by Quentin Long
©2008 Quentin Long
For better or worse, religion is one of the defining characteristics of human civilization. Pretty much every human culture has had some sort of organized belief system, be it simple or complex, with numbers of gods ranging from 1 up to indefinitely large (or even, in some rare cases, no true gods at all), and with a variety of different flavors of the afterlife concept. As one might expect, many Believers think that the universality of religious belief is evidence that a god or gods actually existbecause if there wasnt any god or gods, why would Belief be anywhere near as widespread as it is?
Theres at least one fairly obvious response to this argument, namely: Since all known Believers are members of the species Homo sapiens, the universality-among-humans of religious Belief is no more indicative of God than, say, the universality-among-humans of breathing oxygen. Under this view, Belief is a thing thats more-or-less hardwired into the human brain, in much the same way as pattern recognition. Indeed, Belief itself can be considered to be nothing more than overzealous pattern recognition in action; just as we can look at clouds in the sky and see elephants and fire engines and so forth, so can we look at the world around us and see god(s).
As one might expect, again, Believers are not at all likely to buy into the concept of hardwired Belief. But lets suppose, for the sake of argument, that this notion is valid. If so, it follows that non-human sentients, such as anthropopmorphized animals, may very well not have anything analogous to the human tropism towards Beliefor, if they do Believe, their Belief could manifest itself in ways very much unlike the Belief-manifestations we can observe in humans.
For instance, take so-called near-death experiences (NDE, for short). In many cases, NDEs have been described as involving motion through a dark space towards a rather bright destinationand it has not escaped skeptics notice that moving through darkness towards a bright light could also be a description of what happens to a baby during the physical process of birth. If birds had NDEs, would theirs involve some sort of slowly-shrinking prison out of which one breaks under ones own power? And how about kangaroos and other marsupialswould such a species NDEs involve a journey through an inhospitably bright and cold land to reach the safety of a buried paradise?
Another example: Humans are a textbook example of the so-called K strategy of reproduction, in which one produces a limited number of offspring and invests significant levels of time and resources to granting each individual offspring a decent chance of surviving to adulthood. Thus, human parents can and do provide for their childrens needs and God, from whom all blessings flow, can be thought of as the Ultimate K-Strategy Parent.
But not all species are K strategists; there are also R strategists, species that generate massive quantites of offspring, invest little or no energy/resources in raising any of them, and more-or-less depend on their ability to outbreed whatever might kill them. To an R-strategy species, would God be an impersonal, indifferent entity whose worshippers feel they must rely on themselves rather than It?
Christianity makes much of Christs birth from a virginbut there are species for which virgin birth (see also: parthenogenesis) is a mundane, everyday sort of thing. Its a pretty good bet that such species arent going to include virgin birth as an item on their Godly checklist so what other items would appear on said checklist? For that matter, mightnt a parthenogenetic species be less likely to accept Christianity on that basis alone?
Harking back to NDEs, how might a species religious tendencies in general be affected by the physical details of its reproductive process?
The point of all this: If you want to write a story about furries and faith, you have a lot more options available to you than just saddling your characters with some (perhaps disguised) pre-existing human religion. And even if you do choose to stick with some religion that was invented by humans, its not at all unlikely that your characters version of that faith could be anywhere from heterodox to outright heretical, as far as the mothership is concerned!