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Department Colloquia

How to Hope that Your Food Choices Make a Difference, Even When You Firmly Believe that They Don’t

Most religions advocate dietary regulations of some sort: Muslims fast during Ramadan, Jews follow kashrut laws, Catholics avoid meat on Fridays, many Hindus don’t eat beef, and some Buddhists and Jains avoid meat altogether.  Such practices foster a sense of communal identity, but traditionally they are also regarded as pleasing to God (the gods, the ancestors, etc.) and spiritually beneficial.  In other words, for many religious people, the effects of fasting go well beyond what is immediately observed or empirically measurable.  That is often a large part of what motivates participation