So, as you can imagine, the fact that I am vegan for ethical reasons has often led people to call me judgmental. Or sometimes to say “I’m not vegetarian, but I’m not judgmental — I don’t care what anyone eats.” My natural reaction is to get defensive and say I’m not judgmental. Because I feel like for the most part I don’t really care what anyone does… UNLESS it affects someone else. Whatever you want to do that doesn’t harm anyone else, go for it. The problem is, if you eat meat, then there are animals being killed. And that constitutes harm. Do these people who claim not to be judgmental not judge those who murder fellow human beings? Or rapists? Or war criminals? Maybe there are some truly Christ-like folks out there who are truly able to “judge not”, but I suspect most folks who consider themselves nonjudgmental would also have no problem passing judgment on a serial rapist.
I think the crux of the issue here is that these folks don’t consider animals to be worthy of consideration when it comes to how they are treated. Sure, they would say a serial killer is a bad person. But only if it is humans they are killing. Someone who eats meat and is indirectly responsible for the deaths of countless animals is in a different category to them. And it’s not the indirect part that is their trouble. I don’t think they are any more likely to judge the farmer who slaughters a pig for food, even if he or she is directly the killer. So when someone says they are not judgmental, I think they probably mean the same thing that I do — that they don’t care what someone else does unless it affects someone else. The difference is in who they consider qualified to be “someone else”. To them, it needs to be a human being. Animals, even ones who can feel pain and fear and terror and despair and sadness, don’t get the same consideration.
By the way, and I know this will totally muddy the waters, but this makes me see the abortion debate in an entirely different way. Because it’s the same thing there. A lot of folks who want to outlaw abortion are doing so because they put unborn humans in the category of deserving consideration. But it’s not JUST that, because a lot of people (perhaps most) do consider unborn humans to be worthy of consideration. This case is more complicated by the fact that you’re weighing the interests/desires/well-being/rights of the mother versus those of the unborn human. And then of course things are further complicated by the fact that the unborn human begins as a zygote and ends up, just before birth, a pretty sophisticated organism. So most folks accord different levels of consideration depending on the level of development.
Anyway, my point with the abortion thing is just that I can see where one could consider themselves nonjudgmental and yet still pass judgment on others on the issue of abortion. And I mean this for both sides of the debate. Folks who oppose abortion rights see the interests of the unborn human being violated, and folks who support abortion rights see the interests of the mother being violated. In both cases, they feel like it fits the “unless they harm someone else” clause of the “I don’t care what others do unless…” statement.
Note — people try to paint same sex marriage as somehow being harmful to other people, since that’s the only way you can try to be against it and not come off like a complete dick. Problem is, I’ve yet to see anyone give anything remotely resembling a logical explanation for how a same sex marriage is harming anyone. It’s harming “the sanctity of marriage”? Seriously? What the fuck does that even mean? Oh, and it shouldn’t be allowed because marriage has always been between a man and a women? Well, you know what? That’s the same thing they said about interracial marriage — it’s always been the case that the races didn’t intermarry. That doesn’t make it right. But wait, marriage is for having children, and same sex couples can’t produce children! Okay, so I assume anyone espousing that view also feels that infertile people should not be allowed to marry, right? And no women who have passed menopause. No men with a vasectomy or women with their tubes tied. And so on. Because fuck knows it’s not the case that we have a lot of children in the world who need to be adopted, right? We’d be better off having fewer children and having more marriages which adopt. If anything we should be fucking promoting same sex marriage. Anyway, this could be an entire other post. My point is that I don’t think I’ve found anyone who opposes same sex marriage who doesn’t appear to actually be doing it out of bigotry. But they need to find a way to say that it’s hurting other people, otherwise they just come off as judgmental. Well, same sex marriage opponents, I’ve got news for you — it’s not hurting anyone else, so either get comfortable with the idea of being a judgmental prick, or get with the 21st century and realize that love is love and gender is a detail.
Bottom line — I consider myself to be nonjudgmental in the sense that I don’t care at all what you do if it doesn’t harm others. But given that we all define “others” in different ways, that’s not as simple as it sounds.