The Dog Delusion: Pope Francis proclaims that all animals will go to heaven

December 9, 2014 • 7:53 am

Take heart, you Catholics, for you shall see your beloved dog, cat, hamster or goldfish in heaven again (will they all have wings?). Or so says Pope Francis, who, in his attempt to make the Church look friendlier while retaining its pernicious doctrines, has pronounced that all animals go to heaven.

The Pope’s new revelation was the subject of an article in The Dodo, which in turn took the information from a piece on the Italian news site Resapubblica.it. The Italian piece has a title even I can understand: “Cani vanno in paradiso? Papa Francesco: c’è aldilà per tutti gli animali.” And that article is illustrated with a funny picture:

paradiso-dei-cani

As The Dodo says:

In his weekly address at the Vatican late last month, Pope Francis issued a remarkable statement that’s sure to come as welcome news to anyone who’s ever lost a beloved pet. According to Francis, the promise of an afterlife applies not only to believers, but to all animals as well.

“The Holy Scriptures teach us that the realization of this wonderful plan covers all that is around us, and that came out of the thought and the heart of God,” Pope Francis said, as quoted by Italian news site Resapubblica.

The Pope then went on to say that “heaven is open to all creatures, and there [they] will be vested with the joy and love of God, without limits.”

An automatic translation of the Resapubblica.it article adds the following:

In this regard, Francis drew the image of the Apostle Paul that will appeal to a child in tears for the death of his dog: “One day we will return to see our animals in the eternity of Christ.”

Where, exactly do the Holy Scriptures say that? I read the Bible and I don’t remember seeing anything that came close to such a conclusion. What we have here is an example of not only extreme cherry-picking and unwarranted conclusions, but also a conclusion that contravenes that of the last Pope:

Pope Francis’s stance on animals stands in contrast to that of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who despite reportedly being a cat lover, said that animals’ existence was limited to their time on Earth. But Francis isn’t the first pontiff to take an animal-friendly approach to ideology. As newspaper Divisione la Repubblica notes, Pope John Paul II held a similar position, saying animals had a “divine breath.”

Okay, so we have at least two Popes making incompatible claims. How do we know which Pope was right? (Perhaps the Pope had a revelation that God is really Ceiling Cat? Was he speaking ex-cathedra?)

polls_funny_pictures_ceiling_cat_creates_man_1548_186677_poll_xlarge

In contrast, though, the Italian article (again automatically translated) notes that there is some theological dissent about Francis’s proclamation:

Gianni Colzani, professor of theology at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, gives another interpretation of the speech of Pope Francisco this week. “All of us think that there will be continuity between this world and the future glory. It ‘s the balance between the two things that we are not able to determine and that’s why I think we should draw further conclusions than those of the Pope. ”

Bergoglio will clarify its position on the animals in ‘ Encyclical on the environment and nature that is writing. While waiting, we remain in doubt, imagine the surprise that could have St. Peter’s in a sweet little dog see knocking at the gates of paradise.

Yes, imagine the surprise, especially since that the evidence for Paradise is precisely as thin as the evidence that sweet little dogs will go there.

Now really, is this Sophisticated Theology™? Just once—once—I’d like to see someone like Karen Armstrong or David Bentley Hart publicly say, “The Pope is full of it—we have no evidence for any of that crap.”  But of course you never will. The “sophisticated” believers, so keen to tell us what God is really like (he’s apophatic and ineffable), are equally keen to suppress criticism of believers who disagree with them by making more tangible claims. After all, it’s better to keep comity with the faithful and diss the atheists than to go after the inanities of other faiths.

But can any rational person deny that this pronouncement borders on lunacy? There is no way in hell that the Pope can assure us that Mittens or Towser will be by our side in Paradise, and we all know it. So much for the rationality of Pope Francis and the modernity of Catholicism. What I see is rampant craziness, and I scratch my head when people take the Pope’s pronouncements seriously.

If the Pope is going to assure us that someone’s going to heaven, how about gay people? Sadly, it looks like the animals get there first.

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h/t: Joyce

220 thoughts on “The Dog Delusion: Pope Francis proclaims that all animals will go to heaven

    1. Eyeball-devouring parasite?
      Welcome to Paradise! But – obviously – try not to eat The Virgin Mary’s eyes (given that she was assumed bodily into heaven.)

