Western Christian and Eastern Buddhist Ecological Spirituality and Environmental Ethics… what a weird mix. Some people would love to extend personhood to animals, and some already do this. Think about it, how often do you talk to your animal in the second person? If I may so myself, it must happen pretty often. I know I do it multiple times per day. Yet, there are religions out there that believe God created us as the authoritative figure on Earth, therefore we are above animals. They do not see God’s creations extending beyond humans, thus animals, etc. do not have souls. What I want to know is where did this thought come from? Lynn White and Andrew Linery provide an answer.
White’s “main area of research and inquiry was the role of technological invention in the Middle Ages” (Wikipedia). He believed the Middle Ages was the time which can be defined as the “genesis of Western technological supremacy,” founding the basis of all technological inventiveness (Wikipedia). Wanting to figure out why the scientific community thinks in a certain way, White seeks to understand how the relationship between science and technology began.
All significant science is western, dating back to the 17th century. White thinks the relationship between science and technology is recent, science was a form of contemplation: what brough them together was this dominion view in Christianity. This view can be used to subdue the Earth and create mastery. This mastery comes from this ideology that only man was created by God, and man only. Which explains why the church replaced pagan animism with cults of saints, because man had an effective monopoly of spirits. Hence, man does not need to answer to any natural spirits, just its monopoly of spirits. Therefore, God did not create nature, but we were created to have dominion over it.
Linzey takes a similar point of view, but takes a viewpoint from christianity, and its thinking. Christians have lost their identities, because most have a strong hatred for animals. In fact, in christian theology animals are used as satelites for Satan. Satan is viewed as an evil creature, so if animals are depicted as satelites of Satan then they must be evil, as well. For centuries, animals have been made to look evil. Depicting them in dimly light, dark, and evil situations give animals horrific denotations.
However, there is some hope in christianity. St. Francis of Assisi believe in the virtue of humility. Not only for individuals but man as a specie. He tries to despose man and his monarchy over animals. This dominion should not exist, have christians forgot their past, their story? They need to rethink their story, go back and see these untapped, marginalized stories of a world filled with animals and humans together, in harmony.
As a fellow catholic, similar to a christian (different sector) I do not believe animals are evil, but I will say that they are depicted as evil creatures, which is clearly ironic due to how inhumanely they are treated as of late, but I can see that once upon a time they were equal to us humans. Humans are an evil specie. I mean, look at the destruction we have caused amongst the ecosystems of this world, none of them look the same, and none of them will ever look the same. In my opinion, our world would do a whole lot better if religion did not exist. I guess people need something to hope for, to pray for; but why cannot people pray/hope for our world. This world is hanging on by a thread (not trying to sound cliche here but it is true). We focus on continually improving our technology, but what about the science which daily portrays the implications of our own doings?
I love the assessments done by White and Linzey, it helps one better understand the origin of this concept of us being higher up on the ladder in comparison to animals. Fortunately, that is not true. We are all equal. Now lets get that into all our dang minds. COME ON PEOPLE.