AR-News: Is there an afterlife for pets?
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Sat Jul 3 12:37:10 EDT 2004
Is there an afterlife for pets?
By David Briggs
Religion News Service
Do all dogs go to heaven?
In some households, a dog's life could be considered paradise on Earth, with
an indulgent baby-boomer generation creating such institutions as doggie day
care, doggie spas and doggie vacations.
And the connection doesn't stop there witness the growth in pet cemeteries
and sympathy cards for grieving animal owners.
But what about the next life?
As houses of worship respond by offering more services, such as the blessing
of animals, speculation has increased on the afterlife of pets.
Several books, Web sites and religious services keep alive the memory of
pets and offer hope to owners that death will not separate them from their
canine loved ones.
In an animal-memorial service at the Cleveland Buddhist Temple, Arlene
Rosenberg joined other grieving owners in a ceremony celebrating their pets'
lives. She placed a picture of her pooch, Golda, on the altar and talked
about "the tremendous joy, empathy and compassion" the dog brought to her
Still fresh in her grief from her pet's death three weeks earlier, the
Jewish woman from University Heights, Ohio, said she found the Buddhist
LYNN ISCHAY / RELIGION NEWS SERVICE
Louise Foresman of Cleveland mourns the death of her dog, Laughter, at a
recent memorial service for animals at the Cleveland Buddhist Temple.
"There's no doubt in my mind (Golda) has an incredibly beautiful soul," she
said. "I feel very strongly that I will be reunited with her one day."
Dog owners need the reassurance that they will be reunited with their pets
in the next life in much the same way that religious people cope with the
death of a loved one with the belief they will meet again in heaven, some
"It gives more than comfort," said Mary Buddemeyer-Porter, author of "Will I
See Fido in Heaven?" "Until they actually believe their pets are in heaven,
they can't have any comfort."
Though speculation by academics on animal afterlife is limited, and there
are no direct biblical texts on the subject, several trends have led to a
serious interest in the issue. The trends include the gradual historical
shift from animals as servants of an agricultural society to the modern pet
Several theories have emerged.
Some say cats and dogs are immune from both heaven and hell because they do
not have the mental capacity to make choices affecting salvation.
Others say that, precisely because they are sinless, dogs and other animals
will be restored in the new creation. It wasn't animal sin that ruined the
first Eden, and there is no reason animals will be kept out of the kingdom
to come, believers say. They point to the presence of animals in the images
of heaven in Revelation.
"All of the animals will go to heaven. They are sinless," said Niki Behrikis
Shanahan, author of "There Is Eternal Life for Animals." "Every creature
that was created was created for eternity."
A third theological stream speculates that some animals will go to heaven
and others will not. For example, animals that exhibited viciousness toward
other animals or human life may not make it; animals that were caring and
gentle in this life could have a place in paradise.
Animal-rights advocates often point to the parable of the rich man and the
beggar in the 16th chapter in the Gospel of Luke. The rich man who feasted
sumptuously while the beggar sought scraps from his table ends up in hell.
Would not the dogs who did not ignore the beggar but licked his sores in
apparent comfort end up in heaven with the poor man? The Gospel does not
speak to that question.
Just as human beings must wait to find out what the afterlife will be like,
so, too, will the fate of pets remain a mystery in this life, many say.
Still, it is important that clergy and theologians are talking about the
issue, said Webb, author of "On God and Dogs: A Christian Theology of
Compassion for Animals."
"To think about animal resurrection means that these bodies are valued and
will be restored; it means that their lives, as well as their deaths, will
have to be treated with respect."
And while clergy still are hesitant about giving definitive answers,
observers say pet owners are much less likely today to be dismissed as
childish or told offhand that their dogs or cats are excluded from heaven.
In a recent discussion in The Joyful Noiseletter, the publication of the
Fellowship of Merry Christians, the Rev. John Battern, a United Methodist
pastor from Iowa, said it seems reasonable God would want humans to use
their full capacity to love in heaven. Thus, he said, "Yes, Virginia, there
are dogs and cats and other wonderful creatures in heaven."
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
So many gods, so many creeds,so many paths that wind and wind, while just
the art of being kind is all this sad world needs.
-- Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1805-1919)
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