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Le Christianisme et l'Animal : Une Histoire Difficile

Author(s): Eric Baratay

Journal: Ecozon@ : European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment
ISSN 2171-9594

Volume: 2;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 120;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Christianity has given a great deal of thought to animals in its effort to situate Man withregard to Creation, and to forge a mental image of the latter. This task was carried out byrelying on the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, though its often unclear andelliptical treatment of animals also led theologians to call on the Greek philosophers tointerpret it. This move was to eventually impose the obvious and presumably "natural"idea of Man's divine origin and that of the inferiority of animal creatures. The animalgot reduced to a material, mortal being bereft of any afterlife, destined to materiallyservice human beings, or perhaps even to yield spiritual support to them by helpingthem to think of God. It was not until the 18th and 19th centuries that a minority ofclerics, pastors and faithful, most often Protestants, though joined later by a lessernumber of Catholics, sought to re-evaluate the animal from a Christian perspective, byreconsidering its nature, fate and role at Man's side. They thus deconstructed aconception constructed by history, one which was actually incongruent withChristianity. In accordance with Durkheim's model of religion, such changes are not of atheological but social and cultural nature, Christianity serving in this process both as areflection and a justification of ideas extraneous to it.
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