I still remember the first time that I asked my parents, “Do animals go to heaven?” I was 6-years-old and my cat, Snowy, had just been hit by the neighbor’s car. My family wasn’t overly religious, but, we still performed a quick burial service for our beloved pet. It was one of my first brushes with mortality and it had a profound impact on my young soul.

As I looked at the patch of earth that was now the final resting place for my best friend in the whole world, I looked up at my parents with tear-filled eyes and asked them:

“Is Snowy in heaven now? Do you think I will see her again?”

Like many parents, my mom and dad weren’t interested in delving into the philosophical aspects of life after death – especially when they sensed that my brother and I just needed some emotional support. So, they told me, “Of course Snowy is in heaven. In fact, I’m sure that she’s with grandma right now… sitting on her lap and purring.”

And, that was that. I accepted their explanation without question and, for the next 15 years, didn’t think about the question of whether animals go to heaven.

Then, in university, after our family dog, a Siberian Husky called Buddy, died of cancer, I found myself questioning what happens to animals after they die. Do animals even have souls and, if so, do they go to heaven?

Over the next few months, I plan on asking this exact question to some of the world’s top theologians and religious leaders. But, for now, I would like to take a more philosophical approach to answering the question of whether animals go to heaven.

Here are 3 reasons to believe in the afterlife for animals that do not relate to specific religious teachings.

Animals Are More than Furry Robots

It should be clear to anyone that has ever owned a dog or a cat that they are more than simple automatons.

To one degree or another, all animals are conscious. Even the most basic creatures, like insects, are able to interact with their environments through programmed behaviors.

More advanced animals, like dogs, are capable of simple planning. They have highly developed memories. And, most importantly, they are social creatures that are capable of a wide range of emotions.

If you are reading this article, chances are you are not a believer in materialism. If you were, you would likely believe that even our thoughts, emotions and moral instincts are a function of the activity in our brains.

But, if you believe that the concept of the soul is necessary to explain everything that humans are capable of, why would the same not be true for animals? And, if animals do have souls, why would you assume that they have a different destination than our souls? Would it not be logical that all souls, regardless of how “advanced” are eternal?

Once again, I’m not trying to step on any theological toes here. If there is a God, he, of course, has complete control over the destiny of all souls. But, given everything that I have experienced in this world, I find it hard to believe that he would simply throw away something as precious as the soul of one of his creatures… even if that soul was not human in its origin.

Would Heaven Be Heaven Without Life in All its Forms?

As representatives of the world’s many religions, our views of the afterlife vary greatly. Some of us view heaven as a physical place. Others see it more as a state of consciousness or spiritual connection with the divine.

But, regardless of how we view the afterlife, most of us hope that we are reunited with the people that we love “on the other side.” After all, would heaven truly be heaven without our loved ones by our side?

I would argue that most people feel the same about the animals that have touched their lives. If it is possible for other beings to make an impression on our souls, then our animals have surely done so more times than we can count. Heaven just wouldn’t be heaven without them.

God Loves Life in All its Forms… Why Would He Exclude it From Heaven?

Like many people, I have often struggled with the question of how to build a relationship with God in a world that is separated from his physical presence. Of course, many people find answers in scriptures and sermons. But, what about the rest of us?

I have always found the most compelling answer to this question to be “Just look around you!”

Seriously, think about it for a second. If you want to know God’s plan – in so far as a mortal mind can comprehend it – why not look at his creation? I’m not talking about the polluted, corrupt world that humans have created. I’m talking about the world of life and limestone, evolution and ethics.

I personally find it difficult to believe that God would put such a high priority on creating a diversity of life here on Earth to exclude 99.9999999999% of his creations from heaven. Is it possible? Of course! But, picturing heaven without Earth’s bounty just doesn’t feel right in my soul. Does it feel right in yours?

At the end of the day, the question of whether animals go to heaven is a matter of personal belief. I choose to believe in a heaven that is filled with life in all of its forms. What do you believe?

How would you answer the question, “Do animals go to heaven?” Why? Do you hope that you will see your long-lost pets when you die?