Why so many people–including scientists–suddenly believe in an afterlife

Heaven is hot again, and hell is colder than ever

The Heaven boom


Death, it seems, is no longer Shakespeare’s undiscovered country, the one “from whose bourn no traveller returns.” Not according to contemporary bestseller lists. Dreams and visions of the afterlife have been constants across human history, and the near-death experiences (now known as NDEs) of those whose lives were saved by medical advances have established, for millions, a credible means by which someone could peek into the next world. Lately a fair-sized pack of witnesses claim to have actually entered into the afterlife before coming back again to write mega-selling accounts of what they saw and felt there. Afterlife speculation has become a vibrant part of the zeitgeist, the result of trends that include developments in neuroscience that have inspired new ideas about human consciousness, the ongoing evolution of theology, both popular and expert, and the hopes and fears of an aging population. Heaven is hot again. And hell is colder than ever.

Recent polls across the developed world are starting to tell an intriguing tale. In the U.S., religion central for the West, belief in heaven has held steady, even ticking upwards on occasion, over the past two decades. Belief in hell is also high, but even Americans show a gap between the two articles of faith—81 per cent believed in the former in 2011, as opposed to 71 per cent accepting the latter. Elsewhere in the Western world the gap between heaven and hell believers is more of a gulf—a 2010 Canadian poll found more than half of us think there is a heaven, while fewer than a third acknowledge hell. What’s more, monotheism’s two destinations are no longer all that are on offer. In December a survey of the 1970 British Cohort group—9,000 people, currently 42 years old—found half believed in an afterlife, while only 31 per cent believed in God. No one has yet delved deeply into beliefs about the new afterlife—the cohort surveyors didn’t ask for details—but reincarnation, in an newly multicultural West, is one suggested factor. So too is belief in what one academic called “an unreligious afterlife,” the natural continuation of human consciousness after physical death.

While most of the current bestselling accounts of afterlife experiences are recognizably Christian—at least in outline—signs of changing beliefs can be found in them too. Nor are the new travellers—who include a four-year-old boy and a middle-aged neurosurgeon—what religious skeptics would think of as the usual suspects. Colton Burpo, now 13, “died” 10 years ago from a ruptured appendix, and spent three minutes of earthly time in heaven—some of it in Jesus’s lap, some of it speaking with a miscarried sister whose existence he had never been told about—before being pulled back to Earth by his surgical team. Since 2010, when his father, Todd, a Nebraska minister, published his account of what Colton told him, Heaven is for Real has sold more than 7.5 million copies. If Colton’s story sounds like a contemporary take on an ancient Christian motif—“unless you become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3)—the same can’t be said about Eben Alexander’s post-religious cosmic experience.

It is Alexander’s provocatively named Proof of Heaven, released in November, that wrenched afterlife visitation literature out of its below-the-radar religious publishing niche and into the spotlight. Alexander’s professional stature—as a Harvard-trained neurosurgeon, a man expected to know what is possible and what is not for human consciousness—ensured him of extensive media coverage, including on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday, massive sales (it remains No. 1 on the New York Times paperback non-fiction bestseller list), and often venomous responses from fellow scientists.

Alexander woke one day in 2008 with an intense headache. “Within hours, my entire cortex—the part of the brain that controls thought and emotion and that in essence makes us human—had shut down,” he writes. Doctors finally determined that “E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain.” For seven days he was in a deep coma, during which time, often guided by a beautiful girl riding a giant butterfly, he flew around the “invisible, spiritual side of existence.” And there he encountered God, whom Alexander frequently refers to as Om, the sound he recalls as “being associated with that omniscient, omnipotent and unconditionally loving God.”

He eventually recovered, a medical miracle in itself, Alexander writes. But he was an entirely different man, no longer a neuroscientist like other neuroscientists. “I know that many of my peers hold—as I myself did—to the theory that the brain, and in particular the cortex, generates consciousness and that we live in a universe devoid of any kind of emotion, much less the unconditional love that I now know God and the universe have toward us. But that belief, that theory, now lies broken at our feet. What happened to me destroyed it.”

