A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics

A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics

Language: English

Pages: 720

ISBN: 0231136439

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A Communion of Subjects is the first comparative and interdisciplinary study of the conceptualization of animals in world religions. Scholars from a wide range of disciplines, including Thomas Berry (cultural history), Wendy Doniger (study of myth), Elizabeth Lawrence (veterinary medicine, ritual studies), Marc Bekoff (cognitive ethology), Marc Hauser (behavioral science), Steven Wise (animals and law), Peter Singer (animals and ethics), and Jane Goodall (primatology) consider how major religious traditions have incorporated animals into their belief systems, myths, rituals, and art. Their findings offer profound insights into humans' relationships with animals and a deeper understanding of the social and ecological web in which we all live.

Contributors examine Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Daoism, Confucianism, African religions, traditions from ancient Egypt and early China, and Native American, indigenous Tibetan, and Australian Aboriginal traditions, among others. They explore issues such as animal consciousness, suffering, sacrifice, and stewardship in innovative methodological ways. They also address contemporary challenges relating to law, biotechnology, social justice, and the environment. By grappling with the nature and ideological features of various religious views, the contributors cast religious teachings and practices in a new light. They reveal how we either intentionally or inadvertently marginalize "others," whether they are human or otherwise, reflecting on the ways in which we assign value to living beings.

Though it is an ancient concern, the topic of "Religion and Animals" has yet to be systematically studied by modern scholars. This groundbreaking collection takes the first steps toward a meaningful analysis.

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Christianity and Ecology. My aim here is to extend the discussion by asking a new question: Can Christianity become good news for animals? The question is important because, despite their good intentions, even ecologically sensitive theologians can sometimes neglect individual animals. By ‘‘individual’’ animals I do not mean Cartesian individuals. I am not imagining animals as disembodied souls whose relations with their own bodies and environments are external. Rather I am imagining them as

Gibson, eds., ‘‘Language’’ and Intelligence in Monkeys and Apes: Comparative Developmental Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), Parker, et al., Self-Awareness, and the work of Fouts and Savage-Rumbaugh generally. On culture, see W.C. McGrew, Chimpanzee Material Culture: Implications for Human Evolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), and Richard W. Wrangham et al., eds., Chimpanzee Cultures (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994). 24. Originally published

be understood in light of imitatio Dei: the dissection of the animal. After the animal has been slaughtered, the offerer and the priests look into, examine and dissect the animal’s carcass. The offerer not only brings about the animal’s death, he looks into the animal; he separates it into its constituent parts. He decreates it. Although the basic regulations for this process—specifying what parts belong where— are laid out in Leviticus and elsewhere, there are very few descriptions of the image of

essays in Sheldon Sacks, ed., On Metaphor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), which contains seminal essays by, among others, Donald Davidson and Paul Ricoeur. For an anthropological perspective on metaphor, see. e.g., James W. Fernandez, Persuasions and Performances: The Play of Tropes in Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986) esp. pp. 3–70; and Claude LéviStrauss, Totemism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1962). For a brief survey of some of the relevant anthropological

allegorical compendium, Allegoriae in universam Scripturam Sacram, offers a similar interpretation, stating that the moth represents any heretic because the maliciousness of heretics gnaws away the conscience.62 Bernard of Clairvaux, Henry’s most famous predecessor as abbot of that monastery, does not interpret the moth as a heretic but links it nonetheless with the devil and hell. Reacting to Isaiah 14:11, the abbot exclaims: ‘‘O God, how far removed the covering of a precious stone from that of

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