You’re right, I made a lot of generalizations. However, I do feel confident about most of them. My veganism example was one of many I could supply regarding what I feel is evidence of superior morality. And indeed, much of my morality can be found in the basic tenets of Christ’s teachings and that of other great spiritual leaders throughout history. The Golden Rule, for example. Meanwhile, it seems that those who are closest to the church are the farthest from actually heeding its simplest yet most profound lessons. I agree that animals probably don’t have an exact concept of torture, but that wasn’t entirely my point. Exactly like us, they have a hard-wired concept of pain, as well as a hard-wired pain-avoidance system. Pain is obviously a component of our bodies to warn us that we are in danger and that we should do something about it. The greater the pain, the greater the danger, and therefore the greater feeling of panic and distress. So if we make such an effort to spare our own kind from pain, how do we have the right to inflict it, and in such quantity, upon other living things? We don’t, is the easy answer, and if we do, or even if we participate in a system that causes mass pain upon others, we are being immoral. This seems very basic and logical to me. I admit I could be mistaken about this, but I doubt it. Sure, Judeo-Christianity clearly evolves, but it seems to do so only to defend itself – to stay in business, as it were, and only as far as its ancient texts can be interpreted to allow. It never seems to make leaps of wisdom as a whole. Its practitioners are as crude and primitive as they’ve ever been. Sure, there have been great individual thinkers among its ranks over the centuries, who have thought and written great things that have had the potential to elevate its people, but this information clearly doesn’t get to the hordes. And in America, at least, these hordes comprise the majority of our population. Thus I’m confident in my claim of superior morality. It’s actually not a big feat for anyone who is even slightly awake. But yes, you’re right that there is a relatively small group of people living an examined life, and I don’t claim moral superiority over them. Nor do I ever encounter them.
I agree that at least “higher” animals feel pain (which, I hasten to point out, is a separate issue from whether they have emotions). I also agree that we should minimize pain and suffering. But I don’t think the issue is as cut-and-dried as you seem to be implying. For example, couldn’t one not be vegan and at the same time try not to cause animals pain? We buy our eggs at a farmer’s market from an independent farmer who keeps free-range chickens — I think that’s pretty painless for the chickens. And, just curious, would you still be a vegetarian if there was a way to kill animals painlessly? If so, then I suspect it’s more than pain that you are concerned about.
When discussing the subject of avoiding pain, we also have to decide whether or not human pain is more or less important than animal pain. For example, let’s say that (in general) chickens suffer when they live in an egg farm, but that eggs are needed to create flu vaccines. Is the pain (and possible death) of those who would get the flu without a vaccine more or less important than the pain of the chickens? Whichever way you answer this question, I don’t think that the answer is obvious enough for you to look down on those who disagree with you.
There are also people who, for one reason or another (health, finances, location), are unable to be vegetarian. I don’t think that automatically makes them morally inferior.
I think you are right that religions generally change to defend themselves, but another way to phrase this would be to say that they change as times change. They tend to be very much like politics in that respect, if a little slower because they have to justify change with something more than popular opinion. I’m not sure what you’d call a leap of wisdom in this context, but Vatican II was a pretty huge change for Catholicism, and the religion has survived the change pretty well, even though (in my opinion) it still has a long way to go.
I tend to disagree about religious practitioners being “as crude and primitive as they’ve ever been.” There is a lot more free thought and tolerance within religion these days than there was even a few hundred years ago. The progress is enough to give me hope for the future.
While I applaud your desire to be a moral person and your harm-free lifestyle, I still think your attitude is too smug (or, at least, you come off that way).