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It may seem like a question with a fairly obvious answer, but would you say that atheists are more likely than Christians - or those of another theistic flavour - to care about nonhuman animals, or support the notion of animal rights? For the purposes of this post, I'll define an atheist as one who constructs their worldview and lives their life without reference to any gods who may or may not exist - one to whom gods are irrelevant.

 

Some time ago, I took the somewhat foolhardy step of arguing on the Catholic Answers Forum about animal rights and was met with but a few sympathetic responders amidst a barrage of those who denied that other animals even experience any form of emotion - one particularly odious (and ignorant) redneck figured his dog was no different to a Roomba (robot vacuum cleaner, in case anyone hasn't heard of them). And of course there was then the inevitable howling chorus of "What about the unborn?!" (or worse - "preborn", that peculiarly barf-worthy term coined by anti-choice fundies in an effort to confer personhood on the foetus in utero) - as if that had any bearing whatever upon concern for the needs and interests of sentient creatures.

 

I've noticed that Christians are quite fond of creating this false dichotomy between caring about animal rights and caring about abortion as though the two areas of concern were mutually exclusive. Creationists often like to blame 'evolutionism' for creating a social climate that tends to 'favour' abortion, because it holds that human beings are related to nonhuman animals - which, to Christian fundies and many other types of theists, are outside the moral sphere. Those who hold such views are adamant that destroying a small clump of cells that lacks a nervous system or any form of awareness is a dire sin, of far greater magnitude than, say, killing a fully formed, sentient lamb for food.

 

This is, of course, because most theistic worldviews tend to confer a special, mystical status upon human beings, such that at any stage of development - or indeed in any state of degeneration - they are supposed to have greater moral worth than any other animal, no matter how sentient or aware those other animals may be. Those who don't subscribe to a theistic worldview seem to be far more open to seeing humans as animals amongst a world full of other animals, and to appreciate our connections with nature, our insignificance within the vastness of the cosmos. At least, that has been my observation.

 

I have to say that even when I did identify as Christian, I could never accept the notion that other animals didn't have souls - and I certainly wouldn't want to go to any heaven that wouldn't admit my dogs! I could never understand how it was possible for so many people to ignore the needs or the suffering of other animals just because they weren't human.

 

And then there is, of course, the profound irony of the mindset which, in accepting the anthropocentric notions of a bible-based faith, tends to reject the one faculty that genuinely sets humans apart from other animals - the capacity for rational, analytical thought.

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Most christians I know/knew definitely had a much stronger bias towards humans and saw animals as less than worthy of their time, effort, care, and concern. It was much more of a "use" them type attitude. Although plenty still loved and cared well for their pets/animals, they were always below humans no matter how awful the human. In fact, my mother and I got into this discussion not too long ago, she ended up resorting to calling me names when I wouldn't give in to her views. We were on the topic of responsible dog breeding, and she was the typical byb not too long ago, and even though she brought up the subject, and I never used her as an example, she got mad when she realized I no longer agreed with her views on such subjects - but being involved in rescue myself, I just can't take her worldview in regards to animals seriously anymore. It's a selfish, self-centered way of seeing things.

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It's not a universal thing, but an ancient philosopher (Descartes, I think) also had a bit where he defined animals as biological automaton. I guess that view sort of stuck through the ages and people think animals ain't got no souls. Most people at churches don't really care either way.

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It may seem like a question with a fairly obvious answer, but would you say that atheists are more likely than Christians - or those of another theistic flavour - to care about nonhuman animals, or support the notion of animal rights?

 

 

I think that atheists are more likely to even consider this issue at all. I don't know they will necessarily come to one conclusion. I believe atheists' philosophies on animal rights will be diverse, not monolithic at all.

 

But, to be honest, I've never seriously looked into the issue. I think an honest, rational person will not longer see intelligent humans as "superior" or "higher" than other animals. Those categories just do not apply in an undesigned universe. At best, those terms are archaic throwbacks in the language to a time ruled by theism. At worst they impede our ability to think rationally about the world.

 

Intelligence, language and self awareness are features or our species, combined with certain physical characteristics, that enabled our species to survive. We are not "superior" beings, we simple found our niche in the ecosystem with intelligence and language.

 

But I know that when I was a theist, a biblical world view prevented me from seeing animals as anything other than our subjects. Assets to be utilized and not fellow evolved creatures.

