Can animals besides humans develop a religion?
"The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods." Religion: the definition. Do animals worship God?
Well, what is worship? Is it going to church? Is it prayer? When I am desperate, in pain, lost, seeking help in my heart, with my eyes closed, my body on the ground - too mixed up for words - am I praying? Do I need to use language in my head to pray?
Can someone who was raised by animals pray before coming to human society? You know, feral children?
Can a yearning for help from the greater powers of the universe be prayer? I think so, but that's just me.
In Islam, we say that all animals are in a perpetual state of submission to God. They aren't excellent at it, so they suffer the same as anyone, but they are consistent in a way humans are not. People can fall into evil and stay that way for years and years and years. Animals are more balanced.
In India, during prayer time, there are a host of dogs that show up at a temple - street dogs - and chill. They don't beg for food. They just group together in a pack near the temple and listen to the chanting or whatever, then disperse. They like the energy. Any serious dog owner will tell you that dogs are naturally attracted to situations that people enjoy. If the owners are having a good experience, the dogs love to be there for it, even if no one interacts with them.
I read an article about the India thing years ago - I forget the reference.
Maybe the OP is referring to an organized religion, with rituals. Did you know that elephants will hold a funeral service for a dead elephant? They gather around it and stomp their feet in unison for a while.
There are cases of entire pods of whales beaching together. Scientists - zoologists for example - will wonder, nothing about the tide explains the beaching. Coincidence can't explain 5 whales all beaching together. What happened? This has happened enough that a common theory exists: when one whale gets beached, the others would rather die trying to save it then go on living alone or separate. Maybe 2 whales get beached and the rest just give up on life.
Tell me the evolutionary reason for that. Oh wait, the whales need pod strength - community - to hunt well and defend themselves. So the sense of bond between them is necessary. Evolution cultivates that. Then in extreme cases, empathy gets them killed. Isn't that what faith is in the first place? To see purpose beyond your own life?
Faith is evolutionary? Faith belongs in evolution? If so, then animals are as religious as us. The only difference is that we are better at describing it and collaborating on it. Collaboration is our greatest strength above the beasts.
I meditate religiously - i.e. a lot. One day, I was meditating. I put myself through extreme circumstances for my meditation. I could get my head into places that would let my imagination unleash. One day I was at a new level. The correct elements of my life aligned - you know how it goes - and I got to go deeper into my own mind than I had ever gotten before - and have ever gotten since. I was beside my dog Cooper. We chilled for quite some time.
Now, if you aren't a dog owner, there are a few things you need to know about dogs. They react primarily through body language and touch. That's how they communicate. They have a surprising level of ability for reading facial expressions, but most people don't seem to realize that. My dog, Cooper, was with me for a few hours as I meditated. I would get up occasionally to do small things or change my environment. He was right there beside me. Why? I was in the zone and we connected.
I had had him for 14 years at that point, so he was used to being beside me, but this was different. I was so aware of his mental state, it was much easier for me to communicate with him. You know when you are on the same page as another human? Well, I was on the same page as my dog.
I could tell - it was obvious - then at one point he was lying on his side and he was watching my face. I looked in his eyes. He had to turn his eyes far to the side to look into mine because he was lying on his side and I was sitting up. Yet he kept his eyes locked on my face, for 5 seconds, 20, 40.... Dogs don't normally hold eye contact for too long. They aren't normalized to it. The second they lose interest, they look away. There is no culture for them that stigmatizes that. In human culture, looking away too often or too soon, or at the wrong times, is considered offensive. So we train ourselves to look on command. Dogs don't do that. They look purely based on instinct; because of this, junior pet owners often think dogs don't "understand" eye contact, or its power. However, dogs simply aren't interested enough in your face. You have to earn their eye contact.
So my dog is twisting his eyes towards my face, holding eye contact for a length of time... 10x what his previous record was and he isn't flinching. I already know I am in a deep state of meditation and that I can read his mood at a whole new level, so I am not exactly surprised. Whenever I hit such deep levels, my ability to relate to any given human goes way up too. So I am used to it. I just didn't expect it from my dog.
Then he puts his paw on my face and keeps it there. He didn't miss or make two attempts. He lifts his paw and holds it to my face and doesn't move it, until I move away several minutes later. He maintains eye contact. He has to exert effort to keep his paw in position - like it isn't just resting there. Imagine holding up a painting while someone else affixes it. That's his paw on my face.
I fed this dogs thousands of times. I took him to the bathroom just as much. I bathed him and walked him and cared for him. Yet only once in his life did he volunteer that level of intimacy. I earned it and guess what? He seemed perfectly natural, like he was waiting for me to earn it.
Sometimes in marriage, people mistreat each other, then by the grace of the world, the relationship-changes and gets better. Usually someone takes a lot of effort under their command to make this happen. Sometimes both parties are involved. One partner then earns intimacy from the other. One thing I know about women is that as soon as you earn their trust, they will do something completely unique to them, only for you, like it is the most natural thing in the world for them. This is unlocking their personality. Dogs are the same - exactly the same. Intimacy just comes in different ways.
Tell me animals aren't religious. They worship something. If they didn't then how did they cultivate such a strong character under the surface? Why is the best version of an animal unlocked after earning its trust? Why is it hidden? How does it come out so smoothly?
Life is a training mechanism for our inner selves. On the outside we look uncertain and incomplete, but on the inside, we are maturing. That inner being is built around something. Religion is there when you build your character around something outside of yourself, something far more powerful than yourself.
I won't draw all of the connections here, but your imagination can do some good work. Religion - true religion - is expressed in everything you do: the way you eat, the way you move around, the way you think. That is all a reflection of your religion. Animals carry their religion around with them in their behavior. If you analyze that behavior, you can see their religion. They submit to something. I wonder what that something is?