      1. Anybody keeping a running corporeal headcount for heaven?

        Jesus & Mary, Mohammed & his horse…who we missing?

    1. Kind of. This pope was elected precisely because he could be relied on to issue crowd-pleasing quips that would play better than his predecessor to more liberal minded people. And moments later the Official Vatican issues their statement to try and placate the conservatives who don’t like the sound so much.

      Their new policy is: say anything to get people back into the pews without alienating those already in the pews. It’s a game of spin-doctor.

      It isn’t going to work, those that have left religion are not going to go back. But if the press could get its nose back out from the papal nether crevices that it has wedged it into, that would be nice.

          1. “…like ‘Omaha Beach,’ and with the same attractions”

            Boat rides, fireworks, all-you-can-eat K-rations?

      1. Very good comment. This is the kind of thing I would like to see, that I think should be seen, in main stream journalism.

        It is disheartening to listen to people (or read) who have in the past been forthright in criticizing the Catholic church, and religion in general, praise this new Pope, and proclaim that he will surly change the church, whenever he drops one of his faux humanist sound bites. The only positive thing I see with this new Pope is that his selection appears to be a tactical response by the hierarchy to, as you describe, the church having trouble keeping people in the pews. And that is a good thing. I hope momentum continues to build in that direction.

        1. It’s a clever thing to broaden the church’s appeal, personally call it “good.” If they are not changing the underlying theology that decent people are damned because of who they love and other natural traits beyond their control, then f**k them. Millions of people are stressed and unfulfilled because of their stupid hateful dogma, any sugar-coating and feigned modernity just prolongs the suffering. The pews can’t empty fast enough as far as I’m concerned.

          1. What I was calling good is the church having trouble filling their pews. I find no good whatsoever in the churches propaganda efforts. But the reason they are making those efforts? I hope for more of it.

              1. Even when my thoughts seem so clear to me in my head, it always seems so difficult to express them clearly! Even I have trouble sometimes figuring out what the hell I wrote if I go back to it after some time.

          2. If they are not changing the underlying theology that decent people are damned because of who they love…

            “I’m sorry, no, your son and his partner will not go to heaven, but on the bright side, you will have his goldfish.”

              1. Yeah, it’s worth watching if you get a chance, one of the small temblors that set off the groundswell for SSM, helping humanize gay folk for straight, mainstream America. The “1961” segment was especially good. It was also a kick seeing the then-current segment (“2000”) with Sharon Stone (not that far distant from her break-out role in Basic Instinct) playing opposite Ellen (who was even less distant from coming out on national TV).

      2. One would think that such blatant spin-doctoring would give the faithful some pause (paws) — but no, it wouldn’t be ‘faith’ if people were willing to sit down and analyze whether or not something makes sense or seems just a tad too opportunist. Instead, they’re supposed to jump up, clap their hands, and chortle in delight that NOW they have found a nice church which “lets” their pets into heaven. Let’s go!

        Maybe not. I read that the sudden announcement that there is no such thing as Purgatory after all made some of the devout start getting skeptical about the whole set up. I suppose the ‘awww… animals’ reaction might not outweigh the ‘hey-wait-a-minute’ reaction.

    1. Or, if you are excommunicated, have you damned your cat to hell for eternity too? Be good little children, or that kitteh you got for Christmas will burn forever!

    2. And I suppose it’s no use asking what happens to homosexual animals?

      Or those cute little bats that caused the Ebola crisis – they didn’t do it with foreknowledge after all – will they be united lovingly with their unintended victims?

      There’s a whole new area of study opening up here – animal theology. Now, someone come up with a clever word for it – an appropriate Latin or Greek prefix for theology.

      1. I truly think the Ebola question is a good one. A maybe pertussis since it’s a bacteria. There’s still some question whether or not viruses are living. Don’t want to give any wiggle room.

      2. No admittance without proof of current STD screening — one more thing Heaven has in common with a San Fernando Valley porn set.

  1. This is the closest the Bible comes, and if anything (though really asked in the form of a question) it seems to indicate animal “spirits” don’t follow human “spirits” at all:

    Ecclesiastes 3:21 Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

        1. Forty years on, coming in the midst of TM, est, the Maharishi — that whole ball of woo-wax — and “Cosmik [sic] Debris” remains, IMHO, the hardest-hitting rock-&-roll take-down of spirit-world nonsense, ever.

