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What’s wrong with cannibalism? Human disgust can be a powerful moral ally

Not Gregg Wallace (Silence of the Lambs)


July 27, 2023   4 mins

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti,” whispers Hannibal Lecter, before making that scary teeth-sucking noise. But what makes Lecter our favourite moral monster is not that he eats people; it’s that he gruesomely murders them first. Would something be wrong with him eating a human liver taken from a dead body?

Now, TV foodie Gregg Wallace is not someone I had ever thought of as being in the same category as Lecter. Nor indeed, as some kind of public intellectual cum satirist, reflecting on the great social issues of the day. Yet his recent Channel 4 mockumentary on eating human flesh was clearly a satirical social commentary on the cost-of-living crisis. In it, people are forced to sell slices of their bodies; “with money from her donation, Gillian will be able to pay for two weeks of energy bills”. At one point, Wallace and Michel Roux consider whether the lifestyle of their dinner might affect the flavour: Alison, a former NHS nurse tasted a bit stressed, but children were the most succulent. “Our babies taste best with gravy,” explained the fictional start-up company, Good Harvest.

The show didn’t put me off my dinner, as it did many predictably outraged viewers. It was clearly a reference to Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, in which he proposed that poor Irish children be sold to the rich for food: “A young healthy child well nursed is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled.” People were outraged then, too.

Cannibalism has a long, politically charged history. In the early modern era of colonialism, the figure of the cannibal became the representative Other to Western civilisation. Soon after Columbus discovered the New World, the cannibal became a sensationalist spur to much European moralising about what counted as right behaviour. In this era, considerable legal attention was given to shipwrecked colonisers forced to eat their dead colleagues. As the Romanian philosopher Catalin Avramescu argues in his history of cannibalism, these extreme situations represented a crisis of Western civilisation, a descent into the kind of savagery only seen, or perhaps just imagined, in the distant societies that sailors encountered.

Cannibalism thus represented the boundary, and thus, to some extent, the defining feature of European moral consciousness. Shakespeare’s Caliban in The Tempest — whose name, some argue, derived from an anagram of the Spanish for cannibal — is a very obvious counterpoint to the “civilised” colonialist, Prospero. Half man, half monster, Caliban is “not honour’d with a human shape”, and so is enslaved by Prospero. Cannibalism became a key link in the moral justification of slavery.

I find cannibalism fascinating. Partly, I suppose, because as a high-church Christian, and one for whom the Eucharist is at the centre of his spiritual life, the invitation to consume the body and blood of Christ is a daily source of nourishment, albeit spiritual — that caveat a source of endless medieval dispute. Early critics of Christianity made much of the cannibalistic vibe of passages like this from John’s Gospel: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” I have often wondered why we who believe in transubstantiation do not experience at least a bat squeak of disgust when receiving the bread and wine.

Philosophically, though, cannibalism presents fewer issues than we might imagine. After all, if a body can be left to medical science, for the betterment of society, why can it not be left to feed the hungry? Where is the violation of the harm principle? The same may be true of something like incest. People say it is wrong because it may have negative genetic consequences, but those people don’t argue that incest with birth control is fine.

No, cannibalism is more a theological problem than a philosophical one because we treat human bodies — even after death — as in some way sacred. Those who blithely insist that after death anyone can do what they want with their bodies — throw them on the rubbish tip — are very much in the minority, and I often wonder how sincere they are. Even dead bodies are reckoned to bear some sort of imprint of the life that the body lived. That is why, in what remains at root a broadly Christian culture, bodies are treated with respect, not used as fresh meat for the butcher.

But in strictly ethical terms, the disgust with which we react to cannibalism is now reckoned to be a poor guide to moral assessment. That some may react to the thought of gay sex in the same way, for instance, is now widely understood to be, more or less, as morally insignificant as my child’s grimacing at eating something a little bit different. Disgust may originate in some evolutionary need to protect against infection, but outstays its welcome when translated into various forms of social othering.

