Understanding Dead Worms Without God

At work (the job I actually have to leave my house to do, the part time computer-y one), my supervisor has a habit of quoting the Bible.  Not in a churchy way, if you can believe that. For example, in an email, he mentioned he was asking for some piece of computer gear from our IT guy, and I jokingly replied with “ask for a wireless mouse for me!” as I’m left handed and share my desk with a rightie, and every time I come in to the office I have to rearrange furniture for 10 minutes to get it right  er, correct. The next day I come into work and POOF there on my desk is a wireless mouse. I email him to say thanks, and say “I suppose if I don’t ask, I don’t get!”. He replies with two choice pieces of Scripture relating to asking and receiving and a big smiley face, and a “you’re welcome”. So, appropriate and not terribly churchy, as far as I’m concerned.

Five – ten years ago, I would have been ridiculously offended by this. Like, ridiculously.

But these days? Not so much. My supervisor is a good guy. He believes in a Christian God and I know he attends church and Bible study and has a set of beliefs that he lives his life in accordance with. And I think that’s awesome.

A while back I took out a book from the library called Parenting Beyond Belief  by Dale McGowan. It was a great book, composed of a number of articles touching on some sensitive subjects, and really gave me food for thought. Here’s a description of the book, that I snitched off Amazon:

In Parenting Beyond Belief, Dale McGowan celebrates the freedom that comes with raising kids without formal indoctrination and advises parents on the most effective way to raise freethinking children. With advice from educators, doctors, psychologists, and philosophers as well as wisdom from everyday parents, the book offers tips and insights on a variety of topics, from “mixed marriages” to coping with death and loss, and from morality and ethics to dealing with holidays. Sensitive and timely, Parenting Beyond Belief features reflections from such freethinkers as Mark Twain, Richard Dawkins, Bertrand Russell, and wellness guru Dr. Don Ardell that will empower every parent to raise both caring and independent children without constraints.

Today, when out for a walk, we came across a dead worm. We were babysitting Kale’s slightly older friend, and the friend’s cognitive ability is obviously more advanced, and so when I said “Kale, don’t eat that, it’s a dead worm” and casually retrieved it out of his mouth and held it out for him to look at and pointed out how we could tell it was dead (the squished guts coming out, the dark brown and dried end) and then placed the worm corpse on the grass, Kale’s friend asked “is it dead?” and I said “yes, it is” and he said “oh” and I could see Kale trying on this new word in his brain – D E A D. I momentarily panicked that Kale’s friend would ask me more questions about the dead worm clarifying why it was dead, what would happen to it now that it was dead, et cetera. But Kale’s friend was already off and going and Kale had already forgotten about it too. Phew.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t be having a conversation like this soon, and I’ll need to be prepared to talk about what happens to the Dead Thing now that it is Dead. I personally don’t believe much does happen, at least in the way of people. You die, you are prepared for a ceremonial send off either by embalming or burning, and then you are placed in some sort of receptacle and then entombed either in the ground or perhaps in some sort of large retaining wall covered in small drawers with brass plaques. Your physical self does not contribute to the ecology like a dead worm does – we humans are probably too toxic to be of much good to the soil for that to be a good idea anyway – but that whole “heaven” thing? Well, I don’t really subscribe. Death is an eventual reality of being alive, and not much more.

So the book I took out of the library gave me some ammunition for when that time comes when Kale asks me what happens to the Dead Thing. And, it also gave me some good ammunition for when someone else’s child asks me. When I felt like a deer in headlights today, worried that Kale’s friend would ask me a question I’m not sure is right for me to answer, I quickly scanned my mind for a suitable answer. One that was honest, simple, and open ended. I know his parents, and I’m pretty sure I know what they’d say to their son, but it’s not really my place to give him that lesson. Never has the question “What do you think?” looked so awesome.

I want Kale to be empathetic, educated, sensitive, and cognizant of the fact that we don’t all have to believe the same thing about what happens when we die. Even worms.

* * * * *

As an aside, Ross and I put in an offer on a house and everything was looking good. The offer did fall through this weekend, not for anything we did incorrectly. So we are back to the drawing board.

12 years ago


  1. We’ve been going to the Unitarian “church” for the past 5 years now– I call it church for people who don’t do Church. 🙂
    In fact, the whole Church and God thing gives me a bit of the willys. I like that UU draws on all traditions and cultures, not just the Christian way of thinking. While there is some value in the fables of SuperJesus, there is equal value in SuperBudda, SuperMohammad, etc. I think of it as all different streams leading to the same ocean… but what that Ocean looks like or even if that ocean exists, I dunno. Well, sometimes I think I have a good idea about it, but other times I don’t know.
    I like that UU doesn’t provide you with any answers, but supports you in discovering your own evolving truths. Which are different from everyone else and based on your own lived experience.
    Anyway, we all really enjoy it. Kevin too!

  2. All people are entitled to their own beliefs, but when it comes to each having their own truth, I have a problem with that. Truth is defined as what is real and actual. Therefore, if 10 people all believe they have their own truth about a subject, they either all believe a lie, or one person knows the truth. Or perhaps they all have pieces of the truth, but noone actually has the total truth.
    Let’s see what kind of discussion this “can of worms” brings up!!

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