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A young vegetarian friend of mine whose family immersed her in Christian nuttery has posted about her vegetarianism on her facebook page. The response from those of the Christian circles in which she was raised? God made animals for our use. Her mother has the same attitude. It's easy Christian justification for carelessness toward animals.

 

The Bible appears an easy excuse for a lot of bad behavior.

 

Phanta

It doesn't end with animals, either. Gawd gave us dominion over the Earth, so we can rape it any time we want. Environmentalists are eeeeebil because they want to take away our gawd-given right to pour coal sludge in the streams and fill the air with particulates.

 

Damned near anything selfish, sadistic, or vengeful you want to do can be and has been justified by the wholly babble.

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It may seem like a question with a fairly obvious answer, but would you say that atheists are more likely than Christians - or those of another theistic flavour - to care about nonhuman animals, or support the notion of animal rights?

 

 

I think that atheists are more likely to even consider this issue at all. I don't know they will necessarily come to one conclusion. I believe atheists' philosophies on animal rights will be diverse, not monolithic at all.

 

Intelligence, language and self awareness are features or our species, combined with certain physical characteristics, that enabled our species to survive. We are not "superior" beings, we simple found our niche in the ecosystem with intelligence and language.

 

But I know that when I was a theist, a biblical world view prevented me from seeing animals as anything other than our subjects. Assets to be utilized and not fellow evolved creatures.

This question is a real challenge! As Oddbird wrote, atheists are hardly unified on animal rights, but more likely perhaps to be involved in animal rights activities.

 

But statistically, I'd bet the majority of animal rights people are Christian simply because there are more Christians that atheists by far. This is despite the fact that Christian theology and teaching puts mankind so far above animals that animal lives are not important.

 

I wonder if those that are Christian and pro-animal rights are "part atheist" or at least understand that other species are a part of the picture of unified life on earth.

 

 

Having said all that, I love steak, hamburger, ham, chicken, and so forth. No question about it, I accept that I am a carnivore. I'm having chicken for lunch. Yumm.

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I guess I could be classified as an animal rights activist because I do not see anything different in humans that can not be displayed in other animals, thus I do not want to see any animal have to suffer by the human hand. Even as a Christian I didn't buy into the whole "animals are soulless and must be dominated by humans who are better" shtick.

 

If you were an extraterrestrial observing all the life forms on this planet, the only things about humans that would stand out is our ability to build massive structures (but no more different than termites) and our complicated forms of communication.

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My fundy father in law isn't cruel to animals but by the same turn, he mocks organizations like PETA and eco-friendly concerns/companies. The conservative religious sect seem to be promoting a nonsensical contempt for animal rights and going green. Even if you think you are above animals and you have dominion over your earth, why would you mock those who would not see these things to be abused and pillaged?? It makes no sense.

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Years ago I supported Greenpeace when their emphasis was on "saving the whales".

 

I do recall that when I would talk about the high intelligence of whales and dolphins, that many of my Christian friends would tend to "ballyhoo" that a little; and my stories of quasi-communications with these creatures was sort of "New Agey", and a general disdain all around for even considering that we should preserve our world's finest creatures, whales, dolphins, tigers, elephants and so on. In general they would pay some lip service to these concerns, but I always found it a little bit curious how they weren't that interested in "interesting animal stories".

 

 

Although it's improving, environmental issues and animal rights are not huge among most conservative Christians. Nor a sense of natural awe for some of them. I don't quite have a working theory about all that; and I may be biased based on my own experiences.

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I , now I think about it, come across one species of atheistic thinkers - objectivists, who follow the philosophies of Ayn Rand - who are as utterly contemptuous of animal rights and environmental issues as the Religious Right, but don't use God to back up their arrogance. In their view, 'rights' are purely human, generated by the ability for rational thought and action, and not dependent upon interests. Self interest, and the ability to pursue it, are the only things that matter to objectivist morality.

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I , now I think about it, come across one species of atheistic thinkers - objectivists, who follow the philosophies of Ayn Rand - who are as utterly contemptuous of animal rights and environmental issues as the Religious Right, but don't use God to back up their arrogance. In their view, 'rights' are purely human, generated by the ability for rational thought and action, and not dependent upon interests. Self interest, and the ability to pursue it, are the only things that matter to objectivist morality.