Not according to most of his fellow neuroscientists, whose reactions made the predictable Christian wariness—no angels, no Jesus, and a God named Om left Toronto pastor Tim Challies to sum up Proof of Heaven as “more New Age-y than the rest, close to non-Western religion”—seem welcoming. Oliver Sacks called Alexander’s claims “not just unscientific but anti-scientific.” Others opposed dogma with dogma: Alexander was correct that by current neurological understanding what happened to him was impossible if his cortex was shut down—therefore, they said, it wasn’t shut down, no matter what his medical records say. Many skeptics referenced British psychologist Susan Blackmore’s 1993 book, Dying to Live, which dismisses NDEs as a result of chemical changes associated with dying brains, as the last word.

For their part, non-materialist neuroscientists, like University of Montreal professor Mario Beauregard, have long critiqued Blackmore and point out that brain research was in its infancy 20 years ago. Blackmore argued that a lack of oxygen (or anoxia) during the dying process might induce abnormal firing of neurons in the part of the brain that controls vision, leading to the illusion of seeing a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel.

Beauregard cites objections by Dutch cardiologist Pim Van Lommel that if anoxia (lack of oxygen) was central to NDEs, far more cardiac arrest patients would report such an experience. What’s more, as pointed out by Dr. Sam Parnia, whose resuscitation techniques have doubled his New York hospital’s cardiac-arrest-recovery rate, some NDE patients were not terminal during their experiences, meaning their oxygen levels were normal. In fact, Parnia notes, dropping oxygen levels are associated with “acute confusional state,” something at odds with the lucid consciousness reported by NDE people.

Two decades of research and medical advances have moved near-death experiences from rare events to common occurrences. In his book Erasing Death, Parnia cites a 30-year-old Japanese woman as the current record holder (in terms of time) for someone who was found dead and restored to life. She “may have been dead up to 10 hours,” Parnia says, but after six hours’ work, doctors got her heart started and brought her back to health: “she had a baby in the last year.” Now that patients who have been clinically dead for hours can be brought back to life, says Parnia, the question of the continuation of human consciousness is a live scientific issue.

And it’s not only the remarkable extension of the time patients can now spend suspended between life and death, but the sheer number of individuals involved, that has made NDEs so contentious among researchers. Those whose NDEs also involved an out-of-body experience raise the stakes further.

Materialist skeptics are not troubled by accounts of tunnels of light or angelic beings. Perhaps the dying brain hypothesis doesn’t fully explain them, but there are other possibilities. Too much carbon dioxide in the blood perhaps or, as a recent study from the University of Kentucky posits, NDEs are really an instance of a sleep disorder, rapid eye movement (REM) intrusion. In that disorder, a person’s mind can wake up before his body, and both hallucinations and the sensation of being physically detached from the body can occur. Cardiac arrest could trigger a REM intrusion in the brain stem—the region that controls the most basic functions of the body and which can operate independently from the (now dead) higher brain. The resulting NDE would actually be a dream.

But that hypothesis still cannot account for people who report seeing, during their out-of-body experiences, what they could not have. Most commonly that’s an overhead view of their frantic medical teams. Parnia reports a 2001 case, in which a Dutch patient’s dentures were removed during cardiac arrest. When his nurses couldn’t find the dentures later, the patient was able to remind them where they were. Perhaps the most famous corroborated case, cited by Beauregard, is that of a migrant worker named Maria, whose story was documented by her critical care social worker, Kimberly Clark. The day after she had been resuscitated after cardiac arrest, Maria told Clark how she had been able to look down from the ceiling and left the OR. She found herself outside the hospital and spotted a tennis shoe on the ledge of the north side of the building’s third floor. She described it in detail. Maria, not surprisingly, wanted to know whether she had “really” seen the shoe, and asked Clark to go look.

