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-   -   Why does God allow animal suffering? (http://www.mothering.com/forum/265-religious-studies/1036175-why-does-god-allow-animal-suffering.html)

athansor 02-02-2009 04:10 PM

I was thinking about this today and couldn't come up with a good answer. Let me start by making sure I have my premises right...in most Christian schools of thought, at least, the common belief is that animals are put here for our use, and, animals don't have any sort of immortal soul and will not receive any reward. I think of the last part because often human suffering is justified either as a learning process to basically strengthen our soul or as something only temporary as we move toward a joyful afterlife.

So, if animals are here for our use, and there is no spiritual reason for their suffering (growth, eternal reward), why didn't God create them without the capacity to suffer? Animals suffer physically, mentally and even emotionally (e.g. a mother cow who has her calf removed from her shortly after birth), at our hands, and even as we have grown somewhat as a species in how we relate to each other, our treatment of animals has gotten worse and worse - e.g. factory farming and animal experimentation).

What are your thoughts on this?

angelpie545 02-02-2009 04:34 PM

Just to preface: I am by no means any kind of expert on this, and what I have to say comes purely from my own mind and not from anything I have been taught or told to say. In the book of Genesis, God did curse creation after Adam and Eve had sinned. I believe animal suffering has something to do with this. I could be wrong, but I don't think that animals ate each other before the fall-I would imagine that this is part of the fall, so therefore so is the suffering of animals that occurs by nature. The suffering of animals that occurs by us is our fault I believe, but some of it is necessary for human kind to survive (not that I agree with all of how animals are treated-especially on commercial farms . God did command that man have dominion over all of the earth, and that we were to subdue it, but I believe that does come with responsibility, and that each individual is responsible to God for what they do. No doubt that I believe intentional animal cruelty is a sin, but I don't think it is a sin to keep animals and raise them for the sole purpose of eating them as long as they are treated humanely. When controlling for natural factors, I think that a great deal of animal suffering comes from humans. Because of that, I think we have the power to eliminate at least some of it. I'm pretty certain that when God said have dominion over all the animals He didn't that we had the freedom to knowingly abuse them. I'm fairly sure He meant to use them for what we need, but also treat them as well as we could and not over use our resources.

Smokering 02-02-2009 05:56 PM

Pat answer: The same reason He allows any suffering; because it's part of His plan, which will work out to be a Good Thing.

Other answer: There's actually some debate in Christian circles over whether animals have souls. Nephesh, the 'breath of life' which distinguishes vertebrates from other creepy-crawlies, also applies to man, and some have speculated that it is a 'soul' of sorts (interestingly, the distinction is followed to some degree in bioethics, where ethical approval is needed for experiments on nephesh animals but not on non-nephesh ones. In that case it's about feeling pain, but Biblically the term could relate to 'personality', a soul, or whatever).

I agree with angelpie that a good deal of animal suffering is the result of the Fall; and that humans are given dominion over the animals, which I believe excuses 'using' them as necessary (food, clothing etc), but does not excuse deliberate cruelty, neglect or anything other than good stewardship.

Why didn't God create them without the capacity to suffer? Maybe because the emotional capacity animals have still brings many of them great joy, and will again in the new earth. In any case I don't personally believe God owes anything to His creation, so to me a question just as relevant is: "Why did God create animals with the ability to do anything other than suffer?"

tricia80 02-02-2009 07:53 PM

The fall is when suffering started... The first animal to die was the animal that Adam and Eve used for clothing..

Now man does have dominion over the earth unfortunately with that great charge comes great responsibility which unfortunately we have neglected.. its very sad.. but unfortunately its all caused by humans

Murihiku 02-03-2009 12:39 AM

Great question. I've never come across a theodicy that could adequately explain "Nature red in tooth and claw" (Tennyson) and so that's another reason I am an agnostic.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
In any case I don't personally believe God owes anything to His creation
Really? Whyever not?

Smokering 02-03-2009 11:31 PM

Quote:
Really? Whyever not?
Why would He?

