Does an Animal Have a Soul?
by Ron Kurtus
Most definitions state that a soul is the spiritual essence of a human being. There are some religions—especially those believing in reincarnation—that believe animals may also possess a soul. Believing that animals—especially beloved pets—have souls can be comforting. By examining the possibilities, we can determine what to believe.
Questions you may have include:
- What are the religious arguments for and against animal souls?
- What is the logical perspective of this?
- What evidence is there to prove an argument?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Note: This is an educational website. We are not promoting any one religion.
The religions arguments for and against animals having souls are based on writings and traditions and allow little room for discussion.
For animal souls
The Hindu religion accepts reincarnation, with animals being part of the progression of the soul. Often followers will not even step on an ant in fear of harming the reincarnation of some human.
Many American Indian tribes also believed that animals possessed spirits. They also seemed to personify non-living things and some say that even mountains or such have souls.
Against animal souls
Although there are no direct statements that animals do not have souls in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious texts, there seem to be implications that only humans have souls. An extension of the argument caused the Christian Catholic Church to state that the Earth was also the center of the Universe and that everything revolved around the planet.
If you are not dogmatic in your religion, you can use a logical argument to define your belief.
If you consider how a dog, a cat, or other animal has a personality and a memory and how it reacts to life, you may find it hard to believe that your pet is just a complex machine that has no spiritual aspect or soul and is gone when it dies. If an animal that has love and feelings is just a machine, why should humans be any different?
The only problem with giving animals souls concerns at what level do you stop? If a dog has a spiritual aspect or soul, does a chipmunk? A bird? A worm? What about a fly? Or bacteria?
Does all life have a spirit?
In fact, perhaps all living things have a spiritual aspect. Or are we all part of one gigantic spirit? There are some religions that believe we all share the same common soul. In such a belief, perhaps all life has a spiritual sense to it.
No solid evidence
Just as there is no solid evidence that we have souls, there hasn't been any evidence to my knowledge that animals have souls. But since we have a "feeling" that we have some sort of spiritual part to ourselves, perhaps it is true for animals too.
Do animals have souls? It is difficult to tell and impossible to prove. Many people would like to think so, though. Animal souls would not go against many religions, if you are not too dogmatic about your beliefs.
It would really be nice to find out the answers to some of these mysteries.
Honor the viewpoint of others
Resources and references
The Care and Feeding of an Animal Soul by Sharon Callahan - Nurture your spiritual life by treating animals as the spiritual companions they are
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Questions and comments
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Does an Animal have a Soul?