Indeed, disgust seems highly illogical. You may kiss your partner on the head, nuzzling her hair, but then retch when you clean the same hair from the shower plug. Your mouth is constantly full of saliva, but we generally don’t like the idea of spitting into a glass and then drinking it. Intellectually, it’s hard to know the difference; viscerally, it matters.

Here we might recall Mary Douglas’s definition of dirt as “matter out of place”: what is called soil in the garden is called dirt on the kitchen floor. That is, our interpretation of things is rooted in a certain map of the world in which things have their place. Hair on the head, in its place: fine to kiss. Hair in the plug, out of place: disgusting. This is why conservatives, who tend to have a stronger sense of there being “a place for everything and everything in its place”, reference disgust more readily than liberals. And nowhere is this truer than the politics of the human body — transgender issues, for example. The breast-feeding man violates the conservative’s map of things.

Liberals argue that the “irrationality of disgust suggests it is unreliable as a source of moral insight”. But the limits of this viewpoint can be seen when it collides with cannibalism. Strict liberals may — philosophically at least — find no fault with the man who served tacos to his friends made with meat from his own amputated leg. My body, my choice and all that. But I doubt they would be first in the queue for that buffet.

What the response to Wallace’s documentary made clear is that strict rationality is not — and perhaps never will be — the fundamental basis of our morality. As conservative bioethicist Leon Kass put it, “repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason’s power fully to articulate”. Yes, the liberal warning against disgust being weaponised against minorities is well made. But when used in the defence of human dignity, disgust can be a powerful moral ally. What begins as a biological reaction to a threat to our bodies can be a sign of a spiritual reaction to a threat to our souls.


Giles Fraser is a journalist, broadcaster and Vicar of St Anne’s, Kew.

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Penny Mcwilliams
Penny Mcwilliams
11 months ago

If I try and take a step back here, and observe my own feelings and thoughts, but as someone who has very little instinctive reverence for human remains as such and who struggles to understand why some people get so upset about the fate or whereabouts of the corpses of their nearest and dearest, two obvious considerations spring to mind:
Cross infection control, particularly for prion diseases. Even cooking human meat before consumption won’t stop you catching CJD or something equally nasty if you make a regular habit of eating it. I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be one reason why routine cannibalism is very rare in other species too, while mere killing of other members of one’s own species is not.
The Slippery Slope phenomenon – once you overcome that social and cultural taboo about eating your own species, the suspicion is that you might very quickly start to regard the poor, the weak and otherwise undesirable as a mere meat resource. ripe for exploitation as such.
So, No Thanks, Lets Not

Brian Hunt
Brian Hunt
11 months ago

One of my neighbours in Papua New Guinea, 40 years ago was researching Kuru, a version of CJD caused by eating human brain.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
11 months ago

Wouldn’t one choose the flesh of the rich and well fed rather than the flesh of the poor and underfed? Wouldn’t it be like filet mignon over say goat?

Brian Hunt
Brian Hunt
11 months ago

One of my neighbours in Papua New Guinea, 40 years ago was researching Kuru, a version of CJD caused by eating human brain.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
11 months ago

Wouldn’t one choose the flesh of the rich and well fed rather than the flesh of the poor and underfed? Wouldn’t it be like filet mignon over say goat?

Penny Mcwilliams
Penny Mcwilliams
11 months ago

If I try and take a step back here, and observe my own feelings and thoughts, but as someone who has very little instinctive reverence for human remains as such and who struggles to understand why some people get so upset about the fate or whereabouts of the corpses of their nearest and dearest, two obvious considerations spring to mind:
Cross infection control, particularly for prion diseases. Even cooking human meat before consumption won’t stop you catching CJD or something equally nasty if you make a regular habit of eating it. I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be one reason why routine cannibalism is very rare in other species too, while mere killing of other members of one’s own species is not.
The Slippery Slope phenomenon – once you overcome that social and cultural taboo about eating your own species, the suspicion is that you might very quickly start to regard the poor, the weak and otherwise undesirable as a mere meat resource. ripe for exploitation as such.
So, No Thanks, Lets Not

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
11 months ago

The House of Commons had its own.. I carrot, one onion, bouquet garni, a bottle of wine, celery, Grant Shapps, Keir Starmer, Dominic Raab in a large pot of water… bring to the boil and you have….
Laughing Stock….

