‘Now I know
why my father
would go out
in the rain.’
I must point out what I regard as a fundamental error of Christianity, one of many — but this one is not often talked about. And it has caused untold suffering which continues to this day. I speak here of the Christian idea that Man is somehow, in essence, different from the brutes; that humans are special. Now anyone who is not completely blinded by superstition or some prejudice gained in childhood can see how false this is.
From its inception Christianity put Man on a pedestal and reduced animals to mere things. It is true that some progressive churchmen have recently tried to redress this situation by promoting animal rights, but the pernicious doctrine still permeates ‘Christendom’ and especially among the simple-minded. It would be impossible to attract people to a religion that stated clearly that men are only clever primates, ones slightly more evolved than apes, and who have only recently come down from the trees. That Man, like all other life forms, is the result of evolution and not magic or the work of a supernatural being, and that if we were honest, Mankind must fall under the same scientific classification as apes.
Initially Christianity attracted the dregs of society, those who needed to hear they were special as they could see nothing special about themselves. Surely then for them it had to be pointed out that Man towered above all else, and in the scriptures we find references to the earth, and everything on it, as being almost playthings for Man, that this world is a kind of playground for him to frolic about in and do as he pleases.
‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’
It is my view that such ideas have given rise to untold suffering across the ages. At times animals are killed for no object at all. They have been mutilated and tortured, sometimes for amusement. Think of the horses and donkeys worked until the bitter end, until they succumb at last to the final whipping.
It would ease the despair if we could isolate it in the distant past, in the origins of that religion. But a Papal dictum of just over one hundred years ago reads as follows:
‘It is a theological error to suppose that man owes any duty to animals.’
If we look to the East, we find a far more enlightened approach to the treatment of animals. When a Buddhist has a spot of good luck, instead of mumbling Te Deums, he goes to the marketplace and purchases caged birds, which he then takes to the city gate and releases.
Time and time again, with regard to animals, Man shows that he is a selfish and heartless being. Perhaps there is no spectacle more pitiless than seeing a bird caged:
‘The bird which was made so that it might rove over half of the world, he shuts up into the space of a cubic foot, there to die a slow death in longing and crying for freedom; for in a cage it does not sing for the pleasure of it.’
Now what I describe here, this absolute uncaring attitude towards animals, the idea that they are only tools for Man, is especially true among the vulgar, and by this I mean what one could call, the peasants. And I should say financial standing has nothing to do with being a peasant — for there are rich peasants and poor ones.
These are the ones who chain up their dogs. Who see a dog not as a best friend, but rather something to be used, and often this is for guarding the property. Nothing arouses the indignation of a good person more than seeing this intelligent animal tied up by the neck with a chain. It excites the deepest sympathy in any human with a modicum of moral sense.
And what of the hapless donkey? A member of this terrible grouping Mankind has set up called the beasts of burden. When we consider the brutality inflicted on such innocent animals we can say with certainty that men are the devils on this earth and the animals the souls they are here to torment. Where can you find a greater sadness than in the eyes of an abused horse or donkey? The Spanish poet Lorca has brought this into beautiful clarity with these words describing his comrades in the Spanish Civil War as having:
‘sad, infinite eyes, like those of a newborn beast of burden.’
The innate cruelty of men can best be seen in children, for the young have not yet learned to hide this wicked side of humanity. Where is there a more pleasant sight than watching two puppies play with each other? Now add children into the mix and you can be sure that it will not be long before one picks up a stick and starts to poke or hit one of the puppies. Of course this is not always the case, but it happens often enough to justify what we say about the baseness that Man comes into this world with and that he never really sheds.
There is one spectacle that to me is unbearable to behold, that is photos or videos of animals being used as experimental subjects. It has been said that without such things we would be without many of the everyday products we enjoy. I, for one, would then rather do without them if it means strapping any animal into a chair and subjecting it to torture.
‘The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.’
Jesus autem tacebat