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.