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June 11th, 2010
10:55 AM ET

Does Fido have a soul?

A few years back, a woman invited me to her dog's funeral.

As she dabbed tears from her eyes, she walked through a pet funeral home recalling how her dog had helped her overcome a serious illness and a divorce.

I met her because I was writing a newspaper story about pet funeral homes. But there was a religious undercurrent to our conversation that I never broached. She believed that she would see her dog again.

So do others. It turns out that books on the spirituality of animals constitute a fast-growing literary genre. According to Publishers Weekly, these new books “set out to prove that animals are spiritual beings with lessons to impart”:

As anyone who has a beloved pet knows, the experience is like losing a part - the better part - of one’s self. Animals, many people feel instinctively, are more than their soft fur and big eyes.

The genre includes “Will I See My Dog in Heaven?,” “The Divine Life of Animals: One Man’s Quest to Discover Whether the Souls of Animals Live On,” and “Blind Hope: An Unwanted Dog and the Woman She Rescued.”

It’s an intriguing question: Do animals have souls?

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Books • Culture & Science

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soundoff (438 Responses)
  1. TheRationale

    I doubt this argument will get anywhere unless it becomes any more than a matter of opinion. Unless you apply some standard or rigor to it, showing that any living thing can be claimed to possess a soul is just a matter of opinion. Of course, so would any other debate under such open conditions. However, I think that if anyone actually wanted to do any scientific research into the matter that such seeker would be want for evidence of any discrete soul at all, let alone one in an animal.

    June 22, 2010 at 11:14 pm |
  2. nathan

    Epitaph to a Dog:

    Near this Spot
    are deposited the Remains of one
    who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
    Strength without Insolence,
    Courage without Ferosity,
    and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

    This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
    if inscribed over human Ashes,
    is but a just tribute to the Memory of
    BOATSWAIN, a DOG,
    who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
    and died at Newstead Nov. 18, 1808.

    When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
    Unknown by Glory, but upheld by Birth,
    The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
    And storied urns record who rests below.
    When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
    Not what he was, but what he should have been.
    But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
    The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
    Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
    Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
    Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
    Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
    While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
    And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

    Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
    Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
    Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,
    Degraded mass of animated dust!
    Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
    Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy words deceit!
    By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
    Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
    Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn,
    Pass on – it honors none you wish to mourn.
    To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
    I never knew but one – and here he lies.
    -Lord Byron

    June 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.