Murihiku 02-03-2009 11:40 PM

I guess I'm thinking along the analogy of me choosing to bring my children into existence and therefore having several responsibilites towards them.

Smokering 02-04-2009 07:54 AM

OK, but according to Christian theology you didn't bring your children into existence, God did, and you have responsibilities towards them because God laid down rules about parental duties you are obliged to follow. Given that God is not obliged to follow the rules He gives to humans (indeed, in many cases it would be nonsensical - for instance, it makes no sense to talk of God stealing), it doesn't follow that He has responsibilities to His creation.

I do believe God is morally - not obliged, but bound by His own character - to keep promises He makes to His creation. But He never promised that animals should not suffer.

athansor 02-04-2009 04:20 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
I do believe God is morally - not obliged, but bound by His own character - to keep promises He makes to His creation. But He never promised that animals should not suffer.
This brings me back to the original point...he's created animals with the capacity to suffer, put them in a position to suffer greatly at our hands, and offers them no 'reward' or compensation for their suffering. Think of the life of a calf destined for veal, nothing but suffering from its first breath.

So, I have to wonder if either God's original plan was such that humans didn't use other animals, if animals do have some sort of eternal soul (I know a lot of people believe that at least some animals do...e.g. the Rainbow Bridge stuff) or if perhaps our treatment of animals is almost a test of our compassion, one which we are failing miserably.

Liquesce 02-04-2009 06:11 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by athansor View Post
or if perhaps our treatment of animals is almost a test of our compassion, one which we are failing miserably.
Most animal's suffering, at least in the grand scope of the world, has had little or nothing to do with mankind at all, though, and very much to do with just the realities of life. I'll agree completely about the test-of-compassion issue ... but I just don't see that it reflects very much on the original question. Factory farms and whatnot aside -- nature itself is rough.

tricia80 02-04-2009 07:48 PM

In the orginal plan (Eden) there was no suffering or death... it happened with the fall...

unfortunately its man choice to cause suffering... nature is nature so i don't even take into account the wild lion eating a cute helpless animal because thats what happens now.. what i would consider suffering would be the animals who get dragged by the cars, being left in a box by a ditch etc.. those are human CHOICES to do evil things...

athansor 02-04-2009 08:43 PM

I think it comes back to the notion that animals were placed here by God for our use. So, while I recognize that there is a lot of violence and suffering in nature, and that it would continue even if we humans were out of the picture, I'm more concerned with our actions with regards to animals and God's purposes for designing them with the capacity to suffer and then giving them to us for our unrestricted use (if indeed He did).

tricia80 02-04-2009 10:52 PM

We are stewards of this earth... and we have a responsibility to keep it properly which unfortunately we have not...

God purpose was to not design them for suffering.. The fall is what brought suffering on earth...IMO man has been opportunistic and has preyed on creatures which cannot talk back so it makes it easier to abuse... i personally find animal abuse disgusting... thats y i buy my meat local and from ppl i know...

I definately do not think it was unrestricted use.. man has just made it that way..

if i am repeating what i am saying don't mind me.. i am quite sick.. and not thinking the best...

Bluegoat 02-05-2009 01:55 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
Pat answer: The same reason He allows any suffering; because it's part of His plan, which will work out to be a Good Thing.

Other answer: There's actually some debate in Christian circles over whether animals have souls. Nephesh, the 'breath of life' which distinguishes vertebrates from other creepy-crawlies, also applies to man, and some have speculated that it is a 'soul' of sorts (interestingly, the distinction is followed to some degree in bioethics, where ethical approval is needed for experiments on nephesh animals but not on non-nephesh ones. In that case it's about feeling pain, but Biblically the term could relate to 'personality', a soul, or whatever).

I agree with angelpie that a good deal of animal suffering is the result of the Fall; and that humans are given dominion over the animals, which I believe excuses 'using' them as necessary (food, clothing etc), but does not excuse deliberate cruelty, neglect or anything other than good stewardship.

