“If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals.” – Albert Einstein
What is the definition of righteous? According to the dictionary, righteousness has several meanings related to living a moral life as defined by accepted standards of behavior. That’s a broad definition, isn’t it? Who defines the acceptable behavior standards for people, communities, or cultures? Some would say the Bible defines standards for behavior, but the Bible is not the ultimate spiritual and moral authority for all of humanity.
Anthropologists and religious scholars tell us the earliest societies believed God endowed humankind with an innate moral code. As societies developed, the leaders set the moral standards for behavior and passed the code to future generations through word of mouth. Eventually, written texts replaced oral traditions.
Moral codes and standards for behavior are fluid, however. I do believe God endowed humankind with an innate sense of right and wrong, that we know an act or behavior is wrong without being told. But that is where the innate sense stops. People know without being told that killing is wrong; however, societies determine the definitions for acceptable vs. unacceptable killing.
Do animals kill for fun? That is a controversial question. Some believe animals do, some don’t. Humans are the only created beings on earth that purposefully and willfully kill other created beings for fun. As much as I love animals, and particularly dogs, I know they do not possess the cognitive reasoning skills of humans. We are the highest created beings on the food chain, so to speak. Our superior position and ability to reason should lead to the decision that killing for fun is wrong. But, killing other created beings for fun happens every day.
Grasshoppers are plentiful in our backyard, courtesy of the changing seasons. Our Yorkies love to find grasshoppers, watch them jump away, and chase after them. Unfortunately, the grasshoppers lose the game and usually their lives when the game is over. The Yorkies do not have the cognitive ability to understand their actions will maim or kill the grasshoppers. It is not so with humans.
Most religions and religious people believe humankind was created in the image of God. The image of God is the spirit of God, or breath of life within all created beings. According to the Biblical account of creation, every created being was a vegetarian. Adam and Eve’s screw-up ended that. What happened to the innate moral code? It, too, became skewed when Adam and Eve were cast out of paradise, and humankind started rewriting their innate moral code to suit their purposes.
Righteousness is not defined by religion, the Bible, or any other standard of moral behavior set by humankind. Righteousness is a decision. Righteous people do not injure animals unnecessarily…..