Do animals have a soul?
Peter Sasse examines the historical roots of today's billionfold animal suffering: Where does the thought come from that animals have no soul? In ancient times, animals had a soul according to Plato's philosophy. For Plato, the difference between animals and humans was not precisely defined, but fluid. Only the Roman Catholic Church made a clear distinction between the "unreasonable" animals and the immortal soul of man in the image of God.
"Peter Sasse asks, "Did God see this in the same way? "I believe that his deputies denied the animals their soul in order to disenfranchise them and to be able to treat them at will. A living being without rights may be tortured and killed without having to feel guilt for it. The same has been the case for centuries with women, blacks and indigenous peoples. Those who invoked Christian teaching claimed that the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' does not apply to living beings who have no soul. The Church had no scruples about burning tens of thousands of women alive, along with countless other believers and the indigenous peoples of South America, not even ten percent of whom survived Christianisation. The women were later attributed a soul, albeit a lower one than that of the man. Since the Enlightenment, these abstruse views had to be gradually abandoned. Today, a soul is attributed at least to women and blacks. But with the animals it is still difficult."
Already in his previous book "The Fear of the Good News" Peter Sasse dealt in detail with the institution church and its history. If he focused on people there, his new book "Animals are the better people" deals with our fellow creatures, the animals. For according to the Church they too have no soul and thus no rights - these statements are still made by the majority of bishops today. Is it therefore surprising that in Catholic countries rituals such as bullfights and animal sacrifices are still celebrated with great applause?
The 5th commandment does not apply to everyone
The Ten Commandments clearly say, "Thou shalt not kill." But according to Church doctrine, "Thou shalt not kill" does not apply to the treatment of animals, but only to human beings. However, this did not prevent the church from calling for the mass killing of Muslims and Jews during the Crusades or from having millions of dissenters tortured and cruelly killed in the Inquisition and witch-hunt. "All who were outside dogmas and church laws were fair game," writes Peter Sasse.
In the Bible there are countless contradictions to this question: While God proclaims through Moses the commandment "Thou shalt not kill", in many passages of the Old Testament the same God allegedly calls for executions and wars. Through some prophets of the Old Testament, God rejects bloody animal sacrifices; in other passages of the Old Testament, gruesome burnt offerings are demanded with precise instructions for slaughter and dismemberment.
Peter Sasse points out that many historians describe the Bible as the cruellest book in world literature. And he quotes the American bishop John Shelby Spong, who studied the two testaments carefully: "Whoever wants to build his morality on the Bible either has not read it or has not understood it". At any rate, it cannot be God's pure and unadulterated word.
"Also in the New Testament every social and theological opinion can be filtered out", writes Sasse. This is not surprising when one considers the power influences under which the Bible came into being over centuries. And it is precisely as far as the question about the treatment of animals is concerned that one can hardly find an orientation in the New Testament, since the stories of YAHUSHUA and the animals had already been suppressed in the first edition of the Bible (Vulgate) of Jerome. "The Bible remains human work," writes Sasse and quotes the Catholic theologian Moris Hoblaj, who calls the Bible "the tailor-made dress of the church.
Original Christian vegetarians unChristianly damned
"With YAHUSHUA, the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' also applies to the animals," says Peter Sasse. He recalls the scene when YAHUSHUA drove the animal dealers out of the temple (Joh. 2,14ff): "And he found sitting in the temple oxen, sheep and pigeons, and the changers. And he made a scourge of ropes, and he drove them all out of the temple with the sheep and the oxen, and spilled the money on the moneychangers, and knocked over the tables, and said unto them which had the doves for sale, Take this from thence, and make not my father's house a store.
"The appearance of YAHUSHUA changed many rules and laws," writes Sasse. "Not only sacrifice, but also hunting was considered incompatible with their faith by the Christian communities of the first centuries. So also the vegetarian nutrition was to a large extent widespread with the Christian early churches.
On the other hand Paul, who largely shaped the later church Christianity, defended the consumption of meat quite rigorously, explains Peter Sasse. Unlike many of the first Christians in the early churches who rejected the killing of animals, Paul, as a Roman citizen, liked to eat meat and demanded (1 Cor 10:25): "Everything that is sold on the meat market that eats, and do not investigate so that you do not weigh your conscience down.
