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Keywords:

  • animal behavior;
  • animal cognition;
  • animal emotions;
  • animal minds;
  • animal morality;
  • animal play;
  • animal rights;
  • animals and spirituality;
  • animals as kin;
  • cognitive ethology;
  • evolution;
  • hierarchy;
  • human superiority;
  • spirituality and animals;
  • treatment of animals

Abstract. Although the disciplines of religion and science often may seem to be at cross purposes with each other, some individuals are attempting to bridge the gap, particularly with regard to animals. Cognitive ethologist Marc Bekoff, who studies animals in their natural habitat, has addressed in his work the implications of the findings of animal study for religion and ethics. I provide here an overview of some of his most important ideas for the study of religion and animals. Bekoff argues that the differences between humans and animals are primarily ones of degree rather than kind and that our similarities are greater than our differences-and that this reality should influence our actions. I explore three issues in particular. First, Bekoff's work, with his view of evolution, challenges the traditional Christian hierarchy of beings. Second, this evolutionary connection needs to move us in the direction of modifying our treatment of animals to make it more ethical. Third, our understanding of and relationship with animals can deepen our own spirituality. Applying some of Bekoff's findings to our religious and ethical understandings of and treatment of animals can move us closer to the peaceable kingdom toward which we all strive.