Why didn't God create them without the capacity to suffer? Maybe because the emotional capacity animals have still brings many of them great joy, and will again in the new earth. In any case I don't personally believe God owes anything to His creation, so to me a question just as relevant is: "Why did God create animals with the ability to do anything other than suffer?"
I tend to think that 'immortal' is the important word here when we talk about animal's souls. A soul is a kind of life force, Aristotle talks about plants having a vegetative soul, for example. But generally Christians don't believe plants or animals have an immortal soul, instead, their souls are completely tied to their physical matter, and they disolve or disperse when that matter comes apart.

I tend to agree that animals wouldn't have suffered without the fall. Humans are in a sense a bridge or link between what is mortal and immortal; we have immortal souls, but we are also animals and natural. When we fell, all of the natural world became disordered in some way. It is hard to imagine what unfallen nature looks like for me, but it is an interesting question.

As for suffering of animals, yes I agree with a pp who pointed out that their is plenty of suffering in the animal world without human (direct) causes. I suppose if God took the capacity to suffer away from animals after the fall, he would be making them less than they are. He would have to take away their sensitivity, their emotions. I don't think God ever makes things less than they were.

I also wonder about the thought that if animals don't get a reward or benifit for their suffering, it is lost. I have sometimes thought that suffering must have some intrinsic value of it's own, though I have no clue what that would be. It certainly seems (for Christians anyway)like God has taken on suffering as an intimate part of who and what he is.

athansor 02-11-2009 04:02 PM

I've got kind of a spin-off question that I'd like to ask...how does your religion view veganism? I'm asking because of conversations and reading that have basically said that it is not proper to abstain from meat or other animal products for moral reasons....along the lines of 'if God says it is OK to eat meat, wear leather, etc....then you can't say that there is anything morally wrong with it'. In other words, according to this viewpoint it's ok to not eat meat for health reasons, or because you think it's better for the environment or will help end world hunger, but not becuase you believe it's morally wrong.

Smokering 02-11-2009 05:09 PM

I don't think you can make a Biblical case that any animal use qua animal use is morally impermissible. God gave man dominion over the animals, dressed Adam and Eve in skins and then specifically told Noah that man could eat meat (which is re-emphasised in the NT with Peter's vision of the sheet, although for different reasons).

So if veganism means the ethical belief that any animal use is wrong, then yeah, I'd say it's Biblically impermissible. But 'practical veganism' is a valid choice for the Christian, I think. Modern methods of factory farming and so on are cruel to animals, and God nowhere condones cruelty to animals - many of the OT laws are about minimising animal suffering. One could also make a case for veganism being good stewardship of the earth, simply from a greenhouse gases/energy efficiency point of view (as raising meat takes more energy than raising plants).

I do know a lot of Christians who scoff at v*gans, which is a shame. I'm not v*gan but do eat mostly vegetarian; my sister is very close to veganism, and I admire her stance.

Bluegoat 02-11-2009 06:13 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by athansor View Post
I've got kind of a spin-off question that I'd like to ask...how does your religion view veganism? I'm asking because of conversations and reading that have basically said that it is not proper to abstain from meat or other animal products for moral reasons....along the lines of 'if God says it is OK to eat meat, wear leather, etc....then you can't say that there is anything morally wrong with it'. In other words, according to this viewpoint it's ok to not eat meat for health reasons, or because you think it's better for the environment or will help end world hunger, but not becuase you believe it's morally wrong.
Well, it seems to me that another way put this is "If it's ok to eat meat, then it's ok to eat meat."

athansor 02-11-2009 11:11 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
Well, it seems to me that another way put this is "If it's ok to eat meat, then it's ok to eat meat."
I'm not sure I follow you here. Are you saying that if God says it's OK to eat meat, then we shouldn't think otherwise?

athansor 02-11-2009 11:15 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
I don't think you can make a Biblical case that any animal use qua animal use is morally impermissible. God gave man dominion over the animals, dressed Adam and Eve in skins and then specifically told Noah that man could eat meat (which is re-emphasised in the NT with Peter's vision of the sheet, although for different reasons).
I think I need to re-read Genesis, because I always had it in my mind that they clothed themselves in garments made from leaves. :

It's an odd thought to me, because it's almost as if being a Christian (at least in some denominations) would mean having to go against the conscience and accept that using animals for food is morally acceptable. Since, at least in my case, that's the reason I am vegan, it's like to get right with God, I'd need to start eating meat.

