A simple strategy to ensure financial success in the world of publishing is to give people what they want. As a philosopher/theologian, I could make a big pile of money writing a book assuring pet owners that Fido and Frisky will make it to the gates of heaven.
If I wanted to become filthy rich (in the true capitalistic spirit) I would not be worried about where to draw the line, either. Billy’s pet gerbil, Johnny’s corn snake, and Susie’s guppies would all be included in God’s Infinite loving scheme for all creatures, big and small, to enjoy eternal blessedness. Heck, wouldn’t an all-loving God offer redemption even for lowly bacteria?
Unfortunately, I could not write such a book, even though I have shed my share of tears over many beloved pets in my lifetime. I can only offer an opposing view and hope that I can escape being skinned alive by animal lovers and pet owners because of this short post. I am willing to risk ridicule by well-meaning people because I feel this is an important issue to address. It involves making rational (rather than emotional) sense out of what is involved in eternal salvation.
All true religious worship involves walking with God. This means recognizing the Lord as the God of heaven and earth, while adopting God’s tenets of unselfish love into our lives. This path involves acts of service to others from a spiritual principle.
Animals cannot walk with God – even with a leash. The reason is, that even the most intelligent dog (or primate), cannot follow a person embarking on a spiritual path. This path is not a street sidewalk or park path. A spiritual path is the direction a man or women’s heart and mind is going. Being bipedal, four-legged, or eight-legged is a non-issue.
Heaven is not a place you go to. It is something you become. That is the whole purpose of religion – to offer values that will change our inner realities towards more heavenly qualities.
It is one thing to “roll over.” It is quite another to turn one’s life around.
Animals are unable to adopt higher principles into their lives because they are hard-wired into their natural instincts. They cannot rise above their biological loves of self-preservation, finding comfort, food, and reproduction.
If you insist that animals have souls just like us then you downplay the very reason and importance of religion. Eternal life requires conjunction and relationship with God. Relationship with God is reciprocal, not one-sided. Humans must learn to return God’s love through religion and the revealed wisdom of the Holy Word.
However, all might not be lost for the devout pet lover. According to the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, when we are in the spiritual world and think about another person, that person becomes immediately present (all spaces and measurement in heaven are states of mind). Perhaps there is some wiggle room for allowing Fido or Frisky’s “image” to reappear before us in heaven as the spirit moves us. You may draw some comfort from that. But to enjoy the real blessedness of heaven is to have our attention more perfectly turned to God.