Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion
Book One - The Church of the Conquerors
In the days when I was experimenting with vegetarianism, I sought earnestly for evidence of a non-meat-eating race; but candor compelled me to admit that man was like the monkey and the pig and the bear - he was vegetarian when he could not help it. The advocates of the reform insist that meat as a diet causes muddy brains and dulled nerves; but you would certainly never suspect this from a study of history. What you find in history is that all men crave meat, all struggle for it, and the strongest and cleverest get it. Everywhere you find the subject classes living in the midst of animals which they tend, but whose flesh they rarely taste. Even in modern America, sweet land of liberty, our millions of tenant farmers raise chickens and geese and turkeys, and hardly venture to consume as much as an egg, but save everything for the summer-boarder or the buyer from the city. It would not be too much to say of the cultural records of early man that they all have to do, directly or indirectly, with the reserving of fresh meat to the masters. In J.T. Trowbridge's cheerful tale of the adventures of Captain Seaborn, we are told by the cannibal priest how idol-worship has ameliorated the morals of the tribe -
For though some warriors of renown
I suspect that we should have to go back to the days of the cave-man to find the first lover of the flesh-pots who put a taboo upon meat, and promised supernatural favors to all who would exercise self-control, and instead of consuming their meat themselves, would bring it and lay it upon the sacred griddle, or altar, where the god might come in the night-time and partake of it. Certainly, at any rate, there are few religions of record in which such devices do not appear. The early laws of the Hebrews are more concerned with delicatessen for the priests than with any other subject whatever. Here, for example, is the way to make a Nazarite:
He shall offer his offering up to the Lord, one he lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering, and one ram without blemish for peace offerings, and a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat offerings.
And the law goes on to instruct the priests to take certain choice parts and "wave them for a wave offering before the Lord: this is holy for the priest." What was done with the other portions we are not told; but earlier in this same "Book of Numbers" we 'find the general law that
Every offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they bring unto the priest, shall be his. And every man's hallowed things shall be his: whatsoever any man giveth to the priest, it shall be his.
In the same way we are told by Viscount Amberley that the priests of Ceylon first present the gifts to the god, and then eat them. Among the Parsees, when a man dies, the relatives must bring four new robes to the priests; if they do this, the priests wear the robes; if they fail to do it, the dead man appears naked before the judgment-throne. The devotees are instructed that "he who performs this rite succeeds in both worlds, and obtains a firm footing in both worlds." Among the Buddhists, the followers give alms to the monks, and are told specifically what advantages will thereby accrue to them. In the Aitareyo Brahmanam of the Rig-Veda we read
He who, knowing this, sacrifices according to this rite, is born from the womb of Agni and the offerings, participates in the nature of the Rik, Yajus, and Saman, the Veda (sacred knowledge), the Brahma (sacred element) and immortality, and is absorbed into the deity.
Among the Parsees the priest eats the bread and drinks the hoama, or juice of a plant, considered to be both a plant and a god. Among the Episcopalians, a contemporary Christian sect, the sacred juice is that of the grape, and the priest is not allowed to throw away what is left of it, but is ordered "reverently to consume it." In as much as the priest is the sole judge of how much good sherry wine he shall consecrate previous to the ceremony, it is to be expected that the priests of this cult should be lukewarm towards the prohibition movement, and should piously refuse to administer their sacrament with unfermented and uninteresting grape-juice.
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