Animals in the Afterlife

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I am reposting this in light of the recent climate-driven tragedies throughout North America.  For those who have lost pets this year, I hope this post brings comfort.  If you wish to memorialize a beloved pet who you will see again, but perhaps not in this s.lifetime, please feel free to post your thoughts here under comments.

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.

Protestant beliefs…

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. 1:20,24Rev. 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.”

Catholic beliefs….

 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”.

Jewish beliefs…

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.

2 comments

  1. Shauna Nikolaus
    8 days ago

    Do all pets go to heaven?

    From a book of scripture, only recognized as such by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, “The Pearl of Great Price”, the book of Moses, chapter 3, starting at the end of verse 4 and going into verse 5: The Lord God made the heaven and the earth, and every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.

    Sent from my iPad

  2. celtichills
    21 days ago

    Grieving for the misunderstood

    This is a subject that I set aside for awhile and I think it is as good a time and place to look at it again. As a Chaplain I have taken the subject of grief of the death of a pet and livestock to a peer support group and got nothing but blank stairs and then some shrugs of shoulders. Which told me that none of those Chaplains had any idea of or experienced personally that kind of grief. Which I think is the experience of a lot of people. I find two things about grief, one is that it is so very different for everyone, grief is the effect on our souls, emotions and physical bodies of the loss of someone or something. That covers everything from death or the loss of a relationship, it does not mater if it is material things or live things. The second is no one can understand another persons grief. What we can do for each other is listen and be there, which usually makes us feel our own grief and we feel totally helpless to help anyone else. Which makes us not sure what to say or do for each other.

    I have known for a long time that people are drawn to the souls of animals in a way that they are very seldom draw to the soul of a human, that is a discussion for another time maybe. That said, I know that the grief for an animal is not always like that of for a human. Over the last 4 years I have experienced grief for both a human and several animals, as well as the loss of other relationships and material things and I am forever changed. My response is to withdraw and allow the rhythm of day to day life and caring for others help myself be able to live with the grief that never leaves yet changes. Others grieve very different and I think we each have to find the path that works for us.

    I look forward to much more discussion about our love and connection with our animal companions.

    Chaplain Jeri Lambourne

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