The Roman Emperor Constantine fought unscrupulously for power in the Roman Empire and, in the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., combined the then different currents of Christianity into a unified ecclesiastical power. "The Church had not only largely abandoned Original Christianity since its expansion in the Roman Empire. In addition it began to fight its ideas and ways of life since the 4th century", Peter Sasse explains. He quotes as an example from a decision of the Synod of Ankara in the year 314 that all priests and deacons who abstained from meat and refused to eat even vegetables mixed with meat were to be removed from office.
"In general, the Original Christians were from then on not only regarded as heretics, but above all as post-Christians and thus enemies of the state," said Sasse. "Particularly badly one proceeded now against the vegetarians, by making them the process, it executed and later almost completely exterminated. Further he writes: "In order to be better able to pursue the Original Christian parishes, Pope John III imposed in 561 A.D. fourteen ban curses against all vegetarians, which have not been revoked until today. And in the 1st Synod of Braga it was stated: "If anyone considers meat dishes, which God has given to man for his enjoyment, to be unclean and ... and that he would renounce them, and that he would be cursed." According to the teachings of the Church, vegetarians did not only fall prey to eternal torments of hell with the curse of banishment, they were also considered "outlaws": As a person excluded from society, the banished lost all rights - and so vegetarians were persecuted and often executed.
"From the 11th century onwards, the papal Inquisition had people tortured and hanged who refused to kill animals," the book continues. Many vegetarians were burnt at the stake by the Inquisition. The execution of Séréna and Agnès de Châteauxverdun, both believing Cathar women, is historically documented: They had been convicted of "misconception" because they refused to kill a chicken that had been brought here. "The Church developed a panic-stricken fear of people who lived according to original Christianity because they had believed it to be extinct since Constantine," says Peter Sasse.
The Cathars were exterminated by the Inquistion and a crusade of the Catholic Church in the 13th and 14th centuries. About the Original Christian faith movement of the Cathars the following can be found in the Inquisition acts of the church: "...they were allowed to ... not to kill an animal." And: "Furthermore they believe that even in urgent need it is a mortal sin to eat meat, eggs or cheese...". From the 11th century onwards, the papal Inquisition had people tortured and hanged who refused to kill animals. The refusal to eat meat was seen as a sign of "heresy".
That the Catholic Church - later also the Lutheran Church - persecuted, cruelly tortured and brutally killed hundreds of thousands of so-called heretics over many centuries is now common knowledge. It is interesting, however, that almost all persecuted communities that were faithful to the Original Christian faith - from the Cathars to the Manichaeans - had one thing in common: they strictly refused to kill animals and eat meat. As "heretics," they were persecuted for centuries and mercilessly exterminated.
"Imagine that one day alien beings from outer space will land on our planet. Beings like in the Hollywood movie Independence Day. They are incredibly intelligent and far superior to humans. But this time there is no death-defying president in the fighter plane available. And also no unrecognized genius paralyzes the extraterrestrial computers with earthly viruses. Instead, the aliens have defeated and imprisoned humanity in no time at all. An unprecedented reign of terror begins. The aliens use humans for medical experiments, make shoes, car seats and lampshades out of their skin, use their hair, bones and teeth. They also eat people, especially children and babies. They taste best because they are so soft and their flesh is so tender.
A man whom they are taking from the dungeon to slaughter and make sausage out of, screams at the strange creatures: "How can you do such a thing? Do you not see that we have feelings, that you hurt us? How can you take our children away from us to kill and eat them? Do you not see how we suffer? Do you not realize how unimaginably cruel and barbaric you are? Have you no pity at all?" The aliens nod. "Yes, yes," says one of them. "It may well be that we are a little cruel. But you see," he continues, "we are just superior to you. We are more intelligent than you and more reasonable. We can do more things that you can't. We are a much higher animal species, much more advanced than you. Well, and that's why we are allowed to do everything with you that we want. Have a look at our fantastic culture! Our spaceships with which we can fly at the speed of light. And then look at your miserable existence! Compared to us, your life is hardly worth anything. Moreover, even if our behaviour is somehow not quite right, because of your pain and your fears - one thing is much more important for us: "You just taste so good to us!" [taken from: Precht, R.D. (2011). „Warum gibt es alles und nicht nichts?“ München: Goldmann, S. 144-147.
