Special Issue "Animals and World Religions"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 May 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Anna Peterson
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Religion, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
Interests: social ethics; environmental ethics; animal studies; religion and society

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent decades, nonhuman animals have become an important focus of scholarly work in the humanities and social sciences. Anthropologists, literary scholars, historians, philosophers, and others have examined diverse issues including the significance of animals in art and literature, the role of real animals in economics, politics, and war, human moral attitudes toward animals, and a host of other issues. 

Animals play an important role in almost all religions, including world religions as well as smaller native traditions.  Religious studies scholars have addressed topics such as animal sacrifice, animals in sacred stories and myths, symbolic animals such as totems, animal deities, and animals as moral exemplars or villains.  The literature has grown in recent years, but it remains small and scattered. 

This special issue on animals in world religions aims to explore important and interesting contemporary scholarship on the topic.  Our scope is deliberately broad – we hope to receive articles that examine many different religious traditions, in different historical periods and geographic regions.  We prefer articles that focus on concrete questions and arguments, rather than on broad surveys or overviews.  We also prefer studies that look at the place, treatment, and experiences of real animals in religious communities and practices. 

Studies of symbolic or mythical animals are also welcome, but we are especially interested in those that add a new dimension to the literature, either by employing innovative theoretical and methodological approaches or showcasing unfamiliar topics.  In all cases, the goals are to expand scholarly understanding and knowledge of the important place of nonhuman animals in religious thought and practice.

The journal issue will provide a valuable complement to the existing literature, by extending the range of religious traditions addressed, by encouraging innovative approaches, and by focusing on studies of real rather than purely symbolic or mythical animals.

Prof. Dr. Anna Peterson
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

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 1200 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
  • species
  • animal studies
  • post-humanism
  • nature

