Practical Issues > Things to do > Religion and Animals

I was once being interviewed on a radio phone-in, and a Christian caller berated me for opposing the wearing of furs for the same reason, it was what God allowed us to do by virtue of our dominion over the animals. First I used a line I've often used...that a curator is given dominion over the paintings in an art gallery, but that does not imply permission to mutilate or destroy the paintings.

Then I pointed out that when Adam and Eve were in a state of grace they wore no clothing, and even after they had eaten of the forbidden fruit (darn that Eve, anyway....we guys would be perpetually innocent were it not for her...of course we'd be perpetually unborn, too, and missing out on a lot of fun...but I digress) they wore clothing made of vegetation, not the skins of animals. Such clothing as derives from pelts is a sign of God's wrath, I went on to say, as is the killing when one of the first couple's sons iced his sibling, which was also wrong, and so just as I we know God does not like us to kill people, and given that we can't go naked in public (although I will do so in the shower and at other key times in my day) wearing clothing made of vegetation, not animal skins brings us closer to God.

It was, from my perspective, a pile of bovine excrement, but it made some kind of sense to him, or at least left him sputtering and defenceless without a come-back.

When I was about 18 years old I lived on a very beautiful, large property with a pond and lovely trees and lots of wildlife, and there I was visited one day by a young couple of Jehovah's Witnesses. We were out of doors and they made the comment that the surroundings must be something like paradise.

We got to talking...about many things, walruses and kings, but mostly about a favourite topic of mine back then: evolution.

We talked for a goodly part of the afternoon. Their ignorance of evolution was appalling, but they were open to reason. Finally they thanked me and left. I thought no more about it.

Then, maybe a fortnight later, there was a knock at the door. There was a lady in the doorway, an older person, and she politely asked me if I had spoken to a Jehovah's Witness couple earlier, and I said yes, I had.

She then berated me for causing them to leave the faith.

I said I didn't know they had done that, but that they had based that faith on a lack of knowledge I was able to fill in by telling them things that they hadn't known, but could independently verify if they chose to do so (this was pre-network and Google and all that, but we still had something called a "library" which served, at slower speed, a somewhat similar function, only with actual books).

She didn't seem either surprised or angry about that, not at all, but then she said something that floored me. She asked me what faith I had given them to replace the one they had lost.

"I beg your pardon?"

It turned out that she did not dispute my "belief in" evolution (which is really not a "belief in evolution" so much as a commitment to understanding cause and effect interrelations, the so called scientific method) but thought that if it was necessary to believe things that could be shown to be untrue, it was worth while.

I was flabbergasted, and too young to understand or to have previously experienced or thought much about such a way of thinking. I still don't get it, but I'm old enough to know it exists.

I thought then, as now, of myself as an agnostic with vaguely Christian leanings left over from what childhood conditioning and enculturation I had experienced. I had then, as I have now, no particular problem with believing unproved things on faith, or in thinking that there are realities outside of what the mechanistic, cause-and-effect existence that we can seek to ever better understand can explain, but I would be damned, so to speak, if I would believe what could be demonstrated to be true to be untrue in order to sustain a dogma.

That's still, put simply, my view.

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