This may not be a "popular" thing to say, but one problem I have with "humanism" is that it focuses solely on humans as though humans like a lobbying group - as if to say no other "group" matters. Like being a racist, but the race is the human race, and so we have signs that say, "Human Power!"

 

Well, that's an exaggeration, but I think humanists need a better term.

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Humankind now knows that "progress" which does not weigh heavily environmental impact is a poor long-term investment in our species. Destroying the Earth we need to survive in the name of "progress" is against a core principal of objectivism, as it is not progress or innovation at all, but is actually self-destruction. If there is no Earth, there is no life, and there is no ability to pursue self-interest.

Phanta

Objectivist Apologist

Time it just right, however, and "we" can screw up the environment big time and be dead before the shit hits the fan.

 

Self interest does not necessarily mean interest in future generations.

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If you were an extraterrestrial observing all the life forms on this planet, the only things about humans that would stand out is our ability to build massive structures (but no more different than termites) and our complicated forms of communication.

 

What do you know about termite towers? I'm interested in this subject, particularly the possible link between the termites building their towers not as individuals but as a collective organism (essentially a self-organizing system), and humans building their skyscrapers.

 

Phanta

 

I don't really know that much about them other than they are highly organized and are by no means random; they are methodically built and are ventilated to prevent overheating. But if I recall correctly, (I could be completely off base here) most of the structure is underground.

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I am under the impression that the philosophy of man's dominion over animals is a hallmark of the abrahamic religions, and rooted specifically in its mythology (ala Genesis 1:26), more than of other religions in general.

 

Jainism, for example, extends principles of non-violence to animals, and has practitioners that are careful to avoid harming even insects.

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I am under the impression that the philosophy of man's dominion over animals is a hallmark of the abrahamic religions, and rooted specifically in its mythology (ala Genesis 1:26), more than of other religions in general.

 

Jainism, for example, extends principles of non-violence to animals, and has practitioners that are careful to avoid harming even insects.

 

 

You bring up a really good point - many other religions outside of christianity and islam have some sort of reverance for animals and other living creatures, some holding them to a status equal to or above humans. Never really thought about it too in depth but now that you mention it, everything from native americans, buddhism, hinduism, ancient egyptians...yup, really is pretty wide spread outside of the abrahamic religions.

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You bring up a really good point - many other religions outside of christianity and islam have some sort of reverance for animals and other living creatures, some holding them to a status equal to or above humans. Never really thought about it too in depth but now that you mention it, everything from native americans, buddhism, hinduism, ancient egyptians...yup, really is pretty wide spread outside of the abrahamic religions.

Hinduism's caste system has Man at the top, and the wealthy at the top of the top, but it's a graduated hierarchy as opposed to "dominion." Also souls are believed to have been in other forms before, so it probably tends to make one more respectful of worms to know that it could be your relative.

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You bring up a really good point - many other religions outside of christianity and islam have some sort of reverance for animals and other living creatures, some holding them to a status equal to or above humans. Never really thought about it too in depth but now that you mention it, everything from native americans, buddhism, hinduism, ancient egyptians...yup, really is pretty wide spread outside of the abrahamic religions.

Hinduism's caste system has Man at the top, and the wealthy at the top of the top, but it's a graduated hierarchy as opposed to "dominion." Also souls are believed to have been in other forms before, so it probably tends to make one more respectful of worms to know that it could be your relative.

 

 

Don't they consider cows/cattle to be sacred though? I know christianity would never consider any animal such...and from what I know, Islam is the same as far as that goes.

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You bring up a really good point - many other religions outside of christianity and islam have some sort of reverance for animals and other living creatures, some holding them to a status equal to or above humans. Never really thought about it too in depth but now that you mention it, everything from native americans, buddhism, hinduism, ancient egyptians...yup, really is pretty wide spread outside of the abrahamic religions.

Hinduism's caste system has Man at the top, and the wealthy at the top of the top, but it's a graduated hierarchy as opposed to "dominion." Also souls are believed to have been in other forms before, so it probably tends to make one more respectful of worms to know that it could be your relative.

 

 

Don't they consider cows/cattle to be sacred though? I know christianity would never consider any animal such...and from what I know, Islam is the same as far as that goes.

