All Creatures Great and Small

by Kieran Healy on January 4, 2006

Technorati’s List of Popular Books introduces me to There is Eternal Life for Animals, which argues that

All animals go to heaven. How do we know? We look in the book that God left us, the Bible. This book takes you through the Bible and proves through the scriptures that there is life after death for all the animals. It covers:—God’s relationship with the animals;—The current life of the animal kingdom;—The future life of the animals and its restoration;—What animals are currently in heaven;—Whether animals have souls and spirits;—Praying for animals. There Is Eternal Life For Animals includes numerous Bible scriptures, opinions and commentaries from Bible Theologians, visions, stories, near-death experiences of children, and personal experiences. It also reviews many of the original Greek and Hebrew words and their translations.

I am tempted to buy the book and have it sent to P.Z. Myers as a gift. It’s true that if the book’s argument is right the downside for P.Z. is, of course, that there is a benevolent God filling up Heaven with our beloved cats and dogs. On the other hand, maybe the beloved giant squid are up there, too, in the deep-sea regions of heaven.

I’m interested to read the “What animals are currently in heaven” section. Does the author mean what kinds of animals, or particular individual animals? If the former, do Deer Ticks make it? Or Liver Fluke? If the latter, Phar Lap is surely there (despite also being scattered around Australia), but what about Garfield?

There is something sociologically interesting to be said about the fact that books on Pet Loss and the Animal Afterlife constitute a well-established market, but I’m too tired to say it. I can see why people might need a book like The Loss of a Pet or Pet Loss And Human Emotion: Guiding Clients Through Grief, or even Dog Heaven, for the kids. But then there’s Will I See Fido in Heaven?: Scripturally Revealing God’s Eternal Plan for His Lesser Creatures and Do Dogs Go To Heaven? Eternal Answers for Animal Lovers. There’s a poem by Billy Collins called The Revenant. A bit of it:

I am the dog you put to sleep,

as you like to call the needle of oblivion,

come back to tell you this simple thing:

I never liked you—not one bit. …

Now I am free of the collar,

the yellow raincoat, monogrammed sweater,

the absurdity of your lawn,

and that is all you need to know about this place

except what you already supposed

and are glad it did not happen sooner—
that everyone here can read and write,

the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.

{ 50 comments }

1

blah 01.04.06 at 10:29 pm

I hope those pinworms I had as a kid are rotting in hell right now.

2

JR 01.04.06 at 10:33 pm

FLOCK
(It has been calculated that
each copy of the Gutenburg Bible
required the skins of 300 sheep.)

I can see them
squeezed into the holding pen
behind the stone building
where the printing press is housed.

All of them squirming around
to find a little room
and looking so much alike
it would be nearly impossible to count them.

And there is no telling which one of them
will carry the news
that the Lord is a Shepherd,
one of the few things
they already know.

– billy collins

3

Tad Brennan 01.04.06 at 10:34 pm

The testimony of Billy Collins’ revenant is simply incredible on the face of it.

I mean the part about animals having an afterlife, okay.

But: dogs write poetry? Cats write prose???

(Course, those lines are only vestigially poetical in any case–rather a prosy mutt, in my estimation).

4

Down and Out in Saigon 01.04.06 at 10:50 pm

So, there must be a heaven for Guinea Worms as well. Hmm. Hmmm. Hmmmmmm. Errrgggg.

5

Kieran Healy 01.04.06 at 10:51 pm

I think cats expect to have poetry written for them, Tad.

6

MJ Memphis 01.04.06 at 11:05 pm

I do not care to imagine what sort of heaven would appeal to ichneumon wasps and candiru catfish. *shudder*

On the poetry/prose thing, I think it varies by breed. For instance, my German shepherds are prose-y creatures, very direct and straight to the point, while the poor, downtrodden toy poodle would be more likely to write angsty and melodramatic poems. The Western cat breeds are probably not very poetic, but I would imagine the various Oriental breeds write enigmatic haikus; the Siamese, naturally, speak their haikus very, very loudly.

7

John Quiggin 01.04.06 at 11:07 pm

Well, it’s obvious that Phar Lap would be in heaven, but if the place was properly designed he’d need to be there both as a three-year-old and as a four-year-old. Has anyone examined the theological implications?

8

Matt McIrvin 01.04.06 at 11:12 pm

There is a vast section of heaven that is entirely filled with trillions of soulless, bedridden zombies so that all the world’s departed Clostridium difficile will have somebody to infect.