Quite skeptical, Clark went where Maria sent her, and found the tennis shoe, just as she’d described it. “The only way she could have had such a perspective,” said Clark, “was if she had been floating right outside and at very close range to the tennis shoe.” It shouldn’t have been possible, as both Beauregard and Parnia point out. “The question becomes,” Parnia says, “how can people have conscious awareness when they’ve gone beyond the threshold of death?”

The answer to that question is not necessarily Christian, or even metaphysical at all, not for Parnia, who describes himself as “not a religious person” and not for many of his fellow NDE researchers. In a similar vein, many traditional Christians are more than a little wary of the reported experiences of the heaven travellers. For them the idea—so intolerable to materialist skeptics—that consciousness, or the soul, can and does exist outside the body is an article of faith. But some of the new afterlife, however seemingly Christian in outline, is often troubling, especially in its utter lack of judgment. All are welcome, all are heaven-bound in those accounts: there is no sign of God’s wrath for sinners. The division over the possibility of continuing human consciousness is not entirely between the religious and the secular. And the extraordinary popularity of heaven tourism—books have continued to pour down the publishing pike this year, including I Believe in Heaven by Cecil Murphy, one of the pioneers in the genre—is not entirely driven by evangelical enthusiasm.

In that regard, the storm stirred up by Proof of Heaven only obscures the wider significance of the afterlife books. The controversy over the scientific basis of Alexander’s experiences, like the skeptical poking for holes in the Burpo story—can Colton’s parents really be sure he never heard a word about his mother’s miscarriage?—can miss the cultural forest for the factual trees.

Consider the many other near-death survivors-cum-authors and their places along the continuum, from pastor’s son to neurosurgeon. There’s Mary Neal, an orthopaedic surgeon whose account of the aftermath of her drowning in Chile in 1999, To Heaven and Back, has spent two years on bestseller lists; teacher Crystal McVea, whose Waking Up in Heaven tells the story of the nine minutes that followed after she stopped breathing in 2009; The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven is about six-year-old Alex Malarkey, who met Jesus after an car accident in 2004; and Texas pastor Don Piper, whose 2004 account (co-written with Cecil Murphy) of his car crash, 90 Minutes in Heaven, is often credited with kick-starting the phenomenon.

There are elements, from key plot points to tiny details, that link their stories, starting with two obvious points. The idea that major scientists no longer dismiss the idea of continuing consciousness colours all accounts, as does the fact that, whether truth or fantasy, the experiences are necessarily culturally specific.

All overwhelming and bewildering mental states have to be sorted, defined and made comprehensible in the light of the familiar—what else do our brains have to work with? One way or another, a pastor’s child and a fallen-away Christian like Alexander will filter an NDE through the earliest Sunday school tracks laid down in their memories. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, first famous for her five stages of grief, later became a doyenne of NDEs—her lectures on her NDE patients (who turned her into a believer), first published in 1991, were reissued in 2008 to catch the current publishing wave. Even in her rather homogenous western European clientele, Kübler-Ross could see the effects of early enculturation: “I never encountered a Protestant child who saw the Virgin Mary in his last minutes, yet she was perceived by many Catholic children.”

Many of the writers share a common gaping wound, centred on lost children, a wound usually healed by simultaneously finding the child and realizing there is no blame or judgment to suffer, no forgiveness to offer or seek. Most of Colton Burpo’s account is a child’s-eye account of orthodox teaching, but its most affecting passage is when he lifts years of guilt and anxiety off his mother, Sonja, by telling her that her miscarried child had been a girl, and that she was now flourishing in heaven as God’s adopted daughter. One of Kübler-Ross’s patients, a 12-year-old girl, told her father how she was comforted during her NDE by her brother. Except that she didn’t have a brother. Her tearful father then told her about the son who had died three months before her birth.

