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The God Squad: Human beings, not animals, are created in the image and likeness of God

By Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: Rabbi Gellman tells us that in the Bible, while eating meat is tolerated by God, it was not as spiritual as a vegetarian diet. "God is saying that being a vegetarian is a higher way." Rabbi Gellman then tells us that "eating meat makes us comfortable spilling animal blood ... then maybe spilling human blood as well.” He surely cannot be completely unaware that animal sacrifice was a common practice of Old Testament Jews. The entire Jewish Passover is centered around the slaughtering of a lamb and the application of its blood on the doorposts. Does it make sense that a God who banished mankind from heaven for eating animals would not only allow, but instruct them to slaughter a lamb in the Passover? You might be aware that there is a social activist movement underway today, spearheaded by animal rights activists, and unfortunately aided sometimes in muddled “Christian” commentary, to create an equivalence between animals and humans, to create a spurious situation of “non-human personhood.” Human beings, not animals, are created in the image and likeness of God in having souls, and if the devil can't diminish us by bringing us down to the level of animals, he can attempt to diminish us by bringing animals up to the level of humans. Jesus tells us that a sparrow doesn't fall from the sky without God being aware of it and caring about it, but “you are worth much more than a sparrow,” and as far as I know, He died on the Cross to save people, not animals. I am sad to say that for that reason, I detect a tint of perhaps unintentional blasphemy in efforts to elevate animals to human level, as when Rabbi Gellman tells us "People are made in God's image and animals are not, but this spiritual difference is not sufficiently morally significant to allow killing animals for food" — but as we see from Christ's death on the Cross, there is actually a world of difference, literally. -- N

A: Thanks, N, for your insightful critique. Eating animals remains for me, and I think for the Bible, a permitted but spiritually fraught practice. Animals are not on the spiritual level of people and that is why we can eat them and not eat people. The question is whether we should eat them even given the permission given to Noah after the flood that is found in Genesis 9:3. Animals are creations of God and they feel pain. These facts ought to make us think twice about our carnivorous urges. The permission to Noah is clearly a concession to human weakness.

The larger theological point here is that the Bible gives us a record of God’s intentions for us, but those intentions lay out different levels of purity and faith. The Bible allows fighting wars but does not allow cutting down your enemy’s fruit trees (Deuteronomy 20:19). The Bible allows eating eggs gathered from a bird’s nest but requires that we shew away the mother bird before taking the eggs from her nest to spare her emotional distress (Deuteronomy 22:6-7). The key here is that the path to God has many levels and we ought to try to travel on the highest path possible.

I do agree with your critique of those like Professor Peter Singer who make the case that ethically some animals (like chimpanzees) have the same level of personhood as persons. Their argument ignores the fundamental ethical superiority of people over animals. It is not arrogant or species-ist to say this. Ethics requires that we make distinctions that we can live with. Not everyone can live with a vegetarian diet, but it remains a spiritual aspiration for many pious carnivores, including me.

God bless you, my fellow human

Q: Top of the day to you, Sir. My name is O. It means (king), a true child of God. I love God so much I tattoo God on my skin. Please, I have just one question for you.

It is in the bible that God created heaven and earth, so who created other planets? -- O

 

A: Top of the day to you, dear O. God made everything everywhere. There is a clue to this truth in the first verse of the Bible, which should be translated this way from the original Hebrew, “When God began to create this heaven and this earth…” This means that God may have created many heavens and many planets before creating ours. We have no idea if those other planets know of God or have conscious life, but we can know that if they do, they also have golf.

On another matter, I have always been in favor of tattooing God on our souls and letting our skin stay the way God made it, but either way I am happy that you are a God-intoxicated man. Bless you!

(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at godsquadquestion@aol.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)

© 2020 THE GOD SQUAD. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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