"Is it really the case, as science has long claimed, that only we humans fully savour the palette of feelings? Could it be that Creation has developed a special biological path especially for us, the only one that guarantees a conscious, fulfilled life? [...] For if man were something special in the sense of a biological construction, then he could not compare himself with other species. Compassion with animals would have no meaning, because we could not even begin to guess what is going on in them. [...] Certainly, it may sound presumptuous to say that a pig feels the way we do. But the likelihood that an injury will cause less bad feelings in him than in us tends towards zero. Oha," scientists may now exclaim, "that has not been proven at all. That's true, and you will never be able to do that. Whether you feel like me is just a theory. No one can look into another person, can prove that a needle prick, for example, produces the same sensation among all 7 billion people on earth. After all, people can express their feelings in words, and the result of these messages increases the probability that things will be similar for all people on the emotional level." [Wohlleben, P. (2016). „Das Seelenleben der Tiere“. 5.Auflage, München: Ludwig Verlag.]
"Already more than 2000 years ago, ethics thought about how humans should treat animals. So the Chinese philosopher Hsiang Hsiu (ca. 227-277) was not quite sure whether animals are rather a thing that humans use to satisfy their interests, or whether they are completely independent living beings with feelings and sensations? This question is still the core problem of animal ethics today. Do we humans determine the life and death of animals, or do animals have feelings and their own needs, even rights, independently of us?
The thoughts of Hsiang Hsiu were rather an exception in traditional ethics, which was ignored for almost 1500 years. Until the 17th century, animals were considered to function like machines. René Descartes (1596-1650) even denied them any emotional life and consciousness, so that experiments could be carried out with them alive. And this is exactly where animal ethics in the 21st century comes in. Thanks to the English philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), the concept of animal machines was already criticized in the 18th century. Animals were classified as beings capable of suffering who had feelings. Despite their medical necessity, animal experiments must take this into account in a modern constitutional society. This argument is put forward in particular by the German philosopher Ursula Wolf (born 1946).
The second aspect of animal ethics concerns the species-appropriate keeping of animals. It is not unusual for animals to vegetate under unworthy conditions. For example, geese and chickens on large farms often only have as much space in their boxes and cages as their bodies occupy. Four laying hens are kept in wire cages of up to 50 cm - this does not even correspond to one DIN A 4 side as habitat per animal. Cows and calves are not better off. They vegetate in stables on slatted frames because the provision of flooring with straw would mean more work for the staff and thus higher costs. Painful deformities of the hooves are often the result of this mass animal husbandry. Here animal rights acitivists as well as philosophers set also the argument of the suffering ability of animals against: Animals can feel and may not be held therefore during their lifetime under cruel conditions.
The Australian philosopher Peter Singer (born 1946) even goes one step further. As a third aspect of animal ethics, he demands that people should respect the dignity of animals. For animals are independent beings who have interests and desires independent of man: among other things, good food and a social bond with their conspecifics."[Brüning, B. (1997): „Was ist Tierethik?“ https://www.bpb.de/gesellschaft/umwelt/bioethik/175397/quellentexte-zur-tierethik?p=all]
"For centuries, animals have been considered to have neither feelings nor the ability to think. The opinion of the famous philosopher René Descartes that animals, unlike humans, are only sophisticated machines is almost infamous. Consequently, anatomists were able to carry out experiments on living dogs without any scruples - and thus gain the first insights into the human blood circulation and the nervous system.
The paradox of this search for knowledge was already criticized by the Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire in the 18th century: "They nail him [a dog] to a table and open his abdominal cavity alive to offer you a glimpse of the innards. You will discover in it the same organs that enable you to feel and that you possess. Answer me, your machine theorist, has nature equipped this animal with all the sources of feeling so that it cannot feel? Does it have nerves to be without any excitement?
Voltaire's objection was largely ignored in science - and still is today. Animal experiments - also with dogs - and mass animal husbandry are standard today.
Behaviourists declared the inner life not only of humans but also of animals to be a "black box" - about which nothing could be known. And while popular scientific literature on the most amazing strategies, memory and feelings of animals is overflowing, science has little to offer. Thus, writes Brensing, only one of 59 chapters in a 2000 page standard work of biology deals with the behaviour of animals. Amazing achievements of her brain - creative problem solving, use of tools, self-confidence, abstract thinking - are completely absent.