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
11 months ago

The House of Commons had its own.. I carrot, one onion, bouquet garni, a bottle of wine, celery, Grant Shapps, Keir Starmer, Dominic Raab in a large pot of water… bring to the boil and you have….
Laughing Stock….

Paul Ten
Paul Ten
11 months ago

I am slightly bemused by this whole episode. What was the point of the programme? It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t tongue-in-cheek, it wasn’t ironic, it wasn’t insightful. The allusion to Jonathan Swift would have been apparent only to a small minority of literary scholars. And what was it satirising – supposedly the cost of living situation, and what people are being asked to do to make ends meet? Are people really being put in situations that bear any comparisons with cannibalism? The whole notion is both infantile and crass.

And I’m afraid this article seems a bit pointless as well. Repugnance is the emotional expression of moral insight, except when it isn’t. The author refers to the experience of physical aversion to gay sex but positions it as morally different to the same reaction to cannibalism. Why would this be?

Paul Ten
Paul Ten
11 months ago

I am slightly bemused by this whole episode. What was the point of the programme? It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t tongue-in-cheek, it wasn’t ironic, it wasn’t insightful. The allusion to Jonathan Swift would have been apparent only to a small minority of literary scholars. And what was it satirising – supposedly the cost of living situation, and what people are being asked to do to make ends meet? Are people really being put in situations that bear any comparisons with cannibalism? The whole notion is both infantile and crass.

And I’m afraid this article seems a bit pointless as well. Repugnance is the emotional expression of moral insight, except when it isn’t. The author refers to the experience of physical aversion to gay sex but positions it as morally different to the same reaction to cannibalism. Why would this be?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago

That some may react to the thought of gay sex in the same way, for instance, is now widely understood to be, more or less, as morally insignificant as my child’s grimacing at eating something a little bit different. 

There are very valid reasons why almost every culture in the world has stigmatized acts of homosexuality. When it becomes overly-prevalent, it almost always acts as an antecedent to moral and societal decline. Here in the West, an obscene amount of money has gone into programs that groom children into believing all forms of sex are healthy and wholesome.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I haven’t seen the programme referenced so I can’t comment on it in general. My only comment to Fraser is his analogy of hair on the head versus hair in the sink. The sink is for waste and as such is full of germs.To Farrows comment about homosexuality I would say it’s genetic and not something most men choose to do or not do.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I think you hit on something key with “overly prevalent”, because two foundational Western societies, both the Ancient Greeks and Romans, countenanced a certain amount of homosexuality even before their truly decadent phases. The encounters used to be allowed with adolescent boys of a servant/slave class more often, I think. Morally and physically repugnant in the extreme to me and most people nowadays, but still a limiting guideline.
I think wild promiscuity among any growing human network, even of consenting fornicators of the opposite sex, indicates and promotes a lack or discipline and cleanliness. I am not saying the uncleanliness of 100 partners a year, let’s say, is commensurate with sexual violence such as rape or pedophilia. But it is still a medical risk and something of a moral imperfection, even when the dirtiness or disease factor are controlled to the greatest degree possible.
You can of course, die from 1 unsafe sexual encounter, but it’s more likely from 100. In olden times, life was truly less sanitary and the burning itch that followed such indulgences was likelier to be a real, physical burn. A “moralizing” reminder just beneath the toga.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I haven’t seen the programme referenced so I can’t comment on it in general. My only comment to Fraser is his analogy of hair on the head versus hair in the sink. The sink is for waste and as such is full of germs.To Farrows comment about homosexuality I would say it’s genetic and not something most men choose to do or not do.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I think you hit on something key with “overly prevalent”, because two foundational Western societies, both the Ancient Greeks and Romans, countenanced a certain amount of homosexuality even before their truly decadent phases. The encounters used to be allowed with adolescent boys of a servant/slave class more often, I think. Morally and physically repugnant in the extreme to me and most people nowadays, but still a limiting guideline.
I think wild promiscuity among any growing human network, even of consenting fornicators of the opposite sex, indicates and promotes a lack or discipline and cleanliness. I am not saying the uncleanliness of 100 partners a year, let’s say, is commensurate with sexual violence such as rape or pedophilia. But it is still a medical risk and something of a moral imperfection, even when the dirtiness or disease factor are controlled to the greatest degree possible.
You can of course, die from 1 unsafe sexual encounter, but it’s more likely from 100. In olden times, life was truly less sanitary and the burning itch that followed such indulgences was likelier to be a real, physical burn. A “moralizing” reminder just beneath the toga.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago

