October 10, 2011

Holy Cow: The Holiness of Hindu Herds (reprise)

by Clint Archer

Holy Cow

The apogee of Hinduism extends far beyond the borders of India. And though Hindus do not proselytize (most believe you need to be born Indian to be Hindu), the religion is exported with the emigration of its adherents. Our church is nestled near the epicenter of the largest population of Indians outside of India—Durban, South Africa. Hinduism is not monolithic, it is a  diverse kaleidoscope of beliefs, attitudes, and practices. It is mystical and enigmatic, but it does contain certain threads of commonality woven throughout its diversity. These threads reveal a religion that is fundamentally flawed as a deadly trap of false hope, with tragic results in this life and the life to come. I wanted to share one tenet which makes this religion harmful to its adherents, namely the famishing fetish they have with the sacred cow.

Most Westerners can hardly tell the difference between any old cow and the sacred cow of India. This ignorance is excusable when one considers how ordinary the holy cow seems. It grazes, chews the cud, and after allowing for the masticated mess to move through the seven sacred stomachs, it fertilizes the field just as any other cow would. If one were tramping through that field—or were a pedestrian in Delhi—and happened to plant your foot in that freshly fertilized spot, you might fail to appreciate the privilege of encountering a holy cow pie. And every report I’ve heard from visitors to India include a special mention for the ubiquitous postprandial packages strewn all over the city streets. So holiness is often in the eye of the beholder. To a Hindu the cow represents something wholly different than it does to, say the average MacDonald’s customer.

The reverence and respect for the cow is a facet of Hinduism found in almost all forms of the religion. The cow is the living symbol of Mother Earth and on the bounty she bestows on all mankind (though Mother Earth is not seen as deity per se). Cows represent the source of all life, presumably because of their udders (mammary glands were used to represent life giving force from nature and also from the gods in early forms of Hinduism). Thus Hindus do not kill cows for food, leather or anything else. Cows are considered to be a higher life form than what humans are, and are given free reign in India.

Feeding cows is an act of worship, harming one is an act of sacrilege. Thus, though the nation is starving, cows are given food, but not used as food. Even the cows urine is applied to the worshipper’s body in certain “purifying” rituals. Hymns are written to the cow, for example:

“Worship, O Cow, to thy tail-hair, and to they hooves, and to they form! … For from thy mouth the songs came, from thy neck’s nape sprang strength, O Cow. Sacrifice from thy flanks was born, and the rays of sunlight from thy teats … The Cow is heaven, the Cow is earth, the Cow is Vishnu, Lord of Life.” (Atharva Veda X:10). Needless to say, ordering a hamburger is frowned upon.

When ordinary objects and animals are conferred the status of holiness, it is due to the depravity of man “Claiming to be wise, theybecame fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things”(Rom 1:22-23). When the ordinary becomes holy, the Holy is profaned. Paul called religion that forced abstinence from food, “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim 4:3). I am reminded that food does not commend us to God, 1 Cor 8: 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 

Footnote: When evangelizing a Hindu, it is best not to bring up the defects as you perceive them in their religion. Rather focus on the completed work of a personal Savior who has perfectly lived the life we cannot live. Focus on the personal relationship that we as creatures can have with our loving Creator, and present the glorious truth of the Fatherhood of God.

I conclude that it is an act of worship for you to eat a medium rare beef steak (1 Cor 10:25), giving thanks (1 Tim 4:4) to the glory of the God (1 Cor 10:31) who gave all good meaty things to enjoy (1 Tim 6:17).

Bon appetite!



Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Great biblical exposition on how to eat steak! =)

  • Thus, though the nation is starving, cows are given food, but not used as food. Even the cows urine is applied to the worshipper’s body in certain “purifying” rituals.

    This is just so unbelievably sad. This is definitely a Romans 1:22 thing. It’s just so plain that Satan reigns through that whole system of belief. It reminds me of a radio transcript we looked at recently in Dr. Vlach’s Apologetics class. Greg Koukl was discussing a visit to India. He was speaking particularly about the terrible quality of life of the untouchables, to the point that they would lay out their clean clothing to dry in the sun, but would lay them out on top of human and animal feces (and of course they accepted that as their fate because of their caste). Here’s something helpful Koukl said:

    This was the last laugh Satan gets on the human beings he holds captive because my observation here was not a commentary on their sanitation, it’s a commentary on their spiritual condition. … [Satan] has so enslaved them and they are so deeply immersed in spiritual filth, in spiritual feces as it were, they are so debauched spiritually, so completely lost, that they can settle in physical filth and human feces and be so at home in it that it’s a fitting companion for their clean laundry. This is how captured these people are. This is how enslaved and lost they are. … What ridiculous lengths people will go to run from the true God, and what Satan will do to human beings who accept his reckoning of them instead of accepting God’s reckoning of them.

    Let’s remember to pray for those enslaved to such life-destroying (and soul-destroying) idolatry.

    • Parth V

      Thats utterly ridiculous. 1st Cows have more use alive than dead, Milk, plowing the fields and manure for field. Hinduism predates all religions and beliefs and is the only religion to have deep scientific truths like the theory of multiverse and age of universe being 2 billion years etc. Christianity claims 6 or 7 days. The caste systems etc are a function of feudalism and not hinduism per se. It was division of labor, and a lack of hygeine in modern day poor India is a sign of government corruption and apathy not satan -though governement and satan could likely be the same. Modern India is highly secular educated clean and the fastest growing elite in the world. This happened when Chistian Britain and its socilism left India. The hallmarks and flagship Industries of India are run by conservative hindus. You cannot judge entire hinduism by caste system as much as racism in the church. There are bigger pictures.

