Who Is Our Neighbor?
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from All-Creatures.org


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

Who Is Our Neighbor?

Jesus said we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Who is our neighbor? Jesus addressed that question with the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). He said that the Samaritan had compassion for the man who was injured and was a good neighbor to him. However, it remains unclear who is worthy of compassion. That is, who are those who we should love as ourselves?
The Good Samaritan story breaks down traditional notions of who is a neighbor, because the Samaritans were widely despised by the Hebrews. In exalting a Samaritan, Jesus taught that all people are worthy of admiration and emulation. What about nonhumans? We know that they share basic desires and feelings with humans, and members of many species have shown compassion and altruism.

Many people seem to regard all (or nearly all) humans as neighbors but deny that status to nonhumans. Since this attitude is widespread and largely unchallenged, few people give this speciesist position much thought. Does speciesism reflect prejudice or convenience, or is it based on legitimate grounds? The most common defense of human exceptionalism and human favoritism is that humans have souls and nonhumans do not. I will explore this argument next essay.

Go on to: Who Has a Soul?
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