Roadkill Theology

RoadKill Theology Is our final fate any different than other animals? I don’t think so. But most religions disagree with me, painting the fate of humans as uniquely different from all other creatures.  They don’t believe in “Roadkill Theology“: the theological position that all creatures share the same final fate.

I remember the first time I verbalized my Roadkill Theology.  It was to a Western Buddhist friend.

My friend was very fond of his Tibetan guru (teacher) and over the past year had bragged to me often of what a unique opportunity he had to study with this man.  He was convinced that this man was an incarnation of a previous very famous lama (monk).  Then one day, he got news that his master died – smashed by a truck on a chaotic India road. It was a generic death.

My friend was distraught with grief. I felt sorry for him. However, after two days of grieving he appeared more cheerful. He told me that he realized that his Master was probably died for a reason and would soon re-incarnate and return to teach at a higher level.

I’d seen this “everything-happens-for-a-reason” nonsense before: among Christians (God’s plan), New Agers (the Universe’ teaching), Muslim’s (Allah’s will) and now a Buddhist (karma’s care). Argggghhhh.

In my teens, I lost my dearest friend to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.  His parents, born-again Christians, were devastated. His mom took 10 years to recover enough to merge again into society. But three days after my friend died  I witnessed my friend’s father smiling and shaking hands with people who were trying to comfort him.  The father was reassuring the well-wishers  by saying, “I know my son is in a better place.  Somehow this was in God’s plan.”

I understand how these mechanisms protect us and comfort us — well, some of us.  But I can no longer feel these comforts. I no longer believe these stories.

Whatever theory of life and death someone contrives, if it doesn’t treat roadkill squirrels, raccoons, deer, mice, worms and humans identically, then I know it is wrong. The death of a moth smeared thin on my car’s windshield can’t can’t be ruled as an accidental death while that of a human child who wandered into traffic as being part of a divine or karmic plan.

Roadkill theology states that:  All theories of death must treat human and animal roadkill identically.

But tell us what you think:

Photo Credit:  My photo — a roadkill squirrel near my home.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

18 responses to “Roadkill Theology

  1. Dead is dead, but while living the human is aware they will die, the future roadkill is not.

  2. I’ve got no problem with it at all. Biologically, we’re no different than roadkill. Certainly we have a vested self-interest in thinking we’re different, just as I’m sure that possums, as in your picture, if they had the ability would feel they were inherently special. It’s just a part of life.

    Doesn’t make it necessarily factually true though.

  3. but while living the human is aware they will die, the future roadkill is not(ATTR)

    And you know this, how?

  4. T4T: You’re right, I made a fairly baseless assertion, but it is what I believe anyway. Do you think otherwise?

    If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages
    Think of all the things we could discuss
    If we could walk with the animals, talk with the animals,
    Grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals,
    And they could squeak and squawk and speak and talk to us.

  5. ATTR

    I believe animals have awareness of death also. In fact I think they are probably able to communicate some of that awareness between themselves. We just cant “speak” their language. This is pretty evident with elephants when they gather together to protect their young. Its obvious that they are aware of impending dangers and the finality of some of those outcomes. At least it is obvious from what I see. 🙂

    And in all fairness to the animals, dont we grunt and squawk once in a while. At least when the wife is on her game. 😉

  6. Pingback: How refreshing! Roadkill Friday comes on a Friday! « Hamster Dreams

  7. Atheistic_Theist

    I believe the world is ruled by Karma, a sort of, whenever you do something something else happens approach, not this silly give a kid a candy bar and you will find ten dollars karma, but a sort of cause and effect karma. Pushing a door and it closing is karma, physical ones, and wandering down a hill and getting killed is also karma. Martin Luther King and his karma and effort had a karma along with those around him, as did Malcolm X. Strangely enough so did those Chinese students who died against communist China who failed just as well. Sort of like it is your karma to vote for candidate A, but if everyone else votes for candidate B their karma trumps yours. Storms kill people because of its Karma, not because people are evil, but because the karma, the wind velocity/water current and pressure build up have a release.

    I believe scientific laws apply to spirituality as well, the world becomes selfish because the karma of the people make it so, a man becomes an alcoholic because his karma made it so. A sort of choice makes destiny sort of thing. I choose to go to buy a coke, and thus will meet a fun person who will help me, I choose to go to a movie and thus later will get mugged and be killed. God didn’t plan my death any more than the spider I accidentally killed yesterday, it is all based on the life I and others around me lead, including the sky and sea, and earth. deciding to go snorkeling and being killed by a hurricane is the same thing. All connected.

  8. Sabio – I certainly understand your point of view. Death is death – especially in so far as the body is concerned. It is hard to understand how the “quickness” of a being – all those electrical impulses that make up a personality and spirit–can just disappear. And very hard when love is involved. So I’m probably on the fence in terms of this kind of vote! But certainly your commentary is very well thought through. k.

