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 this 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....
This has many branches. I will not attempt to cite all branches, but the
main ones are:
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'."
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."
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".
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.
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
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."
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)
Opinions vary between different branches of Judaism and between individual
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.
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.
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
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