Morality Series: Glutony

I seldom eat the whole pizza any more, at least not in the same evening. My wife may have one slice, but not always. Still, why do some religious folks insist that if, per chance, the wife wants none, I’ll go to Hell?

glutony-3

Am I gluttonous? I eat more than that guy, but less than that one, and maybe about the same as the other dude. When does eating and drinking become one of the deadly or capital offenses? Where do we cross the line that assures our trip to the inferno?

I’m not going to argue that overeating is good for us. We all know it’s not. But the reason is biological, not spiritual. Besides, I do it more than I care to admit. I don’t think I am alone in my gastronomic fault. In fact, for an American, I’m probably about average.

glutony-1In the Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas said, “Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire… leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists.” Inordinate? I only know this limit after I am well past it.

Devils, Demons, and Witchcraft says those who commit the sin of gluttony are punished in Hell by being forced to eat rats, toads, and snakes. Are they cooked or raw? Do we get hot sauce? Since these are eaten by people around the world every day, I feel so not threatened.

I posted about Epicurus back in the Spring, so I want to invoke him here. His name and philosophy has been incorrectly associated with glutinous behavior for centuries. I had it a bit wrong. Further, we’ve also bogarted his name to be associated with fine dining.

The word epicure is linked to indulging the appetite, but that is not the teaching of the man to whom we owe the word. That ancient Greek philosopher taught of simple pleasures, friendship, and a secluded life. He believed in the pursuit of pleasure (as do I), but pleasure for him equated with tranquility and freedom from pain (Dude! Try this plant.) – happiness.

Cannabis

Cannabis

Detractors of Epicurus misrepresented his notions of pleasure to material and sensual gratification. When epicure entered the lingo about 500 years ago, his philosophy had been trivialized. Epicure or epicurean became synonymous with “hedonist.” Way back, he showed a lot of wisdom.

“Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young alike ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come. So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it.” —Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus

His philosophy combines a form of materialism with ethics that emphasizes moderation of desires and cultivation of friendships. His world view was optimistic, stressing a philosophy of not fearing death or the supernatural. It can teach us how to find happiness in almost any situation – without moaning after we’ve eaten the whole thing.

glutony-4The opposite of gluttony is abstinence. Once again, from one extreme to the other. Abstaining from food can be a diagnosable eating disorder. We know how much, and of what things we should eat and drink. We must eat, but not too much; we must sleep, but not too much; we must drink. But there’s no such thing as too much fun.

“Moderation in all things, especially moderation.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Eating is an essential part of life.
Eat well, be happy, and enjoy all that life offers.
If we mind the gaps and look both ways, we’ll be fine.

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8 thoughts on “Morality Series: Glutony

  1. I think I’ll take my toad with hot sauce, please. Oh, and throw in some of that happy plant while you’re at it! And, in case you haven’t noticed, a large pizza is no longer HUGE, but maybe the size of a medium – so eat up and enjoy! We all know when we’ve had too much, and eating beyond that point isn’t about glutony….that’s a whole ‘nother topic for the therapist chair. Fun post! I’m hungry!

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  2. Im thinking that making abstinence and fasting into virtues, and gluttony a deep sin, the churches (and religions in general) have more than once managed to stave off famine among their followers, knowing full well that hungry people don’t always look too far ahead when that nice fat cow is out there, mooing and eating her weight in groceries fairly regularly…
    the whole reason for meatless fridays harks back to a time when there was, indeed, a famine in europe and to keep the faithful from eating themselves into an even worse situation, the church made fasting a virtue, (one day or two of total fasting per week) and got them through a winter with most of the livestock intact.
    It worked so well that they instituted a ‘mandate from god’ kinda thing, making it a mortal sin to eat red meat on Fridays. As a mother’s friend warned me, if you choke on that hot dog and die, and it’s Friday, you go straight to hell. Forever. =)

    I love cold pizza for breakfast. Considering that, why do we insist that it has to be hot when it’s delivered?

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    • I thought it was due to the Italian fishermen needing to sell more fish. Telling folks they’ll burn in hell for eating lacks an awful lot of charm. When I joined the military, they said it was okay to eat meat on Friday. Silly.

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  3. So from a secular viewpoint, when do I have a problem with “gluttony”? I guess when eating (or owning) too much of something is preventing somebody else from having what they need. So eating cookies is fine, taking ALL the cookies when you didn’t need to, so that nobody else gets any, that’s a problem. But that would make it just a subset of greed, in that case.

    Or if overindulging in food (or drink, or drugs, or facebook) is interfering in your ability to take care of your actual responsibilities to other people. Of course, if you don’t have any responsibilities to other people, then go for it!

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      • I think it’s possible to overindulge to the point of irresponsibility without it having to be an actual addiction. (For instance, the occasional weekend binge for someone who otherwise doesn’t drink much.)

        And are we willing to hold somebody less accountable for bad behavior if it’s due to an addiction?

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