  • Holy Food

    If your going to do grow beds for aquaponics it is essential to have worms. Worms aerate your beds to keep your growing beds from forming dead spots or otherwise known as unoxgenated areas…plants will develop root rot and die. Also the worms eat the dead roots and eat the poop from the fish, then then secrete bacteria which is essential for your system. The bacteria’s then break the ammonia down produced from the fish from nitrites to nitrates. Nitrate it what the plants grow off of.

    • Dear Holy Food,

      I think I may have missed something here. Would you mind explaining it?

  • Parth V

    Some history on hinduism. The religion hinduism was so labeled by the Iranian invaders. During those years India was the fabled land of riches , exotic and gold + diamond laded. In fact the British first colonized diamond mines in India before they lucked out in South Africa.

    The original root of hinduism is Santana dharma (eternal religion). The principle is that u are born in several lives to learn the lessons of each life till u gain “moksha or liberation” from material existence and become one with the universe. All other things like caste system, vegetarianism, holy cows, etc etc are various human cultural events consolidated into what we call hindus.

    Why hindus do not convert christians or muslims actively? The answer is simple, firstly hinduism is an extremely complex religion. Try convincing someone of holy cows, 3.3million gods, no alcohol, vegetarianism, the legacy of caste system and you got your work cut out for you. Christianity is easy, accept Christ as your saviour, know the 10 commandments and go to church Sunday and voila u r saved(nice guy). Comparing Hinduism and Christianity is like comparing French food to Fast food. Another reason hindus do not convert is because really there is no religion called hinduism, it doesn’t exist. Its a philosophy for moksha or liberation, it doesn’t matter if you believe; you cannot escape your Karma.

    Key gods are the trinity, Vishnu(knowledge), Shiva(the mean guy with the third laser eye and destroyer) and Brahma(creator). It defines the birth of the universe particularly with scientific accuracy as 2billion years (same as science does, check Carl Sagan and hinduism in youtube). ALso there are eras in humanity, we live in Kaliyug 432000 years there are more such “yugs” this is the evil yug where we are supposed to be sinners.

    Key differences between Christianity and Hinduism:
    1) Scientifically hinduism has greater references to physics, and universe timelines(numbers match).
    2)There are no miracle, even when Gods come to earth they have to take human avatar’s and are subject to the physical laws of the planet. Once when Shiva came down to earth his wife Kali got mad at him and castrated him and his human avatar died(consider that a divorce). But here again comes the concept of re-incarnation, he and you can come back until Brahma destroys trhe univers or you get “Moksha or liberation (that why those LSD experimenters)”.
    3)There is no saviour in hinduism but yourself. Pray and donate all you want if u got 4th stage cancer all hope is in the hands of your doctor not God. Thats another characteristic of hinduism, it is a capitalistic merciless religion at least Christianity gives you Jesus and Santa Claus.

    If I were Christian born I too would be scared to be a hindu, but then I know the truth is something we always deny because it is easier.

    • Thanks again Parth for your insights. I’d love to correspond more with you about the beliefs of Hinduism and Christianity. I’d especially like to address your misconception that to be a Christian involves knowing the 10 commandments and going to church and being a nice guy. My e-mail address is pastorarcher@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

  • Parth V

    Modern day society and hinduism- why more relevant than ever.

    1)In the throes of change, atheism, etc its important to note the adherence of followers to its religion. Lets take Islam, I needn’t expand further as the society has taken an extremely. Dare I say the pastor could have written an article about Islam living near an Islamic majority area. It clearly implies hinduism is a peacefully co-existing religion
    2) Take the holy cow, you do not notice hindus hurting other religions for consuming beef or ridiculing them. Though other religions ridicule hindus for this eccentricity. Obviuosly hindus are more respectful of others beliefs than Christians or Moslems.
    3) Take the vast community in Durban of Indians, if the good pastor has not put his foot in his mouth its apparent now, if hindus were so “destined to their fate” surely they would not have left India and come to South Africa for work. The largest migrant groups in the world are Indians! What a booboo pastor. If anything Indians try to make living wherever.
    4) Die rather than eat beef- not the vast majority, my entire family eats steak rare!.The vas majority will not eat beef if not required.
    5) Divorce, alcoholism, gambling and drugs- no doubt lower in hindus than Christians or the super ez muslim divorce.

    There you have it pastor, right in your backyard. The most law abiding, family oriented, non-criminal, non-alcoholic, non-gambling, entrepreneurial community are Hindus not Christians, not tribals, not Moslems. I live in California where even the police prefer Indians to the locals as they have an easy job.

    • Parth V, thank you for your respectful response. I certainly mean no disrespect toward Indians (you might say I have no beef with them!) You would know that South Africans and Indians have long had intertwined political, social, and sporting commonalities and comradeship. My point was simply to illustrate what it looks like when people elevate the status of animals to that of the divine, as is predicted in Paul’s letter to the Romans 1:18-24 of the New Testament.

  • Parth V

    Pastor, frankly I am not a religious man neither was I offended by any means. Just amused. I did attend a Catholic school in INdia , as you know missionary schools run the show in India before I moved to USA. Anyways I plan to visit SA next year and if I am around Durban I will drop by and get your view of what it means to be a Christian. We are a multi-religious family with hindus, buddhists, lutherans, evangelicals as part of the herd. Globalization kind of blends everything together. Meanwhile I have to attend more earthly demands of supporting a failing job due to the economic slowdown. Good luck to you! Amen.