 

The sacred cow is an interesting turn of events. IIRC, it started because of the need for animals to help with labor in the fields, but during drought or bad crops the people were tempted to eat the cows which would lead to a downward spiral. Hence, sacred cows insured the availability of cows as beasts of burden to plow and harvest. I seriously doubt you would ever find a Hindu that would acquiesce in this view. The origin is wrapped in mystery upon mystery until the only thing left is religious apology.

 

In a meeting of the Sanatana Dharma Sabha, Lokamanya Tilak said: - A Hindu is he who believes that the Vedas contain self-evident and axiomatic truths.

 

The prohibition against eating pork by the Hebrews (and other Semitic religions) may be for diseases, or just plain stupidity, but it still means "hands off the pigs."

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In Genesis man was created as Lord over the Earth, as so many Christians understand that to mean they can do whatever they want to non-human life and God will make sure it all ends up okay. We are special and above the other animals blah blah blah. Another reason why they hate evolution so much.

 

This at least was a mindset I noticed in play even at a liberal church. There are some Christians who think they should be stewards of God's creations but it's always easier to say 'I don't care and the bible backs me up.'

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If Rand were alive today and holding herself to the same standards her architect hero held himself to, Rand would see her revered Atlas Shrugged as the flutings on a wooden shack, and modern fundamentalist Randians akin to the creators and architectural worshipers of the Parthenon. A modern objectivist novel would feature a hero innovator who responds to environmental crisis not by sending us back to the dark ages of living by candlelight (clearly anti-objectivist) or ignoring the negative impact (fundamentalist Randian, but not objectivist), but rather by harnessing our ecosystem's renewable resources, accentuating the system's best life-sustaining qualities and bringing the innovator to a new level of excellence. Anything less results in false cause for pride, which is also anti-objectivist.

 

Just my 2 cents. It's been a while since I've lurked in objectivist circles. Hopefully there are truly innovative objectivists shaking up the core group. In the meantime, I'm learning to spin natural fibers by candlelight. *chuckle*

 

Phanta

Objectivist Apologist

 

Thanks, Phanta, for a really thoughtful and enlightening reply! :3:

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Self interest does not necessarily mean interest in future generations.

 

That's a great point, and something that came to mind as I was posting. I can't remember if leaving a legacy (to honor oneself, of course) had any place in the philosophy.

 

Phanta

 

p.s. - "Objectivist Apologist" was tongue-in-cheek...I'm way more of a crunchy, back-to-simple-living type. I bake bread from scratch <-- Ayn is rolling over in her grave!

 

I totally get this approach. I've been part of a medieval recreation group for many years now, but I've relatively recently discovered the joys of hand-sewing. It's amazing to find something that is relaxing and productive at the same time - so unlike contemporary notions of productivity, where you have to be stressed out all the time to feel like you're achieving anything!

 

At the risk of sounding like a complete troglodite, I do think one ought to develop an understanding of the slow method before one can really appreciate the benefits of technology. After all, I still generally find that inspiration comes more readily when I write by hand :)

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I totally get this approach. I've been part of a medieval recreation group for many years now, but I've relatively recently discovered the joys of hand-sewing.

 

Huzzah! I honestly get more gratification from sewing than anything else because not only did I learn something new but I can wear it. It really is functional art.

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Guest I Love Dog

It may seem like a question with a fairly obvious answer, but would you say that atheists are more likely than Christians - or those of another theistic flavour - to care about nonhuman animals, or support the notion of animal rights? For the purposes of this post, I'll define an atheist as one who constructs their worldview and lives their life without reference to any gods who may or may not exist - one to whom gods are irrelevant.

 

Some time ago, I took the somewhat foolhardy step of arguing on the Catholic Answers Forum about animal rights and was met with but a few sympathetic responders amidst a barrage of those who denied that other animals even experience any form of emotion - one particularly odious (and ignorant) redneck figured his dog was no different to a Roomba (robot vacuum cleaner, in case anyone hasn't heard of them). And of course there was then the inevitable howling chorus of "What about the unborn?!" (or worse - "preborn", that peculiarly barf-worthy term coined by anti-choice fundies in an effort to confer personhood on the foetus in utero) - as if that had any bearing whatever upon concern for the needs and interests of sentient creatures.

