The Long Beach Press-Telegram (or rather, Alfredo Garcia of the Religious News Service) reports on three new books that affirm the existence of souls in animals:
The fate of our four-legged friends – whether they have a soul, whether they’ll be in the afterlife – has occupied the minds of Christian thinkers ever since the days of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.
Three recent books try to answer the question, and affirm a special relationship between humans and animals – one that does not end with death.
It’s this kind of “theology” that makes the faithful look ridiculous, especially when it’s couched like this:
Author Ptolemy Tompkins tracks the history of the relationship between humans and animals in the new book, “The Divine Life of Animals.” Prompted to write by the death of his pet rabbit, Angus, Tompkins looks to the ancient past for the best models of animal-human interaction.
“Pre-modern cultures … were apparently able to see animals as undying spirits dressed, for the moment, in mortal bodies,” he writes.
The idea is to recover that “new-yet-old vision” that “will allow us to see (animals) as the genuine soul-beings they are and always have been.”
There are two other screeds along these lines. One is The Friends We Keep, by Laura Hobgood-Oster, professor of religion at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas:
“There does not seem to be any indication (in Scripture) … that there is a special human exclusion (in heaven),” Hobgood-Oster said.
And, finally, I Will See You in Heaven by Friar Jack Winz:
Reluctance to the idea of animals in heaven persists in some Christian circles. Last year, Franciscan Friar Jack Wintz published the book, “Will I See My Dog in Heaven?” This year, he answered his own question with a new book, “I Will See You in Heaven.”
Taking inspiration from his order’s founder, St. Francis of Assisi, who’s also the patron saint of animals, Wintz presents biblical evidence for the inclusion of animals in heaven.
In the book of Genesis, he writes, both humans and animals live in peaceful harmony – “a wonderful and insightful glimpse of the paradise that is to come,” he writes.
“It makes sense to me, therefore, that the same loving creator who arranged for these animals … to enjoy happiness in the original Garden would not want to exclude them from the final paradise,” he writes.
More than anything, this genre of belief shows that religion is based on wish thinking rather than evidence. How, exactly, does the soul enter the zygote when a sperm and an egg fuse? Does each gamete have half a soul? And if our personality and all our memories are coded in our neurons, which decay after death, how can we be the same people, with all those memories, in heaven? Do frogs have souls, too? What about fruit flies? Sunflowers?
But never mind. Who wouldn’t want to see Fluffy again, disporting herself amongst the clouds and chasing celestial mice (who apparently never get caught)? But the Bible says that humans alone—not cats, dogs, squirrels, skunks, copepods, and ferns—are made in the image of God. And if theologians want to debate whether they’ll meet Happy Cat or Rex or Angus teh Bunneh (Fig. 1) in the afterlife, well, let them look stupid. It all contributes to the palpable irrationality that will eventually bring down religion in America, as it already has in much of Europe.
Fig. 1. Bunneh heaven (artist’s rendition).