Religion is like a cow
Posted by lisagbrown on August 6, 2007
The Brighton Allston Congregational Church has an outdoor bulletin board on which they post inspirational phrases, presumably to attract new churchgoers. This week the board reads:
“Religion is like a cow … It kicks, but it gives milk too.”
It is difficult to find meaning in this nonsensical phrase, but I’ll go out on a limb. The assumption is that religion, like a cow, is available for human use. Learn to use religion properly and it will provide you with sustenance, but it can also provoke painful self-reflection. The cow can be utilized for milk production, but can inflict damage as well. Most important in this confusing message is the complicated relationship between a cow — a living, breathing, thinking, feeling, self-motivated being — and religion — an inert, anthropogenic tool. They are presented as equivalent methods of human progress, yet they could not be further apart. A cow is a unique individual who exists whether or not she is used as a product by humans. Religion is a generalized concept that can not exist without humans.
The author may have simply been seeking a smart turn of phrase to grab attention and was probably trying to reveal more about religion than about cows. However, this is a great example of how cultural assumptions about animals (as utilitarian tools) can hide in the most obscure places.