The ostensible worship of beings who have a mixture of animal and human form is Therianthropy. The word comes from the Greek therion = wild beast, and anthropos = human. Therianthropes (or therians) believe they are in touch with the spirit of the animal they worship and can assume the animal's mentality. Two well-known mixed human-animal gods from ancient Egypt are Bastet (or Bast), a woman with a cat's head, and Anubis, the god of mummification, with a jackal's head. Modern therians have assorted views, no primary doctrine and no generally recognised authority.
||However, many people embrace a strongly human-centred attitude about animals that derive from Judaeo-Christian sources. These attitudes hold that humans are in every way more important than animals. This has major consequences for animal rights.
Three central beliefs commonly accepted by Christianity for centuries are that:
- God made animals for human use (see the illustration at head of page).
- Animals do not have intellect (that is cannot reason).
- Animals do not have souls.
People have used the Judaeo-Christian tradition to justify exploiting animals without moral obligation to them, although they do not sanction deliberate cruelty to animals.
Photo: Andriy Makukha (Amakukha).
A more modern interpretation of Christian thought is that:
- Humans have a responsibility from God to care for animals.
- Humans and animals share a kinship.
- Humans should be benevolent as well as not cruel to animals.
A recent version of Christian thought reinterprets Christian teachings that ignore or marginalize sentient animals. 'Animal theology' asserts that:
- God cares about all creatures, not just humans.
- Humans are not the masters of other creatures but have a special role as their carers.
- Sentient animals as well as humans survive death, that is have souls.
- Christianity must broaden its outlook to the whole universe.
Another and stronger recent version is that:
- Animals have rights because they belong to God.
- Animals do not have free will and it is wrong for humans to take advantage of this lack.
- Use of animals implies responsibility, not domination, so that the strong (humans) should protect the weak (animals).
Andrew Linzey, Anglican priest and theologian, a strong campaigner within the Church for animal rights, advances these recent interpretations of Christian values regarding animals. See the related topic Animal Preacher in How to Do Animal Rights
See the entry Anthropocentrism about dominionism and stewardism.
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