“When I look into the eyes of an animal I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.” Anatole France
What is the soul? The Hebrew word for soul is neʹphesh and literally means a creature that breathes. The Greek definition is similar, meaning a living being. The soul animates the body, is the seat of consciousness and emotion, in other words, the soul makes us sentient beings. And, most religions believe the soul is immortal.
So, do our pets, and animals in general, have souls? By the above definition, the answer is yes. I think it ignorant to believe otherwise, but many do not think animals have souls. Why not?
Christianity is divided on the issue of whether animals have souls. According to church history, however, Emperor Constantine’s council had already settled the matter. The 3rd Nicene Council, when posed the question, voted unanimously animals do not have souls and do not go to heaven. (Incidentally, at the same council, women having souls only passed by one vote. Thus the persistent belief women are inferior to men. Excuse me?) Many who subscribe to some version of Christianity separate humanity from the rest of creation, believing mankind is a higher form of life, has a soul different from the rest of creation perhaps because God gave Adam dominion over the animals. But, is that what the Bible says?
Genesis 1 is the story of creation. The first four days of creation God gave the earth form, separating sky from earth, the sea from land, light from dark. On the fifth day, God created the creatures of the air and land instructing them to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. The final day of creation God formed man from the dust of the earth and in His likeness telling them to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth, adding man would have dominion over all of creation. God declared the creation ‘good’ and ceased His creative efforts. This dominion part is Christianity’s justification the soul of man was different from the other created beings. I think it is man’s justification for ill-perceived superiority.
The creation story is told in two parts; Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Genesis 2 is a synopsis of Genesis 1. Genesis 1:30 says, “And to every wild animal, bird in the air, and creature crawling on the earth, in which there is a living soul, I am giving as food every kind of green plant.” (The Complete Jewish Bible) Nowhere does the Bible say the living souls in animals are different from the souls of humanity. One could argue God said He would make mankind in His likeness, however, the likeness God was referencing was His nature; love, and so far mankind’s likeness hasn’t been impressive.
God breathed the breath of life into all creatures, not just mankind. The breath of life animated all manner of created beings. Animals do indeed have souls. Anyone who has loved a pet knows for certain their beloved pet contains a God-breathed soul. When the body dies, the soul returns to its source, Divine Love. Will we see our beloved pets again? I believe we will and I am not alone in my belief. Billy Graham said, “God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he’ll be there.” And so it is…..