  9. @ Manic,
    Apparently many animals grieve their dead too. They have perhaps the illusion of “quickness of being” also. We have no trouble seeing it disappear in plants, and most people have no trouble thinking it disappears in animals. The illusion is “me”-centric and hard to avoid. But we know of all sorts of illusions impossible to see through. So I still hold, if your one’s theology does not account for animals and plants the way it does humans, it is a joke.

    I have no trouble share the fate of plants or animals.

  10. Hi sabio. Good post. We all face the challenge of explaining why we believe what we believe. Putting it crudely, for me common destiny is incompatible with purpose, and lack of purpose is incomparable with life as we see it, so I voted no.

  11. @ Clap,
    Remember, we all choose what purposes to fill our lives with. So human societies is ripe with purpose. And that is not at all negated by the absence of an all-powerful-interventionist spirit-being that create everything for some purpose of HIS. That is one of our big differences: the need to believe that. (even though I once did too)

  12. @ sab, thanks for your constructive comments over on my page on this topic. Very much appreciated. As I said over there, IMHO, if it all ends in the trash can at the end it’s hard to see how any purpose or meaning we find here is anything other than an illusion/mud pie. We may say it has meaning but that is simply our attempt to console ourselves, again, IMHO.

    Best, cct

  13. Clap, I forgot, I have written about this before. I wrote a whole post to you here on the issue — remember.

    It comes down to you desire to believe a fantasy because the truth is too scary for you. (terror management) Whereas many of us can find meaning and beauty without some fantasy. See that post to remind yourself of my story about my child’s birthday party he’ll never remember. No need to repeat here. And read the other links I supplied there. This fear of yours of nothing remaining after death drives you to see other lives as meaningless — it is an ugly fear.

  14. @ sab. I remember it. But I think the question is which “fantasy” do you prefer – the one where things destined for the dustbin are meaningful, or the one where they really matter.

    I’m not sating only those with Jesus have purpose (and I’ll def read your response on my page – just really short on time today), I’m saying as a matter of strict logic and reason we shouldn’t find meaning or purpose if we are headed for nothing. I’d suggest the rational response to true nothingness would be hedonism, not religion. In fact (and provocatively) hitter and Kim Jong-un are logically defendable in a nothingness scenario – why not maximise your own utility during the time you have? I know that provocative but if you take it step by step I can’t see any other outcome.

  15. R Vogel

    I think there are two different things in this post entwined together. How human beings feel about dead human beings, and how they cope with it. A human being is different than road kill for 2 reasons: (1) I am a human being. So it matter far more to me. Not that the dead beaver there isn’t sad, but it it does not trigger existential dread like a dead human being does. (2) A human being has more potential than a beaver. If the beaver lived it would do the same thing it did ever single day of its life. A human being may have figured out how to stop climate change, or cured cancer, or given birth to the person(s) who do. To the universe this may mean very little, but it means an awful lot to me. 🙂

    Or perhaps you were going for something else and what was missing in your question is ‘to whom?’ To the universe, True. To me and most of the rest of humanity, False.

  16. @ Vogel,
    I agree that there are two issues here but I would say they are:

    (A) The fate of humans after death as compared to other animals. (different or differently stated than your #1)

    (B) How humans deal with death (same as your #2)

    Concerning (B), of course we don’t know what animals do, but we have clear observations of animals mourning the dead [doing what we want to interpret as “mourning” — with all those weaknesses]. Now, do they spin stories in their heads to ease the pain, or feel the pain the same. Hard to say, eh?

    But sure, humans do seem to spin very elaborate rituals and stories around death when compared to other animals.

    But I contend that the answer to (A) is that there is not different, and thus the answers to (B) seem silly and desperate — though I understand them. I think I am often silly and desperate. But maybe we’ve got to get a little better at being OK with silly and desperate and thus ease up on the bullshit. Or not.

    It sounds like you see humans as hugely different than animals and thus have hope that this superiority grants them a better afterlife. But maybe you wouldn’t quite phrase it like that. 🙂

    So I think my two themes hung together perfectly and am not really sure why you think they did not.

  17. R Vogel

    I have no thoughts on an afterlife, all the descriptions I have heard so far sound tedious. Not sure how you got that from what I wrote.

    I guess I was a little confused by your poll statement which begins ‘I feel…’ which to me implied the psychological rather than the naturalistic (I am not sure this is the right word), and it did not state ‘the fate of,’ which made me think you were heading down a different road. Perhaps I read too much into the former and not enough with regard to the latter. I did not mean to be a pedant. I do not think that the fate of humans and animals are any different. When faced with the sight of each, dead human being engender feelings of wanting to believe in an afterlife for a variety of reasons. Alas my feelings do no make it so, but they can always hope my thinking is misinformed. 🙂

  18. LOL — that was pretty analytic, Vogel.
    I agree with your statements here.
    Yeah, the poll was simply suppose to address my issue in the post. No worry. I think most of the folks who took it understood what I meant, fortunately.
    1/2 of the folks think humans have a special afterlife as compared to the simple annihilation in animals.
    Did you read my post which documents a similar conversation with my son?
    Meaning without Memories“?

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