Eben Alexander, who—unlike most NDE cases—lost all sense of personal identity during his experience, was troubled because that loss meant no relative offered him assurances of love and acceptance. Afterwards though, Alexander—an adopted child who had felt abandoned his whole life—saw a picture of his deceased natural sister, whom he had never met in life. She was the girl on the butterfly. (There is more than a trace of Kübler-Ross’s influence in Proof of Heaven. The butterfly girl stands out as one of the more psychedelic elements in an account mostly abstract and metaphysical: Kübler-Ross, however, constantly describes the human body as a cocoon, from which a metaphorical butterfly of spirit will eventually emerge.)

And the stories offer similar proofs: Colton, like Kübler-Ross’s patient, inexplicably knew of a lost sibling, whose existences their parents believed they had kept hidden, while Eben Alexander could describe precisely what his medical team and his family were doing during his seven-day coma. They are all, even the children, witnesses who experienced what they did—and came back, reluctantly—for a reason. Mary Neal was sent back with what she called “a laundry list of tasks to do,” which she still doesn’t talk about, at least not until they are accomplished: one was to help the rest of her family cope with the foretold death of her young son, which occurred 10 years later in 2009. Colton and Alex provide truth “out of the mouths of babes.” Alexander knows he is uniquely positioned among NDE subjects to challenge the materialist orthodoxies of mainstream neuroscience.

Those similarities in form pale beside the deep thematic link between the new bestsellers: the (previously) undiscovered country is a place of unconditional love. Several of the writers pause, sometimes for pages, to stress the adjective as much as the noun. None express the message more clearly than Alexander, who writes that “the only thing that truly matters” was communicated to him in three parts. He boils those down to one word—love—but the key phrase may be the third sentence of his longer version:

You are loved and cherished.

You have nothing to fear.

There is nothing you can do wrong.

That’s fodder for cynics and skeptics, of course. That an individual like any of the authors, someone of broadly Christian background coping with emotional pain, should undergo such a heaven-centred experience when in the throes of physical trauma, is broadly predictable and easy to dismiss as wish-fulfillment. The fact it has happened to a group of such similar individuals does not in itself prove the truth (or the falsity) of the experiences; what that does, though, is illuminate a culture that increasingly rejects the very notion of judgment while equating salvation with personal healing.

Most observers trace the current upsurge to Don Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven. Largely ignored by the non-religious world and looked at askance by many Christian commentators, 90 Minutes sold like hotcakes. And while it set the template for what was to come, what stands out about it today is its modesty. Piper was declared dead at the scene of an auto crash on Jan. 18, 1989. His body was left in place while the authorities waited for the tools needed to extract him from the wreckage. An hour and a half later, though, Piper stirred back to life, albeit to a long and excruciating recovery, involving 34 painful surgeries.

And to bear witness to where he had been in that 90 minutes. In the transcendent light, actually, just outside the “pearlescent” gates of heaven, surrounded by “perfect love” and the gathering presence—simultaneously physical and spiritual—of loved ones who had died during Piper’s lifetime. There were friends who had passed away young and were thus still youthful looking; his grandfather, instantly recognizable by his shock of white hair; and his great-grandmother, still aged but now no longer with false teeth, but her own restored, no longer stooped and no longer wrinkled. Signs of age, in other words, and of the gravitas they confer, but no traces of the “ravages of living.”

All this—the approach to the pearly gates, the welcome from loved ones, the presence of unconditional love and the absence of judgment—was pregnant with accounts to come. But, as it turned out, 90 Minutes’ first-born—the genetic relationship obvious in their titles, not to mention the way Amazon bundled them together for a special low price—was the most striking outlier in recent afterlife literature, Bill Wiese’s 23 Minutes in Hell. A California realtor, Wiese was sleeping peacefully on the night of Nov. 22, 1998, when God pitched him into hell at 3 a.m., so that—Wiese later decided—he could warn others of their peril. He landed abruptly in a five-by-three-metre cell, shared with two gigantic, evil, reptilian beasts who proceeded to smash him against the walls before shredding his flesh.