That some may react to the thought of gay sex in the same way, for instance, is now widely understood to be, more or less, as morally insignificant as my child’s grimacing at eating something a little bit different. 

There are very valid reasons why almost every culture in the world has stigmatized acts of homosexuality. When it becomes overly-prevalent, it almost always acts as an antecedent to moral and societal decline. Here in the West, an obscene amount of money has gone into programs that groom children into believing all forms of sex are healthy and wholesome.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago

“The breast-feeding man violates the conservative’s map of things.”
Get a grip. He’s using the baby as a prop for his own sexual gratification. It’s fkn child abuse.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago

“The breast-feeding man violates the conservative’s map of things.”
Get a grip. He’s using the baby as a prop for his own sexual gratification. It’s fkn child abuse.

Nick Wade
Nick Wade
11 months ago

I haven’t seen the program, but one can’t help feeling that there is an ulterior motive here. After Covid, I have realised that most TV and films are nothing more than brainwashing. You see this clearly with the BBC and its non-stop Climate Doom, but they were up to all sorts of tricks with Covid fear mongering including a childish documentary, designed to ridicule Covid Vaccine sceptics. It moves up a notch with messages delivered in their soaps, such as Eastenders and Casualty, pushing whatever message is “de jour”, notably social “trends” and praise for the holy NHS.

However, part of the brainwashing process must be to move the Overton Window, and thus start to normalise the unthinkable. Remember the “New Normal” after Covid, which for some meant permanent masking, no cash, and a bio-security state? Could this “humorous” production be the first stage of the above process? Don’t rule it out. They’re already trying to normalise bugs.

Last edited 11 months ago by Nick Wade
Nick Wade
Nick Wade
11 months ago

I haven’t seen the program, but one can’t help feeling that there is an ulterior motive here. After Covid, I have realised that most TV and films are nothing more than brainwashing. You see this clearly with the BBC and its non-stop Climate Doom, but they were up to all sorts of tricks with Covid fear mongering including a childish documentary, designed to ridicule Covid Vaccine sceptics. It moves up a notch with messages delivered in their soaps, such as Eastenders and Casualty, pushing whatever message is “de jour”, notably social “trends” and praise for the holy NHS.

However, part of the brainwashing process must be to move the Overton Window, and thus start to normalise the unthinkable. Remember the “New Normal” after Covid, which for some meant permanent masking, no cash, and a bio-security state? Could this “humorous” production be the first stage of the above process? Don’t rule it out. They’re already trying to normalise bugs.

Last edited 11 months ago by Nick Wade
David Ryan
David Ryan
11 months ago

Giles Fraser. Another bloke with too much time on his hands.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
11 months ago
Reply to  David Ryan

Funny!

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
11 months ago
Reply to  David Ryan

He gets paid for his tripe.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
11 months ago
Reply to  David Ryan

Funny!

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
11 months ago
Reply to  David Ryan

He gets paid for his tripe.

David Ryan
David Ryan
11 months ago

Giles Fraser. Another bloke with too much time on his hands.

