Theism and corn syrup

When I think about theism in general, and theistic religion in particular, I can’t help but think about high-fructose corn syrup. (For simplicity, I’m just going to call it “corn syrup” from now on.) So please bear with me while take a moment to tell you about corn syrup.

Corn syrup tastes good, because it satisfies primitive biological needs. It triggers hard-wired responses in our brains that have evolved over millennia. Some people find it more pleasing than others, of course, and a few people find it unpleasant; but most people find it agreeable, at least in small amounts.

Sometimes people will eat a food and say, “I like the way that thing tastes!” without even realizing that there is corn syrup in it. But the corn syrup is there. Oh, yes it is. And there is something about it that just tastes good.

Because it tastes good, some people allow their diets to be completely overrun by corn syrup. There is no single reason that this happens. Maybe they were brought up eating foods with a lot of corn syrup, and so now that is the only kind of food that tastes right to them. Maybe they discovered that they liked it so much they just couldn’t get enough: it became an addiction, so that they would pursue it more and more until it was present in everything they ate!

There is even speculation that some people might be genetically predisposed to being more vulnerable to the temptations of corn syrup than other people.

But whatever the reason, there are some people who consume more corn syrup than others. There are even people for whom it becomes a dominant force in their lives.

Of course, there are those who object to corn syrup. Some look at the history of damage that corn syrup has done: for example, over-farming corn to the exclusion of other crops ruins the land. Some look at the harmful effects of people who take in too much corn syrup: when plays too large a role in one’s diet, it may lead to health problems. Some look at the fact that it is highly processed and artificial: how can anything that has been manufactured by man possibly be good for you?

There has been a large and growing movement of people who downright vilify corn syrup. For these people, the matter goes far beyond personal taste. Corn syrup not only tastes bad to them, they think it is the root cause of all problems in society. They see how pervasive corn syrup is, its long history of production deeply entwined with our politics and economy, and they think: the world would be a better place if we could just eradicate corn syrup entirely!

There have been vast campaigns both strongly against and strongly in favor of corn syrup. Interestingly, a large majority of people in the U.S. take in a good deal of corn syrup as part of their diets, while simultaneously distancing themselves from it: saying, for example, that they only consume it is moderate amounts, or that it isn’t that important to them in their dietary planning. They consume it without thinking about it often.
Many people only consciously consider the implications of corn syrup on holidays.

But the crowd of people who are vocally, and even angrily, opposed to corn syrup has been growing. They think that corn syrup should be absolutely STAMPED OUT. They point to examples of people whose lives have been ruined by corn syrup. They point to the damage over history that has been done to farm lands. They point to scientific evidence that nobody needs corn syrup, and they suggest that there are more rational alternatives. “Why can’t we just do away with corn syrup entirely?” they ask.

But I think that these people who blame the corn syrup are making a mistake in their reasoning.

For example, let’s consider people who end up ruining their health because they consume so much corn syrup. Let’s face it: there is a good chance that if they had never encountered corn syrup, they would simply be over-consuming some other sweetener. When someone allows themselves to eat so much corn syrup that it ruins their health, this reflects a personality type that is really the root of the problem: the corn syrup is only the mechanism that happened to be used. If it weren’t corn syrup, the person would give themselves diabetes with splenda, or sugar, or honey, or any other sweetener. The problem isn’t the substance itself; the problem is the over-indulgence and lack of nutritional diversity.

Let’s look at another example: the problem that some people have with the institution of the corn syrup industry. It is true that corn makes up a large portion of our economy and has a very strong lobby that affects our politics. I am sure (without even having read anything to support this) that there is corruption within the industry. How am I sure? Because there is corruption in all large industries. And so, to the critics of the corn syrup industry I have to say: the problem here isn’t the corn syrup itself. It’s merely the human institutions that have grown up around it.

Eradicating the corn syrup itself won’t solve this problem: it’s the human institutions that have to change.

Finally, some people say that corn syrup is simply unnatural and has some health risks, so wouldn’t it simply be more rational to use something different? Many of these people even have specific ideas in mind (usually things like raw cane sugar or organic honey).

Personally, I’m indifferent to this. I mean, if someone likes corn syrup, and he doesn’t eat so much of it so that it destroys his health, then it doesn’t bug me if he includes corn syrup in his diet. Sure, the corn syrup industry has its issues; but what industry doesn’t? One can fight to fix the institutions without eliminating the product completely. Personally, I don’t need corn syrup in my diet to enjoy what I’m eating. I will angrily oppose anyone who tries to force me to eat corn syrup, of course. But if someone else enjoys it in their own diet, well… that doesn’t particularly bother me.

Those are my thoughts on theistic religion…. I mean, corn syrup.