Do animals have souls?
I’ve written hundreds of articles, thousands of stories, and several books. But none of those have received as much attention as one small article that I wrote in the heat of passion after a coworker told me that my beloved dog would never go to Heaven. Why did it bother me? I have no idea – I’m not even religious. Had he told me that I would not make it into heaven, I probably wouldn’t have had a problem with that. But, the idea that a soul as pure as Malachi’s would not make it into that idealistic paradise known as heaven just irritated me. And so, the philosophical discussion of whether animals have souls was launched with an article entitled, “Do Animals Have Souls?”
I stood by and watched as this article was translated into five languages (that I know of), and have opened my email on more than one occasion to find someone has forwarded my own article back to me as it made the journey around the world via the World Wide Web too many times for me to count. I have received thousands of pieces of correspondence on this article, from people with many different schools of thought ranging from those who strongly believe that animals have souls, to those who would rather die than believe they do, and those who claim not to care, but still take time out of their day to write me. Why? Because it is a topic that incites both passion and controversy. It is intertwined with an ancient theory that brings out both the best and the worst in people. It is a philosophy that, in it’s base form, has incited riots and wars and countless acts of random violence and raw aggression throughout world history.
And I am ready to broach the topic once again. As a disclaimer against what is to follow, I would like to state that I am in no way supporting, endorsing, chastising or disregarding any person’s beliefs. My own beliefs are what they are – my own. What I am attempting to do in this essay is to cause people to question their beliefs, not for the purpose of disregarding them, but for the purpose of making them stronger. For the record, I do believe in a higher power, one that is called by many names, but ultimately it is the same power as those represented in other religions. What do you believe? Well, that’s none of my business. If you feel strongly enough, perhaps you can follow my example and write an essay on it, and maybe you will help to sway the feelings and belief system of another human.
The reason I am writing about this theory is simple. Some of the people who write to me (and those who don’t have the courage to do so, choosing instead to voice their opinion in a public forum using a false name) consist of a small minority who don’t believe that animals have souls or can experience pain or pleasure. These people make up a small percentage, but they are a committed percentage. Now, I am a firm believer in standing up for your beliefs, and so when I was recently told that I am going to burn in hell for publicly stating that I believe animals have souls, I felt it was time to restate my belief, if for no other reason than to prove these people wrong. Basically, I have a theory. I believe that the enlightened people out there, those who make up the majority of the population, will back me up. And if enough people do that, it might just make those who don’t believe that animals have souls, emotions, or the ability to experience pain, reconsider their position.
Now I’m not opposed to burning in Hell if my animals are going to be down there with me. My theory is that if I am indeed moved into another world, it would be Hell if I DIDN’T have my pets with me. Of course, burning in Hell is not my first choice, but if that’s what the big guy (or girl) wants, then who am I to argue? After all, I’m just one person. I can’t control what happens here on Earth, let alone in the afterlife (if there even is one), but I do have the courage and conviction to stand by my belief that animals have souls, and I do this for a variety of reasons, which I am now prepared (thanks to a few high-ranking friends in several religions) to back up.
The bible seems to be the one source that everyone favors as a primary reference. Now, I have to tell you straight out that I’m not a big advocate of a book that has been translated thousands of times from a “now dead” language, over a course of 2,000 + years, by hundreds of people (nearly all of them male), into and out of hundreds of other languages. In all honesty, don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, there could be a few errors? I mean, seriously... Don’t you think the meaning of certain words may have changed, however slightly, over the last thousand years? Do you think that the connotation or denotation of a word in Hebrew might have come to mean something slightly different than what it is after it has been translated from Hebrew into Greek, then maybe Latin and then English, then Spanish, then into whatever other languages it was translated into (I know of at least 43 languages it is in now!)? I’m just asking. I don’t know, because I’m not an expert, and I don’t claim to be. But, it seems to me that an awful lot of people are basing their entire existence on words that they may not fully understand, and as a writer, I can assure you that I know the futility of words…
But just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the bible is correct for now. Let’s assume that everything in the bible was translated word for word, and was passed down from God Himself, just as he intended it to be understood over 2,000 years ago. And let me give you a few things to think about…
There are a number of reasons why I believe that animals can experience pain, reasons why I believe they do have souls and why they also have emotions. The experiencing pain concept is a no-brainer. If you kick a dog, it’s going to cry. If you hit an animal, it’s going to run away. Animals experience pain, just as we experience pain. They manifest the experience of pain in the exact same way that humans do – they cry out, they run away, occasionally they fight back. If you have any issues with this theory, then you have far deeper problems than I can help you with and you should just go visit a therapist or lock yourself away, because no one is really going to be able to help you out here. That said, let’s move on to the concept of a soul, freedom of choice, and God’s word on the subject…
Like us, animals have freedom of choice. If you don’t believe me, walk out and call a strange animal to you. Or call your own pets to you. See if they come. They might, they might not. They have the choice of running up and biting you, running away, or allowing you to pet them. Yet unlike us, despite having “freedom of choice,” animals don’t run around breaking the Ten Commandments. Now the Ten Commandments are more or less a staple of any major form of religion. For example, name me one religion that says you’re not supposed to murder or steal. These are the common rules that join all religions. Yet, even in churches we break at least one of the Ten Commandments.
“Not true !” You cry in outrage.