DahliaRW 02-12-2009 04:13 AM

God made them clothes out of animal skin AFTER he caught them in the leaves (Genesis 3:21).

I never thought much about the veganism aspect. As a Christian I don't think I can say the Bible forbids meat, but I do think there is precidence that if eating meat makes me feel guilty there is no reason I HAVE to eat it. For example, I am against humans purposely making animals suffer, and therefore try to eat organic/humanely raised meat and don't eat things like veal. I also have no problem with people abstaining from meat for health reasons (they feel it's healthier not to, etc) or just because they don't like it. But, I don't think anyone can use the Bible to justify that someone else should be vegan.

Sorry so rambly.

Bluegoat 02-12-2009 12:42 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by athansor View Post
I'm not sure I follow you here. Are you saying that if God says it's OK to eat meat, then we shouldn't think otherwise?
Something like that; if God, who knows everything, says eating meat is ok, then presumably he's right.

I wouldn't actually go on to say that we shouldn't think about it though - even if we accepted the "answer" we might not know the why of it. And then it would be very difficult to know how to apply the rule, or just what it was supposed to mean.

I tend to think that eating meat is morally acceptable, but it needs to be done in a humane and environmentally conscious way. So in many cases it would mean not eating much meat at all. As well, there are health issues and fasting, which are reason to abstain that are really not related to the morality issue at all.

To my mind, there are two reasons people usually suggest that eating meat is, in itself, wrong. One is that life is sacred. The other is that killing can never be "nice" or painless or whatever.

The problem to my mind is if life is sacred and we therefore can't kill, that would not just apply to animals, but all life. Wouldn't plant life also be sacred? The issue of it being nice is perhaps more strong, but I still am not sure that would apply only to animals. And animals living in nature unmolested also generally have unpleasant ends. A well cared for domestic animal, on balance, has a less painful life than an average wild animal. (Not, obviously, in a bad intensive farming scenario.) So are we really making things worse for using animals for food in that way? I'm not convinces by the argument that says, "well, that's ok in the wild because it's natural." To my mind that is an abstract concept that is meaningless to animals. And what does "natural" mean anyway, in that context?

I was, at one time, a vegetarian, but I found it was really just impossible to step out of the circle of life.

tricia80 02-12-2009 01:01 PM

As a christian i do not believe that ppl can use the bible to make other ppl be vegan... or vice versa... if its a conviction against animal suffering or you feel guilty eating meat than you need to do what your conscience says to do...

We buy meat locally and we know the butchers... its pretty much done around here this way because its a large farming community... We do not buy factory farmed meat at all and i don't eat veal... If i found out our butchers would be cruel than it would be a big problem and I wouldn't buy from them... i have told them out here how some factory farms do things and they were just appalled by it...

athansor 02-12-2009 01:51 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post

To my mind, there are two reasons people usually suggest that eating meat is, in itself, wrong. One is that life is sacred. The other is that killing can never be "nice" or painless or whatever.

The problem to my mind is if life is sacred and we therefore can't kill, that would not just apply to animals, but all life. Wouldn't plant life also be sacred? The issue of it being nice is perhaps more strong, but I still am not sure that would apply only to animals. And animals living in nature unmolested also generally have unpleasant ends. A well cared for domestic animal, on balance, has a less painful life than an average wild animal. (Not, obviously, in a bad intensive farming scenario.) So are we really making things worse for using animals for food in that way? I'm not convinces by the argument that says, "well, that's ok in the wild because it's natural." To my mind that is an abstract concept that is meaningless to animals. And what does "natural" mean anyway, in that context?

