What Religion Can Learn from ZC - Charles Washington's Zero-Carb Weblog

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What Religion Can Learn from ZC

There were several interesting topics that I could have written about today. I enjoyed the little video on CNN where Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviews a study author who shows the effects of high sugar consumption even in healthy subjects. Most of the time, people study sick people and they argue that sugar made them that way. In this case, they looked at healthy people and in two weeks’s time, they increased their risk factors for chronic disease at an alarming rate. That’s interesting because many people think metabolic disease is only something sick folks should worry about. This adds fuel to my fire that ZC is for everyone, not just those of us whom it “works” for.

But as my title suggests, I’ve found something more interesting. Alain de Botton wrote a piece entitled, “What atheists can learn from religion.” There, he argues that it must be possible to remain a committed atheist and nevertheless to find religions sporadically useful, interesting and consoling — and be curious as to the possibilities of importing certain of their ideas and practices into the secular realm. For example, he wrote, “One can be left cold by the doctrines of the Christian Trinity and the Buddhist Fivefold Path and yet at the same time be interested in the ways in which religions deliver sermons, promote morality, engender a spirit of community, make use of art and architecture, inspire travels, train minds and encourage gratitude at the beauty of spring. In a world beset by fundamentalists of believing and secular varieties, it must be possible to balance a rejection of religious faith with a selective reverence for religious rituals and concepts.”

As I accompanied my significant other to church yesterday, I thought on many of these very issues. The speaker gave a very engaging message delivered in the style that I grew up with. However, I couldn’t help but wonder who was really listening to this message and what effect beyond emotion it would have. By listening, I mean “objectively listening.” Religion is a faith-based exercise. By definition, it’s a subjective message and experience. Objectivists need not apply because no one is interested in the history or science surrounding religious claims.

For example, yesterday was Palm Sunday. This supposedly marks the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and being assailed by palm branches. To mark the occasion, they even brought out “palms” which I had only seen among the 4 species of the Jewish lulav. The problem with all of this is that the only reason Jewish people at the time of Jesus would have been holding palms would be during the biblical Feast of Tabernacles, which most Christians probably have no concept of despite the fact that the festival is described in the Christian bible. That festival happens in the fall. Jesus supposedly experienced his “passion” during the events leading up to Passover, depending on which one of the “synoptic” gospels you fancy. Passover is definitely in the spring. Neither Passover or Tabernacles are about forgiveness of sin even though the concept is loosely incorporated. They both commemorate the exodus from Egypt in terms of the structures they lived in and the sparing of the Jewish firstborn. Now, you might argue that this is all sympbolic in Christianity but it makes very little sense if it supposedly completes or “fulfills” the Jewish version. I would expect a Jewish person to find this whole episode highly offensive. I don’t buy Judaism either, but I can certainly understand their position.

However, religion has a unique ability to serve “two central needs which continue to this day and which secular society has not been able to solve with any particular skill: firstly, the need to live together in communities in harmony, despite our deeply rooted selfish and violent impulses. And secondly, the need to cope with terrifying degrees of pain which arise from our vulnerability to professional failure, to troubled relationships, to the death of loved ones and to our decay and demise.”

Religion’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness in my opinion. Religion can teach the ability to cope with these “terrifying degrees of pain” but it does so at a great cost. It encourages people to abandon their greatest tool, the logical mind. The mind is the very thing that separates us from the animal. Religion teaches us to deal with the symbolic rather than the actual. It’s much easier to live a life of symbolism and to comparmentalize stressors in such a way that the harsh reality is stripped down to something we can more easily deal with. However, when most of life becomes sympbolic then everything becomes gray and subject to interpretation. Religion encourages us to accept ourselves as “flawed” or born in sin. Therefore, we don’t have to expect too much of ourselves since we were born defective to begin with. Religion takes advantage of the fact that we were born ignorant and that we don’t live so long. It teaches man to doubt himself and it erodes his self-esteem, one of his most important virtues. This causes even simple words to lose their meaning and the lessons of history become nothing more than fairy tales. Reality must remain reality. The letter “A must always equal A,” as Ayn Rand so artfully put it. For all the good that religions have contributed, we can never forget the atrocities performed in its name: the Crusades, the Holocaust, the forced conversions, the middle or “dark” ages, Marx, Socialism, and 9/11 to name a few.