 

I've noticed that Christians are quite fond of creating this false dichotomy between caring about animal rights and caring about abortion as though the two areas of concern were mutually exclusive. Creationists often like to blame 'evolutionism' for creating a social climate that tends to 'favour' abortion, because it holds that human beings are related to nonhuman animals - which, to Christian fundies and many other types of theists, are outside the moral sphere. Those who hold such views are adamant that destroying a small clump of cells that lacks a nervous system or any form of awareness is a dire sin, of far greater magnitude than, say, killing a fully formed, sentient lamb for food.

 

This is, of course, because most theistic worldviews tend to confer a special, mystical status upon human beings, such that at any stage of development - or indeed in any state of degeneration - they are supposed to have greater moral worth than any other animal, no matter how sentient or aware those other animals may be. Those who don't subscribe to a theistic worldview seem to be far more open to seeing humans as animals amongst a world full of other animals, and to appreciate our connections with nature, our insignificance within the vastness of the cosmos. At least, that has been my observation.

 

I have to say that even when I did identify as Christian, I could never accept the notion that other animals didn't have souls - and I certainly wouldn't want to go to any heaven that wouldn't admit my dogs! I could never understand how it was possible for so many people to ignore the needs or the suffering of other animals just because they weren't human.

 

And then there is, of course, the profound irony of the mindset which, in accepting the anthropocentric notions of a bible-based faith, tends to reject the one faculty that genuinely sets humans apart from other animals - the capacity for rational, analytical thought.

 

This is one aspect of Christianity that I could never understand, why they think that humans are special or any different to any other life form on this planet. I know their god tells them so, but it never made any sense to me at all.

 

Very few other life forms on the planet treat each other or their environments with the same disrespect as humans do and I can't think of any other life form that exploits co-inhabitants of this planet as humans exploit each other and all other life forms for their own ends, personal wealth, fun, greed, sport or just pure nastiness.

 

Think of the millions of animals that die each year in horrendous experiments for the benefit of humans and their diseases or cosmetics or food and Christians rise up in fury at the thought of aborting a human fetus.

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It may seem like a question with a fairly obvious answer, but would you say that atheists are more likely than Christians - or those of another theistic flavour - to care about nonhuman animals, or support the notion of animal rights?

 

Christians tend to care only about themselves and maybe those of their group. They are often quite unsympathetic, even of other humans (don't care about people being stoned to death for all sorts of stupid shit, or the slaughter of men, women and children who were heathens), and even less so of non-humans. Even if their argument was true, that the difference was we have a soul, it would be a retarded argument, as you don't need a soul to have feelings.

 

 

Those who hold such views are adamant that destroying a small clump of cells that lacks a nervous system or any form of awareness is a dire sin, of far greater magnitude than, say, killing a fully formed, sentient lamb for food.

 

Pretty fucking stupid, huh? They mindlessly value something, simply because it has DNA that is similar to theirs. It doesn't matter that it feels nothing and isn't even a conscious entity. They really don't care about what anything feels at all - only about it's DNA. It's incredibly stupid.

 

 

This is, of course, because most theistic worldviews tend to confer a special, mystical status upon human beings, such that at any stage of development - or indeed in any state of degeneration - they are supposed to have greater moral worth than any other animal, no matter how sentient or aware those other animals may be. Those who don't subscribe to a theistic worldview seem to be far more open to seeing humans as animals amongst a world full of other animals, and to appreciate our connections with nature, our insignificance within the vastness of the cosmos. At least, that has been my observation.

 

I would say that atheists are more likely to be sympathetic to animals, but in my many online discussions, I have still found many atheists who think it is still ok to hunt/eat animals, despite the fact that it causes them pain and destroys their life. They often still have a religious-like value of humans, basing it on nothing logical at all. Oh sure, they'll sometimes try to put up stupid arguments to make it sound like they've actually thought it out, but when you destroy those arguments by showing their inconsistencies or falsehoods, they still won't change their stance, and it still just comes down to their mindless value of an entity for it's DNA.

 

 

 

I , now I think about it, come across one species of atheistic thinkers - objectivists, who follow the philosophies of Ayn Rand - who are as utterly contemptuous of animal rights and environmental issues as the Religious Right, but don't use God to back up their arrogance. In their view, 'rights' are purely human, generated by the ability for rational thought and action, and not dependent upon interests. Self interest, and the ability to pursue it, are the only things that matter to objectivist morality.

 

 

Uggggh, I have ran into these people on another forum. Cannot f*cking STAND their bullshit.

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