My name is Bobby R. I am nineteen years old. Currently, I live the USA. My hopes, someday, are to be a crusader for animal welfare and run for public office.
My love for animals goes way back to when I was very young. I had always cried when an animal was “killed” on TV or in movies. Somehow, when I feel any creature is harmed, I too am harmed in some way (yes, I know that’s cliché for an animal lover to say).
Unfortunately, many of the individuals whom I share my thoughts with are devout Christians who see animals as “complementary gifts from God”. They kind of see them like courtesy mints left on a hotel pillow. I too consider myself a Christian, but what separates my faith with others is that I believe faith should be left up to the individual and practically kept out of schools and lawmaking. Although I have faith that there is a God, I believe we should not resort to methods of worship similar to primitive or archaic times. I’m not going to get into my personal religion.
Many fundamentalist Christians (and other religious people, I guess), take their scripture literally and believe humans are superior to other species. However there is a problem with this: just because humans have religion, among other things, doesn’t mean we are thus superior. I intend to humbly explain why such fundamentalist beliefs are wrong.
The fundamental Christians that claim animals are “tools” or “gifts” from God neglect a fair and balanced view towards other species. Moreover, they unfortunately interpret their scripture literally.
I believe that other species have their own culture, so to speak. Though their cultures do not include money, religion, or war -among other things-, they are really quite sophisticated. For example, lions have a culture that includes alpha males and sleeping for roughly twenty hours per day (forgive the lack of citations). That culture is unique to lions and cannot be judged as “inferior to humans”. Part of our culture, as humans, includes religion and mythology. A collective religious view is the insular belief that animals are “gifts from the divine” and could be used as such. This idea is wrong because it imposes a [controversial] part of our culture onto animals. If many of us realize it is wrong to force our beliefs on other people, why are animals so different? I often wonder why some can’t view other species as equal, not as people, but as an equally unique species.
A different example of this is the case of apes versus dogs. Gorillas have the ability to communicate to humans via sign language. With that capability, they can express themselves rather well and be able to show a self-identification method alike to us humans. Dogs pretty much can’t. However, they do have some highly advanced means of communication and self-identity, which may contrast those of gorillas (yet are still sophisticated). Dogs communicate through barks, which is common knowledge. Moreover, dogs can read human emotions pretty well compared to apes, for dogs have a developed visual sense that can read human facial expressions (like eye movements) therefore emotions. Apes, as far as I know, cannot. Furthermore, dogs have self-identity ability in the form of odors. Dogs can smell certain aspects of others that make certain indications. Although my examples may be slightly inaccurate (I’m not a biologist and am not too familiar with the subject of animal psychology) and I probably lack formal evidence, the principle remains true: species simply cannot be judged on terms of other species. It is just wrong.
Another question I often ask myself is why so many fundamentalist Christians, and individuals of other religions, interpret their scripture literally let alone constantly feel the need to arbitrarily classify things. Something I learned in early schooling was how to read. I learned that reading usually requires inferences and searching for deeper meaning. When I read, I don’t just literally read the text. I draw conclusions from ideas that were not explicitly written. This reading strategy lacks among fundamentalists. They too often neglect deeper understanding and allegories (Bible interpretation is another story for another time). I’ve noticed that this strict interpretation is found along with a need for superiority. I mean that many who interpret their scripture literally frequently feel superior to others. Don’t get me wrong, most of my fundamentalist friends are very kind and trustworthy. But whether they feel superior to animals, or persons that hold alternative beliefs, or even people who speak and/or look different in some way, these fundamentalists always try to justify their wrongness. Fundamentalists, through my experience, read stuff literally and thereby feel superior to many things. I’m not sure why, but I am sure that many would agree with me.
As a Christian, I do have faith in things. I believe that faith is a wonderful thing in times of need. But I do believe that my religion is a private matter; it is my private relationship with God. Since it is private, I do not force my beliefs onto others, especially in school or with my political opinions. Although I personally believe that Jesus did exist, I see him more as an astounding philosopher rather than a demigod. This is my belief and I am completely comfortable when someone disagrees with me. So, here is yet another question: what would Jesus do? Yup, another cliché, but I hold it very true. I, through my personal interpretation of the New Testament, believe that Jesus would reject the idea of superiority among species. According to the Bible, Jesus advocated equality and caring for others. Why not animals? This is not a complicated concept. Why must fundamentalists disregard Jesus’ preaching for equality?
I have a dog named Copper. He is a cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel & Poodle mix) and is named for his fur color. I see him as a part of my family and as an equal member. Although we are of different species, he too has emotions, likes, dislikes, and needs. I see him not as my pet, but as an equal. Although he can’t speak to me like a human can, he still lets me know his thoughts (likewise). I think I could always learn something from him. Whether it is about how to bury a bone in the yard (just kidding) or how to always love my family unconditionally, I see Copper as my kin and at times a good teacher.
I am glad to know that you, and many others, see animals not as mere “gifts from God”, but as equal species who at times seem more humane than us humans.