Do animals believe in God?
Question originally answered : Is there evidence to suggest that animals believe in God?
The way the question is written, identifies a particular god, names God, the god of Abraham, The God. Now that particular question is easily answered, no there is no evidence to suggest this, but how would we even test such a claim anyway? How am I to know whether or not my cat believes in that particular deity, rather than in another?
How am I to even establish that my cat has any concept of deities at all? By which signs shall I know that my cat actually not only believes in God but also that Sheeba is His last Prophetess and Messenger for cat-kind, a tale not mentioned in the established literature of the Abrahamic religions?
Do we witness in animals any of the behaviours associated with religious beliefs, such as prayer or other ritualistic behaviour? Well, there is discussion on this matter.
It should be made clear up front that any evidence there is, does not constitute evidence for any specific deity. I am unable to locate the precise reference, but will look for it and update the answer accordingly, but, I recall reading an article on primate behaviour, where it was mentioned that certain colonies of chimps displayed certain ritualistic behaviour towards a specially marked tree, stacking rocks at its base and drumming on it with a stick. (EDIT 27=03–2017: Please read the exceleent answer Do animals believe in God? for more on this chimp colony).
Of course the discussion here revolves around what the social significance is of this behaviour, as it does seem to suggest some kind of ritualistic worship or invocation of magic. Does this behaviour demonstrate the existence of a god concept in this society?
In any case, given how speciation works, it makes perfect sense to find that certain social behaviours might also be traced back in time. Speciation is not a sudden event in real time. It's all about the statistics of heritable changes spreading throughout the population. That simply takes time. Much learned behaviour and many cultural practices will be taken over and adapted. It's only over time that the changes seem so large. One would expect societies, and we are talking about primates here, to also evolve given pressure.
In the same vane, given what we know of history, there seems to be a progression in the concept of gods and the divine over the course of man's written history. Unfalsifiable claims of an original religion, monotheistic, are precisely that, unfalsifiable claims, the truth of which is simply not known.
Humans are animals, and there is ample evidence to show that the majority of the world's population does not believe in God? They either believe in other gods or no gods at all. Given that not even the majority of humans believe in God, why should one assume that all the animals do?
This is one enormous claim and requires an equally enormous burden of proof to satisfy it. A mere quotation from some scripture will not qualify as satisfactory here, especially when other scriptures make similar claims.
Sharing above which is already shared and worthy:
I believe that somewhere out there, Sunrise is fighting on God's
side. Maybe he is teaching someone else, as he taught me. Maybe
he is protecting the innocent from evil influences or bad decisions.
I do know that Sunrise opened a door for me. I would like to share
some of the things that I have learned from Sunrise and other
All animals know God. They don't question HIS existence or argue
HIS methods. They don't feel the need to improve or change what
God has already made perfect. They know God without thinking
about it or trying to explain it. They simply know and accept.
Animals are God's servants and messengers. They know that they
have a purpose and they don't ask ‘why me' or ‘can I do it later?'
They just follow their hearts. Their hearts are open to the influence
All animals know love. Animals are loyal, forgiving, empathic and
loving. They can sense our emotional states and respond. They
understand that the tempers and reactions of humans aren't about
them. They come back for love and to give affection and comfort,
time after time, when we have treated them badly or ignored them.
They are generous and kind without wondering if they will be
rewarded for it. They don't wait for someone to be kind first.
Animals are present in each moment. They live each moment as if
there is nothing else. They recognize the beauty of life and this
Earth. They never forget the wonder of everything around them. All
too often, we humans get caught up in our day-to-day tasks and
"what will happen tomorrow." We completely miss today. How
often do we find ourselves going through life in a state of
numbness? Or how often do we wake up and realize that we've
been doing whatever we were doing with no awareness at all.
Animals get through their daily activities, but they do not lose
‘today' in the process. They can focus on their goals and still enjoy
Animals know people. They see into the souls of people. They
don't care about how you look or what you do. They see you as
you really are at the core and they accept you. They know that we
ALL are creations of God and therefore, worthy of love and
attention. They don't care if you say something stupid or if you
make a mistake. They realize that we are all perfect because God
made us. Whatever flaws we may have are only judged as flaws
through our cultural perceptions. Animals know that we are here to
learn, grow and enjoy the journey.
