Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Harambe the Gorilla killed: A Catholic response

Harambe the Gorilla was killed the other day at the Cincinnati zoo after a kid fell in. The gorilla didn't seem to really be doing much in terms of threatening the boy but was nonetheless shot by security personnel fearing the beast would kill the boy.

Now of course the keyboard warriors of the world are all up in arms, demanding justice for this animal. I like animals. I think the silver back gorilla is an amazing creature and very interesting to watch. But no animal is equal in value to a human being. On one of the Youtube channels to which I subscribe, the guy said we should have let whatever happen to the kid because the gorilla is more valuable since there are fewer gorillas than people.

But this attitude is anti-Christian. Christ did not die to save gorillas or any other non-human animal. Sure, Harambe seemed peaceful enough, but an ape that size can kill a child in an instant. Would every be praising slow-acting security guards who let that happen? I doubt it.

Catholicism's pre-eminent theologians, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine did not even think animals had any rights per se. The only reason we had a moral imperative to treat animals in a non-cruel way, according to these thinkers, was if there was a danger the cruelty could carry over into our relationship to humans. It wasn't because the animals were so special.

Since animal souls do not survive death, they do not have eternal value. God created them to serve humanity, not the other way around. While some people bemoan the fact that there are 7 billion humans, we are not vermin or a parasite or a disease, but in fact, each one of us is loved by God, even those who hate humans.

When I see animals and nature, I am awed by God's greatness. But I can never forget that only we can spend eternity with God in heaven. Incidentally, the Christian viewpoint about animals is similar to atheists' view of human beings, i.e. we are just one of many species and deserve no special attention. Also, life is about obtaining pleasure whatever the cost, and human life is expendable if it serves the greater good. Atheists will point to the inquisition or the Crusades as examples of Christians not valuing human life, but in a "good" day atheistic regimes of the 20th century could cause more harm than those two Christian events combined, assuming they were exactly as they are popularly caricatured to have been.

It's sad that Harambe had to be killed, but it's better to kill 1000 gorillas than to let one boy die.

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