How do I refuse food sacrificed to idols?

I live in India and have many Hindu friends. It’s very common among them to offer sweets or some eatables as a part of their festivals or after coming back from some of their temple pilgrimages. Some of these foods may have been sacrificed to their idols, or in some cases sold by their temples. I always refuse to eat it, making many of them sad. They get offended when one refuses this food. What should I do?

In my experience people usually do not become offended when food is declined tactfully, only when it is “refused” in a way that makes the giver feel bad for offering. I agree with you that you should decline food used in Hindu religious ceremonies, especially when it has been offered to idols, but you must find a way to do so that spares the feelings of people who are probably just trying to be hospitable.

Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity never accept food when visiting people in their homes. The main reason is because they do not want to offend the poor who cannot afford to offer food to guests but try to do so anyway, to the detriment of their families. But, since the Missionaries of Charity are based in India, another reason may well be because some of the people they visit may be offering food sacrificed to idols. They handle the problem by explaining that their rule of life does not allow them to accept food offered to them while visiting. You could adapt this to your circumstances by politely saying, “Thank you so much for offering, but I’m afraid that my dietary restrictions are so severe that I cannot eat food I have not prepared for myself.”

Of course, this means that you will have to enforce this policy with all of your social circle and not accept food from anyone, even food you know was not used in Hindu religious ceremonies.

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