Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dogs don't sin

A while back, against my better judgement, I let myself participate in a really stupid conversation about religion, on a dog blog. (Terrierman's, if you must know. Hence I don't read it anymore.)

Now normally I try not to dwell on things, because it's bad for me, but I keep being mesmerized by one particular moment. I said that dogs don't need communion because they don't sin, and Terrierman said "how would you know?" or something to that effect.

I'm mesmerized because it's self-evident that dogs don't sin. At least I should think so. I think it's much more self-evident than "all men are equal in rights", which we can plainly see is just utopia. Whereas dogs, obviously, don't sin. And yet, because it's so self-evident, it becomes somewhat challenging to explain why dogs don't sin.

Or, maybe not.

Dogs don't sin because sin is a human invention. Likewise dogs don't have money because money is a human invention, and they don't sing dodecaphonic music because dodecaphonic music is a human invention. But to take a more scripturally-based approach to the answer, it's like this: sin, the original sin, was that man ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I haven't pondered, or asked my pastor, exactly which is the sin: disobeying God (unknowingly), or acquiring the knowledge of Good and Evil. I think it's the latter.

In the Tao Te Ching it says, and it's obvious when you think about it, that we name "good" only by opposition to "bad", "short" by opposition to "long", and so on. I think the concept of the Tree of Good and Evil is a way of saying that good and bad are only as we make them so, by our perception. Before we ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, nothing seemed to us either good or evil, and also we had no sin. Sin, apparently, is what happens when we decide to call some things "evil" and others "good".

Dogs don't sin because, metaphorically, they didn't eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and more literally, because they don't think in terms of good and evil. They seek out what feels good, and they feel good about the rest as they get it. Sunbeam: good. No sunbeam: also good. Rain: also good. Food: good. Home-cooked food: good. Rotting carcass on the ground: good. Other dog: good. Smelling other dog's butt: good. Dog fight: also good. They're not at all concerned with the notion of "evil" and knowing the difference between good and evil. They just maximize their comfort and minimize their discomfort. If you're religious, they're doing exactly as God intended, without knowledge of Good and Evil, therefore they have no sin. And if you're not religious, you don't believe in sin, therefore dogs have no sin.

So I'm still mesmerized that someone would ask "what makes you think dogs don't sin?" But as to how I know, well, now you know.


Megan said...

My understanding of the Fall of Man story is that disobeying God was the sin. It's pride, really: the serpent tells the woman that if she eats the fruit, she will become like God.

Mongoose said...

I think if that was the case, then only snakes and women would have sin. Adam didn't disobey God. On the contrary, he trusted the helper that God made for him. So why would men have sin? I think the disobedience theory was popularized because it's easier to understand, and to keep people under the religious leaders' thumb.

In any case, since I'm a Lutheran, I can read it according to my own understanding. Being a Lutheran is great that way. :)