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December 25, 2008

Animals and Faith

The Humane Society of the United States

Do your views about animals influence your faith? Contributors to The Francis Files share their stories.



By Judy Carman

We all want inner peace, a sense of well being that holds steady no matter what our outer circumstances. Nearly all religions teach that this peace already exists within each of us and that we only need to awaken to it and have faith that we live in a loving universe. When one experiences that "peace that passes all understanding" this leads naturally to acts of love and compassion.

There are many opportunities for us to experience this peace, this unconditionally loving energy field also known as God. And very often these experiences involve animals.

When I see a deer in the field near my home, it doesn't matter how many times I have seen her. I am transported into the Holy Present Moment, surrounded by mystical beauty. The mere sight of that one beautiful, captivating deer is enough to remind me of who we all are—these grand, amazing, transcendent spiritual beings, journeying together. My heart fills with gratitude for such moments.

I once was blessed to be able to camp out on a raft in Magdalena Bay in Mexico where the gray whales were having their babies. As I lay on my sleeping bag that night, I could hear the whales coming up to breathe all around me.

And one whale came so close to the raft that I was able to caress her as she glided full length beside me. When given such a gift, is there any way to deny that something mystical, something beyond words, is happening between us and the animals?

There are thousands of stories of dolphins, whales, turtles, pigs, dogs, cats, even wild birds saving the lives of human beings or healing us spiritually or physically. Truly we are connected in spirit in ways we do not understand. Could it be that animals are leading us into peace? After all, we are the only species that destroys and pollutes and wages war when we clearly know better.

And yet—and yet—it is the animals themselves who are the most exploited, tortured, and killed by the human species. Approximately 100 billion aquatic and land animals worldwide are killed by human beings each year. How can anyone find inner peace or faith in a world where so much violence takes place?

What I have found for myself and what many others have found as well is very simple to do and brings such peace to the heart that one never wants to return to the old ways. This simple act is to refrain, as much as possible, from doing harm to all others (not just people) and to seek ways to bring peace and freedom to others.

For me, living vegan is consistent with the basic message of all faith traditions—that is, the message of ahimsa, the Sanskrit word for unconditionally loving one another and harmlessness. This is one of the keys, not only to inner peace, but, I believe, also to a world at peace. I have met many people who have shared their stories with me about what it has been like for them to transform their lives to veganism.

The commitment to no longer eat or wear animals and to live as cruelty-free as possible resulted, of course, from love and respect for other beings. However, after beginning to live in this way, they have noticed an even more profound opening of their hearts. All report an ever-growing sense of compassion for others and a heightened desire to nurture and show love to everyone they know and to all living beings.

Opening our hearts certainly makes it much more painful to hear about the endless suffering endured by animals at the hands of human beings. Yet, in some mysterious way, it also gives us the strength and faith that this loving universe we live in is joining with us, is indeed part of us, and thus we are creating a culture of peace for all beings and finding our own inner peace along the way.

© 2008, Judy McCoy Carman, M.A.

Judy Carman is the author of Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken's Soul (Lantern Books, 2003). Ms. Carman is also the founder of the Circle of Compassion Initiative, co-founder of Animal Outreach of Kansas, and co-coordinator of the Universal Prayer Circle for the Animals.

Do you have a story to share of how your view of animals has influenced your faith or how your faith has influenced your view of animals? Submit your story and we may share it with our readers. The opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Humane Society of the United States.

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