Thursday 4 October 2018

Do all dogs go to heaven?

This was going to be a Thanksgiving kind of thing, but we just held our annual Blessing of the Animals and I really wanted to address this important question: do all dogs go to heaven. So, thankful for my wonderful little dogs, I’d like to say that the answer, I think, is yes, of course, don’t be ridiculous.

The phrase “all dogs go to heaven” comes from the 1989 animated film of that name, as far as I can find. But the question of any animals, especially pets, and not just dogs, “going to heaven” has been around a long time and not everyone has always agreed.

The Bible, say some people, tells that animals were created for human beings, seeming to suggest that their purpose is fulfilled in this life. Some people have also wondered whether animals have a “soul” in the religious sense. The bible also says that only human beings are created in the image of God, so only human beings would be eligible to go to heaven. Besides, Jesus came to save us, not animals, right?

Like I always say, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. I couldn’t disagree more with all of those, but I’ve heard them and anyone is welcome to them.

Thing is, though, the last few weeks we’ve been exploring the creation story from Genesis and I can’t help but think that I’ve said some things that might have sounded very much like that last paragraph. So let me explain.

I believe that we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and also of the earth (Genesis 2:7) and we are intimately linked to both. I also believe that God (or call God love, the energy or spirit of creation, the life-giving force - I think God’s all those things) is in all creation. Call that the web of life, if you like. I’ve also said that I believe that our default setting is good and that sin is the action we take the leads us away from God. I also believe that we come from God and return home to God. Some of that might sound like it leads in the direction of the human centred ideas of the earlier paragraph, so let me say: so does all creation.

I believe that when we say God is in all things, God is truly in all things. All things are connected through love is another way to say that. It’s bigger than just us.

So is God. In that sense, I can’t imagine that anything doesn’t return to God. That’s not to say that heaven is simply all this somewhere else. It’s what’s true that returns to God, that piece of God’s heart, if you like, that God puts into you and I, dogs, cats (yes, even cats), other animals, living creatures and all living things. The spiritual essence from which this creation comes.

Does that mean that our pets cross the rainbow bridge and we’ll see them again, running and playing in beautiful fields, sharing again all those perfect moments we remember sharing with them in this life? Yes. I’ll say it differently in a minute, but if it’s comforting to image it that way, why not? Sentimental isn’t a bad thing. No, it’s not.

I think we imagine heaven in a many ways according to our own experience and vision. But the thing is that I don’t know exactly what home with God looks like. I’m pretty sure it’s different from anything we could possibly imagine here. But I believe we’ll know it or, at least, its essence. We’ll know peace and contentment and the comfort of all that we’ve known that’s good and gave us life in this world. And we’ll know love.

So, yes, all dogs go to heaven.