Yet Wiese did not die, could not die, as much as he wanted to. He continued in seemingly endless pain, tormented too by “the terrible, foul stench.” (Smell—the most evocative of senses, the one most closely tied to deep memory—is prominent in accounts of heaven as well, where it brings visitors the most comforting reminders of childhood and, when the odours arise from food, assurances of plenty.) At precisely 3:23 a.m., Jesus rescued Wiese and returned him home, where he landed, terrified, on his living room floor.

The book, published in 2006, spawned no serious imitators. In part that was due to its lack of the scientific gloss the heaven narratives bear (and the times demand)—one Christian nurse, posting on Amazon, rejected 23 Minutes because of her familiarity with NDEs. There is no explanatory traffic accident, cardiac arrest or brain-eating bacteria, nothing to indicate a hovering between life and death when the sufferer could peek through the curtain, nothing that didn’t point to a (very) bad dream.

But Wiese’s book also went nowhere because hell no longer possesses the power it once held in Christianity. That’s particularly remarkable within an American religious milieu that was always attentive to warnings of hellfire. In 1741 Jonathan Edwards delivered what is often called the most famous sermon in American history, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.” It is beautifully composed, rigorously logical (in terms of Calvinist theology) and frankly terrifying: “Men are held in the hand of God over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked.” Edwards was interrupted often during the sermon by congregants moaning and crying out, “What shall I do to be saved?” It’s doubtful he’d receive the same reaction today. Many modern Christians struggle to reconcile a loving God with one who would condemn the majority of humankind to eternal torment.

Within Roman Catholicism, notes Smith College world religion professor Carol Zaleski, the last three pontiffs, including Pope Francis, have all been supportive of the late Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, who taught that Catholics have a duty to hope and pray for an empty hell, for the salvation of all. Even those Protestant traditions that have historically been more attuned to the gulf between the elect and the damned have seen vigorous theological debate about the afterlife, and the defence of ideas that effectively weaken the severity of divine wrath. Conditional immortality, for one, says true eternal life is reserved for the saved; souls in hell will eventually—and, in this context, mercifully—be annihilated.

“Most people are no longer afraid of being seized at an unguarded moment,” judged wanting and flung into the fiery pit like Edwards’s congregants were, says Zaleski. “We are now more creatures of anxiety than of guilt.” The anxiety, as well as the interest, is surely tied to the greying of the Western world too, as our thoughts, conscious or not, increasingly turn to what’s next, whether we think that’s oblivion or some kind of afterlife. Baby boomers, by sheer force of numbers, have always driven cultural trends, from the lowering of voting and drinking ages in their youth to the politically untouchable status of retirement benefits today. It’s hardly surprising to see them favour not just the existence but the congenial nature of an afterlife.

And that is where the heaven tourists finally mesh, not just with each other, but with the larger culture. We seem to be moving inexorably from a society where organized religion dominates issues of morality—and mortality—but not to the secular promised land of reason. Rather, we are orienting ourselves to a more personal spirituality, at once vague and autonomous. Ordinary sinners increasingly don’t believe that they deserve judgment, let alone hell. Theists and atheists alike dispute any earthly authority’s right to judge, and both feel NDEs give them reason to hope for something beyond the grave. And many believers confidently expect that God isn’t judgmental either.

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Why so many people–including scientists–suddenly believe in an afterlife

  1. It’s very simple, the boomers are walking over the old age cliff and want to place an insurance policy. Most don’t really know what they believe in, but figure somehow if they believe in something well, what can it hurt at this point!

    Give them a guarantee of another 30 years of life and watch them drop god like a hot potatoe.

    Maybe I am bit cynical about this new found end of life belief, but seeing many people who were most adamantly godless acquire faith once they hit the 60-65 mark has been very interesting.

    • I agree with your first paragraph, its logical for a human to want some type of absolution in the end, religious or not, Therefor SOME will say “it cant hurt”. Others believe what they believe.

