Okay, the quick research I just did is on wikipedia, which is ALWAYS suspect, so I wanted to acknowledge that from the beginning. Some of what I share here is just from memory of things I've read. I won't go back and provide sources for now, because I just want to make a quick point. I'm sure there are inaccuracies and other problems with my specifics. That's not the point of this blog, so I've decided to place a HUGE disclaimer here instead. Maybe someday I'll do a better job researching this and writing something much more substantial. For now, you get this sloppy non-academic blog entry!
Warning: I do describe methods of slaughter here, and link to the wiki articles which go into even more written detail.
In Islam and other religions, animal welfare is actually important - treating animals with compassion, not abusing them, that sort of thing. Hence, only "halal" (legal or lawful) meat is allowed (among other restrictions). The halal article on wikipedia is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halal. It is argued by some Muslim scholars that the method called Dabihah (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ḏabīḥah) is a humane way to slaughter an animal for meat. Dabihah is "cutting the large arteries in the neck along with the esophagus and trachea with one swipe of an unserrated blade." Supposedly this is relatively painless and the animal is effectively brain-dead as it bleeds to death.
Some disagree, and some studies have been done (see the links).
Hindus and Sikhs who eat meat sometimes use a method called Jhatka (also, Chatka) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jhatka), which is essentially very quickly chopping off the animal's head. Obviously that's a pretty quick death.
There is a difference, in my opinion, between what is allowed by a religion and the solution to the complications. There is a lot of respect towards the animals intended behind these rules and regulations, and much spirituality as well. I respect this.
At the same time, bleeding an animal versus decapitating it...this is a choice for an animal lover?
When we don't need to eat these animals to begin with, it seems to me the least complicated and most compassionate way to go is to stop eating them altogether.
I say this with no judgment towards meat-eaters whatsoever. What I believe is right and what I practice do not always match up. I do occasionally eat meat at restaurants or when visiting others who are doing the cooking. I've been though very tough times wherein the comfort-food qualities of meat-based dishes won out over my own personal ethical code.
And hence I write this blog entry as a musing on the issue. For many years I have wanted to become a very disciplined vegetarian, and eventually a very disciplined vegan, and have not yet arrived there.
We do our best, and that's what all of this is about.
Very few people act with outright cruelty as their intention.
I've tried to make it clear here that this is complicated, and I am merely presenting my thoughts on the matter. My hope is that my respect for you comes through.
...yes, I've been exploring Islam as a possible faith path. As I listen to lectures online for non-Muslims I find them jargonistic and I recognize that self-forced belief thing that's present in every religion.
Sometimes it seems almost OCD that people say "peace be upon him" every single time they mention the name Muhammad. It might not be, but for me, it would become that very quickly.
I'm attracted to Islam because it's a desert religion and its theology is very simple, with lots of room to move.
But no matter what, I know these things.
I won't accept OCD in my spiritual path. That means there are obstacles in Islam for me.
Five prayers a day with very specific rules, not only for the prayers, but for the washing up ahead of time.
An apparent tendency towards putting trust in conservative Muslim scholars.
The use of "fear" in relation to Allah with the immediate caveat that Allah is "merciful."
Hence, my focus has become more on Sufism, which is mystical and focuses on love. Some Sufi teachers are pretty radical.
I'm also inspired by Michael Muhammad Knight's shocked discovery, as detailed in his road-journey book "Blue Eyed Devil," that there are half-assed Muslims just like there are half-assed Catholics.
Knight is one of the 1% of Muslim converts who are white in this country. At least a couple years ago when he wrote that book. I haven't read the book...just the first chapter. It's now on my short list for reading soon.
I've got this awareness of myself, as I turn forty in a couple months, that I need to take seriously: I don't like party-line sermons. I don't like peer pressure. I need the mystical. There is no way I'd become a conservative Sunni. Even if I did become Muslim and accept the five pillars (they seem simple enough), going on the Hajj I will NOT participate in ANY WAY in the traditional animal sacrifice that takes place on that pilgrimage.
I don't think any religious scripture is literal. Even if I were to convert, there is no way I could force myself to take the Qur'an as "not to be interpreted."
The modern "conservative" take on the Sodom and Gommorah story is just as misguided as the Christian take.
I'm still a seeker, still learning, just happen to find a lot which is appealing in Islam at this moment in my life. Two most important things I know:
1. I have to be true to myself.
2. I suspect, if I did it, I would not have the support of some people who do support me now. At least not in that decision.
I have to continue trusting that God (Allah, YHWH, whatever word you want) is in some way part of what moves me. I get so angry at God so often, and that's usually when I connect him to any kind of fundamentalism or anal-retentive religiosity.
So no matter what, I must remain a free-thinker.
Feedback that one religion is "better" or "truer" or more "gay-friendly" than another will be considered irrelevant here, because it's what I DO with the religion, what I TAKE from the religion that matters. I'm a child of God, in some way, and that means I am an equal partner in the relationship. It doesn't work if both partners aren't participating in the dance. And so I trust myself, and God (that's harder than trusting myself), in whatever steps I take next. And now, I haven't quite decided what those are.
Just noticed: in my copy of the KJV bible, the Gen. story of the destruction of Sodom/Gomorrah, the commentary refers to "homosexual gang rape." Why even use the word "homosexual"?
Because it would have been gang rape of the daughters of Lot, should they have accepted the offer...they wanted the men instead.
I suppose that's why this commentary includes the word "homosexual."
I do not know Hebrew, though I do have a Torah commentary which I have not yet consulted (another note, later, perhaps), so I'll just put forth this very rough theory:
Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by a volcanic eruption. The writers of this part of what became Genesis, in their ancient Jewish method of writing history (as the history of God in his interactions with his people), included their contemporary morality in with the story-telling. Though it is not clear to me in reading this passage that homosexuality was the issue for which they attributed to God in his destruction of the cities, it is clear to me that the aggressive behavior towards Lot and his people was the reason.
It is also clear to me that, to these writers anyway, the offering of the daughters by Lot would have made it "okay" for these aggressive men to have sex with them. Is this what "honor your parents" meant at the time of the writing?
Today, as such passages are used in attempts to prove a moral position against gay people, is it not more honest to look at the passages without leaving anything out? If we are to accept the notion that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexual gang rape, then we must also accept that Lot was not punished for offering his daughters to these unfriendly citizens.
Note 1: Not addressed here are matters of different Bible translations and different interpretations of this passage. I understand that many believe the wickedness of the city to be that of inhospitality. I also understand that the men (the ones they want to rape) in question might be angels, not men. I don't address this because it would make a very long note, and I merely wanted to post my thoughts on this one point of argument.
Note 2: Genesis, Chapter 19, contains the passages in question.
Note 3: I always picture this scene as an isolated incident, and therefore assume that it is but one example of the sins of these cities. I wonder how this modifies the interpretation.
Peace and all good.
(The commentary I refer to is on page 39 of "The New Student Bible, King James Version," published by Zondervan in 1992. "Notes by Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford." There are other contributors to the book as well.)