What is the value of life?

Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that if we obey their rules we will live forever.  Either by means of resurrection to heaven or to an earthly paradise.  They teach that when people we love die they aren’t really dead.  Instead, they are merely sleeping and we will see them again.  This belief helps soothe the existential dread that many people experience.  But what happens when you leave Jehovah’s Witnesses or other faith?  How can you view life and death?  Let’s take a moment and talk about life and its value.

Now on the surface, this all seems like a beautiful idea.  We won’t ever be separated from people we love.  It is comforting when someone dies to believe that they aren’t really dead and that we will see them again.  Although comforting, do these beliefs add value to the current life?  Or do they devalue our current life?

Consider this:  If you and everyone on earth had unlimited money would the money have any value?  It would have very little value if any at all.  The teaching that believers can and will live forever devalues the life that they currently have.  Not only does it mute feelings about negative experiences such as death but it also mutes the positive experiences we have throughout life.

How much value does walking in a beautiful garden on a sunny day have if you walk in a beautiful garden on a sunny day every day?  What about if you do it every day for eternity?  After the newness of the garden had faded you would walk through it and not even notice its beauty.

Instead what if we think about life as being finite?  What if you have a finite amount of times to walk in a beautiful garden on a sunny day?  How does this affect the value of life and the human experience?  I invite you to explore this idea with me.

Now, the ideas I’m about to present might seem dark and pessimistic but I promise there is a point to taking you on this journey with me.  Imagine for a moment that death is final.  There is no life after death.  The dead don’t get resurrected.  They don’t go to heaven.  They don’t go to paradise.  One day you will die.  One day everyone you know and everyone you love will die.

Let’s explore this a bit further.  Your life is finite and so is everything in it.  There is a finite amount of time you will see your mother.  There is a finite amount of times you will drive a car.  There is a finite amount of time you will hug your child.

It might seem like a belaboring the point but let’s keep going with this.  There is a finite amount of time you will play fetch with your dog.  There is a finite amount of times you will feel the suns warm rays on your face.  There is a finite amount of time you will see the ocean and listen to its waves.

Yes, the day will come and you will hear the birds outside chirp for the very last time.  Feeling emotional?  I am.  It’s ok.  These are sobering thoughts.  It’s hard to think about.  You might not want to think about these things.  I’m not trying to make you sad.  Quite the contrary.  I’m trying to help you to experience the beauty of living life.

Dwell on the thought that one day you go outside and feel the warmth of the sun and it will be the last time you ever feel it.  How do you feel about feeling the warmth of the sun now?  Do you cherish it?  Do you value it more?  I do.

Do this exercise with any number of things.  One day you tell your parents that you love them and it will be last time you ever tell them you love them.  How do you feel?  Do you value your relationship with your parents more?

Regardless of what your beliefs are regarding the afterlife remember to value the things you have when you have them.  Tell the people you love that you love them.  Cherish experiences as they happen.  Enjoy life as it unfolds before you.


Published by Ryan David Tuttle

PhD Graduate student studying Behavioral Neuroscience, Addiction, Stress, Behavioral Economics, and Individual Differences. Former member Ministerial Servant and Pioneer in a Spanish speaking congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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