9

Christopher M 01.04.06 at 11:20 pm

I was under the impression that one lucky cat a year could go

up, up, up past the Russell Hotelup, up, up, to the Heaviside Layer.

This would suggest that they are more mathematically than poetically inclined.

Research, however, reveals this to be a late accretion to the Old Deuteronomic tradition.

10

Christopher M 01.04.06 at 11:23 pm

Of course, the lyrics in the above post should appear as two lines:

up, up, up past the Russell Hotel
up, up, up, to the Heaviside Layer.

The inability to single-space block quotations is deeply troubling.

11

Christopher M 01.04.06 at 11:25 pm

Strike that. The preview text’s failure to reflect the single-spacing of block quotations is deeply troubling. This is my last word, even if this comment shows up in Urdu.

12

Barry Freed 01.05.06 at 12:18 am

Do candirú go to Heaven? And if so can we really maintain that it has been Intelligently Designed?

13

Barry Freed 01.05.06 at 12:19 am

Curses! I see that mj memphis has beaten me to it.

14

Bro. Bartleby 01.05.06 at 1:10 am

Perhaps we all (all, as in all) return to quarks, and heaven is this great warehouse with a great pile of quarks, and in the tiny kitchen beside the warehouse is the Great Recipe Book, which contains all the necessary recipes for building whatever (as in whatever) from all the basic quarks in the great pile. So yes, in the end we all meet in heaven, returning to the great pile of quarks, returning to our origins, and finally, together at last.

15

bad Jim 01.05.06 at 2:03 am

All animals going to heaven would certainly make it easier to reconcile theology and human evolution. It would no longer be necessary to determine which of the early hominids had a soul.

A possible further implication is that ova and spermatozoa also enjoy an afterlife, the conditions of which are as problematic as those of any of the creatures mentioned previously.

But why only animals? A gnat is eternal, but a tree that lived two thousand years is snuffed out? It’s got to be universal: all living things, including billions of years worth of bacteria.

16

Andrew Brown 01.05.06 at 3:04 am

Kieran is obviously right about cats as silent disdainful editors. From now on, when I look around for ideas, I shall see a cat sitting on the speaker to the right of my monitor, looking at me with an expression that commands I write better.

17

Brendan 01.05.06 at 4:21 am

Do viruses go to heaven? Given that it is arguable whether they are actually alive or dead?

What about plants?

18

bad Jim 01.05.06 at 5:19 am

Le ciel, c’est les autres.

19

Chris Brooke 01.05.06 at 5:34 am

I think cats expect to have poetry written for them, Tad.

Yes, but not by dogs.

20

Phoenician in a time of Romans 01.05.06 at 6:40 am

Phar Lap’s soul may be in heaven, but his skeleton is where it belongs – in New Zealand. To be more specific, standing in a glass case on the first floor of Te Papa in Wellington. The bloody Aussies try to steal everything – they can have Russell Crowe, though.

BTW, neither cats nor cat lovers will be in heaven. I refer you to the first commandment.

21

Mrs Tilton 01.05.06 at 7:49 am

It’s not like you think. The lamb shall lie down with the lion. Cats and dogs, living together. My liver fluke and my tapeworm and I, having a beer and watching the match and sharing a good laugh. I’m telling you, it’s going to be great.

22

Jason Kuznicki 01.05.06 at 8:34 am

Animals going to Heaven? Sure, fine. Stranger things are believed all the time, and these by people who pass for sane.

But praying for the souls of animals is theologically dodgy, at least if you’re a Protestant. Strictly speaking, you need only pray for the souls of those who are in Purgatory, which is exclusively Catholic. But if the animals are in Hell, they cannot be helped, and if they are in Heaven, they need no further help.

Oh yes, and how this squares with the doctrine that to go to Heaven, you must be baptized? Shall we asperse our kitties to save them from perdition? Or do it by immersion? I suspect that cat theologians would have some pretty strong opinions on this question.

23

PZ Myers 01.05.06 at 9:40 am

What a dilemma. If it’s true, while the squid might go to heaven, I wouldn’t. That doesn’t sound good.

Although the latest evidence is that the giant squid are cannibals, so we might be roasting together in hell (note to self: tell family to pack lots of garlic in the casket).

24

Seth Gordon 01.05.06 at 9:47 am

It’s theologians like this who give God a bad name.

25

Tad Brennan 01.05.06 at 9:51 am

I read Kieran as saying not so much that cats are editors, as that they expect to have poems written to their honor and glory. Like divinities, or society belles. (Somewhere Dumas writes of ‘les années de quinze a trente-cinq ans, quand une femme est une déesse.’).