  2. Rover’s in heaven: Rover’s owner is in hell. One of the problems of heaven would be the probability that you would be able to see one of your relations or friends in the Place Below. x

      1. I thought Augustine (or Aquinas or somebody) identified that as a feature, not a bug.
        They wouldn’t be there suffering eternal torment unless they really deserved it, so you might as well enjoy the show. Or at least look like you’re enjoying it, because Heaven’s getting crowded and troublemakers may not get to stay for Eternity, you know.

        1. And also the implication that my pets are up there while I’m down below would suggest there is an unimaginably large animal shelter on high for all those orphaned atheist puppehs and kittehs.

        2. Aquinas. Summa Theologica.

          “In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned. … So that they may be urged the more to praise God. … The saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens…to the damned.

          1. Thanks mb, I’d put Augustine and then had doubts. Not that I’ve ever read either of them in extenso, I was turned off by their Amazon reviews.

      2. I have had almost precisely that conversation with my mum (Church Of England), during which she exhibits fear that I’ll be in hell (or at least not in heaven) because atheism etc, while she’s in heaven because Henry VIII or something.

        Ergo, for her, it’s not heaven because her son isn’t there. So there must be an avatar of me there with her? Or maybe this god character is a total bastard? Or something???

        I literally don’t get it. Or want it.

        1. Exactly the kind of thing I was thinking. So does god provide avatars of some sort for our loved ones who are in hell? And our souless pets? And alters our minds so that we think the avatars are the real things? Is that what the pope means? So it’s all an illusion? And I’m supposed to respect that? The concept of heaven seems to be completely untenable unless you are a seriously selfish, sociopathic, decidedly indecent, SOB.

      1. Christopher Hitchens once called puns the lowest form of humor — this, from the man who said the Catholic Church motto should be “no child’s behind left.”

        Carry on.

  3. OK, fleas and other vermin

    but no flowers (give the bees a rest)

    mmmh

    and what about fungi, protoctista…

    is Linneus the AT and Margulis the NT?

  4. This conveniently reconcile evolution and faith. :/ No more questions about when did the soul came to humans. Wise old man.

        1. It’s okay. Only good vegetarian velociraptors who have repented of their carnivorous ways will be in heaven.

            1. I once argued with a Catholic, in an upscale bar in Miami, who had serious issues with gay marriage that he decided to proclaim to me while we were having a drink. After refuting several of his arguments in succession he made a stand with the “it isn’t natural” argument.

              I explained, in moderate tone and voice as he got louder and nearby patrons cast guarded “holy shit” glances our way, that actually he was wrong about that. That there were, in fact, many species other than humans that are known to engage in same-sex sexual activities.

              I wish I would have thought to ask him if he knew whether or not god forgave gay animals.

              1. Yeah. It is so frustrating that so many people can’t see the flaws in such technically poor arguments, even when they are pointed out to them repeatedly, merely because the arguments justify their prejudices. The bigotry is bad enough, and the habit of poor thinking just doubles down on the bad.

  5. Reminds me of a poet’s declaration regarding her canine companion:

    “If there is no God for thee
    Then there is no God for me.”
    Anna Hempstead Branch

    Given that ultimatum, god for all or god for none, what choice did the pope have?

  6. Okay – serious questions:

    Does this open gate to heaven also welcome, along with our beloved pets, the billions of cows, pigs, chickens, and fish (and more!) that we slaughter every year for food?

    Seems a bit dark that we should be sitting side by side with them in heaven after literally murdering and eating them on earth. There’s a pretty hefty penalty if you do that same thing to another person, remember.

    So are we also to understand animal souls as equal to ours because “heaven is open to all creatures”? But then shouldn’t every meat eater be in hell, or at least purgatory? What about carnivores? Or herbivores? Do plants have souls too…?

    Do we have our senses in heaven? Like taste? Will we eat – and will it be meat? What about smells? Will heaven smell like a stable now?

    1. I now have to imagine heaven as a place filled with pigs. Pigs on the streets, pigs in house, pigs in church. Pigs around the table, pigs on the stairs, pigs in bed.

      I mean, in the Netherlands alone (population ~17M) there are at any one time 12M pigs, through the year 20M.