I was, at one time, a vegetarian, but I found it was really just impossible to step out of the circle of life.
I think that the first point, about all life, would usually be answered as all sentient life is sacred. One way I've heard it put is not to eat anything that has a mother. Another way of looking at it is animals will try to avoid being killed, plants, not being sentient, don't try to avoid it.

For the second, I think many people, myself included, while recognizing the evils in factory farming, don't see things like free-range, locally grown, or grass fed, etc...as much better. Even the kindest dairies still have no use for male calves, for instance, so they typically become veal. So, buying milk supports the veal industry. Calves are rarely allowed to be with their mothers until they want to wean causing much distress to both mother and baby, and free range chickens still have their beaks removed.

It is true that things aren't all peaceful and kind in nature, but for me, I figure it's my job to at least take responsibility for what I can.

Smokering 02-12-2009 05:24 PM

Quote:
It's an odd thought to me, because it's almost as if being a Christian (at least in some denominations) would mean having to go against the conscience and accept that using animals for food is morally acceptable. Since, at least in my case, that's the reason I am vegan, it's like to get right with God, I'd need to start eating meat.
I don't think you'd need to start eating meat, and you could still make a consistently Biblical case for practical veganism on the grounds that factory farming today and the environmental conditions have made meat eating cruel/dangerous for the human race. There's nothing specifically 'Christian' about cutting the beaks off free-range chickens or penning up male calves so the veal will be tender, KWIM?

You would have to make a mental adjustment to some degree though, I expect, depending on your reasons for veganism. If it was based on the philosophy that humans are just another animal and therefore shouldn't eat their fellow-beasts, well, that's not Biblical; or if it was based on a view of reincarnation, or the view that slaughtering animals is wrong no matter what the circumstances, or something: then yeah, that wouldn't gel with Christianity. The Bible says our consciences are fallen, not infallible, and should be informed by the Scriptures. It doesn't say we tie new converts down and make them eat ham, though. My almost-vegan sister is a Christian and gets very annoyed when she hears the "But the Bible says you can eat meat" line, as it doesn't really engage with her perspective.

MsBirdie 02-12-2009 09:15 PM

My DHs family is 7th day adventist and they are vegan, trying to live more truly to what God had originally planned for humanity. I am by no means a
7th Day expert, but that is what they have told me.

TeaRowz 07-18-2009 04:02 PM

If there is an entity (or god) that created the animal kingdom, that entity should be as ashamed of it as of "his" highly flawed creation of, and 'plan' for mankind.

Any god that would create animals that can think; feel, both physically and emotionally; and make decisions that aren't always based on instinct (argument against any of these things is simply absurd), and not afford them the same relief from suffering as he gives man (such as the supposed power of prayer) is cruel, and a supremacist. This would explain why so many of us are supremacists, and cruel to animals, since we were biblically 'created in His image'.

The mindset of those who defend such an entity's 'loving creation' of the system of life on this planet is as deluded as those who died at Jonestown.



Quote:
Originally Posted by athansor View Post
I was thinking about this today and couldn't come up with a good answer. Let me start by making sure I have my premises right...in most Christian schools of thought, at least, the common belief is that animals are put here for our use, and, animals don't have any sort of immortal soul and will not receive any reward. I think of the last part because often human suffering is justified either as a learning process to basically strengthen our soul or as something only temporary as we move toward a joyful afterlife.

So, if animals are here for our use, and there is no spiritual reason for their suffering (growth, eternal reward), why didn't God create them without the capacity to suffer? Animals suffer physically, mentally and even emotionally (e.g. a mother cow who has her calf removed from her shortly after birth), at our hands, and even as we have grown somewhat as a species in how we relate to each other, our treatment of animals has gotten worse and worse - e.g. factory farming and animal experimentation).

What are your thoughts on this?

Funny Face 07-18-2009 04:11 PM

I'm no expert either and I haven't read all the replies.

I do not think God 'allows us to suffer' so we can learn etc. We suffer the consequences of sin, which entered in to the world because of Adam and Eve's choice. We suffer because we and others still choose to sin. Animals suffer because of this too.

