Do animals have souls?

Views of organised religions

It is very difficult to give a concise tour of the views of organised world religions on the issue of animals having souls (or not) - and whether their souls live on after physical passing. Two factors make thisThanks to free-pet-wallpapers for the photo! a hard task:

1. Within many religions, and even within specific branches of a religion, opinions differ widely;

2. Religions differ over whether animals' souls are immortal or limited to their earthly lives.

Thus in many cases I cannot straightforwardly state, "Religion X does/does not believe animals have souls which continue after physical death". Disagreements on the issue frequently cut across faith boundaries.

In general, I have tried to avoid adding comments. This page is designed to be informational. I leave you, the reader, to decide whether the views of any of the organised religions are of relevance to you....

Christianity

This has many branches. I will not attempt to cite all branches, but the main ones are:

Catholic

Thanks to free-pet-wallpapers for the photo! Pope John Paul II said in 1990: "...also animals possess a soul" and "In this respect, man, created by the hand of God, is identical with all other living creatures." Some Catholic sites "interpreted" that declaration to mean that animals did have souls, but they ceased to exist on death and did not go to heaven - for example ewtn.com. In 2014, Pope Francis' spokesman revealed, "Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978, once said...'One day we will see our animals in the eternity of Christ'."

Liberal Protestant

Opinions differ. The Anglican Church generally is positive on the issue. In 1998 the Lambeth Conference declared: "human beings are ... co-partners with the rest of creation" and "the redemptive purpose of God in Jesus Christ extends to the whole of creation." The Methodist view on animals is summarised by John Wesley: "They will be restored, not only to that measure of understanding which they had in paradise (Eden), but to a degree of it as much higher than that, as the understanding of an elephant is beyond that of a worm."

Evangelical-Biblical Literalist

One camp (Church of Christ) is definite that animals have no place in the afterlife: "In the sense of possessing a part or element that lives forever, as man possesses, animals do not possess an eternal spirit." Baptists generally think there are "no biblical grounds for an assurance that our pets will be resurrected along with us." But veteran evangelist Billy Graham says, "If we need animals around us to make our happiness complete, then you can be sure God will have them there".

Orthodox

It is generally accepted that animals have souls, but there is uncertainty about whether such souls are immortal. Opinions vary widely. Discussions on one Orthodox forum illustrate this. On the Monachos forum opinion is divided, with one layman denying that animals will live on, whilst a Russian Orthodox priest says the issue is unclear. There are no official church pronouncements on the issue.

Mormon

One of the few cases where the position is clear! The Mormons are unambiguous on the issue, especially in this text of the Church of Latter Day Saints: "We do believe in an afterlife for all mankind as well as animals. Animals will be resurrected and receive salvation automatically through the atonement of Christ"

SikhismThanks to free-pet-wallpapers for the photo!

 Sikhs believe in vegetarianism and kindness towards all animals. They also accept that animals have souls which live on. This can be seen in realsikhism.com: "All animals including humans have soul and our soul goes through different life forms until we purify it to become One with God."

Islam

The general view is that animals do have souls. Opinions differ on what happens to them on Judgement Day. Some say that they will be turned to dust and that is the end of them. Others claim that "the bodies of animals will transform into dust after the stage of reckoning but their spirits will live eternally." (Cited from questionsonislam.com)

Judaism

Opinions vary between different branches of Judaism and between individual rabbis. One rabbi on a major Jewish site writes, "For a human being, when the body expires, the divine spiritual soul lives on eternally. Whereas since animals lack a divine soul...their animal soul expires, too. So even though they have an important place in this world, there is no heaven for animals." A more sympathetic discussion of the issue is on Yonassan Gershom's blog, who says that a clear yes/no is not possible.

Hinduism

This religion actually has a god whose form is part human, part elephant: Ganesha. Hindus believe that animals do live on after passing, as part of the reincarnation process: "Every single being in the animal kingdom has a soul...Every human being has already crossed through every single form of insect life, plant life and animal life." The full text is here.

Buddhism

This is more a philosophy than a religion. Buddhists believe in rebirth of all life, but it is more a case of a "dying candle lighting a new one". In other words, an animal (or human!) does not survive as an individual, but rejoins the universe and is reborn as someone/something new. Crucial in all this is the idea of anatta ("Not self"). The way to reach enlightenment is to put one's own "self" aside. Hence we would not meet with family, nor friends, nor animals, after passing over.

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