Kevin Dee
Kevin Dee
11 months ago

Interesting article. I think the culture tells us that how we feel about something, like feeling disgusted seeing a breastfeeding man is just social engineering rather than something deep within us and as a result this feeling cannot be trusted. I would agree with the article that disgust can be a powerful moral ally and have come to respect some of the boundaries that otherwise seem arbitrary e.g not eating cats or maintaining a healthy dislike for bugs, rats and snakes.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
11 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Dee

Most of the mothers were appalled by the “apparently” breastfeeding man because huge doses of toxic drugs would have been used to induce lactation, the actual mother of the baby would have had her milk supply compromised (unless of course she’d had her breasts amputated as some kind of attempt to change sex). Nature generally knows best in these matters!! I think he was faking it actually
..

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
11 months ago
Reply to  Alison Wren

Which demonstrates he has no real understanding of what it means to be a mother. He is just acting out his fantasy. It should be classified as child abuse – using a baby as a prop and probably causing incidental harm.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
11 months ago
Reply to  Alison Wren

Which demonstrates he has no real understanding of what it means to be a mother. He is just acting out his fantasy. It should be classified as child abuse – using a baby as a prop and probably causing incidental harm.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
11 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Dee

Most of the mothers were appalled by the “apparently” breastfeeding man because huge doses of toxic drugs would have been used to induce lactation, the actual mother of the baby would have had her milk supply compromised (unless of course she’d had her breasts amputated as some kind of attempt to change sex). Nature generally knows best in these matters!! I think he was faking it actually
..

Kevin Dee
Kevin Dee
11 months ago

Interesting article. I think the culture tells us that how we feel about something, like feeling disgusted seeing a breastfeeding man is just social engineering rather than something deep within us and as a result this feeling cannot be trusted. I would agree with the article that disgust can be a powerful moral ally and have come to respect some of the boundaries that otherwise seem arbitrary e.g not eating cats or maintaining a healthy dislike for bugs, rats and snakes.

Adam M
Adam M
11 months ago

So the upshot is that a true sense of morality comes not from our own intellectual study of the world but is delivered to us directly by God and expressed though our unconscious reactions.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
11 months ago
Reply to  Adam M

What has god got to do with the unconscious?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
11 months ago
Reply to  Adam M

What has god got to do with the unconscious?

Adam M
Adam M
11 months ago

So the upshot is that a true sense of morality comes not from our own intellectual study of the world but is delivered to us directly by God and expressed though our unconscious reactions.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
11 months ago

The properly woke term is “chest-feeders.”

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
11 months ago

The properly woke term is “chest-feeders.”

Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
11 months ago

Giles, you believe in transubstantiation. But is that belief hard-line or pragmatic? Do you offer your communicants a gluten-free option? I am a member of the Church of Scotland and I am always moved by the words associated with Communion, but swallowing a lump of Mother’s Pride is always a distraction for me.

Anthony Roe
Anthony Roe
11 months ago

Quasimodo, I like it.

Greg Morrison
Greg Morrison
11 months ago

I’m not sure he does believe in transubstantiation, Peter. Those of us who do would be very unlikely to ever utter the words “I have often wondered why we who believe in transubstantiation do not experience at least a bat squeak of disgust” in this most sacred regard.
And neither would we say “receiving the bread and wine”. He didn’t even capitalise the words.

Last edited 11 months ago by Greg Morrison
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
11 months ago
Reply to  Greg Morrison

I don’t think he believes in transubstantiation either.
Am i not correct in thinking that a difference – indeed, one of the key differences – between CoE celebrants and their Catholic counterparts is that it’s Catholics who believe in transubstantiation, i.e. the belief that the bread and wine becomes the actual flesh and blood of Christ? Indeed, the author alludes to the spiritual aspect in the article, rather than the actuality.

