Monday, March 19, 2012

More Humane than God

Look carefully near the end of the closing credits of any movie that uses animals and you will see a disclaimer that no animals were harmed in the making of the motion picture. If you've watched enough late-night cable TV, you have surely seen ads that promote paying a monthly fee for the "adoption" of a puppy, much as the ads for a children's charity want you to adopt a child in some third-world country by sending a monthly check. There are animal rights groups like the ASPCA, PETA, and ALF. Many people are vegetarians or even vegans because they care so much about the well-being of animals.

The point is, many of us humans care very deeply for animals and nobody is in favor of being cruel to them. Even the vast majority of us who consume meat and use animal products would much rather that the animals we consume be treated humanely while they are alive. It's one of the things that makes us human. We care and we have empathy.

It's just too bad that the Judeo-Christian god who supposedly created us is not so empathetic and caring about His creatures. Can you imagine what it would be like to be eaten, bite by bite, while you're still alive? Think about it a second. A few people have been in that predicament before: Some have been mauled and bitten by bears; others have had their legs bitten off in shark attacks. But those incidents are few and far between. But what a horrible way to die that would be - to have your guts literally eaten out while you witnessed the event.

That's just everyday life for the vast majority of the animals on this planet. A lion catches, then eats, a gazelle. A rabbit is caught by a wolf and then devoured alive. These are all pain-feeling animals that we humans are so fond of that some of us protest for their fair treatment. But we don't seem to mind that these same animals get tortured as a matter of course in their daily lives in nature, the nature that God supposedly created for them.

We are told that God has endless love and that he is all-powerful and all-knowing. But think about it for a minute. If YOU were a god capable of creating entire ecosystems, would you create them so that one creature could only live by brutally killing another? Would it not be possible for you, as an all-powerful deity, to create animals that eat only plants? Better yet, why not give animals the ability to produce their food by photosynthesis like plants do?

Yes, as a biology teacher, I realize that herbivorous creatures are limited in terms of energy usage and that if all animals had forever remained herbivores, humans may have never evolved intelligence, which requires ample energy. But as an all-powerful being, I'm sure God could have found a way to do it. He could have made the sun brighter or the process of photosynthesis more efficient. The point is, if God is the creator, he made it so that some animals had to eat other animals to survive. He also created the parasites that slowly eat away at the insides of their hosts, making them ill until finally killing them. He created the bacteria and viruses that make us all sick and sometimes kill us. He sits back in his heavenly palace and watches as millions of prey animals are slaughtered, tortured, and then eaten alive by predators on a daily basis.

When it comes to caring about fellow creatures humans are far superior to our god. We tend to care. We feel sorry for the animals with whom we share the earth. Some people make themselves feel better about how God can allow so much human suffering by blaming that suffering on sin. It doesn't work with animal life, though. Animals have never sinned. Yet they still get punished for it.

I want to challenge every person who has ever donated any money to an animal rights organization, who has ever adopted a stray cat or dog, who has ever complained about how animals are poorly treated, who refuses to eat flesh because doing so would involve killing an animal to go ahead and think about what it would be like to treat an animal the same way that God allows them to be treated. Eat them, maul them, attack them, hurt them. You can't do it, can you? I'm not a vegetarian or vegan, but I couldn't bring myself to torture any animal. But that's how animals are treated routinely, every day, in nature, because that's how God decided it should be.

In reality, of course, the way animals behave in nature is completely explained if we assume they are all the result of natural selection and the slow process of evolution. There is no good or bad to decide things. Whatever allows an animal to survive better than other members of his species is preserved by nature. It's that simple. We don't have to scratch our heads in wonder as to why God would allow so much animal cruelty. But, of course, for those who insist that the Christian god is real and that he created everything there is a problem. They are stuck with having to explain how we humans can be so much more humane than God.

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