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Cobra Deities and Divine Cobras: The Ambiguous Animality of Nāgas
Religions 2019, 10(8), 454; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10080454 - 26 Jul 2019
Abstract
In South Asia, cobras are the animals most dangerous to humans—as humans are to cobras. Paradoxically, one threat to cobras is their worship by feeding them milk, which is harmful to them, but religiously prescribed as an act of love and tenderness towards [...] Read more.
In South Asia, cobras are the animals most dangerous to humans—as humans are to cobras. Paradoxically, one threat to cobras is their worship by feeding them milk, which is harmful to them, but religiously prescribed as an act of love and tenderness towards a deity. Across cultural and religious contexts, the Nāgas, mostly cobra-shaped beings, are prominent among Hindu and Buddhist deities. Are they seen as animals? Doing ethnographic fieldwork on a Himalayan female Nāga Goddess, this question has long accompanied me during my participant observation and interviews, and I have found at least as many possible answers as I have had interview partners. In this article, I trace the ambiguous relationship between humans, serpents and serpent deities through the classical Sanskrit literature, Hindu and Buddhist iconographies and the retelling of myths in modern movies, short stories, and fantasy novels. In these narrations and portrayals, Nāgas are often “real” snakes, i.e., members of the animal kingdom—only bigger, shape-shifting or multi-headed and, curiously, thirsty for milk. The article focuses on those traits of Nāgas which set them apart from animals, and on those traits that characterize them as snakes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animals and World Religions)
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Open AccessArticle
“Every Living Beast Being a Word, Every Kind Being a Sentence”: Animals and Religion in Reformation Europe
Religions 2019, 10(7), 421; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10070421 - 09 Jul 2019
Abstract
The ability of animals to convey meaning, either sacred or profane, features prominently in the dialectic of natural knowledge and sacred histories. Animals, particularly those that exhibited irregularities of nature, symbolised and revealed God’s wrath and favour, fulfilling a polemical and pastoral purpose [...] Read more.
The ability of animals to convey meaning, either sacred or profane, features prominently in the dialectic of natural knowledge and sacred histories. Animals, particularly those that exhibited irregularities of nature, symbolised and revealed God’s wrath and favour, fulfilling a polemical and pastoral purpose in the communication of God’s anger and assiduous care for humanity. The language of readable nature ran through the ancient natural histories of Pliny and Aristotle, the words and images of the medieval bestiaries, and the natural histories and popular discourses of Reformation Europe. In the history of the natural world, ‘God’s great book in folio’, ideas about connections between the written word and human observation, miracles, wonders and providences, were interleaved with theological and biological taxonomies. In so doing, discussions of irregularities and portents in nature expose the conceptualisation of human relationships with the world, with the past, with the present, and with the divine. This article explores the connections between real and symbolic animals, religious, and the plasticity of God’s creation in the natural histories and polemical literature of the Reformation. It explores the multivalent positioning of particular sea creatures as providential signs of God’s continued presence in the world, natural phenomena, and man-made objects, and the ongoing syncretism between natural history, religion, ancient texts and human observation in the dialectic of this period. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animals and World Religions)
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Open AccessArticle
Religion as Animal and Alive
Religions 2019, 10(6), 352; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10060352 - 30 May 2019
Abstract
The notion of “living religion” is helpful in exploring how individuals and communities have across time and culture engaged their other-than-human neighbors in a local place as a response to the fact that each human individual clearly lives in a more-than-human world. Threads [...] Read more.
The notion of “living religion” is helpful in exploring how individuals and communities have across time and culture engaged their other-than-human neighbors in a local place as a response to the fact that each human individual clearly lives in a more-than-human world. Threads of observation and argument are woven together to suggest that focusing on nonhuman animals helps any human sustain the vibrant, living quality that so often has been a hallmark of a relevant and healthy religious/spiritual awareness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animals and World Religions)
Open AccessArticle
The Lion and the Wisdom—The Multiple Meanings of the Lion as One of the Keys for Deciphering Vittore Carpaccio’s Meditation on the Passion
Religions 2019, 10(5), 344; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10050344 - 27 May 2019
Abstract
The current paper will concentrate on the lion featured in Vittore Carpaccio’s Meditation on the Passion. The multiple meanings of the lion in primary sources will serve as a key towards demonstrating the concept of prophecy, one of the multi-level meanings referring [...] Read more.
The current paper will concentrate on the lion featured in Vittore Carpaccio’s Meditation on the Passion. The multiple meanings of the lion in primary sources will serve as a key towards demonstrating the concept of prophecy, one of the multi-level meanings referring to all three figures featured in the painting—Job, Christ and St. Jerome. To this, an interpretation not discussed hitherto with reference to the Meditation will be added—the lion as alluding to the concept of wisdom as referred to in the book of Job. Furthermore, the lion and the wisdom will be discussed as an allusion to the self-image of Venice during the period in which the painting was executed, and thus add another, social and civic, reading. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animals and World Religions)
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Open AccessArticle
The Theology of Dog Training in Vicki Hearne’s Adam’s Task
Religions 2019, 10(1), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010025 - 01 Jan 2019
Abstract
“The Theology of Dog Training” demonstrates the rich and surprising ways in which religion plays a primary role in how people make sense of their relationships with their companion animals. In the first sustained analysis of Adam’s Task in religious studies, I argue [...] Read more.
“The Theology of Dog Training” demonstrates the rich and surprising ways in which religion plays a primary role in how people make sense of their relationships with their companion animals. In the first sustained analysis of Adam’s Task in religious studies, I argue that feminist writer and dog trainer Vicki Hearne describes a form of relational redemption that allows for the restoration of a prelapsarian language between humans and animals; a recovery of a time before humans sinned against God and subsequently lost their authority over animals. Training, which begins with the act of naming a dog and bringing them into the moral life, is Hearne’s attempt to restore what was lost in the Fall for both humans and animals. In making this argument, I join a growing community of scholars who are committed to bringing animal studies to the academic study of religion. In addition to analyzing religion as it occurs in non-institutional spaces, I examine phenomena that would not necessarily be considered religious, but, as I show, make ethical and religious claims on human–canine relationships. By investigating institutions, texts, and practices in contemporary America that traditionally have not been identified as religious, my article shows how religious beliefs and forms can help us build an ethics of multispecies relations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animals and World Religions)
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