Have you done your detox yet?

I was reading this article about the rationale of the popular “detox” regimens common here around the beginning of a new year, and found it interesting and informative. One of the most intriguing thoughts presented was that the popularity of “detox” products is due to the transfer of the idea that we are defiled by sin, to the more “scientific” idea that we are contaminated by these nonspecific “toxins” and that a detox regimen is actually a form of religious ritual manifest as a pseudo-science treatment.
What does that say about how sin relates to modern humanity, and our guilt and desire for purification? What role can that play in communication of our being stained by sin and the needed for repentence and cleansing?
Overall, an interesting article otherwise as well, but the spiritual aspects and their implications are what stood out to me:


I do my detox with Shakespeare’s sonnets, Hans Zimmer, and Hamilton. But maybe you had something else in mind.


Good article, and I agree with you about the similarities between the idea of a physical “detox” and more spiritual ideas of purity. It reminds me of an article I read several years ago called “The new religion: How the emphasis on ‘clean eating’ has created a moral hierarchy for food,” which points out that as religious devotion declines in society, a sense of morality about the righteousness and “purity” of foods is growing.

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Whatever it takes to exorcise your demons!:wink: I go with Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffet, more consistent with my demographic.

Seriously, it does seem there is a need for clearing out the debris of life, and while most religions have some purification rites, most are not quite as extreme as the Aztecs (on my mind as I was reading a recipe for pazole stew, where the original recipe used rather unique ingredients).

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These things reach far back into our evolutionary past. As part of my own research into the evolution of morality, I found Jonathan Haidt’s analysis in The Moral Emotions quite persuasive. Here’s the connection between disgust and purity (from the linked article):

The Moral Importance of the Other-condemning Emotions

The “CAD-Triad Hypothesis” (Rozin, Lowery, Imada, & Haidt, 1999) proposes that the emotions of contempt, anger, and disgust (CAD) are responses to violations of Shweder’s three moral codes called, respectively, the ethics of community, autonomy, and divinity (Shweder, Much, Mahapatra, & Park, 1997). Rozin et al. found that American and Japanese participants consistently paired contempt (the word and the facial expression) with moral violations involving disrespect and violations of duty or hierarchy (the ethics of community); they paired anger with violations of rights and fairness (ethics of autonomy), and they paired disgust with violations of physical purity, such as food and sex taboos (ethics of divinity). Contempt, anger, and disgust therefore act as guardians of different portions of the moral order. People are exquisitely sensitive to the propriety of the actions of others, even when those actions do not affect themselves. Anger and disgust can be felt strongly towards people in third party situations, so they are listed in Figure 1 as involving (at least potentially) disinterested elicitors. Contempt can be felt in third-party situations, but because it is generally tied to the relative positions of the self and the object of contempt, strong contempt probably requires a larger dose of self-relevance.

As guardians of the moral order, all three emotions motivate people to change their relationships with moral violators. But only anger motivates direct action to repair the moral order and to make violators mend their ways. Anger thus can be considered the most prototypical moral emotion of the three (at least for Western cultures) followed by disgust, and lastly by contempt.


I would be hard pressed to believe that morality and food is increasing as a response to less believers in religious faiths. I believe it’s more correlation than causation. There are more power poles every year as well but I doubt it’s related.

I believe it’s probably due to several reasons. I believe with technology advancing and the rise of social media we see more and more people being brought to more self awareness about the cost of a burger. Not just the environmental cost to produce meat vs grains but also the fact more and more people are brought in contact with the death involved. Most people like meat. Most people like bacon. But most people would feel terrible I believe if they had to pull a whining piglet away from it’s mother and kill it with a knife and carve away its flesh and fry it up. So with things like YouTube and Facebook more and more people are brought into that position as a onlooker and it bothers them. Plus most faiths bring up animal rights and well-being May more than most secular reasoning. Even the Torah paints a picture of harmony with nature. Though mythological and ahistorical, Genesis even mentions in the first chapters about how some vegetation was set aside for animals and how it was not until after the flood humans were permitted to eat meat.

I believe it’s a byproduct of simply more and more people seeing the consequences of taking a animals life.

As for detox I have never studied it out. It’s purely anecdotal, but I’ve noticed when I fast for a few days, 3-5, I feel much better. Nowadays, my diet is intermittent fasting with the majority of my meal being at dinner and dessert and I feel better in general. By not eating 9pm-12pm it keeps me feeling lighter and less blah. It’s far from a detox, but I think it brings a similar feeling.

I was gifted with perfectly good kidneys and a liver, making for a good detox.

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So, do you think detox and other pseudo science beliefs have anything in common or serve as a proxy for religious ritual? The arguments and tenacity of adherents in maintaintaining their belief despite evidence or lack thereof seems quite a bit more like religion than science.

Sounds like Scientology.

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Some would – in my rural community there are a lot of hunters so it might not be as big of a deal. But that’s how humanity lived for thousands of years, no YouTube necessary. Animal death was just a part of life, and most of it was right out in the open.

I think “Disney-ification” might be a factor in the shift. Not only have many people been sheltered from agriculture, but they’ve been raised instead with pets and talking animal movies, so their perception of animals has changed from what it would have been in other ages.