      Muslims will of course have other problems- if they get to go to heaven at all.

    2. Well, maybe they’ll have 5 senses, but (by implication) there is no sex in Christian heaven (unlike Muslim and Mormon heaven).

      As Matthew 22:28-30 says about the woman who was widowed 7 times and had 7 husbands:

      28 Now in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be, since all of them had married her?”

      29 Jesus answered them, “You are mistaken because you don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power, 30 because in the resurrection, people neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven.

    3. I have a Catholic friend who teaches Sunday school and once explained that gives her class on heaven by asking the little children to imagine the BEST THING EVER — and then tells them that “Heaven is even better than that!”

      So given this level of analysis the answer to your all questions are simple:

      1.) Do you really, really like that option?

      a.) if so, then heaven is similar but even better.

      b.) if not, then no, that’s not what heaven will be like.

        1. I’m a bit dim concerning the specifics, but wouldn’t Christianity without Hell more or less be Judaism?

            1. The universal heaven thing.

              If everything goes to heaven then hell would be pretty empty.

              Or maybe I misunderstood. 🙂

              1. Ah.

                By “universal” I meant a definition of heaven that would be universally accepted. If you ask ten people what heaven will be like, you stand a good chance of getting ten incompatible answers.

              2. That clears it up. 🙂

                Yup, it’s the same with god definitions.

                Every flower is unique.

                Unless they’re gay, off course.

    4. This is a great demonstration of the fact that when theologians try to “answer” something, they only compound the questions.

      IMO, heaven would not be heaven at all if I couldn’t enjoy a nice, rare filet mignon every now and then. Maybe cows in heaven are like the cows at The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

  7. Now really, is this Sophisticated Theology

    Well…’ground of being’ doesn’t specify which type of being, does it? 🙂 Could be ceiling cat. Could be Tau Cetians. And if the response is ‘all of them; being refers to all beings, all things,’ then what possible justification can there be for any preference on the deity’s part for special treatment of humans?

    But really, can any rational person not think that this pronouncement borders on lunacy? …What I see is rampant craziness, and I scratch my head when people take the Pope’s pronouncements seriously.

    These pronouncements serve a good purpose for us non-believers, in that they function as a reductio argument. Our evidence for a human afterlife is equivalent to our evidence for a dog or cat afterlife, so rationally they should be accepted with the same amount of weight. The fact that most people find the former reasonable and the latter absurd could be a good example we can use to get people to think abstractly and rationally about their beliefs.

    This is one of to tools/concepts of teaching critical thinking: (1) start with an abstract example or example that the student is not emotionally invested in. (2) Use that example to teach them how to think. (3) Have them apply lesson to example beliefs that the student is emotionally invested in. For most of us, “is an animal afterlife reasonably supported by evidence?” serves as a step 1 example. While we may love our pets and wildlife, most of us are nowhere near as invested in their continued existence as we are invested in our own.

    1. You make a good point, but I suspect that a lot of the people who find Catholicism and other religions plausible don’t really intellectually or emotionally distance themselves from their pets. They anthropomorphise like crazy and may end up believing their pet is literally ‘a member of my family’ and no different than a human child.

      Years ago an advice columnist ran a sad letter by a bereaved mother telling how her son had accidentally killed himself and his entire family by swerving to avoid a dog. “Don’t do that” she wrote — and was shocked by how many hundreds of people wrote to say that no, it was better that human beings die than a dog be hit by a car. Dogs are loyal and obedient and thus better than people.

      Religion tends to turn loyalty and obedience into a fetish.

  8. Just animals? No plants, fungi, protists, prokaryotes? We need the pope to clarify this. And what exactly does he mean by “animal”? Do sponges count? And if sponges, why not choanoflagellates? Or does he just mean cute, cuddly animals like cats and squid?

    1. Years ago Sylvia Brown the so-called ‘psychic’ got into forming her own New Age religion and wrote a lot of sappy books describing her visits to heaven. She reported that there were plenty of cute, cuddly animals — but no nasty bugs.

      Poor entomologists.

  9. Surely it’s only human beings who have a “soul” and thus qualify for heaven?

    I’m reminded of the exasperated response of the Sunday School teacher in the Simpsons: For the last time Bart, the ventriloquist goes to heaven but the dummy doesn’t!

