Food and Religion
So, what I was trying to say was that I was busy with priorities other than writing for the last few weeks. While I was on vacation I left my laptop at home, in order to insure that I focused on life experience. One important thing to remember as a writer is to have some life experience in order to write about life experience. It could become too easy to create situations artificially in order to live a scripted experience in order to write about it. Of course I know that the bloggers that I know would never do that. However, I have heard stories that these people do exist.
While I drive my number one priority is to pay attention to the road and traffic around me. But, my next priority is to listen to the radio and learn what the community is saying. While I was listening to the radio I heard a couple of interesting stories about food and religion that oddly enough seem to intersect in a strange way.
The food stories tended to be about how American’s have so much food that the food producers have invented ways to make people buy their cheap food. They make sugar and sweeteners out of corn (high fructose corn syrup) at one forth the cost of other sweeteners. America produces more than 4000 calories of food per person per day, and we only need 2000 or less for a healthy diet. The producers however would like us to buy that extra 2000 calories as well.
Well, the food industry has no self interest in limiting America’s consumption of food. The free market demands reward for consumption. But, massive consumption of food is not in the best interest of society, mainly because of health issues. Market forces may create efficient economics, but unfortunately the assumption is that society wins if every person has more. Market forces have no limits, and if everyone has more than they need, then there is no way to protect society from over-consumption.
If we look at the health side of the equation, maybe there is a way that market forces could regulate the ills of society. Over-consumption of food results in obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes to name a few issues. Over-consumption of food results in more business for the health industry. The health industry sells more drugs and procedures to aid in lowering cholesterol, controlling blood sugar, and reducing weight. The bigger the over-consumption problem, the more money the health industry pulls down. And, in addition to the official health industry there are many people who profit from this issue by selling diet books, and alternative medicines. And, the information in these diet books is recycled back into the food market in order to sell more food.
The conclusion is that everyone knows that they should eat less and healthier food, and exercise more. But, from all of the marketing in our society all we see is buy more unhealthy food because it will make us happy. The health industry tells us that we can’t possible succeed in this futile effort, so we need to buy drugs and diet aids to help us overcome our shortcomings as humans.
Well, oddly enough, some religions offer similar messages. Religions seem to be divided into two broad groups. All religions tend to claim to have some insight into the big picture and offer us understanding of our purpose here on Earth. One group claims to have exclusive authority and demand that everyone needs to adhere to those beliefs in order to find the answers. The other group believes that there are universal values such as love and compassion that are needed to obtain these answers and are willing to accept a wide variety of religions that share these common values.
These two groups tend to have different approaches in the religious market place. The first group believes that the same marketing strategy offered by the food producers is the key. More of my religion is good less of other religions is good. Glitzy marketing campaigns and propaganda are the key to building the world in this vision. Telling people to buy religious books, icons, and philosophies are the key to making one religion dominant and therefore the winning religion.
The second group is different than the first group in that the final outcome is a world where certain religious values are the goals. If religions preach about love and compassion then a world with more love and compassion will result. It doesn’t matter if Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha tell us the importance of this love and compassion. The benefit of more love and compassion benefits society, even if it doesn’t benefit one particular religion. And, that is how these two things, food and religion, are so similar.
If we leave religion to market forces, then the religion that advertises the most becomes the more dominate religion. It doesn’t matter much about how much love and compassion they intend to inject into our society. So, this massive marketing of religion hurts the quality of the religion that we are offered. Similarly, if we leave food to the market forces, then the more food we consume the better the food producers make out. It doesn’t matter whether maximum food consumption is good for our society. Maximum food consumption hurts our society through it cost in our health care system. And, it even hurts our society in the quality of the food we get.
Quality was once believed to be driven by market forces. But, as Bill Gates showed us, marketing can overcome defects in quality. And, the food industry is no exception. Cherries, apples, tomatoes, and strawberries have all been bread to be massively produced without regard for flavor. The consumer had little choice in this evolution, because of the cost differences of massively produced varieties as compared to the flavorful but delicate varieties. So, what is the real quality we look for in food? Is it the flavor, or the convenience? What do we lose in this market driven model?
Similarly, the quality in religion has been replaced with the ability to have quick answers without contemplation. There are Bibles with answers to commonly asked questions written in alternate colored text. Does this enhance the religious experience, or does it take the work of contemplation out of the equation? Do these religions give us the values in the end, or do they give us a list of rules that are derived from someone’s values that were created long ago in the context of a different world? What do we lose in this conversion?
So, in the end the way our food has evolved and the way our religions have evolved we are losing the essence, purpose, flavor, meaning and details that make our experiences special.
Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."
Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit