In 1996 the Indian government announced the intention to ban the slaughter of cows which are worshipped by Hindus as a symbol of life. The Hindu regard for cobras is less well-known. Despite the fact that the cobra is responsible for many deaths each year in India, it is regarded with religious awe and seldom killed. Some American Indian tribes considered the horse, the buffalo, the eagle and the wolf as sacred, and have been affected culturally by their disappearance.
There is nothing logically inconsistent with supposing cows or cobras to be sacred. Hinduism is far from being the only religion to regard selected animals as specially sacred or specially unclean.
When various religions are compared, they do not agree about which animals are special. A Hindu incurs sin by eating beef, because cows are divine. Meanwhile, a Jew or Moslem can eat cows because they are not, but eating pork is bad because pigs are unclean. In Ancient Egypt, each county regarded a different animal as sacred, and one easy way to insult neighbors was to eat their sacred animal. In other words, if there is any objective truth underlying most world religions, the rules about sacred and unclean animals are not part of that truth.
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