Do All Goats Go to Heaven?
I had a very thought-provoking discussion with a chaplain who wanted to introduce the idea of more effectively counseling current and former military personnel grief-stricken over the passing of a beloved pet. She was hesitant to reach out to peers, even with an op-ed piece in a chaplaincy newsletter, over the need for a more informed approach to those suffering pet loss. She was concerned about rejection and possibly even ridicule from her peers. Although it is easy to say, ‘Ah come on, this is 2018’ this is a subject that has been hotly debated for centuries. Even today, some spiritual traditions are very accepting and some not so much. Below is a sampling of statements made on various apologetics websites that seemed to somewhat summarize what certain segments of certain faiths believe.
Hendrik (Hank) Hanegraaff serves as president and chairman of the board of the North Carolina-based Christian Research Institute.
Hank on pets in heaven: “Furthermore, the Scriptures — from first to last — suggest that animals have souls. Both Moses in Genesis and John in Revelation communicate that the Creator endowed animals with souls (see Gen. 1:20,24; Rev. 8:9). Throughout the history of the church, the classic understanding of living things has included the doctrine that animals, as well as humans, have souls.”
From the website Catholic Answers
Todd Aglialoro, February 05, 2013
“The bottom line is that we know for sure that whatever pets die before the advent of the new creation, they will not be there. But concerning the question of animals in general, that is ultimately unanswerable given the contents of divine revelation”.
On the other hand, after the Resurrection, this same author theorizes that…
“The Communion of Saints suggests that heaven will be a social place, that God’s face-to-face presence will not automatically make us tune out all else. If the heavenly host can commune with one another, perhaps they may also rub Fido’s belly or scratch Mittens behind the ears”.
Very contentious subject for centuries. Mainstream Jewish orthodoxy says there are no animals in heaven because they do not have souls. However, Hassidic Jews beg to differ, based upon mystical concepts concerning reincarnation.
Eliezar Segal from the website “My Jewish Learning” states
“Like many adherents of the Kabbalah, the Hasidim believed in the doctrine of gilgul, the transmigration of souls. “
It seems as though most Middle Eastern religious tenets look askance at the idea of automatic entry into the kingdom of heaven, and are unsure of whether animals have souls or not. Other belief and spiritual traditions view animals, and specifically pets, in the afterlife quite differently.
Many interfaith clerics offering grief counseling need to bear in mind (at least in the US) the demographic group that the grieving party belongs to, for almost 50% of pet owners believe in pets in the afterlife. When it comes to gender, race, and religion, it is women, Native Americans, African Americans, and Buddhists that are most inclined to believe in animal afterlife and reincarnation.
One interfaith chaplain, Jack Vinyardi of Kansas City, Mo., (an ordained interfaith chaplain of pets), said he is asked that question all the time as he comforts people about to lose or who have lost a pet. He tells them there is no faith that claims to know unquestionably what happens to animals when they die.
“It is my job to comfort,” he said. “I believe we each can find answers to divine questions if we look deeply in our own hearts and ask for guidance there. Although our answers may differ from the answers others have found, they are our own, and they will comfort us. “And there is only one religious truth I can confidently assert, that our relationships with our companion animals are both emotional and spiritual, so they never really end, wherever our bodies and souls go after death.”
As for me, my philosophy is captured by Will Rogers… “If there are no dogs in heaven, I want to go where they went.” In my case, if there are no goats in heaven, I want to go wherever they are.