  10. So this now must mean that all animals have souls too. I thought Pope’s were trying to catch up with 19th century science in saying evolution happens but humans are special because we have a soul, Adam being the first one. Now humans are not that special because animals also have souls.

    1. Sheesh, you don’t expect consistency, do you? From a church built on two thousand years of Making Shit Up?

      1. I kind of expect consistency within the words of one human, Pope Francis. You’re right, I should have learned by now.

    2. If animals have souls, the Ten Commandments apply, so we can’t murder them, except of course when Yahweh demands a sacrifice. Look what happened when Cain tried to offer vegetables – no blood, not good enough for Yahweh!

    3. “Now humans are not that special…”

      Yep, looks like Copernicus just made his nut hand on the “river” card…

        1. I consider two cockroaches overrun personally, and if they’re in heaven, I’m glad I’m destined for hell.

  11. How do we know which Pope was right?

    “Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
    That alone should encourage the crew.
    Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
    What i tell you three times is true.”

    From The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll.

  12. Let us pray brothers and sisters…

    “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that my cat, ‘Tiddles’, may dwell in the Cardboard Box of the LORD all the days of his nine lives, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his Box.”

  13. What about the broccoli I nommed last night…I think it deserves a special place besides the temporary stay in my bowels.

      1. Hello Mark, this is unrelated, but do you want to hear the update on the Homo erectus graffiti? I read you might want to use it in a lecture of yours …

          1. Ok. So the shells stem from a dig made in the 1890s and were found in a collection.

            There were indeed some still articulated ones among them, containing sediment, on which they performed the dating, but there was no sediment in the shell with the graffiti itself.

            So yes, you can argue that some Homo sapiens found the shell a few hundred thousand years later, made the engravings, and the shell somehow later ended up at the same site. It’s still a stretch, in my opinion.

            1. Thanks again!
              I see it is still possible that H. erectus drew on this shell, but b/c of its complicated history there will for now be a shadow of doubt about it. I for one will stay interested and hopeful.

  14. As a Catholic friend of mine says, “Of course, animals go to heaven. It wouldn’t be heaven without our pets.” Sheesh.

    1. And the trillions of gut bacteria who have been doing the heavy lifting in our digestive tracts over the years: I for one can’t wait to be reunited with all my pretties!

      1. It’s probably only Catholic animals. I will be in hell with all the Jewish, Hindu, Seik, Pagan, Protestant, etc. animals.

        1. And how does a pet become Catholic? Why, their owners brought them to their church’s Oct 4th Catholic rite of “Blessing of the Animals”. It’s St. Francis’ feast day, and many churches have you bring your pets in for a blessing. (this is for real, I’ve been to some as a kid).

          1. Catholic churches in maritime communities also conduct a “blessing of the fleet” of fishing boats.

            They better let fishing boats in heaven. I mean, I’m hoping the wife & kids get in, too — but no way am I going there without the boat!

  15. When I was about 8 or 9 years of age a priest was talking to us at school one day (catholic primary school) and told us that we would go to heaven but none of our pets would. This upset me greatly as I had recently lost a beloved doggie. So I rushed home to ask my mother – is it TRUE? no dogs in heaven?. I remember she actually hesitated as she doesn’t believe animals go to heaven as she was taught that they don’t have souls and she needed to decide what to tell me. She opted for the easy way and assured me then that they did indeed go to heaven and the priest must have been wrong or that we, the class – I wasn’t the only upset one – may have misunderstood him. I took her word for it as it was what I wanted to believe but this is probably a subject that may lead many children to realise that the narrative about heaven being all sunshine and rainbows isn’t quite up to scratch.

    1. Here’s a joke on that topic:

      An old Irishman went up to a local priest and asked “Father, my beloved dog just died, my only companion for many years. Could you please say a special Mass for him next Sunday?”

      The priest explained that no, dogs did not have souls and it would not be possible to give a Mass for a dog. But feeling sorry to see the elderly man so downcast, he suggested that he go over to one of the local Protestant ministers and try to see if they might do something. After all, Protestants are pretty loose when it comes to theology.

      Cheered, the old man agreed and asked “Might I please ask you another question, if you’d be so kind? I would like to give a monetary token of appreciation for the service and I’m afraid I really know so little about what might be appropriate. Would $10,000 dollars be enough do you think?”

