What the World Needs Now (2017)
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy


Craig Cline, Salem, Oregon
December 2017

Jackie DeShannon had it right when she sang these lyrics almost 50 years ago, back in 1965:

“What the world needs now,
Is love, sweet love,
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.
What the world needs now,
Is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.”

In Theology, according to a dictionary, love can be defined as: a. “God’s benevolence and mercy toward man; b. Man’s devotion to or adoration of God; or c. the benevolence, kindness, or brotherhood that man should rightfully feel toward others.”

Let’s focus on definition “c,” in conjunction with Jackie’s use of the word “everyone.” Of course, when she sang the song, she meant people: everyone — everywhere.

The meaning of the word “everyone” can, however, be interchanged with the word “everybody,” literally every body.

And among the dictionary’s definitions of the word “others” is: “a different or another person or thing.”

Now let’s interchange “person” or “thing” with the word “body.” This key word is defined as “the entire material structure and substance of an organism, especially of a human being or an animal.”

Two final revisions to the definition: the insertion of the word “compassion” after the word “kindness,” and the insertion of the words “and practice” after the word “feel.”

So what do we wind up with under our modified definition of theological love? “The benevolence, kindness, compassion, or brotherhood that man should rightfully feel, and practice, toward everybody (every body).”

Note that the word “body” goes beyond us humans to also include the non-human animals — as is properly the case.

Having created this framework of understanding, let’s now go to Christian theology and the religious truth that Christians associate with the widely accepted “Golden Rule,” from Matthew 7:12. The dictionary states this to be “the maxim or teaching that one should behave toward others as one would have others behave toward oneself.”

In the New International Version of the Bible, we find this reading for Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

A similar reading is given in the English Standard Version of the Bible: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

The New Living Translation of the Bible says this: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

According to Wikipedia, the “Golden Rule” was presented by Jesus “as a valid summary for the entirety of moral law.”

Since the “Golden Rule” is considered a law — one that is universally applicable among Christians — it seems reasonable that they be duty-bound to obey it.

It’s worth noting that Christianity does not solely “own” the “Golden Rule” as a moral and ethical precept. This principle is common to the world’s various religions in general, and each religion may have its own particular way of describing or defining it.

Some years back, I wrote an article titled: “Rights, Wrongs, and the Golden Rule.” An example of one of the positive comments made about the article is this: “What a beautiful, well-written article that gets to the heart of the issue.”

I chose this comment because it contains the word “heart.” It is from within our “human heart” that we human beings find our innate sense of compassion and spirituality.

The majority of people believe that humans are innately spiritual — and that they embrace their spirituality.

The word “spirituality” is derived from the word “spirit,” which is defined as “that which is traditionally believed to be the vital principle or animating force within living beings.”

Because ALL living beings have an animating force, it’s clear that all of us — whether we’re human or non-human — have spirit.

Truth be told, we humans have much in common with the “other” animals. They are, in a sense, kindred spirits. And so, we should treat them rightfully — like we ourselves would want to be treated.

Here’s a quote (author unknown) that resonates with me: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

We can all heighten our human experience by making it a humane experience. In fact, the word “humane” is derived from the word “human.” To be humane means “having the good qualities of human beings, as kindness, mercy, or compassion.”

The word “humanity” is also so derived, and one of its definitions is “the quality of being humane; benevolence; kindness; mercy.”

Note how very closely the human qualities of being humane and having humanity tie in with the theological definition of love.

Also note that these qualities are the very ones that underlie the principle of the “Golden Rule.” What does this mean in terms of our common human experience?

It means, as the spiritual beings we are, that we should all be Humane Humans. All of us should live our lives in accordance with the hallowed law we’ve come to know as our “Golden Rule.”

In my “Rights, Wrongs, and the Golden Rule” article, I said: “Now let’s take a big step forward, as ‘humane humans,’ and cause ourselves to ‘see’ that the word ‘others’ as used in the dictionary definition of the ‘Golden Rule’ can and should include ALL members of what we call the animal kingdom, scientifically known as Animalia, and not just the human component of that kingdom.” We’re all animals — just in different forms.

The philosopher and physician Maimonides Moses is quoted as having said: “Do not do to others what is hateful to you.” If you think about it, this phrase adds even an extra dimension to the “Golden Rule.”

Let’s introduce the word “ahimsa,” defined as “an Indian doctrine of nonviolence expressing belief in the sacredness of all living creatures and the possibility of reincarnation, strictly practiced by Jains and affirmed by Buddhists and Hindus.”

These belief systems are grounded in “the doctrine that all life is one and sacred, resulting in the principle of nonviolence towards all living creatures.”

One last word for consideration is “anima,” defined as “the soul.” This definition is akin to that of the word “spirit” -- “the animating force within all living beings.”

I find it very interesting that the word animal is in fact related to the word anima. In light of this definitional relationship, we can agree that ALL animals, both human and nonhuman, have an innate spirit. Such a spirit could be called a soul, present in all of us.

Some people may take the position that non-human animals don’t have souls like those we humans presume ourselves to have. Whether they do or not doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that religions and religious followers, each with their own version of the universally known and respected “Golden Rule,” actually live up to the rule in their beliefs, actions, and lifestyles.

In an ideal world, humanity would be guided by the precept that all life is sacred — and that all life deserves to live free of the threat of, or act of, violence against it.

In an ideal world, we humans would therefore not participate, either directly or indirectly, in violence towards other humans — or towards other non-humans.

In an ideal world, people would live — rightfully — as vegans. Our diets would be centered on plant-based meals, instead of animal-based ones.

We humans know that non-human animals are sentient, like us; that they, like us, have sensory perceptions and their own form of consciousness.

It stands to “Golden Rule Reason” that we ought not be party to the needless and unjustified suffering and death of other sentient beings, just as we ought not cause such suffering and death to members of our own species.

Christians, in particular, can look to Genesis 1:29 and 30 for guidance, wherein God gave every body “every green plant for food.”

It’s become abundantly clear that the lifestyle which causes the least suffering and needless death, and which can do the most to benefit mankind, is one that’s plantbased. This “lower-impact lifestyle” is not only rightfully compassionate, but also greatly beneficial — for our own health and the health of our shared environment.

It’s equally clear that we humans can, of our own free will, choose to evolve to a higher-and-better spiritual path than the one most of us have followed so far on our life’s journey. This path would truly be in accord with the “law” of the “Golden Rule” and with the divinely based morality and ethicality that underlie it.

The higher-and-better path would simply have us extend the applicability of our “Golden Rule” precept to ALL sentient beings, both humans and non-humans alike. Anyone — everyone — everywhere — can direct his/her own personal walk-of-life along this compassionate path.

May I propose a modern-day version of the “Golden Rule” for us to live by:

“Do for others, either directly or indirectly, what you would want done for you.” And “Don’t do to others, either directly or indirectly, what you wouldn’t want done to you.”

May I further propose that religious followers and animal advocacy supporters seek to mesh their potently powerful forces with each other — to practice and promote such a life-changing, life-saving “Golden-Rule-Guided” way of life.

What could possibly be better for us humans, and the non-humans we share our planet with, than to seek to make this ideal a reality? Our ideal is literally one of “world peace.”

It doesn’t matter whether or not we are religious in the  conventional sense. What does matter is that we join together in walking on our higher-and-better path — the one that leads us towards a more peaceful life for all.

It’s this path the world needs now. Will you walk it with me?

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