunned.
6. It allows the person to not listen to any evidence against it.
7. It creates a division within the society - an us and them.
Why does Veganism present as a religion?
First let me state that I have no personal objection to someone choosing to vegan. It is a personal decision and as a personal decision is no one else's business, nor should it be. When it becomes a movement, which disallows other people their right to make other choices or abuses them for doing so, it is no longer simply a personal decision. Throughout history, much devastation has occurred because of one group attacking another group, simply because of those people holding a different belief system.
Using the components identified above, let us look at veganism:
1. It is on one level a personal conviction - to eat meat or not, yet it is an emotional and not a well thought out one.
2. By being a vegan, there are expectations, support and norms set out for one.
3. There is a structure implicit in the movement, which gives limits to what its adherents can accept and allow themselves to do.
4. If you see some of the statements toward non-vegans posted on social media, they are aggressive. Vegans find safety within their own membership, much like religious adherents. They seem almost comfort in being misunderstood - almost like martyrs.
5. Vegans see themselves as saving the environment and as the future of humanity - a moral high ground.
6. Vegans will brook no interruption to the belief in their moral superiority over meat eaters, despite any evidence to the contrary.
7. The adversarial and combative nature of the Vegan Movement against anyone who eats meat is creating an increasing divide within society.
The following article is well written and points out in detail, some of the issues www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-08/why-vegan-diets-suck#page-5.
If someone can not listen to reasonable argumentation - the fact that type O blood types need to eat red meat, for example or the fact that it is corporations driving the deforestation of the rain forest and promoting the "over consumption" of meat to their own profit - in my mind, something is wrong. Making choices about one's nutrition is important these days but making informed and wise choices individually is even more important. If you are confident in those choices, why would you not be able to allow someone else to make other choices? That is the salient question that one needs to ask Vegans.
Veganism is about conformity - it is about using guilt, shame and fear to aggressively enforce that conformity That is something that religion became very adept at doing and was very successful for a long time. Now those tactics are being tried by the Vegans.
That is worrisome and bears watching.