Last edited 11 months ago by Steve Murray
Greg Moreison
Greg Moreison
11 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Yes that’s correct Steve, I believe transubstantiation is explicitly condemned by number 28 of the ’39 articles’ of the C of E, and is therefore a key difference between the churches. I also noted the allusion to the spiritual aspect, the wording of which again would be quite unlikely for an RC to say, although could possibly be interpreted ‘in a Catholic way’.
Interestingly, some of the high church Anglicans still do claim to believe in transubstantiation regardless of the 39 articles, and I imagine the good Rev Fraser likes to fondly think himself among their number. Some perhaps genuinely hold the Catholic belief, I don’t wish to judge their faith – but I get the impression that some of them just like the frisson of rebellion that comes with remaining in the C of E while not really believing in the articles of that religion: these I think are just ‘flirting with Romanism’. Just my opinion.

Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
11 months ago
Reply to  Greg Moreison

Greg, your suspicion of the “frisson of rebellion” that manifests itself in a stance on issues such as transubstantiation sounds very credible to me.
The Catholic church provides a gluten-free option for coeliacs. So I would classify them as pragmatic on the issue of transubstantiation.

Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
11 months ago
Reply to  Greg Moreison

Greg, your suspicion of the “frisson of rebellion” that manifests itself in a stance on issues such as transubstantiation sounds very credible to me.
The Catholic church provides a gluten-free option for coeliacs. So I would classify them as pragmatic on the issue of transubstantiation.

Greg Moreison
Greg Moreison
11 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Yes that’s correct Steve, I believe transubstantiation is explicitly condemned by number 28 of the ’39 articles’ of the C of E, and is therefore a key difference between the churches. I also noted the allusion to the spiritual aspect, the wording of which again would be quite unlikely for an RC to say, although could possibly be interpreted ‘in a Catholic way’.
Interestingly, some of the high church Anglicans still do claim to believe in transubstantiation regardless of the 39 articles, and I imagine the good Rev Fraser likes to fondly think himself among their number. Some perhaps genuinely hold the Catholic belief, I don’t wish to judge their faith – but I get the impression that some of them just like the frisson of rebellion that comes with remaining in the C of E while not really believing in the articles of that religion: these I think are just ‘flirting with Romanism’. Just my opinion.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
11 months ago
Reply to  Greg Morrison

I don’t think he believes in transubstantiation either.
Am i not correct in thinking that a difference – indeed, one of the key differences – between CoE celebrants and their Catholic counterparts is that it’s Catholics who believe in transubstantiation, i.e. the belief that the bread and wine becomes the actual flesh and blood of Christ? Indeed, the author alludes to the spiritual aspect in the article, rather than the actuality.

Last edited 11 months ago by Steve Murray
Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
11 months ago

I once read that the Jews do not eat/ drink the blood of the slaughtered animal because it was believed in ancient times that what constituted the life of the animal was in the blood and if the blood was eaten/ drunk, the person who had consumed it would become animal-like: take on characteristics of the animal. (It was a common belief amongst cannibals that if the victor ate the heart of the defeated enemy who had been courageous in battle then the victor would become more courageous.) In this context, it makes perfect sense to drink the blood of Christ to become more Christ-like. In Mexico there is a baptismal font which is believed to have originally been used in human sacrifice: filled with human hearts. I like that. For me, it’s keeping it real.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago

I gather Papua-New Guinea was the last place that human beings were regularly on the ‘menu’.
In the local language this delicacy translated as “ long pig”.

Just as the heart was valued for valour as you so rightly say, so the male genitals were thought to increase virility, despite their eel like texture.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
11 months ago

I believe the last person known to have been devoured was in the 1980s. It is still considered to be a very dangerous place. I was supposed to be visiting someone who was very dear to me, with whom I had shared many adventures, and was working in Papua New Guinea, but very sadly, the person died prematurely last year.

Last edited 11 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
11 months ago

An enigmatic post.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
11 months ago

An enigmatic post.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
11 months ago

I believe the last person known to have been devoured was in the 1980s. It is still considered to be a very dangerous place. I was supposed to be visiting someone who was very dear to me, with whom I had shared many adventures, and was working in Papua New Guinea, but very sadly, the person died prematurely last year.

