Answer by Rory Young:
Firstly, we need to clarify both “religious” and “spiritual”.
According to wiktionary the word comes from(“I bind back or behind”) and from + (“I choose, select; collect, gather”).
There are four meanings for the noun “religion:
1. “The belief in and worship of acontrolling power, especially a or gods”. I think we can exclude gorillas from this form of religion.
2. “A particular system ofand “. I think this can also be excluded for gorillas.
3. “The way of life committed to byand “. Nope, not really gorilla behaviour.
4. Any practice that someone or some group is seriouslyto. Ah! Here we loop back to the origins of the word religion. Yes, I do believe then that this could fit with gorilla behaviour. Let’s examine this further.
I recently read a review (see) of a new book written by primatologist . (sorry it will take me a while to get hold of a copy of the book itself).
The book’s title is, ““. As the article explains, Frans de Waal argues that we believe in God because we are moral rather than we are moral because we believe in God. In other words morality has evolved over time as we have.
De Waal says, “there is little evidence that other animals judge the appropriateness of actions that do not directly affect themselves, yet, in their behavior, we recognize the same values we pursue ourselves.
“I take these hints of community concern as a sign that the building blocks of morality are older than humanity, and we don’t need God to explain how we got to where we are today,” he writes.
As you can see, we keep getting back to that raw definition (number 4) of what religion is. So, morality, community, binding… Being “religious” is not dependent on a belief in God.
Now let’s leap forward to today and look at a new and extremely interesting religion called Syntheism. (See).
Syntheism also fits this definition number four. Furthermore, it does NOT meet the requirements of 1, 2 or 3! So, if Syntheists are religious then so are gorillas! There are other ancient religions that also do not fit into the mainstream expectation for religiosity. Look at
Now let’s look at “spiritual”.lacks a definition but here is what wikipedia says:”social scientists have defined spirituality as the search for “the ,” where “the sacred” is broadly defined as that which is set apart from the and worthy of veneration”.
To answer this question let’s return to the article reviewing de Waal’s new book; “Some say animals are what they are, whereas our own species follows ideals, but this is easily proven wrong,” de Waals writes. “Not because we don’t have ideals, but because other species have them too.”
I don’t want to steal the well-deserved thunder of either de Waal or(who wrote the article) so will stop there as the point is made. For further evidence, read the article or the book.
Lastly, the question clearly says “belief”. I believe gorillas are true. They are not which many would argue is purely an invention of the ancient Egyptians. I would also like to point out that the term “moral” is pretty much accepted as a “religious” term itself denoting good and evil. I prefer the pragmatic “what works and doesn’t work’ of ethics. In this too the gorillas are true.