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Animals in Religion

Devotion, Symbol and Ritual

Animals in Religion explores the role of animals within a wide range of religious traditions. Exploring countless stories and myths passed down orally and in many religious texts, Barbara Allen—herself a practicing minister—offers a fascinating history of the ways animals have figured in our spiritual lives, whether they have been Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or any number of lesser-known religions.
Some of the figures here will be familiar, such as St. Francis of Assisi, famous for his accord with animals, or that beloved remover of obstacles, Ganesha, the popular elephant god in the Hindu pantheon. Delving deeper, Allen highlights the numerous ways that our religious practices have honored and relied upon our animal brethren. She examines the principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, which has Jains sweeping the pathways before them so as not to kill any insects, as well as the similar principle in Judaism of ts’ar ba’alei chayim and the notion in some sects of Islam that all living creatures are Muslim. From ancient Egypt to the Druids to the indigenous cultures of North America and Australia, Allen tells story after story that emphasizes the same message: all species are spiritually connected. 

480 pages | 80 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Religion: Comparative Studies and History of Religion

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"The author offers a deeper respect for our four-legged, finned, and feathered brethren as she focuses on the interdependence of life and the appreciation that 'nonhuman animals' have value in our religious traditions, as well as in our hearts and homes. The book examines animals not only in all the major monotheistic religions, but also in the beliefs of the Egyptian, Mesoamerican, and Indigenous people of North America and Australasia as well as the Vikings and Druids."

Methodist Recorder

“This substantial, almost encyclopedic book will undoubtedly long be a standard reference for basic information on the myths and beliefs involving animals of the major world religions past and present. The author, a minister in the Uniting Church of Australia as well as Australia’s first chaplain in an animal hospital, has assembled a wonderful collection of stories and judicious statements by respected religious spokespersons from around the world.”

The Peaceable Table

"Allen explores the role of animals within a wide range of religious traditions. In this highly recommended addition to animal studies publications, Allen explores countless stories and myths passed down orally and in many religious texts and offers a fascinating history of the ways animals have figured in our spiritual lives, whether they have Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Jain, Hindu, or Buddhist roots. Allen also looks at religions in China, Japan, Celtic, Viking, and Ancient Egypt, as well as First Peoples religious religions. . . . She tells story after story that emphasize the same message: all species are spiritually connected."

Minding Animals Bulletin

"Allen includes all major religions, the beliefs of Indigenous peoples, and those of ancient times discussing the art, diets, and practices of each. Recognizing the importance of the oral tradition, she tells the most fascinating legends and stories in a highly colorful way, which alone would make another book."

Yorkshire Gazette and Herald

“Allen highlights the mysterious alterity of nonhuman animals (such that they should not be reduced to things) and in turn leads the reader to discover, through a myriad of religious voices, these mysterious creatures as spiritual brethren.”

Ryan Patrick McLaughlin, Siena College, New York

"This book is timely in the midst of the growing global concern around climate change and the future of our world as we know and understand it. Allen has brought a gift, an invitation to add a fresh layer to our discussions on understanding our world. The particular focus of the book is the religious dimensions that the non-human created world brings to the understanding and life of humans. . . . People from all faiths, traditions, and none, will find this work extremely helpful."

Reverend Ian Smith, executive officer, Victorian Council of Churches

Table of Contents

                Animals in Tribal and First Peoples’ Religions
                Animals in Ancient Egyptian Religion and Mythology
                Animals in Celtic and Viking Myth and Ritual
                Animals in Judaism
                Animals in Christianity
                Animals in Islam
                Animals in Hinduism
                Animals in Jainism
                Animals in Buddhism
                Animals in Religion in China and Japan
Photo Acknowledgements

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