It seems that many people in the secular community share my love of animals, so I compiled a list of reasons why atheists, in particular, love their furry, scaly, feathery, creepy, crawly companions.
1. Animals will never, ever tell you that you are going to hell.
The complete lack of judgment makes their company instantly appealing. You can work on your Muhammad portraits while eating Doritos, watching porn, and lighting your workspace with six hundred and sixty six burning Bibles. Fido doesn't care.
2. Animals are atheists, too!
They don't need forgiveness and hate fasting. Naps are a completely appropriate replacement for prayer.
3. We like having live-in reminders of evolution.
Isn't it interesting how much paws look like hands and fins look like wings? And why is it that fish and reptiles are cold-blooded and have scales? Why does the parakeet look more like a tyrannosaurus than my boa constrictor? In daily observations of our animals, we can see just how much we have in common with them and how much in common they may have with each other.
4. Interacting with animals improves our communication skills and conflict resolution.
You can't just politely ask your cat to stop swatting everything off of your dresser. You have to understand the creatures you live with and play by their rules to achieve the desired result. "Bad" behaviors and "good" behaviors are sometimes innate and sometimes require tenacity, patience, and acceptance. Pets remind us that the world doesn't work on our terms, and sometimes, we have to become creative with our solutions.
5. Every day is full of surprises.
You never know what you are going to see, hear, or smell, and you never know if it is going to be adorable or catastrophic, or a sadistic twist of the two, like finding your german shepherd and kitten curled up together in a bed of shredded upholstery.
6. Sharing a living space with animals allows us to demonstrate a blatant disregard for superstitions.
There is an actual belief that black dogs and black cats are somehow related to witches and vampires, as well as the well-known ability of cats to suck the breath from babies. And then, of course, keeping snakes is rather dangerous. They are full of terrible suggestions, I'm told, and very persuasive.
7. We want to help care for our fellow earthlings.
The exchange of trust and companionship makes all the work worthwhile. Forming relationships with animals other than humans and expecting nothing in exchange aside from the pleasure of their company is rewarding.
8. Communing with your animals makes more sense than communing with an invisible entity.
Prayers or pettings? Both have been shown to help with stress, but atheists prefer something more tangible. Petting our dogs, cats, snakes, squirrels, ducks, turtles, or whatever else we may have is one of the ways we relax and recover.
9. They ward off unwanted visitors.
Jehovah's witness knocking at your door? If you don't have a dog to bark at them, then perhaps you and your pet scorpion, Stabby, could hazard a greeting.
10. Love from pets is absolutely and completely unconditional.
They don't love you as long as you follow a list of rules, or as long as you pet them five times a day while facing toward their food bowl. Affection from a pet is genuine and completely free of pretense or obligation.
11. Enthusiasm for our pets helps us to connect to the rest of the non-secular world.
Who doesn't love kittens and puppies? No matter who you are or what you believe, the good and well-intended people of the world are easily identified as ones who care for those who cannot care for themselves, including animals.
Photo credit for scorpion: www.cutehomepets.com
Photo credit for cat under ladder: http://cruelladekill.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/blackcat.jpg