Animal Religion

monkeyThis post is not perfect, but it will do for now.

I recently came across a news article stating that “Chimpanzees and monkeys have entered the Stone Age” (link here)

Archaeologists discovered that humans were not the only ones who had used tools during the Stone Age period.  They unearthed evidence indicating that chimpanzees also used tools, made out of stone, to crush nuts.

While this is not the first time we see animals using tools (for example, many birds and fish do use objects found in their environment to help them find food), archaeologists stated that it is rare for primates, other than humans, to makes tools out of stones.  For this reason, one might argue that chimpanzees and monkeys might not be so different from us after all.  In fact, it is very possible that they have the potential to develop more advanced tools.

This finding is interesting because it leads to the questions of whether chimpanzees, primates, and other animals believe in godDo animals have spirituality?  Are they religious?  I have read an argument that goes something like this:

If animals do believe in their version of god, then their spirituality must be much more advanced than our (human) spirituality because, at the very least, they don’t sacrifice their members to the god(s).  pizap.com14390243936531

In Nepal, for example, there is a festival by the name of Gadhimai Mela where Hindus sacrifice thousands of goats, buffaloes, and pigeons (350,000 animals in 2009) to the Hindu Goddess of Power. Take a look at the pictures here and the sight might be somewhat alarming.

In other words, the conundrum (as highlighted by this article) is that:

If it is proven that animals have a true sense of the divine (a sensus divinitatis), what would that mean for human spirituality and religion?  How would we treat animals – particularly those that we eat for food – in light of this?question mark

Adding to the discussion, it has also been suggested that god might communicate to animals and other life forms in ways that only they could understand.  “Just as animals cannot understand our ways of spirituality, it might just well be the case that we cannot understand their specific ways of worshiping God.” (reference article here)

Therefore, ‘animal religion’ might simply be very different from human religion.  After all, who is to say that our understanding of religion is the only conception of the spiritual experience? 

Let’s look at another example.  Many biologists have observed that chimpanzees exhibit “what we would, could call a religion type service.”  A detailed description of their behavior is provided here:

“After they have had breakfast, they’ve closed their nests and so on and they feel safe they’ll usually sit in someplace which is like a clearing and they’re protected by trees…The dominant males don’t bother the youngsters as much.  The females interact with each other and the youngsters and there is a lot of grooming that goes on.pizap.com14390243936531

While these behaviors might not be very religiously complex (we might even think they are not significant), it doesn’t rule out the possibility that these behaviors represent their “religion emotions”.  In fact, some neurologists argue that “animals are capable of having spiritual experiences” because these experiences come “the primitive parts of the human brain, structures that are also shared by animals.” (reference here)

pizap.com14398151934861In short, what if animals have religions?  What would their gods look like?  And what kinds of conversation would they have with their spiritual beings?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out? 🙂pizap.com14381480118391

What do you think?

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