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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Living life of worth depends not on faith

Donald Clegg

I think that most reasonably reflective people begin, at least by the age that they can conclude there are fewer years ahead than behind, to think about when they want to die.

I’ve certainly seen someone with an apparent foot in the grave and thought, “Geez, if I ever look like that, put me out of my misery.”

And certainly how to buy that old farm.

Nasty car crash? “Nah, way too traumatic. Quick, though.”

What about a heart attack? “Not bad, but you don’t get to say goodbye.”

A fast cancer? “Hmmm … no reason to go through chemo, no hope at all, with plenty of morphine? Give me time to think things over, order my affairs, say my goodbyes? I’ll take that one, please, with a side of fries and chocolate cream pie.”

Part of the fear of dying is the not knowing. That the proverbial bus could hit you tomorrow. Or today. Or the weak blood vessel in your brain that’s going to blow out on you way before “your time.”

But there’s a catch to knowing, too, isn’t there? There are plenty of old sci-fi scenarios that offer a person the chance to choose to know time, place, and manner of death. Or, to keep that lid cussing-well closed. (They always take a peek.)

Typically, it’s a farce, with the person doing everything under the sun precisely to avoid just that place (and fate) and then, shazzam! It just gets ’em anyway.

It all seems so fickle, so pointless, so mean, doesn’t it? I mean, why put us here, dealing with all the suffering that goes on day after day after day, just to see it all end in nothingness?

That can’t be right; surely there’s something more, an afterlife. Jesus tells me so. There, that feels better.

But let’s turn this around, flip it over, stretch it into a new shape. If the shape of our lives is that they will continue after we die, that we get the goods then, well, just what are we here for now?

Maybe, just possibly, I should see about living a life of worth, of meaning, of caring, of kindness and good works simply because the satisfaction derived in the here and now is sufficient.

I have no idea whatsoever why some folks inform me that a “Godless” life is one without morals. And that, if you throw God out, you might as well start raping and looting.

Does anyone really think that, all things being equal, if one day you’re a staunch believer and the next, you give up on religion altogether, you’re going to stop being a good parent, throw your kids on the street to beg and start beating your spouse?

Good works follow from recognizing the value of a moral life now. Never mind what comes after.

Nothing? “Well, I won’t be around to know about it, now will I?”

Something? “Well, I can’t quite begin to guess what that might be, so I’ll just leave it alone, thank you.”

I haven’t a clue why, for many, the answer to the ending of life is that the suffering of others is appropriate, even desirable. That for me to be right, you have to be wrong. That for me to go to heaven, you have to go to hell.

Unless, of course, you convert and get the right God. Mine, that is. “Oh, but you’re a Unitarian?” Sorry, wrong flavor, you lose.

As Stephen Roberts said of these folks, “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do.”

Donald Clegg, a longtime Spokane resident, is an author and professional watercolor artist. Contact him via e-mail at
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