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Another thing to consider is that it’s mostly probably just certain places having this issue.

Some countries have way more people who don’t eat meat or as much meat.

Even with Disney it’s been around a while. Bambi came out in the in the 1940s.

It does seem like it’s gathered momentum in the recent decade. Regardless if through movies, posts, or videos I think it’s just simply people being faced more and more with their choices.

If other things were brought to attention more often you would probably see those changes as well.

I think it is a pretty basic human need to get rid of negative emotions. What makes someone feel guilty can change from one society or group to another, but the basic need to have fewer bad feelings is pretty universal. For example, you probably don’t feel guilty snacking on some bacon, but a devout Muslim would.

I think there is also a human need to feel like we have some control over what happens to us, especially in a universe that may appear indifferent to our suffering. If someone thinks they are doing something to stave off disease or poor health, then that can have a strong emotional draw. Add in a bit of tribalism and the positive feeling that you know a secret others don’t, and what you end up with is something like the detox culture you are talking about. As a bit of garnish, you can top it off with the placebo effect and the human bias towards anecdotal evidence.

Overall, I find it to be a fascinating insight in human psychology, including all of our emotional foibles and biases. Human beings are this wonderful mix of reason, logic, irrational emotions, biases, and blind spots. This isn’t meant to be derogatory at all since I think we would be a really boring and uninspiring species without everything that makes us human.


Could be, at least if compared with others in somewhat modern times. And also the fact that it’s even portrayed as a “choice” at all. I have to wonder how much of humanity (modern or otherwise) has ever viewed eating meat as a “lifestyle choice,” rather than just something they do (and have always done) to stay alive.

You might find this interesting:

It would seem that some humans have been obsessed with their diets since ancient times.

I guess I always imagined it as the other way. When I look at other primates, and then see how much weaker we are on average then them and how we lack even more of a viciousness, that our species has always ate plants and mushrooms and perhaps insects as a way to survive. Then with the discovery of fire we were able to eventually start consuming more and more meat. Once we started making primitive weapons it allowed us to hunt animals. Prior to that, we could not run down hardly anything worth eating and if we did we can’t exactly use our nails and teeth to tear into even a wild pig without using a knife and fire to slice it and get rid of the hair. Plus carnivores and omnivores seem to like the smell of rotting flesh and so on. Our species is repulsed by it.

So I feel that overall our species has been predominantly vegetarian until weapons and fire. It probably came in handy for when ice ages hit.

Thanks for that – that is interesting. I do agree that humans have a history of diet obsession, but I do tend to think of vegetarianism specifically as a modern thing, probably because a lack of food abundance would have made it hard to sustain for most populations. But I see there are exceptions! :slight_smile:

Now I’m morbidly curious what those could be.

That is fascinating. Makes me think of the six foundational areas of moral concern Haidt writes about.

But I hadn’t thought about how contempt, anger and disgust as reactions which reinforce these related. Thanks for the link.

That is one way to put it. But another way would be to look at the need to act in ways you feel are worthy or which give you a sense of self worth. Same idea but looking at the positive you want to walk away with rather than the negative one wants to walk away from.

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A bit of an aside, but there is some interesting evolutionary biology and anthropology . . .

As an aside, our closest evolutionary cousins are an interesting study. The chimpanzee lives in groups that are strongly patriarchal, and there is tons of violence between members of the same group and between groups of chimps. The bonobo is the exact opposite. They live matriarchal groups that are non-violent and . . . let’s call it “free love”. We can see both of those things in human society, which I find fascinating.

In order to eat lots of plants you need strong jaw muscles. Strong jaw muscles require a strong anchoring point, one of which is the skull. You can’t have strong jaw muscles and a relatively giant and thin cranium. Humans have a giant and thin cranium with weak jaw muscles which makes us poor herbivores. There were some australopithecine offshoots that were herbivores, and their jaws and craniums showed it:

Paranthropus aethiopicus

The small cranium and large sagittal crest are indicative of large and powerful jaw muscles. The same features are seen in gorillas, who are herbivores.

The ability to find soft foods and meat was probably a big boon for our lineage, and it allowed our craniums grow with our big brains. On top of that, cooking increases the calories we can get out of meat, so that was a big one too.

Anyway, this is a bit of a rabbit trail, but one I always find interesting.


I’ll have to study it out more. I’ve never dig to deep into it. In school, our biology teacher went over this subject and broke down the anatomy and manners of true carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores and said we were a type of herbivore. That our intestines, teeth, and everything indicated it and that our closest living relatives followed the same patterns but were even more evolved to handle the violence.

I remember they even cited some study about infant mannerism by placing small mammals with little kids that they’ve never seen and and various fruits and the kids instinctively wanted to play and pet the little animals and wanted to eat the fruits.

Then since then what I have read all seemed to indicate the same and that’s how I learned about the smell reactions between true carnivores and omnivores vs herbivores and where we feel in that scale.
I ended up becoming a vegan, and it was not related to any of that but was inspired by two things. First convictions about it based on being more
Involved with nature and animals and then I just hardened my heart to it because I liked the taste and while reading the Bible after becoming a Christian I was convicted not to do it anymore. Now I’ve not eaten meat for almost 13 years.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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