Religion, Animals, and X

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Humanities/Philosophies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 December 2021) | Viewed by 22524

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Diego, San Diego, CA 92110, USA
Interests: animals and religion; food and religion; Jewish thought and ethics; race and religion; history of religions; contemplative studies

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Guest Editor
The Philosophy and Religion Department, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 28723, USA
Interests: animals and religion; critical race theory; gender studies; environmental humanities; religion and popular culture

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The animals and religion subfield has grown rapidly over the last 25 years and is in a crucial phase of development. The field’s rapid growth has occurred in at least two directions: first, the development of a body of both Christian theological and religious studies scholarship focused on nonhuman animals, and, second, the recognition of the value of critical perspectives on animals and animality for a wide range of inquiries in theology and religious studies, especially work that seeks to understand, analyze, and deconstruct various conceptions of the human. On the one hand, we have animals in religion as a subject of direct interest and, on the other hand, we have a critical consideration of the idea of the animal adding new depth to theory and method in religious studies, and to critical theory more generally. This second direction of scholarship need not intrinsically address the plight of actual animals, but it can, and is often at its best when it does.

This Special Issue seeks to advance this second direction by bringing together a set of articles that all address “Religion, Animals, and X” where “X” could be other critical categories connected with social movements like coloniality, gender and sexuality, queerness, or race; topical areas of broad social concern like anti-Black racism, anti-immigrant racism, climate change, factory farming, hunting, and pandemics; new areas of religion scholarship like affect, disability, ecology, migration, monsters, plants, and science fiction; critical terms in religious studies like belief, body, grief, life, mourning, person, sacrifice, and scripture. Articles are already being developed on religion, animals, and the following categories: art, blackness, the contemplative, the family, food, and indigenous traditions. Each article should either take up a particular exemplum or exempla in the service of advancing the discussion of religion, animals, and X, or, alternatively, should seek to survey and analyze existing work on religion, animals, and X.

We expect to complete the Special Issue by May 2022. If you have questions or would like to send an abstract before developing your paper, please email both [email protected] and [email protected] and one of us will get back to you. While there is no word limit, we anticipate most contributions to be between 5,000 and 10,000 words. References should follow the Chicago Manual of Style Notes and Bibliography citation method (exceptions allowed).

Prof. Dr. Aaron Gross
Dr. Katharine Mershon
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • animals
  • animals and religion
  • animal ethics
  • animal studies
  • human
  • human-animal relations
  • religion
  • theory and method