      Whereupon the priest suddenly cried out “Wait — you didn’t tell me your dog was a Catholic!”

  16. I guess this is consistent with the Noah story where he saved some animals while killing every other man, woman and baby on earth.

    How do we know our dog or cat was good enough for heaven? It is confusing. I have a pretty good idea that Bumper (our cat) did some bad things but he is not confessing.

  17. I absolutely love this! This is simply syncretism: the same morphing of Christian and non-Christian beliefs that gave the nod to the Christmas tree, holly, mistletoe, Easter eggs, etc. And at this time of year, too!

  18. It’s the most bizarre thing to stand in the sidelines watching as they clearly just make it up as they go along.

    You look around, aghast, pointing at the Pope saying “You see this don’t you? You see what they are doing, right?”

    While billions of our fellow man shrug and say “What’s the problem? Seems legit to me.”

    Which is why atheists must commiserate sometimes, to reassure ourselves that we aren’t the only ones seeing this; that at least the entire world isn’t nuts.

  19. The two classic rhetorical questions used to be “Do bears sh*t in the woods” and “Is the pope a Catholic?” Both were self-evident truths. However, we do now seriously have to ask- is the current pope actually a Catholic? Or is he just making it up as he goes along?

    1. Kevin Kline can play him in the biopic.

      Along the same lines, I was wondering: Francis is not trolling Catholicism, but, if here were, how would that look any different?

    2. The Magisterium of the Church is what separates Catholicism from the Protestant sects. So yes, he is making stuff up as he goes along, just like all the Popes before him. The sophisticated word for “making things up as you go along” is revelation.

    3. “… is the current pope actually a Catholic? Or is he just making it up as he goes along?”

      You ask that as if the two were ever in contradiction. Antinomian, they are not.

  20. I have always maintained that an afterlife without Dawgs is no place I want to go. Now I suppose I’ll have to see about becoming a catholic.

    1. My cousin in the early 2000s had a dog that was very very gay. So I definitely want to know what the pope thinks about that!!!

      The pope was apparently not speaking “ex cat</em?thedra" so I guess this isn't fixed dogma.

  21. The Pope has jumped the shark, and will have an eternity to perfect this skill since sharks will be in heaven too.

  22. I have to chuckle at Sophisticated Theology™.

    It seems to me the more sophisticated the theology, the less point there is in worshipping the god. I mean, really, does an ineffable ground of being give a damn about me or what I believe?

    People like Karen Armstron think they are so much smarter than the peons with their personal god, but in reality they are too stupid to even recognize that they have just talked themselves out of the entire point of believing in a god.

    1. Exactly. And to Jerry’s point, the last thing Francis is is Sophisticated™ – he is specifically making the kind of non-metaphorical truth claim that the ST’s claim no religious person ever makes. If the ST’s were smart, they would ridicule the idea of actual dogs in actual heaven – but they are willfully not smart. They craven, greedy rump osculators (another WEIT epithet worthy of trademark).

      1. I would ask them – on what basis would they exclude animals from heaven? Because humans have self-awareness and moral responsibility, and animals don’t? But then what about the existence of highly intelligent animals, or conversely, unfortunate humans who are cognitively impaired? If capacity to cogitate is not the relevant criterion for acceptance, then by what non-arbitrary means would the sophisticated ones exclude all non-human animals from heaven?

        1. All dogs go to Heaven, except Hitler’s dog.

          And the Littlest Hobo, for stealing from that cancer charity to feed his crack habit.

          And Hooch, for burning down that orphanage.

    2. From what I’ve gathered from reading Armstrong she does not and would not sneer at the “peons with their personal god.” Nor would she ever argue that they misunderstand God, or heaven, or the status of pets in the afterlife.

      On the contrary, she thinks the simple faith, rituals, and beliefs of the ordinary believer is a lovely, lovely thing and when worship is humble and loving then this is very close to what God really “is.” The more intellectual you are — the more ‘sophisticated’ you are — then the less effective your approach to God.

      My guess is that Armstrong would probably applaud the Pope’s strategy and attitude, in that he is helping people feel closer to God. The details don’t matter.