Animals know themselves. They are true to themselves, no matter
what. They don't base their actions on what someone else may
think. They are guided by love and they follow that instinct without
question. They know their bodies. When they are tired, they rest.
When they are hungry, they eat. When they are restless, they
Animals know their place in Nature. They revere the order of the
Universe. If they need to eat, they eat what they were created to
eat. They protect what they need to protect and leave the rest
alone. They don't tear up all of the trees that they live in ....or
poison streams because they want a greater yield. They don't
pollute the air because they must do everything faster. They live in
harmony with all other life, just as God meant them to.
Yes! Of course they know that...
Here is the reason why I say this,
A few months before a female dog gave birth to her 5 adorables , our neighbors used to give her food regularly . But one of our neighbor took extra care of her , they gave her puppies milk every night ,they kept them in their home whenever it rained even they themselves own 12 dogs alredy which were stray dogs .
After a long time 4 of her puppies died in road accident and their mother became very sick and was behaving quite odd that day . I informed them about her condition, they immediately called a doctor but that afternoon that dog took her puppy and gently placed him on their ramp and slept peacefully while all other strey dogs were barking and protested to her presence as they knew she was going to die. But as the doctors arrived they found that it was too late.
My neighbors took her puppy and adopted him as they had adopted 12 before. They named him Richey.
This shows that the dog knew that god exist! And she trusted him , she gave her puppy to a man whom she knew for 1 month only. During her illness she never allowed any of us to go near her pup .
Now Richey is a healthy and happy dog.
It's certainly possible that animals ponder whether there might be some great power overseeing their world, a great being who provides them with food and water, who provides the rain and the sun, and who is punishing them when something bad happens.
Perhaps sheep and cows consider the farmer to be the Almighty One. Perhaps lions and elephants hunting and grazing at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro believe the Holy Grassgiver lives at the top of the mountain. It's even possible that when lots of animals gather together, say at a waterhole, they're engaging in some kind of mass worship to the Water Spirits, that reinforces these beliefs through social proof.
I used to live in Kenya and once stayed at a safari lodge next to a waterhole. Every evening a large herd of elephants gathered at the waterhole to drink. After drinking, the elephants would hang around and watch the sun go down. Many of them would start to defecate, which could be interpreted, if you wanted it to, as a ritual worshipping of a god. It's certainly a less bizarre idea than Catholics eating and drinking Jesus every Mass.
Humans, with their (usually) more advanced cognitive powers can still believe the totally nonsensical rubbish about gods, so it's certainly possible that less analytical animals do too.
I've just asked my cat: she said "don't be so f@$#ing ridiculous."
Sri Kalahasti is named after the staunch devotees of Lord Shiva. They were the Spider (Sri), the Serpent (Kala) and the Elephant (Hasti). Appeased with their unflinching devotion, Lord Shiva gave them a boon that their names be merged with the Vayulinga and called as Sri Kalahasteeswara According to Hindu mythology, the elephant or Hasti used to clean the Shiva deity by watering the idol with the help of river-water carried in his trunks and pray for him by placing Bilva leaves. The spider or Sri tried to protect the deity from external damage by weaving his web and to provide shelter for the Shiva lingam. The snake or Kala used to place its precious gem on the linga to adorn the lord. In this way, they all worshipped the Vayu linga separately without knowing what the other was doing.
One day, the spider had built a very big and thick web around the deity to protect it from dust and weather while the snake places its gem. The elephant not knowing this and assuming that this form of puja by Sri and Kala is a desecration by the seeming miscreants, pours water on it and cleans it up. This causes a war between the three. The snake punishes the elephant by entering its trunk and in the process kills itself while the elephant runs amok and hits its trunk and head against the shiva linga. During this struggle, the spider is squashed against the linga by the elephant's trunk and the elephant dies due to the snake's poison. Lord Shiva then appeared and gave moksha to all three of them for their selfless devotion. The spider takes rebirth as a great king while the elephant and the snake reaches heaven for satisfying all its karma.
