Sunday, April 06, 2008

Going to the Dogs

Do pets go to heaven? According to Gary Kurtz in Cold Noses at the Pearly-Gates the answer is yes. I’m not so sure, and would like to pose three questions of Gary:

1. Do animals have souls?
2. Does my pet have to believe in Jesus as Christ to enter heaven?
3. If so, how can my pet achieve this faith; or if not, how is it that God is more generous to an unbelieving beagle than He is to an unbelieving human?

Let’s take up each question in turn.

Do animals have souls? The Buddhist variant of this question, Does a dog have Buddhanature, is the first koan given to most students of Rinzai Zen. The answer is Mu! which means No! or Nothing, but which is better translated as Stop asking stupid questions and wake up from the delusion that plagues your life right now!

I tend to side with the Buddhists. I don’t believe in souls. To me souls are just projections of the ego refusing to admit to its own annihilation at death. Souls perpetuate the delusion that you are separate from the One Who is all.

Do animals have to believe in Jesus to get to heaven? No, there is no heaven. Heaven is not a place you go to; heaven is the place you are right now if you would wake up to the true nature of reality and act accordingly. When you know all beings are God you engage all life with godliness. That is heaven. Hell is everything else.

Is God more generous to animals than humans? No, God manifests as both. True, I’d rather be a human than a dog, and a dog than a cat (I’ll get hate mail for that revelation), but each of these is fully God just as every wave is fully the ocean in which it arises.

Of course by denying souls and heaven I’m really avoiding the questions rather than answering them. So it seems to me that if there were souls and animals had them they would have to be held to the same entry standard as humans: Jewish dogs are out, Baptists dogs are in. My neighbor has a great dog and they are Jehovah’s Witness. Will Rusty make it to heaven or not? Is it his fault that his doghouse gets a subscription to Watchtower magazine?

Chuck Colson in the April 08 issue of Christianity Today says Kurtz is wrong and animals do not have souls or an afterlife. While Pastor Colson acknowledges that this may be harsh news to the followers of the Good News, he is adamant that we realize that only humans have souls, for to do otherwise would require us to grant the same rights to animals that we grant to people.

By arguing that only humans have souls, Christians “can make a logical defense of the uniqueness of human life. But if out of sentimentality we treat our pets as if they have souls, we give away the argument. What a tragic irony if the church finds it has been conquered on behalf of our beloved pets.”

I am not sure what the irony is, but I would agree that if we aren't vigilant all religion, and not just Christianity, is going to the dogs.


vania said...

I am not sure what a soul is, but I definitely believe that life does not end at death and that human beings are at the top of the food chain. I have always wondered why anyone would want to go to "heaven" because as I read it, it's just a holding place for the righteous departed - what is the point of a "new" earth or a physical resurrection if heaven is all there is?

Now as for Yeshua and your neighbor's dog, Yeshua certainly believed in the words of the Prophets, what about the lion and lamb lying down together (I don't think it means in the "Biblical" way) :-). I think a resurrection to a world without animals would just suck.

Mike Smith and Rami Shapiro said...

I agree that a world without animals would suck. What Colson said was that there would be animals at the resurrection but they would be new creations and not resurrected themselves. So our beloved pets would not return with us, but we would have new pets to love.

AaronHerschel said...

The Heaven of Animals

By James L. Dickey

Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these,
It could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done,
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain

At the cycle’s center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.

vania said...

I have had many beloved pets through out my life, my favorite - an amazing border collie named Shepherd - I remember her so clearly because she was my pet when my beloved Grandfather passed away. Since he raised me from birth, he was also my dad. I really loved that dog, but whether or not I see her again makes no difference to me.

But to see my grandfather again? That is absolutely worth hoping for and worth "trusting" in.

Joanne said...

Probably part of what we as humans love so much about dogs, and animals in general for that matter, is that they by all appearances aren't twisting themselves up in knots with thoughts that make them ponder questions like whether or not they, or their humans, are going to heaven.