      I feel like we need a score card. There’s “Sophisticated Theology” which uses theological scholarship to reject childish beliefs as false … and then there’s “Sophisticated Theology” which uses scholarship to embrace all beliefs as partial truths, with the childlike faith of the fervent believers given credit for understanding God. Armstrong is the latter. The Catholic theologians playing clean-up on aisle F are the former.

  23. Commenter $G notes above it feels like Francis is trying to keep the kiddies interested; I would say lonely old ladies, but same difference.

    For all of the Xtian rap about the sins of the material world, every new detail that gets added to heaven makes it more mundane, as in earth-like. The four-year-old with the book last year saw Jesus on a rainbow pony. Apparently there are paved streets but they’re really nice ones. There’s banquets and lots of music.

    I hope Francis keeps it up with the sappy bullshznit. The Millennials are the generation they are losing, and outdated campy nonsense would I expect be almost as much of a turn-off to them as the pedophilia, sexual repression and silly rituals. This is a gift to the rational cause.

    If one did wish to pander to the twenty something’s, why not promise free wifi, no more dropped calls and the promise that one can grow the ironic facial hair that they can’t quite achieve in this life?

    Or, less facetiously, how about sanctifying action on earth – the supposed ticket to heaven – in terms the younger generation would find plausible: saving the environment, ending discrimination, generally extending social justice, and so on. I’m glad it’s a celebrate old man crafting the Church’s message and not the evil geniuses on Madison Avenue: it can only help to make religion that much less relevant to the good people they need most.

  24. When the Pope says that dogs, cats, iguanas, and frogs will be “in” heaven, he obviously can’t mean their physical bodies will be present there. So is he saying that animals have something akin to a soul?

    Also, as we know, complex life forms are often hosts for a whole plethora of other life forms. If doggie has a parasite, is the tapeworm coming too? What about all the gut fauna that we harbor?

    Sometimes there seems to be little difference between the conclusions of sophisticated theology and the musings of a three year old.

    1. Of course they don’t have souls. Humans were endowed with souls which allow us to go to Heaven. The animals in Heaven are the animals we want there, our beloved pets, the fowl that we eat, the wildlife we enjoy observing. Each person gets his own slice of heaven complete with the animals he or she would like to have there. Meanwhile, your friends can have mutually exclusive experiences while standing directly next to you. Not standing in the sense that I’d say the Pope has any standing or a tree stands, but standing as in the reason anything can stand at all.

      Wow, theology is easy.

      1. Sounds like heaven will be top-heavy in majestic mega-fauna. Where will they keep the supporting food-chain, earth? As both Napoleon and Hitler learned the hard way, be very wary of overextending supply lines.

  25. And when I thought the Pope could not get any more absurd…I have a feeling he is ignoring the fact that the vast majority of animals are microscopic invertebrates…do they go to heaven too?

  26. Dogs will go to Heaven; Cats will go to Hell.

    Jerry will regard this as consistent with Mark Twain’s advice: Go to Heaven for the climate; go to Hell for the company.

  27. The Pope may be thinking of material resurrection following Judgment Day – the notion that the graced are brought bodily into a physical paradise, with all the best they experienced of life, and none of the difficulties (so you never hunger, but you do get to eat all the foods you ever loved, etc.); I believe Orthodox Jews and Muslims still believe a similar notion. But this hasn’t been doctrinal position of the Roman Church for centuries, has it? After all, it’s wholly incompatible with the description of the afterlife discussed by Aquinas, which I always took to be mainstream Roman theology since the Middle Ages….

    Or the Pope may simply selling a bill of goods for the sentimental.

    Well, I sure hope god resurrects my ’91 Pontiac Grand Am, it was great car….

    1. I’ll tell you what HELL is: Getting socked in by bad weather for two weeks in a time-share cabin with a pre-tribulation Premillennialist, a post-tribulation Premillennialist, and a Postmillennialist, all of them hard-shell, who are intent on hashing through the fine filigree of their baroque eschatological differences, at maximum volume, before “vacation” time is over. That is hell.

  28. Elvis would be glad to know! [Search youtube for “Elvis Presley Old Shep.”]

    Relevant line: “If dogs have a heaven, there’s one thing I know: Old Shep has a wonderful home!”

  29. Is this new policy retroactive? Will all pets, livestock, etc. who were excluded from glory by previous popes now be welcomed in?