Cats as divinities–a heresy of Egyptian origins, I believe. I have often been struck by the fact that Plato’s Republic explicitly compares the soldiery to dogs, and the producers to pigs, but never gives the philosopher-rulers a totemic animal. All we know is that they want to lie around in the sun all the time, won’t take orders from anyone else, look down on the dogs and pigs with thinly veiled contempt, and in general can’t be bothered to do any work of any kind. Too busy contemplating the sun.

Well, all proper Straussians know that the only thing that matters is what Plato *doesn’t* say (an entire interpretive program based on the Holmesian dog that didn’t bark). What animal never meows in the Republic?

26

chris y 01.05.06 at 10:17 am

…tell family to pack lots of garlic in the casket

Or I will dig myself out at the new moon?

27

roger 01.05.06 at 10:41 am

Once we beginning packing all the animals, trees, etc., in heaven, it begins to look just like … earth. A place filled with living organisms. Huh, maybe we ought to treat the earth like it is heaven…

28

MJ Memphis 01.05.06 at 10:41 am

…tell family to pack lots of garlic in the casket

Or I will dig myself out at the new moon?

Or perhaps he wants to fend off the that will be sharing the afterlife with him.

29

MJ Memphis 01.05.06 at 10:42 am

Ooops. That didn’t work right.

The link goes to the right place but was supposed to say “vampire squid” that will be sharing the afterlife with him.

30

Steve LaBonne 01.05.06 at 10:55 am

Sorry, if it’s really heaven then I expect to be the one eating the squid, not the other way around. Of course if Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is true, I’m probably in big trouble…

31

MJ Memphis 01.05.06 at 11:26 am

Well, Steve, that depends who the “heaven” is intended for, doesn’t it? Perhaps it is heaven for the squid, and humans are just eternal appetizers?

32

Steve LaBonne 01.05.06 at 11:34 am

33

C.J.Colucci 01.05.06 at 11:46 am

Maybe Mr. Ratzinger will preserve Limbo after all, so we can visit our beloved pets.
One thing that has always driven me crazy about the afterlife is the presence of multiple spouses — and I’m not worried about break-ups, I’m worried about the widow or widower with two or more beloved spouses to split time with.

34

SusanC 01.05.06 at 12:29 pm

One thing that has always driven me crazy about the afterlife is the presence of multiple spouses

The Sadducees asked Jesus about this one: Matthew 22:30:

“For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”

35

SusanC 01.05.06 at 12:34 pm

I am imagining Dante’s Inferno (Canto IV), with the virtuous pagans accompanied by virtuous (but unbaptized) cats, dogs, giant squid …

36

Daniel 01.05.06 at 12:53 pm

could some of our resident Catholics confirm that believing in an afterlife for animals is certainly heretical and possibly blasphemous? I’m pretty sure that the Church is very definite on animals not having immortal souls, with no exceptions for lovely sweet cats or highly intelligent horses.

37

Uncle Kvetch 01.05.06 at 1:40 pm

Daniel, I’m as lapsed a Catholic as one could possibly be, but based on 12 years of Catholic schooling (and you just know this is the kind of question that came up in grade-school religion classes a lot), I’m fairly certain you are correct. Animals, AFAIK, do not have souls in Catholic teaching.

38

Uncle Kvetch 01.05.06 at 1:41 pm

Non-human animals, I mean.

39

Darren 01.05.06 at 1:43 pm

Interesting..

What if the animals don’t believe in our God?

40

Steve LaBonne 01.05.06 at 1:44 pm

Any resemblance between the beliefs of many American Evangelicals, and anything recognizable as “Christianity” by historical standards, is purely coincidental.

41

Mrs Tilton 01.05.06 at 1:47 pm

As a highly heterodox presbyterian, Uncle, I defer to your lapsed catholicism. But it is not true that under catholic teaching (catholic teaching about this sort of thing being basically baptised Aristotle) animals do indeed (and indeed, necessarily) have souls, simply not immortal souls?

If that is the case, our animal friends might at least be permitted to accompany us in the afterlife until that cosmos-spanning bird has whittled the entire mountain down to a grain of sand.

42

Donald Johnson 01.05.06 at 5:02 pm

I think in Aristotle (and presumably Aquinas), plants, animals and humans have a vegetative soul, which is responsible for growth and other processes all living things share in common. Animals and humans have what I think was called a sensitive soul (not sure about the name) which allows us to see and hear and move around and do those sorts of things plants can’t do (leaving aside Venus flytraps and other moving plants). Humans alone have a rational soul. Aristotle thought the soul (or souls) were the organizing form of the body, so when the body died, the soul died with it. Aquinas obviously didn’t agree with that.