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

27 pages, 396 KiB  
Article
Religion, Animals, and the Theological Anthropology of Microbes in the Pandemicene
by Aminah Al-Attas Bradford
Religions 2022, 13(12), 1146; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13121146 - 24 Nov 2022
Viewed by 2589
Abstract
Microbiology’s ecological turn, as it shifts its gaze from the individual microbe to the entanglement and ubiquity of microbial life, is transforming conceptions of human nature and disease in the sciences and humanities. Both the fields of Christian theological anthropology and medical anthropology [...] Read more.
Microbiology’s ecological turn, as it shifts its gaze from the individual microbe to the entanglement and ubiquity of microbial life, is transforming conceptions of human nature and disease in the sciences and humanities. Both the fields of Christian theological anthropology and medical anthropology are tuning in to these microbiological shifts for their reformative possibilities. Meanwhile, practical resistance to these shifts in recent pandemic responses suggest that forces greater than just the “pure science” of microbiology are informing attachments to hyper-modern or Pasteurian epidemiologies and radically independent, buffered views of the self. This essay explores the roots of such resistance. It investigates the interplay of shifts in theological anthropology and disease theories. Cultural anthropology and critical studies offer accounts of epidemiology’s fraught relationship to a history of colonialism, racialization, and vilification of pathogens and pathogenicized humans. This essay adds a theological analysis of the historical entanglement of perspectives on disease and Christian doctrine, which bears on the present pandemic response. It illuminates the ways some Christians “benefit” from germ theory’s influence. Germ theory interrupts key Christian doctrine (especially theodicy) that makes Christian theology resistant to relational accounts of being human. Germ theory’s theological reshaping of Christian teaching may also encourage the current resistance to more relational pandemic responses known as One Health strategies. While reformative and more realistic possibilities of emergent and entangled multispecies accounts of humanity’s microbiality are ample and apt, they must account for the ways in which microbiology has never been epidemiological without also being colonial and theological. In other words, this essay explores the smallest and most reviled “animals” in relationship to Christian conceptions of sin, contagion, and evil as groundwork for engaging humanity’s micro-animality and diseases’ relational aspects. To conclude, I offer four modest suggestions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Animals, and X)
20 pages, 358 KiB  
Article
Religion, Animals, and Racialization: Articulating Islamophobia through Animal Ethics in The Netherlands
by Mariska Jung
Religions 2022, 13(10), 955; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100955 - 12 Oct 2022
Viewed by 1696
Abstract
In 2008, the Dutch Party for the Animals submitted a proposal to ban religious slaughter without prior stunning. The proposal was widely supported in the Lower House but finally rejected in the Upper House in 2012, mainly on the grounds of religious freedom. [...] Read more.
In 2008, the Dutch Party for the Animals submitted a proposal to ban religious slaughter without prior stunning. The proposal was widely supported in the Lower House but finally rejected in the Upper House in 2012, mainly on the grounds of religious freedom. Academia was keen to study the polemic, but no research has attempted to study the controversy through a lens of racialization. This is remarkable, given the well-documented increase in Islamophobia and the political use of racism since (at least) the turn of the millennium in The Netherlands (and the geopolitical “West” at large). In this article, I demonstrate that a racializing dynamic is actually part and parcel of the Dutch controversy. I apply a reflexive thematic analysis to study archival material from the Dutch Parliamentarian debate and show that the dispute foremost references Islamic slaughter. Appeals to civilization, accusations of barbarism, dystopian warnings against Islamization, and invocations of Judeo-Christianity are discursive elements that feature in the debate and have racializing ramifications for Muslims. By unmasking this racializing dynamic, I offer a means to empirically explore the ways in which taxonomies of religion and race intersect with and through the politicization of animal ethics. When considering religious slaughter it is essential, I ultimately maintain, to observe the violence caused by socially constructed racial and species differences. Only if we hold both in serious regard do we have a chance to begin to imagine ourselves in relation to others differently and move towards more just futures—for humans and non-humans alike. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Animals, and X)
23 pages, 8642 KiB  
Article
Religion, Animals, and Desire in Eden: A Visual Critical Reconsideration of the Naḥash
by Jonathan K. Crane
Religions 2022, 13(10), 923; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100923 - 2 Oct 2022
Viewed by 3028
Abstract
This paper explores the narrative contribution of visual images of nonhuman animals, particularly their contribution to the biblical themes of desire and relation, by considering the exemplum of the Naḥash, commonly known as a serpent or snake. The Biblical textual depiction of [...] Read more.
This paper explores the narrative contribution of visual images of nonhuman animals, particularly their contribution to the biblical themes of desire and relation, by considering the exemplum of the Naḥash, commonly known as a serpent or snake. The Biblical textual depiction of this creature indicates that it is not different in kind from humans but only different by degree. Later artists expand upon these possibilities in creative and provocative ways. By using a visual critical approach, the paper reviews the Garden of Eden story, and then examines an array of images that expand and challenge the text. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Animals, and X)
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18 pages, 315 KiB  
Article
Religion, Animals, and the Problem of Evil: A Decolonial Approach from Relational Ontology
by Luis Cordeiro-Rodrigues and Pao-Shen Ho
Religions 2022, 13(8), 676; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080676 - 25 Jul 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1426
Abstract
The fact that there is animal suffering in the world seems to challenge the existence of God. This is because although we can find plausible reasons for the existence of human suffering (the pursuit of a greater good), it seems that the suffering [...] Read more.
The fact that there is animal suffering in the world seems to challenge the existence of God. This is because although we can find plausible reasons for the existence of human suffering (the pursuit of a greater good), it seems that the suffering of animals in the world is gratuitous and serves no function in terms of the pursuit of a greater good. In this article, however, we challenge the idea that animal suffering poses a problem to the existence of God by using an Afro-communitarian viewpoint. We contend that animal suffering is logically compatible with the existence of God because it can be understood as promoting different forms of social harmony. In particular, animal suffering can be understood as an enabler for being a subject and/or an object of communion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Animals, and X)
15 pages, 294 KiB  
Article
Religion, Animals, and Indigenous Traditions
by Meaghan S. Weatherdon
Religions 2022, 13(7), 654; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070654 - 15 Jul 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3941
