Animal Evolutionary Consciousness Through the Diverse Religions II
An exam on the possibility of Animal Evolutionary Consciousness
The Violence of the Sacred
“We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.”
~Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
The discourse on religions and animal relationships is complex one, and it certainly ignores the philosophical possibility of an Animal Evolutionary Consciousness. We can only speak very briefly on its essence, at least in regards to the ancient religions, and the general meaning of the ritual of sacrifice.
According to Sigmund Freud, the Totem religion is one of the oldest ones to practice reverence and sacrifice of their sacred animals. Generally, in a Totem guided society, the meat of the animals was forbidden except on solemn occasions and with the participation of the whole tribe.
The mystery of the sacrifice of the death of the Totem Animals was explained by the fact that for these societies, they constituted the link with their God. Death and periodic consummation of the “totem" was the essential element of totem religion.
The sacrifice at the altar was an essential part of the rites of the ancient religion. The altar was innate and built for sacrifices. Each shrine inevitably retains and recalls the suffering of animals through the ages.
The intentions of the sacrifices were very diverse and the consequences derived from the God that was the recipient of the sacrifice. In origin, it appears that the sacrifices were but a "social act of union” between the divinity and his worshiper. In later times, it became an offering made to the deity to appease, placate and make the presented request propitious.
 Suggested reading: Violence and the Sacred Book by French anthropologist René Girard. Religion is seen by Girard as a way of regulating social violence and creating social cohesion. He argues that through sacrifice, the violence that threatens the community is ritually cast out, turned outwards rather than inwards on to the members of the community. Girard, who sees society as an affair of men and says this explicitly, relates sacrifice to religion: he sees the religion's function as keeping violence out of the community by means of the mechanism of the scapegoat, or the ritual which substitutes for it.
Ancient Religions and Animal Consciousness
If we are objective, we must recognize that later Hebrew-Christian religions become ambiguous at this point. The Old Testament, which is separately treated, partly because of bad translation, has been showing a mix of indifference and appreciation of animals. In other books of the Bible, we find interesting quotes that show concern for the well-being of animals:
"Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel."-Proverbs 12:10
"For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity."-Ecclesiastes 3:19
"The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made."~Psalm 145:9
Nimrod, son of Cush, grandson of Ham, and great-grandson of Noah, founder of Nineveh, is the ancestor of Assiri, the great slaughterer of the people. Of Nimrod, it was said that was a great hunter, and his reputation is bigger than some of the prophets such as Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, who condemn animal sacrifice in general without success.
In the New Testament, the coming of the Son of God finally frees the nonhuman world of the cruelty of ritual sacrifice. There is an enigmatic meaning that guided the birth of this Master to being enacted among animals, and their caretakers. The Last Supper is the parting of the waters between two periods, the threshold, the barbarity of ancient sacrifice, a true biblical slaughter, and the sacrifice of Christ. His “blood” substitutes the animal blood, hence He is the Lamb of God, the maximum sacrifice ever asked and ever offered. More than a sacrifice required by a blood-thirsty God, the volunteer offering to be the redeemer of the sins of humanity may have been a display of ultimate love, respect, and guardianship for the lives of our lesser brothers.
The Modern Conceptual Mind: Not Sentient Beings
The reality is that animals have existed inhabiting the borderline of our moral concepts; the result is that we sometimes find ourselves according to them a strong moral status, while at other times denying them any kind of moral status at all.
Many centuries passed and humanity reached the Age of Light. The Idea of the cogito ergo sum “I think therefore I am” of Descartes. His proposition became a fundamental element of Western philosophy, as it was perceived to form a foundation for all knowledge. Sadly, one of the clearest and most forceful denials of Animal Evolutionary Consciousness was developed by Rene Descartes that stated that animals are such, machines, and deprived of any sense of consciousness, understanding, feelings, or even a sensitive soul. I other words, he denies that animals have any sentient qualities.
Descartes maintained that animals cannot reason and do not feel pain; animals are living organic creatures, but they are automata, like mechanical robots. Descartes held that only humans are conscious, have minds and souls. If they can't learn and have language, therefore only humans are deserving of compassion.
Animal Consciousness and Non-Human Spiritual Rights
“Animals are like robots: they cannot reason or feel pain.” Unfortunately for animals, science adopted his view. Away from religious concepts, the modern mind organizes and develops itself to perceive only the utility of the living resources around it. Animals are one of them. The modern Catholic Church also adopted Descartes ‘perception in hopes to conciliate faith and science. They entered an uncharted area very diverse from the original thought and doctrine taught by the Master Jesus.
Other philosophers such as Kant and Bentham procured the problem of animal suffering on a different basis. Pope John Paul II spoke of "divine breath". He talks about how this is also present in animals, not just humans, which restored the value and dignity of these creatures.
The argument in support of the claim that animals have direct moral status and therefore have conditions as sentient beings are rather simple. It goes as follows:
If a being is sentient then it has direct moral status. (Most) animals are sentient. Therefore (most) animals have direct moral status.
“Sentience” refers to the capacity to experience episodes of positively or negatively valenced awareness. Examples of positively valenced episodes of awareness are pleasure, joy, elation, and contentment. Examples of negatively valenced episodes of awareness are pain, suffering, depression, and anxiety. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://www.iep.utm.edu/anim-eth/