So what does all of this have to do with ZC? Eating ZC is all about reality. The reality is that our bodies were not designed to process carbohydrates. When you splurge on that desert or that sugary drink, you must do it with the full knowledge of what it entails. We adapted to handle a very small amount of sugar (less than 70 pounds per year) but it is very small indeed. No amount of prayer or faith is going to allow you to safely exceed that threshold without damaging yourself in a very real way even if you can’t see it without tests.
By the same token, no amount of prayer or faith is going to reverse chronic disease. However, you have the power to reverse it or at least lessen its impact if you know what to do. As the little video link above shows you, there are simple tests that you can perform which will demonstrate clearly what happens when you enjoy sugary drinks and overload your body with sugar, even though the fattening process hasn’t set in. That knowledge should affect your behavior. If you’re overweight, you’ve been given a heavenly sign in your body that you need to make a lifestyle change. No amount of prayer or faith is going to make that go away. You can consider yourself fortunate that you only got fat and that you did not immediately manifest cancer, diabetes or heart disease. All are merely symptoms of metabolic disease which gave rise to the factors that led to what symptom you developed. You must change your eating and lifestyle habits to make that go away. It’s not with Jillian Michaels; it’s with meat and water plus your own mind. If you need community and support, join our Forum. But you’ll have to be honest with yourself. You can tell me anything but to your own self, you must be true. When your body reacts positively to this way of eating you must follow its lead and regain your health. If you choose not to, despite your body reaction, then you must do so fully aware of what you’re doing to yourself. You cannot blame dumb luck or the devil.

ZC like life, requires a person to stay within the confines of reality. I admit freely that there is much about the world that I don’t understand but I’m okay with that. I would much rather trust my own experiences and the limitations of my own mind and body over the unknown whims of the unseen phantoms (or their adherants) of some other world I have no knowledge of.
In the words of that great fictitious character, John Galt, “I am therefore I think!”
So that begs the question, why did I go to church? Because I like the way they deliver a sermon and it’s important to someone else in my life who happens to be important to me. I also enjoy the music. Because others believe a thing to be true, that doesn’t affect my own perception. For all I know they could be right but because I don’t know, I would rather trust my own judgment of the facts. Is it because I’m smarter? Absolutely not because I’ve already professed ignorance on the topic. It’s precisely because I am less enlightened that I choose to ignore their claims and rather rely on my own limited education and experience to guide my choices. When I die, I will do so knowing that I did all I could to make the best choices possible in this life for myself and I will be content.

I enjoy the good feeling that religion engenders and it has a way of making people behave for a few hours. The same can be said for good food, wine and a great desert. But even so, the letter A must remain A and until that changes, I will have to restrict my consumption of religion and carbohydrates.

About Charles

Leesburg, VA 20k race 
in August 2008

I am a 44-year-old male.  I was 221 pounds in May 2005.  Lost 43 pounds on a low-fat diet but gained 29 back once I started lifting weights.  Began carbohydrate restriction in January, 2007.  Kept carbohydrates at 30 or less and lost 22 more pounds.  I began to eat zero carbohydrates in the Fall of 2007 and I weighed 164.  My total weight loss was 77 pounds. Now, I weigh about 164. (January, 2012). I got down to 143 but had very little energy and looked like a skeleton. I began to eat more in terms of variety including all meats and my weight went up to where it is presently. It’s important on this particular way of eating to eat until full each and every time. 

I began this blog and my zero-carb discussion forum in October of 2008.