This king continues his good work from his previous birth and builds a variety of temples that seeks to protect the underlying deity with tons of stones. It is interesting to note that all his temples, keep the deity beyond the access of an elephant. In this temple, access to the deity is through a narrow passage in the side of the building that prevents an elephant from extending its trunk over the lord from any side.
Reference: Srikalahasti Temple
Not capital G god necessarily, but I read an article about research that indicated some chimps (our closest relatives) were engaged in rituals which could indicate a spiritual dimension to their lives - this would make sense when you look at the anthropological model of the development of religion - selected-for confirmation biases in intelligent social species can be seen to lead to animist and then polytheistic thinking.
I found one of the popular articles if you'd like to read it: Scientists may have found evidence that chimps believe in god. The title is misleading in that it supposes the chimps are even worshiping a god. We don't know that. Importantly, they could believe in a monotheistic god, but they could also believe in many gods, localised animistic gods, or even just have other reasons - like to remember significant life events or through social habit - for these behaviors.
Nevertheless, I wouldn't put it beyond other intelligent social species like other primates, Corvids (crows, ravens, magpies, etc), Cetaceans (dolphins, whales, etc), elephants (I'd have included the family, but the rest of them are extinct, think mammoths), Canids (wolves, dogs,foxes, etc), hyenas, Felids (cats, big cats, etc), some Coleoidea (octopi, squid, and cuttlefish), and even the giant oceanic manta ray to develop deistic thinking. These are all families/other of species or just species which represent complex or cryptic social structures, known but not necessarily understood modes of communication, or potentially non-evident communication, and some measure of intelligence, particularly problem solving intelligence and varying levels of tool use (I know of cases in all but the hyena, Felid, and giant oceanic manta ray groups).
Religious behaviors can be seen as a favoured evolutionary path in social species, I would not be surprised to find these and even other species are involved in some forms of animistic thinking.
Śrī Gurubhyo Namaḥ
As per the śāstras there are 84,00,000 varieties of species of beings. Hunger, fear, procreation, old age, sorrow and death are common to all the jīvas.
Among them, a human birth is very rare, which is obtained only due to Bhagavān's grace.
दुर्लभं त्रयमेवैतत् दैवानुग्रहहेतुकम्
मनुष्यत्वं मुमुक्षुत्वं महापुरुषसंश्रयः (Viveka Chudamani)
It is due to the grace of Ishwara alone that one gets the human birth, desire for liberation and the company / satsanga of mahApuruShAs which are very rare to obtain.
It is only a human who has the rare capacity of free-will. Where as an animal doesn't have it. For example, a cow once it reaches its physical maturity, it's whole purpose is to survive as long as possible, may be deliver a calf and then die one day. Beyond that it doesn't need any emotional maturity. There is nothing like emotionally mature cow. They undergo fear and sorrow but cannot grow from inside like we humans do.
When this is the case, is it possible for animals to recognize God? We humans who can exercise free will and inquire into the subtleties of the existence fail to comprehend, connect and understand God. Can animals do then?
The answer is both YES and NO. Well, How?
Generally, the answer is a NO. Saying NO doesn't need much explanation for many obvious reasons.
But there has been some occasions narrated by scriptures and holy people through the length of time and existence, that it is possible to recognize, connect to and contemplate on God and even obtain liberation. It can be possible in many ways.
- Gajendra Moksham: To simply put the story, there is a king elephant with thousands of wives and kingdom which went to a lake to drink water. Unfortunately, it entered the lake and a crocodile caught its leg. Now all the servants, wives everyone unable to help went away. This King elephant fought to its might to get released from the crocodile's grip. But in vain. When it realized that the situation is beyond it's hands, it prayed to that higher power in many ways surrendering unto that power and prayed to protect it. God received its prayers and came
urgently without any delay to save it. This is a well known story.
Now Why did the elephant remember God? How did it know that there is a God? That He would respond if prayed sincerely?
This elephant in it's earlier life was a king named Indradyumna of Pandya dynasty who was a great devotee of the Lord and did great penance. He was born as an elephant because of a curse by a Rishi.