Abstract
This article examines how the field of Indigenous studies can contribute to expanding the way religious studies scholars think through the question of the animal. It suggests that Indigenous intellectual traditions, which often position animals as persons, relatives, knowledge holders, and treaty makers, [...] Read more.
This article examines how the field of Indigenous studies can contribute to expanding the way religious studies scholars think through the question of the animal. It suggests that Indigenous intellectual traditions, which often position animals as persons, relatives, knowledge holders, and treaty makers, prompt further reflection on the fundamental questions of what it means to be a human animal and member of a pluralistic cosmology of beings. The article considers how Indigenous activists and scholars are actively re-centering animals in their decolonial pursuits and asks how a re-centering of animals might also contribute to decolonizing the study of religion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Animals, and X)
23 pages, 1583 KiB  
Article
Religion, Animals, and Contemplation
by Louis Komjathy
Religions 2022, 13(5), 457; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050457 - 18 May 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2508
Abstract
Animals teach each other. For humans open to trans-species and inter-species dialogue and interaction, animal-others offer important insights into, invocations of and models for diverse and alternative modes of perceiving, experiencing, relating, and being. They in turn challenge anthropocentric conceptions of consciousness and [...] Read more.
Animals teach each other. For humans open to trans-species and inter-species dialogue and interaction, animal-others offer important insights into, invocations of and models for diverse and alternative modes of perceiving, experiencing, relating, and being. They in turn challenge anthropocentric conceptions of consciousness and offer glimpses of and perhaps inspiration for increased awareness and presence. Might the current academic vogue of “equity, diversity, and inclusion” (EDI; or whichever order you prefer) even extend to “non-human” animals? Might this also represent one essential key to the human aspiration for freedom, wellness, and justice? The present article explores the topic of “religion and animals” through the complementary dimension of “contemplation”. Developing a fusion of Animal Studies, Contemplative Studies, Daoist Studies, and Religious Studies, I explore the topic with particular consideration of the indigenous Chinese religion of Daoism with a comparative and cross-cultural sensibility. I draw specific attention to the varieties of Daoist animal engagement, including animal companionship and becoming/being animal. Theologically speaking, this involves recognition of the reality of the Dao (sacred) manifesting through each and every being, and the possibility of inter/trans-species communication, relationality, and even identification. In the process, I suggest that “animal contemplation”, a form of contemplative practice and contemplative experience that places “the animal question” at the center and explores the possibility (actuality) of “shared animality”, not only offers important opportunities for becoming fully human (animal), but also represents one viable contribution to resolving impending (ongoing) ecological collapse, or at least the all-too-real possibility of a world without butterflies, bees, and birdsong. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Animals, and X)
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17 pages, 295 KiB  
Article
Religion, Animals, and Technology
by Adrienne Krone
Religions 2022, 13(5), 456; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050456 - 18 May 2022
Viewed by 2020
Abstract
Most beef cattle in the United States start their lives on pasture and finish them in crowded feedlots, releasing hundreds of pounds of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide, before they are transported to a slaughterhouse, where they are killed and their [...] Read more.
Most beef cattle in the United States start their lives on pasture and finish them in crowded feedlots, releasing hundreds of pounds of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide, before they are transported to a slaughterhouse, where they are killed and their bodies are sliced into steaks and ground into hamburgers. Until recently, the alternatives to this system were either meat produced in the less sustainable but more humane method of raising cattle solely on pasture and utilizing smaller-scale slaughterhouses or plant-based meat substitutes. The development of the first cultured beef burger in 2013, produced through tissue engineering, raised the possibility of a newer and better alternative. In this article, I use the example of cultured meat to argue that religion and technology are co-constitutive, that they shape and reshape each other, and that the intersection between religion and technology in meat production has had and continues to have a direct impact on animals raised for meat. Kosher meat, industrial or cultured, exemplifies the complexities in the relationship between religion, technology, and animals and will serve as the example throughout this article. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Animals, and X)
12 pages, 235 KiB  
Article
Religion, Animals, and Black Theology: The Spiritual Praxis of Sparing
by Jamall A. Calloway
Religions 2022, 13(5), 383; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050383 - 21 Apr 2022
Viewed by 1694
Abstract
This article compares an interspecies moment in Howard Thurman’s classic text, Jesus and the Disinherited, and Gwendolyn Brook’s novella, Maud Martha, to consider how Black liberation theology might reimagine the animal-human binarism it has assumed from the Western Philosophical tradition. I contend [...] Read more.
This article compares an interspecies moment in Howard Thurman’s classic text, Jesus and the Disinherited, and Gwendolyn Brook’s novella, Maud Martha, to consider how Black liberation theology might reimagine the animal-human binarism it has assumed from the Western Philosophical tradition. I contend that an animal-human binarism attenuates the liberationist ethos of black theology, particularly when the animal is centered. To explore this, I first parse out the theological anthropology of Black liberation theology to demonstrate how it has historically occupied a complicated relationship to Western depictions of the human. Then, I argue on the grounds of its own theological convictions, that black theology is obligated to move beyond this ambivalence. As an example, I assess Howard Thurman’s classic essay to discover what insights might be revealed if we reconsider his reading of the mouse’s squeal, considering a comparison to a similar encounter between a human and a pest in Gwendolyn Brook’s novella, Maud Martha. This comparison reveals that Thurman may very well be limited in his capacity to recognize something in the mouse’s defiance. On the other hand, Brooks’ ecowomanist lens may better affirm the defiant mouse. Maud Martha identifies with the mouse so much that she, in contrast to Thurman, spares its life. This moment resulted in her undergoing an unexpected spiritual experience. This experience, according to my reading, is an example of what I am describing as “catching a glimpse” of a liberating deity’s interiority or, what I am considering as a new relation with divine immanence. In other words, in sparing the animal, in seeing the animal as of equal significance, she consequently felt a connection with God. This moment of liberation and divine connection is the ultimate aim of Black liberation theology. An aim we can try to reach by including the animal into our liberationist objective. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Animals, and X)
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