C.S. Lewis has a chapter on animals in “The Problem of Pain”. He toys with the idea that maybe there’s a heaven for animals (and says that the heaven for mosquitoes and the hell for humans could be merged together), but thinks maybe God has some other unimaginable solution to the apparent injustice of animal suffering. Not the most satisfying thing he’s ever written, if you’re one of his Christian fans (as I am), but I give him points for caring–I know some Christians who seem positively offended at the notion of sharing heaven with Fido.

43

saurabh 01.05.06 at 6:32 pm

Daniel beat me to the punch: animals don’t have souls. Therefore, they clearly cannot go to heaven in the afterlife, because they don’t HAVE an afterlife. Spot, Goldie, and Mr. Miaow rot in the ground and become worm food. End of story. What next? Are we going to have books assuring kids their deceased Cabbage Patch Kid dolls are going to heaven? No! This is the way Paradise is going to work: when you enter, they’ll start you on the barbituate drip. You will instantly be so happy, you won’t even give a toss that Spot isn’t dry-humping your leg. Then they will remove your genitalia so you can’t have sex (Matthew 22:30).

Far more interesting to me is, can you break the Commandments in Heaven? What if I take a page from Matthias, Son of Deuteronomy of Gath’s book and start chanting “Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah!” as soon as I’m within the Pearly Gates? Do they throw me out?

44

theogon 01.05.06 at 7:24 pm

Donald: accurate, except that “soul” isn’t really the right translation. “Nature” or “essence,” of the sort that some say existence precedes.

Saura: According to what I remember from the Catholic Encylopedia entry on Heaven, the beautified soul is so infused with grace that it lacks any inclination to sin. So you can, but wouldn’t want to.

According to the entry on Hell, souls are so removed of grace that they have no inclinations but to sin as much as possible. Which is a little weird.

45

Uncle Kvetch 01.05.06 at 9:30 pm

According to the entry on Hell, souls are so removed of grace that they have no inclinations but to sin as much as possible.

Whereupon they are reincarnated as senior-level members of the Bush Administration.

Sorry, that was uncalled for–Catholics don’t believe in reincarnation, of course.

46

Bro. Bartleby 01.05.06 at 9:32 pm

Once in Heaven, will we get extra helpings of Turkish Delight?

47

Matt McIrvin 01.05.06 at 10:58 pm

The famed Usenet denizen Archimedes Plutonium has occasionally claimed to be Phar Lap reincarnated, as well as Archimedes.

48

qubit 01.06.06 at 1:08 am

Well, Uncle Kvetch, I suppose from a strictly theological perspective, maybe the whole Bush Administration has already been condemed to Ptolomæa, Zone 3 of the Ninth Circle of Hell in the Divine Comedy:

Zone 3 (Ptolomæa): Traitors to their guests (Canto 33). Named (probably) for Ptolemy, captain of Jericho, who invited Simon the High Priest and his sons to a banquet and there killed them. One of its inhabitants, Friar Alberigo, explains that sometimes a soul falls here before the time that Atropos (the Fate who cuts the thread of life) should send it. Their bodies on Earth are immediately possessed by a fiend.

That would certainly explain a lot, wouldn’t it?

49

Ed Darrell 01.06.06 at 3:47 am

“The lamb shall lie down with the lion. But the lamb shall not get much sleep.” Woody Allen

50

Jim S 01.07.06 at 3:14 am

I am reminded of an episode of the original Twilight Zone. Does anyone remember the one I mean? Only hell wouldn’t let the dog in.

Here’s a somewhat related question. What, after all, would constitute Heaven for most of us? A sterile place where we all do nothing but sing Hosannahs to his Name? I really doubt it. So perhaps we would need our pets there to be truly happy. How much of our pleasure in life relates to home, hearth, family and related pleasures from our senses? Going back to the holiday season, opening the Christmas presents is great, watching the grandkids opening theirs is better and Christmas dinner with the crew tops it off. The tastes, the smells, the feelings that intertwine with them all make some of the best times of our lives. And for some of us those furry companions are part and parcel of it. When I come home from work and our little horde is there wanting attention and taking pleasure in the petting and scratching I give them it’s definitely a very good part of my day, one that I would always want to be part of my existence.

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