- Nruga Maharaja: One day the sons of Krishna Samba, Pradyumna and others were playing in a garden. After playing, they felt thirsty and searched for water. While searching, they found a dried well without water. In it, there was a big chameleon. They tried to take it out but was unable to lift it. They all reported to Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna came and lifted it with his left hand and took it out. As soon as he took it out, because of his touch the chameleon turned into a man glowing bright. When asked, he narrated his story that he was great pious king named Nruga. He did great charity. Once there arose a clash for a cow between two Brahmanas because of his charity and it didn't go well. That caused a sin to him. So after death, he was sent to experience his sin on earth and when Krishna touched him, his sins got destroyed. Now he can go for experiencing his punyam.
- Jada Bharata: There was a great king named Bharata (on whose name India attained the name Bhārata). He was a great devoted and jnani. After some years, he left his kingdom and settled in forest for penance. He used to live alone to avoid attachment. In his end days, he came across a wounded deer. He treated it out of compassion. It recovered and lived with him. He used to take care of it. He treated it like his own child. When death arrived, his mind due to attachment was constantly remembering the deer. He died. Now because of this he was born as a deer. But fortunately due to God's grace he remembered his previous life and realized his mistake. This deer live all through its life in the company of sages and took great care not leave God's name and soon died one day. Next he was again born in a Brahmin family and remembered his past lives. He decided to get liberated in this life and to not get attached and started to behave as a dumb and dull minded person not reacting to anything to the outside world including his family. Internally, he always contemplated and remembered God. Later he became a liberate soul.
- Sri Kala Hasti: Once a spider, snake and an elephant were living in a forest. The spider used to build web to protect Shiva linga. T o test it's devotion, Lord used to burn it. It used to make web again and again. One day it decided to stop the fire that's burning the web for the Lord. But unable to do so, it died. Shiva liberated it. A snake used to bring gems and diamonds and worship that Shiva linga with them. After the snake, an elephant use to come, remove all the gems with its trunk and pour water (abhisheka) and worship the lingam with flowers and leaves. When the snake returned the next day, gems used to be on the ground. This routine went for few days. One the snake waited till the elephant came and went into its trunk to kill it. The elephant to defend itself hit its trunk repeatedly to a tree. Because of that both the elephant and the snake both died. Lord who observed their devotion to him liberated those jīvas.
- Just like Nruga Maharaja's case. Even mahātmas who were jīvanamuktas can also sometimes very rarely take animals to liberation. One example in recent times is Bhagavān Ramana Maharshi. A cow called Lakshmi in his ashram has been liberated.
There might be many other examples too. Animals usually do not have this capability to recognize God. They might be attracted towards pleasantness but cannot recognize consciously as we do. But in rare cases, they did. How?
- In order to even remember that there is God and believe in him, to have devotion, one needs immense sādhana in previous lives. That severe sādhana forms the impressions (vāsanas) and get carried to the next lives. Even in next life, for that sādhana to fructify it needs God's grace. That is the case in Gajendra Moksha, Sri Kala Hasti.
- In addition to the above point, sometimes very rarely even in animal body, the jīva can recognise God and even previous lifetime also. Such jīvas are called jātismāras. In that they can exercise their free will even more which is Jadabharata's case.
- Sometimes, the jīva in animal bodies might not have devotion, but his prārabdha (destiny or fate) brings it to the presence of God or mahātmas. From then on it's lifestyle will be different and it might even be liberated which are the cases of Nruga Maharaja and the cow Lakshmi devoted to Bhagavān Ramana Maharshi.
To summarize, although very rare, Yes, even animals can recognize God, do devotion to God and even be liberated, provided there is immense puṇya and sādhana in previous lives, god's grace and sādhana in this life too.
naratvaM devatvaM naga-vana-mRRigatvaM mashakatA
pashutvaM kITatvaM bhavatu vihagatvAdi jananam |
vihArAsaktaM che-ddhadaya-miha kiM tena vapuShA ||
(Sivānanda Laharī, 10th verse)
Be it the birth of human, devas, animal that wanders on hills and forests, mosquito, any animal, any insect, a bird or any other life form. As long as the mind is engaged in contemplating the God's lotus feet which is the stream bliss, does it matter what body we are in?
Hope this helps you.