God can take what is intended for evil and use if for His/our benefit but he does not want us to suffer.

Suffering, of any kind, is a result of the fall.

I also don't think God owes us anything. That is why it is amazing to me what He did for us. He did it out of love, not obligation. :


For me, knowing or understanding why hasn't made it any easier for me to accept. It still hurts greatly when I think of what many people/animals go through.

Funny Face 07-18-2009 04:18 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by TeaRowz View Post
If there is an entity (or god) that created the animal kingdom, that entity should be as ashamed of it as of "his" highly flawed creation of mankind.

Any god that would create animals that can think; feel, both physically and emotionally; and make decisions that aren't always based on instinct (argument against any of these things is simply absurd), and not afford them the same relief from suffering as he gives man (such as the supposed power of prayer) is cruel, and a supremacist. This would explain why so many of us are supremacists, and cruel to animals, since we were biblically 'created in His image'.

The mindset of those who defend such an entity's 'loving creation' of the system of life on this planet is as deluded as those who died at Jonestown.
You're totally entitled to your opinion but the way you stated it is really offensive. If you want to partake in a discussion with people who obviously believe in God, it's only common courtesy to be respectful towards those individuals and their beliefs.

Degrading others for their beliefs adds nothing to the discussion, it only distracts from it.

earthzizu 07-18-2009 11:50 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by TeaRowz View Post
If there is an entity (or god) that created the animal kingdom, that entity should be as ashamed of it as of "his" highly flawed creation of, and 'plan' for mankind.

Any god that would create animals that can think; feel, both physically and emotionally; and make decisions that aren't always based on instinct (argument against any of these things is simply absurd), and not afford them the same relief from suffering as he gives man (such as the supposed power of prayer) is cruel, and a supremacist. This would explain why so many of us are supremacists, and cruel to animals, since we were biblically 'created in His image'.

The mindset of those who defend such an entity's 'loving creation' of the system of life on this planet is as deluded as those who died at Jonestown.
I completely agree.

On another note, it is in my personal opinion that anything with eyeballs has a soul. Research has shown that animals feel pain, react to pain, and know the difference when they are relieved from pain. They feel a wide range of emotions, just as humans do. The god I know wants everyone to be happy. And that includes animals. It is very challenging for me to understand the perspective that there is a god out there who condones the suffering of animals who cannot receive a reward in their afterlife. Having been vegan in the past (currently vegetarian now), I found it to be spiritually fulfilling on a level so high that all my illnesses and ailments disappeared and positivity and healing resonated in all aspects of my life. I have the highest respect for vegans and those who prevent the suffering of animals.

genifer 07-19-2009 05:16 AM

After reading the first post only... I personally wonder if its something to do with human responsibility. A lot of suffering of animals is down to human mistreatment and abuse. We have a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth and God's creation. And you know what? I do question whether animals have immortal souls, much the same as humans.

Quote:
I've got kind of a spin-off question that I'd like to ask...how does your religion view veganism? I'm asking because of conversations and reading that have basically said that it is not proper to abstain from meat or other animal products for moral reasons....along the lines of 'if God says it is OK to eat meat, wear leather, etc....then you can't say that there is anything morally wrong with it'. In other words, according to this viewpoint it's ok to not eat meat for health reasons, or because you think it's better for the environment or will help end world hunger, but not becuase you believe it's morally wrong.
To be honest, Ive never heard of this one. So much of what we are made up of is cultural. As some one else said already (I did just go and skim some of the posts) there is debate about the cruelty of animals bred for food. Ill tell you from my own perspective. Morally speaking, I would love to be vegan. There are personal limitations that make it difficult as well as health reasons. Now, I had a major guilt trip about it for a number of years. It came to a point where I was praying about it and got the impression that, as scripture says, I shouldnt be so concerned or obsessively concerned with what I eat. This will be a process along with all the other things about my life, life in general, dealing with all my faults, that can be dealt with over time. I personally thing, tho, that morally speaking it can be a good thing to not eat meat or meat products.


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