      Give them another 30 from the last day? Some might say it was a “miracle”. Some, may just forget for another 30 years. And some, may just thank the doctor with a donation. Don’t think any of them are a bad way of looking at things. Believe in good I guess.

      Religion and science are always fun to mix.

    • Frenchie
      Thank you for your perspicacity. I remember a magazine cover from the 1960s–it read “God Is Dead”. However, the boomers were in their prime, and it was the period of the sexual revolution. Now we have another inverse relationship. DUH!

  2. all life is by it’s very nature deeply spiritual – the very word itself ‘ spirit ‘ says it all : that horse has spirit = think about it folks – when we say that we mean that horse moves with intent and focus and drive according to it’s deepest instinct and seems to be more than just alive. To deny our spiritual instinct is the height of idiocy and any preliminary investigation to every single culture mankind has had has at it’s very core a religious and spiritual heart! This is the problem with modern so called atheism – it defies logic – there is no such thing and this can be proven for everyone if they can remain open minded, which most can’t becuase they have dulled their minds and drank deeply from the koolaid of the modern left wing! – any of you who consider your self as such and has such thoughts and are convinced that your life is your life and that’s all there is folks poof gone no more meaning than a speck of dust – try the following thought experiment – you are a parent – you wake up with your child screaming in agony – you take your child to emergency room – doctor says wait in room till they come to with news!!!!! – when you are in room what do you do? – if you are honest here with yourself and us readers I can guarantee that you willl pray to a divinity to help – and if you don’t I would be deeply concerned for those that are your loved ones because you are bordering on being a psychoptah! Empathy by it’s very nature is a spriritual muscle as it were and although rather weak and a littel atrophied in so called modern society it always reinvigorates itself when the real troubles begin! – communism tried to be an atheistic society and look at what destroyed it – The Pope and The Beatles Music (yes virginai beatles music played a large role but that is another story as it were)

    • I find it terribly sad that you think the only way a person can have empathy is to have some sort of religion.

      Empathy is not a spiritual muscle it all.. it’s empathy. It’s identifying with fellow creatures and not wanting them to suffer. You don’t need to be spiritual for that, you just need to realize that life doesn’t give a shit, and what you see could be what you get.

      • if you wish to deabte me pleaee avoid tautologies –
        you can’t see it can you? to have empathy one must see another as one sees oneself – this is to place the ego in a more subservient position and takse power much like a muscle does! of course it is spiritual you need to understand how to define terms and setup an a priori – spirit – by definition is a motive principle in other words – movement if something doesn’t move it has no spirit empathy means that you move your perspective to another and import it as much priority – I understand your difficulty as our educational system for years has fallen into the liberal trap and philosphy of restricting critical thinking and abide by it’s own religion dictated by the high preists of the defintion religion – it means to link up to a group greater than the self ‘ religio ‘ is latin term – the group you link to is liberalism which is the problem,!

        • Hint: Spirit as a motive principle, and spirit as a religious concept are two entirely different meanings. Perhaps you need to revisit those educational institutions.

          Or do you think the right to bear arms is about not having to shave your limbs?

        • Wayne, you are a judgemental fool. And I am pretty sure that book by which you claim to live instructs you to not judge others. By the way: does breaking one or more of the 10 commandments cause your god to put people in hell? Or is it reserved for liberals only?

          • I don’t see where Wayne says anything about a book which he claims to live by. Are you reading into his comment something that is not there?

        • Wayne why exactly is it that people need to be religious or spiritual in order to feel empathy?

        • Empathy is a modern development. Study the history of violence in Europe through the Middle Ages (both state and Church sponsored) and you will see that most people at the time did not have much in the way of empathy for each other. Regular public acts of torture and execution (to obtain ‘confessions’, and as punishment for perceived crimes) were cheered and celebrated by the people. Empathy is learned (through society, or modern religion), and not necessarily inherent.