Okay, fine. Let me prove it. When was the last time you walked into a church without seeing a statue of Jesus on the cross or the Virgin Mary? What was that commandment again? Oh, that’s right – “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” I’m no bible scholar, but it seems to me that statues of Jesus sort of fit that category. Faulty Logic? Perhaps, but not nearly as faulty as our interpretation of the bible. The word “Idolatry” comes from one of two sources, the Greek word, “eidololatria” which is a compounded word for “eidolon” meaning worship and “latreia”, meaning “image or figure”. The other meaning is based on the Hebrew words, “avodat elilim” meaning “pass a child through fire in worship of Molech. Another phrase that Hebrews use is avodat kochavim umazalot, meaning “the worship of stars and planets”. None of these words are very attractive. However, people have created a bit of an “addendum” to this commandment by saying that nothing we could create here on earth could possibly compare to the likeness of God. However, we know that God created us “in his own image”, so that tells me that we have a pretty decent idea of what he looks like.
Regardless, that’s not my point. Enlightenment is my point, and so is proving that animals don’t run around breaking the 10 commandments, are not evil, and are more than a piece of meat. Animals, for instance, never create “graven images” or “likenesses of things in heaven above.” Have you ever watched a dog lie in the sun and sniff the air? Have you ever seen a deer pad gently through a meadow as though they feared awakening God Himself? Near as I can tell, the animals have a much deeper reverence for the world than we do, yet we continue to say that they don’t have souls and we do. Well folks, as many commandments as I’ve seen broken JUST in regards to animals, I can tell you that there are a LOT of “people souls” in trouble out there.
But, that’s just one example…
Allow me to illustrate with another. Another commandment that we are all fond of is, “Thou shalt not kill”. Animals are not driven by greed; they may argue over a bone every now and again, but they don’t have to lie, cheat, or steal to get what they want. They don’t engage in “emotionally or physically manipulative” behavior. They don’t even need a special place to worship – they are content with being in the yard, or looking up in the vast sky above and understanding they are in contact with a higher power. They are not like people who must take money from others – people who really don’t have it to begin with, in order to build monstrous temples to a God that supposedly created an entire earth. Seriously – what is someone who allegedly created an entire planet going to do with one tiny, single temple anyway? What was that other statement from the bible? “I am the Lord thy God who have brought thee out of the house of bondage.” That’s right, folks… Not taken you into the house of the house of bondage, taking you out of the house of bondage. Everyone assumes this passage is a reference to God freeing the Israelites, but is it really? In fact, most people believe there are only 10 Commandments, but that all depends on your religion, your translation and edition of the bible you are referring too and whether or not you read the Torah. Some believe that there are 613 Commandments, only 10 of which were written into stone tablets.
Now I know my readers pretty well, and I know that this is not going to be a convincing argument without my quoting a few passages from the bible. It’s important to reiterate that I am not an advocate of, nor do I endorse in any way, a piece of literature that has been translated into hundreds of languages by thousands of people over thousands of years. I just don’t consider that a reliable piece of information. However, most of you do, so I’m trying to respect that. With that in mind, here we go:
From the book of Genesis on, it is quite obvious that God is concerned with all living creatures. In Genesis 7:2, He instructs Noah to rescue seven (depending on the version you are reading) pairs of all food animals and one pair of all “non-food” animals so that all living creatures could continue life after the great flood. And, special thanks to www.all-creatures.org for this information, texts such as Genesis 1:21-24 are often mistranslated to read “living creatures.” The Hebrew word used in reference to animals throughout the bible is “nephesh chayah,” or “living soul.” This is how the phrase has been translated in Genesis 2:7 and in 400 other places in the Old Testament. Therefore, Genesis 1:30 is more accurately translated, “And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul, I have given every green herb for meat.”
God was even against animal abuse as evidenced in Exodus 22:19 when he says, “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal must be put to death.” In Isaiah 66:3 He states, “But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog's neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig's blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations…” In Exodus 20:10, He states “Exodus 20:10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.” In Psalm 36:6, there is a nice little poem about God preserving Man and Beast. In Deuteronomy 22, God states: Passage Deuteronomy 22 4-11 :4 If you see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it. Help him get it to its feet. 6 If you come across a bird's nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. 7 You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life. 11 Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.
Here’s a really nice little quote for all of you women. Remember how we were “made out of the left rib of Adam”? For hundreds of years, Catholicism believed that WE didn’t have a soul. But, we proved them wrong, right? What makes animals any different? Do they have to write an essay? What of those people who can’t write an essay? Does that mean that they don’t have a soul? I choose not to believe that… I believe that every creature has the power to learn, every creature has the power to feel, and God created them that way for a reason. Was it to teach us compassion? Empathy? Perhaps, but more importantly, I feel that are on this earth because like us, God created them in his image as well, and we owe it to animals to preserve, love and treat them as we would anyone else. The same punishments should apply to a person who tortures and kills an animal as a person who tortures and kills a person.
You do know what happens if we don’t crack down on people like this, right? They morph into murderers, rapists, child molesters… I challenge you to name me one serial killer that didn’t begin his or her career on animals – and prove it.
· Isaiah 66:3 But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog's neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig's blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations;
Exodus 20:10 (Whole Chapter)
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.
Passage Psalm 36:6: 6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.