  30. The good news is that good dogs can go to heaven. The bad news is that licking your own genitals is a sin.

    That’s going to cause some awkward conversations at the Pearly Gates.

  31. Is the Pope becoming the “Pat Robertson” of Catholicism; one inane statement after another making his followers wince, while they know they can’t dislodge him from his position of authority?

  32. *All* animals?

    You mean even in heaven I’m still going to have to deal with house centipedes (S. coleoptrata) scurrying across my feet in the middle of the night?!

    1. Silly, insects aren’t animals.

      I think we probably need to consult preschoolers in order to understand the Pope’s position better.

  33. Both popes are correct, of course.

    If you see an irreconcilable contradiction between their pronouncements you just need to crank your Nuance and Sophistication Modulator™ up to eleven. Or however high it needs to be for you to perceive that what they’re saying is not actually what they’re saying.

  34. Well, now I’m going to hold out hope that there are potatoes in heaven. I was told as a child when I asked if we could eat potatoes there that we don’t need food when we get there.

    Wait, wait, I’m getting a revelation..yes, there are potatoes there! And steak! Though this is throwing a wrench into bovine paradise…I’ll get back to you…

  35. Why not reactivate Limbo and zone it “pet friendly” — the way The Pentagon repurposes military surplus?

  36. I take it that the Pope does not read the Bible?

    Revelation 22:15 (speaking of the heavenly Jerusalem): “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”

    When I believed this crap (I’m a d*g hater), and someone would point out that the word is used metaphorically, I used to respond “you take what you want literally; I’ll take what I want literally.”

    Now, though, I’m just being snarky.

  37. That was the first brick in the wall built between me and religion, when my grandmother told me that, no, there are not animals in heaven. I was maybe 5, and as far as I was concerned, that was a bit of a deal-breaker. so, to misquote Mark Twain, Hell for climate, and society!

  38. Sorry, I’m still not clear on this. Is it all pets? Or just those that receive Last Rites and say a good Act of Contrition?

    1. Will the Pope have St. Bernards (the dog breed, not the canonized homo sapien) fitted with Extreme Unction Kits, so they can rush to the aid of their fellow pets when time draws nigh, the way they bring a flagon of brandy to avalanche victims in the Alps?

  39. This latest hilarious revelation of the Pope’s is totally in keeping with the Middle Ages insanity – in which animals were commonly put on trial and executed for their crimes!
    “On September 5, 1379, two herds of pigs at a French monastery grew agitated and killed a man named Perrinot Muet. As was custom at the time, the pigs — the actual murderers and those that had simply looked on — were tried for their horrible crime, and sentenced to death. You see, with their “cries and aggressive actions,” the onlookers “showed that they approved of the assault,” and mustn’t be allowed to escape justice.” http://www.wired.com/2014/09/fantastically-wrong-europes-insane-history-putting-animals-trial-executing/
    History is coming back to snap at us, for if animals can be held responsible for their crimes, they can also go to heaven for their good deeds. Logical,isn’t it?

    1. “…the Pope’s is totally in keeping with the Middle Ages insanity…”

      Well then, can the selling of indulgences be far off? This time around, can we play puts-and-calls with out immortal souls, go short or long, make a market in some exotic indulgence derivatives, hedging our bets against burning in hell anyway?

      Blaise Pascal never had to contend with wagering this complicated.

      1. Maybe even Pope Francis is embarrassed by the memory of the Middle Ages madness of his Church and is now backtracking furiously to compensate? If Blaise Pascal knew that animals would all go to heaven, one wonders if he would still have wagered. Because if even animals (those lowly creatures over which we have dominion) go to heaven, we’re all going to heaven. Saved in spite of ourselves. Comforting, n’est-ce pas?

  40. Given I’m female, I could not be the Pope. But if I were male and I could..I would not bother too much about the furry cat and cuddly dog version of theology in order to make the church more accessible. I would bother about recruitment of priests though.

    There aren’t enough of them in training. The solution here is to take away the enforced celibacy rule to open the job up to normal heterosexual males. Also open up the priesthood to women and (openly practicing) gays and bisexuals.

    This all makes a good deal of sense. It would enlarge the catchment groups for priests in training and improve the prospects of certain groups becoming involved in declining church congregations in the first place.

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