          • Though I don’t agree with Wayne, empathy is not a modern development. I extremely rarely use the bible as evidence, but there is empathy in the golden rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And this was adapted from the Torah. I think it is far more likely an inherited trait than taught. The question is do you have the morality to adhere to the feeling?

          • FYI, the “Golden Rule” was around long before the Torah. In fact, it is also accredited to Buddha . “Do unto others…” has been a philosophy of many cultures–not just the Christian one.

            Morality is the product of the culture we live in. For example, it was once considered “moral” to keep slaves–which, thank goodness, is not the case anymore. In Biblical times it was “moral” to have more than one wife, and to treat women as chattel…I could go on, but I am hoping you get the drift of this.

          • About the golden rule, I believe you are thinking of Confucius rather than Buddha. However, the Confucius version is the weaker or less demanding negative form, i.e. Don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you. The stronger or more demanding positive form (“Do to other what you would have them do to you.”) came from Jesus (not the Torah). What you do find in the Torah is the command to love your neighbor as yourself.

            The bad news about slavery is that it is surging. There may be more slaves now than in times long past. In this age where people imagine that morality is nothing more than the product of a culture (rather than being something that is objectively true), it has not escaped notice that this allows people to feel free to define and choose morality according to their own preference. A growing number in the world are preferring to indulge slavery, and the global sex slave trade is booming.

            (And, IF morality is not something that can be objectively true or false and is only the construct of various cultures, how would you say this is wrong in any sense that is not simply the voice of your culture and your preference in contrast with the morality the slavers prefer?)

            As for more than one wife, that is allowed by one major religion and European countries are already contending with the issue of whether and to what extent to accomodate that alternate standard. One can also consider how women are treated within that same religion, which is growing.

            Again, IF there is no one true reality about morality, then who would you be to suggest that your preferred morality is right and that anyone else’s morality is wrong? Wrong by what standard? Morality?

            On the other hand, as C.S.Lewis discussed in his book, Mere Christianity, whenever we talk about moral progress, we always are implicitly accepting that there is something — an objectively true morality — that some of our expressions of morality come closer to than others. Try as we might, we cannot escape that sense that there is objective reality to right and wrong. It isn’t simply an arbitrary cultural construct. Some practices really are wrong. The first third of his book examines, “Right and wrong as a clue to the meaning of the universe”. Quite thought provoking and well worth consideration.

          • My vote is that empathy is actually inherent but that its circle has grown from the family, to the tribe or in group to out groups, etc.

            Singer – the expanding circle

            Pinker – the history of violence

          • When you are talking about the Middle Ages you are right. You are also right when you are talking about the Ancient Judaism. Nevertheless you can see many cases of empathy in the Ancient Greek culture.

        • Think less love more

        • Suppose Wayne isn’t used to being met with rational responses.

        • AMERICANS,have been lied to,conned,tricked,hoodwinked,and fooled……….by lucifer,and he ain’t done with you yet……..notice how christians are always the ones who are attacked by everyone,it ain’t no accident,and decieved americans are about to get a rude awaking,theres a warning coming from the LORD,and if you don’t wakeup,your going into TRIBULATION,with LUCIFER and all his demons from hell……..you’ll wakeup then,ONLY it will be to late,repent your sins NOW,while the lord can be found………………..

