"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." King James Bible, Genesis 1:1:26–27

There is some dispute about what 'the image of God' means, but in Christian iconology it has often been taken literally, like in Sistine Chapel ceiling's depiction of the creation of Adam.

In Ancient Greek religion the Gods are described principally as having human form, like The Statue Of Zeus at Olympia, which was listed as one of the original Seven Wonders.

In Hindu thought many deities like Shiva are depicted in human firms, though Hanuman is not.

In Chinese culture, both the heavenly kingdom and the underworld of the human dead are depicted as images of the state, populated largely by anthropomorphic figures.

We as humans, largely then seem to give God or Gods human-like forms, but with divine abilities. How might animals think of God? Will they think God is made in their image, or something else? Are there examples of behaviour we can say is religious-like among any animals?

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    The Greek and Roman tradition as representing the gods as fully human is unusual. Most gods were depicted as animals or monsters. I don't think any Christian theology has ever thought that "the image of God" was to be taken literally. Iconography is necessarily symbolic and therefore often anthropomorphic. You are conflating iconography with visualization. Give a sculptor the job of representing a god and what is he going to do? He has to come up with something. That's no evidence that the population already thought of the god that way before the sculptor represented it. Apr 18, 2022 at 16:15
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    The earliest mythology we have of gods strongly implies that they are not human-like at all. Early gods of mythology are things like the earth, sky, sun, wind, and sea--the most awesome and powerful things people experienced. Anthropomorphization seems to have been a later addition that accompanied the rise of art. Apr 18, 2022 at 16:18
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    "How might animals think of God?" They don't, as far as we know.
    – armand
    Apr 19, 2022 at 3:21
  • Animals may not have a concept like "God", but here is an example of an ancient philosopher using this thought-experiment to argue for skepticism about human gods: Xenophanes famously insists that all conceptions of the gods are anthropomorphic and culturally contingent (DK 21B14, B15). The Ethiopians pray to gods who look like Ethiopians, the Thracians to gods who look like Thracians (B16). If horses and cows had hands, the horses would draw pictures of gods that look like horses, and the cows would draw gods as cows (B15).
    – Hypnosifl
    Apr 20, 2022 at 3:53

1 Answer 1



To ensure a philosophical distinction, thought is often strongly anchored to the notion of language use and production. Philosophers, such as Rene Descartes, have used this fact to claim that animals are automatons, and not conscious. Modern philosophers of mind, of course, pay attention to cognitive science which provides a body of work that substantiates claims that consciousness is one of degree.

While animals probably experience being in the moment, what one might call physical existence much like us, they simply are according to modern science lacking the neurological structures to have and use language. The closest to technical claim of truth to animals using language, in the strict sense defined by linguists, is that some our Great Ape cousins can use sign systems. Koko the gorilla is a famous example.

What is the difference between a language and a sign system? The primary way to tell the difference is the question of whether or not the system has a grammar particularly a sophisticated syntax. Gorillas can make very simple propositions, but they seemingly simply don't have the brain structures to make more complicated claims about abstractions like God and cosmogony.

We as a human give God human like form with divine abilities but how do animals think of God. Do they think God is made in their image or something else?

As such, they simply don't seem to give such topics thought, and may be neurologically incapable of doing so.

  • Great cartoon I saw once -- "why cats do not have organized religion". 5 cats, each with a thought bubble: "I am God". ;->
    – Dcleve
    Apr 18, 2022 at 17:23
  • @Dcleve lol That about sums up the behavior of cats. The science behind that is fascinating. I read an article that according to fMRI research, after 10,000 years, dogs have been bred to be anxious in the absence of people, whereas cats and wolves are still decidedly independent of humans psychologically. Any conclusions drawn about attachment and owners can be left to the inquiring mind.
    – J D
    Apr 19, 2022 at 14:36
  • My cats have all strongly bonded to the family, and about half of them have been remarkably emotionally dependent on human attention and companionship. They are clearly unhappy if they don't get a LOT of time getting pet/played-with/sitting on laps. The psychology of "I am God" is manifested in their demands of their human servants to provide this... The evolved/independent/non-pack nature of cats makes this emotional need for companionship with another species mysterious to me. Humans are not filling a psychological niche other cats filled in the wild, as with dogs.
    – Dcleve
    Apr 19, 2022 at 15:31
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    :D You are the most articulate of cat proponents I have met, kind sir. I question any relationship, however, whose emotional dynamic might be described with clinical narcissism. I didn't tolerate "I am God" from my ex-wife, so I'd be skeptical of it with a cat. On the other hand, I have a Great Pyrene who tried to throw himself at a Ford F-150 to protect me and my 6 year old. I shovel his poop, and he goes to the mat. Isn't reciprocation a better basis for relationships? ; ) As always, a pleasure.
    – J D
    Apr 20, 2022 at 15:09
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    Lol @Dcleve I'd make no claim other than I find that arrangement far more tolerable in pets than marriage partners. To each his own, I say.
    – J D
    Apr 21, 2022 at 16:15

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