All creatures

animals in religionREVIEW BY REV IAN SMITH


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, Barbara has brought a gift, an invitation to add a fresh layer to our discussions. The particular focus of the book is the religious dimensions the nonhuman-created world brings to the understanding and life of humans.

Systematically, and with scholastic rigor, Barbara delves into the main faith traditions to remind and educate on the many roles that nonhuman participants have played and continue to play within life, societal formation and values.

From the opening introduction that reminds us, “How we understand God in relation to animals will influence how we treat them” (Jay McDonald), through each chapter; Barbara examines the interplay between human and nonhuman.

The reader discovers many similarities in the way the various faiths explore or articulate their engagement. This includes use of nonhumans as symbol, sign, teacher, companion or as aid, beast-of-burden or that which is exploitable or expendable for human needs.

Barbara has also highlighted the points of tension within faith traditions through juxtaposing the opposites that so often arise – ‘holding that all is created and all seen as good’ – yet creating scales of values that allows humans to be at the top and other created beings to be scored or valued according to their usefulness to humans.

In the examination of texts and traditions, the author invites the reader to reflect both on personal attitudes and corporate faith traditions. The conclusions arrived at in the book draw out the way nonhumans are inexorably interwoven and essential for human life and wellbeing. The last quote in the book ‘the whole earth is a living icon of the face of God’ (John of Damascus) says it all.

People from all faith traditions and none, will find this work extremely helpful. Publisher: Reakton Books London, 2016
RRP: $99.99

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