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Seeing animals as spiritual beings
July 2, 2010 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Animals as spiritual, and the role of animals in spirituality. "Some religious leaders welcome pets to worship services, memorialize them at death and discuss them as spiritual beings without distinction from humanity" ... "Factory farming, green living among topics sparking discussion."

The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different. - Hippocrates

"I think it's ridiculous," said Rabbi Byron Sherwin, distinguished service professor with the Spertus Institute in Chicago. "Judaism makes a very clear distinction between animals and human beings. Human beings are not really a kind of animal like any other kind of animal."...

But Kris Lecakes Haley of Phoenix, an ordained animal chaplain, doesn't think there is a line to blur. "I think they are all expressions of the divine," she said. "We all have a divine spark within us. Because of that, there is an irrefutable connectedness of all life."
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Another view on factory animal farming: "The human mind, especially when there is money to be had, can manufacture grand excuses for the exploitation of other human beings. How much easier it is for people to excuse the wrongs done to lowly animals." Compassionate conservatism -- toward animals.

Meanwhile, Chimps are seen to have their own spirituality. (pdf)
posted by longsleeves (20 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Catholic dogs go to heaven. Presbyterian dogs can talk to their pastor.
posted by GuyZero at 1:34 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Catholic Dogs Go To Heaven. Presbyterian Dogs Can Talk To Their Pastor"
posted by zarq at 1:35 PM on July 2, 2010


Dammit, GuyZero!
posted by zarq at 1:36 PM on July 2, 2010


Heh.
posted by GuyZero at 1:37 PM on July 2, 2010


Are Your Cats Old Enough to Learn About Jesus?
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:39 PM on July 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Maybe I shouldn't have posted this on Friday afternoon.
posted by longsleeves at 1:51 PM on July 2, 2010


My cats' birth names were Meowser, Fluff, and Mr. Boots, but their baptismal names are Ezekiel, Caleb, and Mr. Paws.
Classic.
posted by signalnine at 1:52 PM on July 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


One of the most interesting beliefs I've seen is the Ifa belief about animal sacrifice- prayers are spoken to the animal before it is killed. The spirit of the animal carries the prayers to the afterworld as a messenger and is rewarded with a better birth in terms of reincarnation. The body of the animal is cooked and shared amongst the community.

I remember hearing a story about a goat that managed to escape before a sacrifice. They joked that the goat made ebo (sacrifice) before the people could, so it got spared...
posted by yeloson at 1:53 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Inuit people most definitely regard animals as spiritual beings, and they venerate them in many ways in ritual and art and in the act of hunting itself, which involves prayer at various points, and is governed by a strong ideology of gratitude to the animals that give themselves up to humans in exchange for humans using them wisely and protecting their habitat. (This complex of beliefs is more or less common across the world's indigenous hunting and herding cultures.)

Revering or even worshipping an animal doesn't mean you can't kill or eat it in most cultures; quite the contrary, in fact.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:01 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the things that really struck me when I was younger was the direct coorelation between animal abuse as children and psychopathy/serial-killings later in life. It seems that how we treat animals is a kind of spiritual barometer of the human mind.

I think religion is silly but if incorporating animals into religious life makes us more animal-friendly it will also make our society inevitably more people-friendly, which is A Good Thing.
posted by Avenger at 2:08 PM on July 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe I shouldn't have posted this on Friday afternoon.

When and if the full article by J. Harrod is available to review online, perhaps it would make a worthwhile argument re: the potential spiritual or superstitious nature of non-anthrocentric cross-species rituals. But what you've linked to in that pdf is a set of observed behaviors which may or may not be anthropomorphism. The existence of ritualistic behaviors during mourning by animals is not a de facto argument that they are religious in nature.

That's not to say that they can't be. I'm just saying that what you've presented here -- a list of observed behaviors, a couple of unsourced quotes and a political argument towards humane farming practices -- doesn't seem like evidence to me.
posted by zarq at 2:08 PM on July 2, 2010


I'm just saying that what you've presented here -- a list of observed behaviors, a couple of unsourced quotes and a political argument towards humane farming practices -- doesn't seem like evidence to me.

The last link was only intended to show that there has been some scholarly writing on chimp spirituality. The post in general is not intended to constitute evidence of anything, and I don't think it comes accross that way.
posted by longsleeves at 2:26 PM on July 2, 2010


While I believe that animals have souls exactly as much as I believe that humans have them, I will say this; I use religious/ spiritual terminology with regard to my pets far more than any other aspect in my life.

For example, let's say I'm sitting in bed, watching TV, and one of my dogs comes tearing through the house, leaps off the floor follows a perfect arc through the air which ultimately terminates at my crotch. Thus you get phrases like:

"Jesus fucking... Holy Christ that hurts, you stupid, Damn it. Oh Hell! You worthless furry demon span shit monkey..."

40 pounds of airborne dog landing on sensitive bits is sure to bring out my churchy spiritual talk.

My cat's do it too, they just express their parabolas from the shelves, not the ground. So my whimpering is louder throughout.
posted by quin at 2:40 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are dogs spiritual? The old saying goes: "The dog is the only animal that has seen his god. "
posted by HuronBob at 2:42 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The last link was only intended to show that there has been some scholarly writing on chimp spirituality. The post in general is not intended to constitute evidence of anything, and I don't think it comes accross that way.

OK. It did strike me that way, but I freely admit I could have been reading something into it that isn't there. What I wrote in my last comment came really across a bit more harsh than I intended. I'm not accusing you of anything or trying to trash your post. It's an interesting subject. I just think that it's going to be pretty difficult to find a dividing line between anthropomorphism and objective observation. How can we talk about the nature and purpose of animal behavior & rituals and try to frame them through our human perspective without imposing our own assumptions?
posted by zarq at 2:57 PM on July 2, 2010


One of the little moments of sadness in one of the last Masses I attended, many years ago, involved an animal. A black cat wandered into the church during the sermon, sauntered down the central nave in that "I don't give a fuck" cat way, plopped down in front of the altar and began grooming itself. It was a nice, happy moment - until the priest said something about God welcoming all animals, and a parishoner shooed it out.

Lesson 1: an uncaring cat is enough to threaten a Catholic service. Lesson 2: animals don't have spirituality. They lack the neocortex to fool themselves into believing that they do.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 2:59 PM on July 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Last Thanksgiving I asked my Fundamentalist In-laws whether pets go to heaven. Almost simultaneously the wife said, "Yes" the husband said,"No." Then they looked at each other in surprise. In over 40 years of marriage the topic had apparently never come up and the wife looked a little disturbed to see she was not in lock-step with the head of the household.

Then today I was listening to a lecture on Thomas Middleton, when I was reminded that Medieval scholars once debated whether or not women had souls.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:41 PM on July 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh please jesus god dear father let him drop part of his sandwich amen.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:50 PM on July 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


How can we talk about the nature and purpose of animal behavior & rituals and try to frame them through our human perspective without imposing our own assumptions?

We will obviously impose our own assumptions. For some good assumptions, talk, and discussion of approaches, I highly recommend Feast, by Martin Jones, which focuses on human behaviour but sometimes in contrast with animal behaviour.
posted by honest knave at 3:23 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


honest knave, thanks for that rec. Looks fascinating.
posted by zarq at 6:54 AM on July 3, 2010


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