Can We Gain Self-Esteem without Harming Others?
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Can We Gain Self-Esteem without Harming Others?

Last essay, I argued that the attempt to gain self-esteem by dominating others individuals – human or nonhuman – is a zero-sum game that invariably results in harm. Is there another path to self-esteem?
I think Christianity offers one such path. We are taught that God is the creator. I think it is reasonable to attribute to God subjective experience and the sense of identity and self which, evidently, many people regard as a manifestation of the soul. The sciences can tell us much about how atoms, molecules, cells, organs, and bodies work. But they have offered little insight into how inanimate objects can generate subjective experience.
It is reasonable to hold that God, as creator of all such human and nonhuman “souls,” cares about them. Consequently, we may finding meaning and purpose by serving God by helping those souls who God created. Our abilities to help vary, depending on our skills and our positions in society, but everyone can be part of this process. All of us can gain a sense of self-esteem if we believe in what I think is a reasonable position that, by helping God’s living beings, we are serving God.
We can do much more collectively than individually, and this can be a basis for generating and maintaining communities. Throughout history, humans have generated and maintained communities through the scapegoating process, in which exclusion of certain individuals is crucial to community identity. However, Jesus taught that we should include everyone, including widows, orphans, tax collectors and others who society had ostracized. In my view, this is a radical and powerful teaching – so much so that it makes a strong case for divine inspiration for Scripture.
I think we should care about all God’s creatures, but should we care about them equally? I will consider this question next essay. 

Go on to: Are Members of Some Species More Equal Than Others?
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

Return to Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion