Finally, last but not least in the series on vaping and religion, today we are taking a look at e-cigarettes and Christianity. Can you vape as a Roman Catholic? Interestingly, the answer to this simple question is by far the most complicated of the three religions of the Book.
“Passions in themselves are neither good nor evil.” – Saint Thomas Aquinas
Is vaping allowed, tolerated, or a sin? After doing our best to find answers for Muslims and members of the Jewish faith, I thought – somewhat naively – “We’ll finish with Christians, and because of my own Catholic upbringing it will be an easy article to write”. That was my first mistake. Given the complexity of the topic, I thought, “Well, the Church will be able to give me a specific answer”. That was my second mistake.
Because you cannot understand the stance of Roman Catholicism in relation to e-cigarettes — and by this I do not mean the Church — if you are not fully aware of its History, and if you don’t know where you yourself stand.
Because Jesus’s Gospel, if you were to summarise it in one word, it would be “choice”. The Christ on whom the Christian faith is based did not leave any commandments, but rather a teaching. Everyone is free to choose the path of God or not, and everyone is free to do so in their own way.
After Jesus, therefore, comes the Church, whose mission was to teach the Holy Gospel. In order to clarify the message, throughout its history, canons and decrees and schisms, the Gospel has been turned into official doctrine, that is to say a system of laws, rules, duties and interdicts not emanating directly from Christ’s Gospel, but from its interpretation and its transposition to secular life (real life, as opposed to spiritual life).
In addition, the Church’s commandments were dictated by the era, political context, etc. All this to say: do not expect a firm, clear, and definitive answer.
The body as a temple
The first argument that you could bring up is that your body is a temple.
And in this case, this argument does not work. Because if you argue that the body is a temple given to the religious believer by God, you are suggesting that vaping is harmful. Therefore, the problem is as follows: either vaping is, in the vaper’s mind, harmful, in which case vaping is not recommended. You heard me right – it is not recommended, but also not prohibited: don’t forget the keyword in the Christian faith is “choice”. Or it is not harmful, or is not as harmful as tobacco, and in this case, it is either neutral, or recommended as a temporary solution.
Therefore, the argument of the body as a temple does not hold, unless you are fully aware of vaping a liquid that you know to contain hazardous substances, as is very rarely the case, fortunately.
The argument that it could be a sin is more delicate. You vape because you enjoy it – you originally wanted to quit smoking, but you get a sense of satisfaction from vaping that makes you want to keep on doing it… That is not, in the broadest Christian sense, a sin.
Indeed, there is nothing in Roman Catholic philosophy that prevents you from enjoying the resources that God has provided for Humanity on Earth. Vaping is a product of the human intellect, and human intelligence was, according to the Christians, a gift from God who created us; vaping, then, falls under this category. However, gluttony is a sin, which can be interpreted as excessive consumption.
However, all the priests that I interviewed for this article drew a blank when I asked them to define excessive vaping consumption. “Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation”, according to Saint Augustine, who does not advise abstinence, however: it is too easy, and unnecessarily deprives Humanity of the pleasure that God has provided. “A minimum of comfort is necessary for the practice of virtue” adds Thomas Aquinas.
Justifying yourself before God
The ultimate solution depends on each individual.
As we have seen already, the Catholic faith – as set out by Jesus – is a matter of choice and personal judgement. In addition, the God of the New Testament is disposed to forgiveness. Therefore, a Christian who comes before God on the day of reckoning to ask for eternal life has nothing to fear from their mistakes if they were made in good faith and without awareness.
Simply put: if they do not harm themselves, or others, and if vaping does not prevent them from following the Christian principles, solidarity, and charity, then they are not doing any wrong, or at least not committing any sin for which they cannot be forgiven. As Saint Augustine says: “It is better to limp along the right path than to walk strongly in the wrong direction”.
As we understand it, if you are not doing any harm by vaping, and if it is not preventing you from doing good, then, there is nothing in the Christian faith that obliges you to practise abstinence. This is the most specific answer that we can give you. Other precepts may add to or contradict this statement, but they are doctrines applicable to groups that are required to follow a specific path. You are free to choose whether to follow them or not.
As a final question, do you have to vape Crab Juice on a Friday? The answer to this specific question is clear: at no point does God ask Man to voluntarily and gratuitously undergo excessive suffering. So, no.