Pet Heaven: Faiths have differing views about animals in the afterlife

Published: Friday, Nov. 26 2010 2:00 p.m. MST

Photo illustration by Aaron Thorup

Do pets and animals go to heaven?

This is a widespread question on the Internet, with more than 4.3 million sites trying to address the issue in some fashion.

A fido paradise or kitty heaven isn't specifically mentioned in the Bible and so every religion has its own beliefs.

Animals were present and peaceful in the Garden of Eden, though. The future for animals is also promising — according to the Bible — as the lion shall eat straw like the ox in the Millennium and the wolf, leopard and sheep are also mentioned as existing on earth and living peacefully then (Isaiah chapter 11).

Here's a sampling from various faiths on the animals in heaven topic:

According to the Catholic Answers Forum (forums.catholic.com), "Animals have a material soul that ceases to exist when they die. Humans have a spiritual soul that continues to exist after death," Michelle Arnold, a Catholic Answers apologist, stated.

"But does this mean that animals will not be present in the afterlife? That is a question to which we do not have an answer. There does however seem to be hints that God will restore the universe at the end of time. As animals are part of the 'visible universe,' it seems possible that they too might share 'their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.' It might be possible that God might also re-create those animals who have been a pleasure and comfort to man in his earthly journey. We don't know in this life, but it is something for which we can hope."

She also said that if pets are needed for our perfect happiness in heaven, then pets will be there.

The catechism of the Catholic Church does not directly address the question of pets going to heaven, according to Dr. Richard Geraghty, PhD, of EWTN, the global Catholic Television, Catholic Radio, and Catholic News Network. He says that while all living beings have a soul, the soul of a plant or animal goes out of existence when they die, while a human soul does not.

Animals lack the intelligence which allows them to choose either God's will or their own will and are thus not accountable for their actions, he argues.

"The church will demand that animals be respected as part of creation while at the same time insisting that the dignity owed a human being should never be given to an animal," Geraghty stated.

Zen Buddhists simply have no specific belief in an afterlife for animals.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the entire earth will be a sanctuary in the eternities and that includes being a peaceful place for animals.

An official statement from the Seventh-Day Adventist Church states:

"Although human beings are the pinnacle of creation, all creatures are the handiwork of God and thus are deserving of our esteem and protection. Because we are sinful, we sometimes forget our obligations to other creatures. Ecosystem and species destruction are visible evidence of our sinfulness."

While it does not address the possibility of animals in heaven, the statement warned: "How we treat animals reveals our true nature."

There is no Jewish tradition with regard to pets and heaven. However, most western Jews believe that all love comes from God and will return to God. This could therefore include faithful companions, like man's best friend, going to heaven too.

According to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the question of animals going to heaven is a "cautious 'maybe.'"

The Rev. John Brug stated in 1995 in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod publication, "Since animals do not have immortal souls, we might think the answer is no. Several facts, however, make one hesitant to be satisfied with a simple 'no.'"

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