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.