Godless, Living a Valuable Life Beyond Beliefs (Memoirs of a Thoughtful Traveler, Book 6)
by Jeff Rasley
This is a spicy book, not in the sense of being risqué or exotic, but because it extols the Quaker virtues of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship (s.p.i.c.e.s.). Original and controversial views on religion and politics mixed with Himalayan travel experiences also add zest. It will appeal to readers interested in religion, politics, community values, travel, particularly in Nepal, and Quaker beliefs. The intersection of these varied topics results in an admittedly unique perspective.
Jeff is president of the Basa Village Foundation, which funds culturally sensitive development in Nepal. He is a director for five nonprofits. He is U.S. liaison for the Himalayan expedition company Adventure GeoTreks Ltd, and teaches philosophy of philanthropy at Butler University.
Other qualifications include a BA from U of Chicago magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, JD Indiana University Law School cum laude, Moot Court, Indiana Law Review; M Div Christian Theological Seminary magna cum laude, co-valedictorian and Faculty Award Scholar. He has been admitted to the Indiana, US District Court, and US Supreme Court Bars. He is also the author of several books including Bringing Progress to Paradise; What I Got from Giving to a Himalayan Village.
The organization of the book into three parts is appropriate because of their differing content. Part I entitled “Believe Nothing, Value Everything” discusses how beliefs divide us, and extols the Socratic Method, scientific inquiry, and pragmatic thinking. The author urges us to “just say no” to religious tricksters and try to utilize our own free will to choose positive values to help make decisions and to guide our actions. He thinks that being an atheist is as untenable as being a conservative Christian as neither is based on fact. He calls himself a skeptical agnostic. This part will appeal to those with similar viewpoints and is a refreshing antidote to the current rash of conflicting religious and political ideologies. The author gives several examples drawn from his experience as well as from history and current events to support his arguments and set the stage for the next two sections.
Part II, “Creating a Valuable Life,” is about, “finding your golden mean and which way to lean.” The balance we maintain in our lives between what we do for ourselves and what we do for others is something each of us must determine. It may change at different points in our lives, but we must try to avoid being ethically conflicted. An interesting example involved whether to require a bicycle club to wear helmets when some members were against it. Negotiating ways to remain within a community which does not support our viewpoint is challenging as individual freedoms must sometimes be modified for the sake of the group. The author thinks that Hillary Clinton’s “it takes a village” is an important truth for the health of any community.
Part III, “Values Unite Us,” was the most interesting as the author begins to talk about his Quaker affiliations and his work with the Basa Villagers in Nepal. He reiterates his views about values versus beliefs but holds steady to the goal of living together peacefully with those of all beliefs. Methods of conflict resolution in the small Himalayan village and in the Quaker community are explored. He emphasizes that we should ally ourselves with those who endorse positive values rather than irrational beliefs as the way to move the community into a less oppositional and more sustainable future.
The last chapter is entitled “Finite.” According to Hegel, human consciousness evolves in stages, and the author hopes for a future based on values rather than beliefs. For example, the value of stewardship has developed because of the recent awareness of the limited nature of resources. To this reader, the last S. in S.P.I.C.E.S. could be the first, as Stewardship is the only way we can protect our beautiful but finite world and pursue the other five values. Pursue this book to the “fin” for a valuable and “spicy” reading experience.