Last edited 11 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
11 months ago

“The Jews”? Wouldn’t it then be “The Catholics”?

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
11 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Christ was a Jew but yes.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
11 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Christ was a Jew but yes.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago

I gather Papua-New Guinea was the last place that human beings were regularly on the ‘menu’.
In the local language this delicacy translated as “ long pig”.

Just as the heart was valued for valour as you so rightly say, so the male genitals were thought to increase virility, despite their eel like texture.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
11 months ago

“The Jews”? Wouldn’t it then be “The Catholics”?

Anthony Roe
Anthony Roe
11 months ago

Quasimodo, I like it.

Greg Morrison
Greg Morrison
11 months ago

I’m not sure he does believe in transubstantiation, Peter. Those of us who do would be very unlikely to ever utter the words “I have often wondered why we who believe in transubstantiation do not experience at least a bat squeak of disgust” in this most sacred regard.
And neither would we say “receiving the bread and wine”. He didn’t even capitalise the words.

Last edited 11 months ago by Greg Morrison
Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
11 months ago

I once read that the Jews do not eat/ drink the blood of the slaughtered animal because it was believed in ancient times that what constituted the life of the animal was in the blood and if the blood was eaten/ drunk, the person who had consumed it would become animal-like: take on characteristics of the animal. (It was a common belief amongst cannibals that if the victor ate the heart of the defeated enemy who had been courageous in battle then the victor would become more courageous.) In this context, it makes perfect sense to drink the blood of Christ to become more Christ-like. In Mexico there is a baptismal font which is believed to have originally been used in human sacrifice: filled with human hearts. I like that. For me, it’s keeping it real.

Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
11 months ago

Giles, you believe in transubstantiation. But is that belief hard-line or pragmatic? Do you offer your communicants a gluten-free option? I am a member of the Church of Scotland and I am always moved by the words associated with Communion, but swallowing a lump of Mother’s Pride is always a distraction for me.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
11 months ago

I would not be a cold rationalist seeing all sides of issues for all the tea in China. Giles Fraser explains why there are so many empty churches in Britain.

Scott Norman Rosenthal
Scott Norman Rosenthal
11 months ago

In reality, eating the flesh of one’s own species is quite unhealthy. Human bodies simply aren’t safely adapted to consume other human bodies.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
11 months ago

Fraser makes a interesting series of distinctions between physical disgust and moral revulsion, a few of which raised my own squeamish hackles. He is right to note the imperfect, but non-trivial correlation between the two class of disgust. We should try to avoid assuming that everything that disgusts us is wrong, But are we performing some oppressive injustice against anyone by banning cannibalism or incestuous relations?
For the most part, we do well to trust our guts. For example, I’m not about to listen to a carefully reasoned, amoral, or sophistical defense of pederasty for very long before I’m just disgusted, and I don’t think that disgust (or even rage) should be dismissed as misplaced, nor purely irrational (non-rational, yes).

Richard Irons
Richard Irons
10 months ago

Johnathon Haidt’s book, the righteous mind covers this material. The question his survey asked is, is it ok for a man to have sex with a dead chicken? It is a rough and ready predictor of political leaning. Another was it it OK to burn your nation’s flag?

Michel Starenky
Michel Starenky
11 months ago

When you are dead it is not you anymore so anyone can do anything to your corpse. .

Carmel Shortall
Carmel Shortall
11 months ago

“…so anyone can do anything to your corpse.”

Well, trendy vicar Giles Fraser will be attacking it with a knife and fork and some mustard!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
11 months ago

So you’re for removing the prohibition on necrophilia too?

Carmel Shortall
Carmel Shortall
11 months ago

“…so anyone can do anything to your corpse.”

Well, trendy vicar Giles Fraser will be attacking it with a knife and fork and some mustard!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
11 months ago

So you’re for removing the prohibition on necrophilia too?

Michel Starenky
Michel Starenky
11 months ago

When you are dead it is not you anymore so anyone can do anything to your corpse. .