Brensing's examples impressively show that there is no reason to deny animals an "inner life" with pain, fear, grief and joy. On the contrary: astonishingly many of them have a differentiated social behaviour, learn from each other, some form cultures thousands of years old and know about the uniqueness of their own person - such as dolphins, whales, elephants and apes.
If all this is true, the biologist asks - are we still allowed to treat animals the way we do? Are we allowed to test psychotropic drugs on fish and at the same time deny them a feeling of pain? Can we find that six-week-old pigs are smarter than 18-month-old children - and, in accordance with the law, imprison them for life on two square metres and finally kill them?"[„Wir müssen Tiere vermenschlichen“, Carstens, P. (04.10.2017). https://www.geo.de/natur/tierwelt/17442-rtkl-wissenschaftler-bricht-ein-biologie-tabu-wir-muessen-tiere-vermenschlichen]
"Trees that communicate with each other. Trees that lovingly care for their offspring, but also for old and sick neighbours. Trees that have sensations, feelings, a memory. - The forester Peter Wohlleben tells fascinating stories about the unexpected and amazing abilities of the trees. With the help of the latest scientific findings and his own direct experiences with the forest, he creates an exciting new encounter [...] and we enter a completely new world.
Peter Wohlleben tells us in his new book "The Secret Life of Trees" that trees have a language. Fragrances play an important role as messengers and mushrooms with their threads and mycelium form the "Internet of the forest". We learn that trees cultivate friendships, "cuddle" them, "nurse" their "tree babies" and "educate" their tree children. We are shown that root tips have brain-like structures and one automatically asks oneself whether plants can think? And did you know that there are more living beings in a handful of forest soil than there are people on earth? That city trees have an extremely hard life? And trees in general are masters of deceleration?
Here are a few excerpts from the book "The Secret Life of Trees":
- Trees can be very considerate of each other. When about two trees stand close to each other, you often see that only thin branches point in the direction of the other tree. While on all other sides thick branches grow in order to have as many leaves as possible to catch the sunlight, only tender branches carefully grope their way towards the neighbouring tree. Neither of the trees wants to compete with the other, but both take care that everyone gets enough light to stay healthy.
- During storms and storms, trees often form a kind of solidarity community. Where a single tree would fall, the members of an intact beech forest support each other. They do this by swinging back and forth differently through their different crowns and trunks, swaying against each other, slowing down their movements and thus preventing them from swinging up and falling down.
- Trees can and often warn each other of pests. If, for example, a beech is attacked by insects, it warns its colleagues with scent messages. These can then go into a defensive position and store defence substances in the bark. In the African savannah there is an acacia species that emits the gas ethylene when a gazelle eats off its leaves. The acacia thus warns its neighbours, who store a substance in their leaves that makes them inedible.
- Trees often suffer from an unfavorable environment - just like humans. Street trees standing next to a lantern, for example, suffer in this way. Just like humans, trees need their sleep to regenerate. But they can't do that when they are under permanent exposure at night. They suffer from sleep deprivation - just as we humans would.
The book changes the view of trees and plants in general. While animals are now aware that they often suffer and need our human consideration, trees are often regarded as pure suppliers of raw materials - but trees can also communicate, suffer just as humans or animals do. They also deserve our attention and consideration. To create an awareness for this is the important merit of this book "The Secret Life of Trees", which has been almost out of print for weeks. This shows that we have not forgotten our natural connection and the important togetherness and that we are again moving towards creating a more balanced life with this precious nature.
[...] Through groundbreaking scientific experiments, they proved what outsiders among plant researchers already said centuries ago: plants react like humans. They have feelings and memory, perceive optical and acoustic impressions, and distinguish between harmonies and dissonances. In experiments, plants were connected to sensitive measuring devices. These devices indicate that plants react frightened when they feel threatened, and joyfully when a friend approaches them. The discovery of plants as animate living beings and their physical and emotional relationships with humans opens breathtaking perspectives for our entire understanding of nature.
Wohlleben, P. (2015). „Das geheime Leben der Bäume“. 17.Auflage, München: Ludwig Verlag.„Erstaunlich: Bäume & Pflanzen kommunizieren miteinander“. https://www.horizonworld.de/erstaunliches-baeume-pflanzen-haben-empfindungen-und-kommunizieren-miteinander/