          • Thomas Jefferson couldn’t have said it better himself… lol

    • I strongly disagree with your “thought experiment”. I have two children, one with Asthma who has been hospitalized twice and my second who had to have emergency surgery for a twisted ovary and inflamed appendix and I did not pray for them to be ok. That does not make me a psychopath, I left it to the experts to make them better. I trusted in my fellow human being to help my kiddos. It’s so easy for us as humans to judge therefore it’s quite easy for you to just those who do not believe in god. Just because a person does not believe does not make them a bad person yet the bible and just about every religious person I have had the pleasure to know has said that very same thing “if you don’t believe, you can’t get in to heaven.” For me, why is that a bad thing, what does heaven mean to me, what man has told me it is, isn’t that peer pressure, lol. Just because my friend tells me it would be fun to jump off the cliff at the local river, does that mean it is the right thing for me to do, something could happen bad or good but it is my choice to take that leap and no one else can make that decision for me. Religion is no different! religious folks tell us non-religious folks all the time what we are doing wrong, what bad people we are, we are going to hell, or that god doesn’t love us because we do not believe, well that’s just ludacris. If my son or my daughter screw up, I don’t begin hating them and I certainly do not disown them, I simply let them know that there are consequences for their actions, that I Still love them and here is their punishment…..however the religious version of hell is not a mere punishment it is a permanent end. If religious folks would say and write that hell is a type of punishment for not believing in god, I can live with that because a punishment is a temporary consequence for an action that was against the rules if you will. Unfortunately, those who believe in god are saying that god, your father, now can’t stand you and refuses to talk to you simply because you do not believe in him or his ways, so what we are telling our children when we teach them is that we are all dictators and they must do what we say and they must think the way we do or else….That seems a bit contradictory to me but then again having two kids probably doesn’t make me an expert and since I don’t talk to god I probably do not qualify ^_^

      • thats cold

        • So are the low-taxed employers in Edmonton, minus the Russia temp dude.

      • I have never heard of a religion that states that God hates those who do not believe.

      • Didn’t pray for your children? I strongly suggest you read up on the power of prayer. Even if you aren’t religious, prayer has been scientifically proven to work!!!

        • Just the opposite actually . prayer is a total waste of time

    • And what does it mean for those parents who pray for their children’s lives in earnest, but the children die anyway? Or the parents who don’t pray at all, and their children live?

      If prayer is a crutch that you can use to keep you strong in times of crisis, by all means, go ahead and pray. Maybe it will make you feel better. But it won’t affect the outcome–the effects of prayer are indistinguishable from chance.

      By the way, the Beatles were atheists.

      • sometime prayer does affect the outcome of a situation. think of how the jews prayed to god when they where slaves in egypt and god sent someone to set them free. so yes prayer does work if your really believe in god

        • There’s no evidence that the hebrew people were ever enslaved in egypt. They *were* enslaved by Babylonians, but there’s never been a single shred of evidence found to indicate that the enslavement in egypt (or the exodus and 40 years in the desert) was anything but a story, despite decades of effort by the very people this story matters to most – Israeli archeologists.

          • But, but, but – it’s in the Bible!

      • About the Beatles being atheists…better check your facts. They did not see eye to eye as individuals

      • Scientific evidence has shown prayer to provide better results than chance. I strongly believe in prayer as I have had some very powerful results from praying. Not all prayers are answered in the way we hope partly because I believe a prayer won’t be answered if it interferes with certain life lessons we are destined to learn. I also believe a prayer needs to be sincere and from the heart in order for it to reach the intended.

        • How about some references? Everything I’ve read actually says the opposite.

        • God is partly existing. Other part of God is missing.

      • Please assure me that by stating the phrase, “By the way, the Beatles were atheists,” you were not trying to demonstrate or extract a connection, or for that matter, a premise on which to base your claim. If so, that in itself destroys your argument. My question, quite simply is, “why must you add that line?” I mean, I could very easily recite names of popularly accepted societal figures and express to you their religious views; though this wouldn’t make any claim of mine substantially more true or less misguided. Please, on your pursuit of inquiry, remember to be aware of the inferential assumptions you leave within propositions (this one being that the Beatles are superior to Wayne). The key is: critical thinking.

    • Wayne says: “I can guarantee that you willl pray to a divinity to help – and if you don’t I would be deeply concerned for those that are your loved ones because you are bordering on being a psychoptah!”

      Amy says: Actually your comment is stupid. I am hopeful that the doctor that is working on my loved one is a well trained doctor and not someone who is going to put their faith in an imaginary thing and deviate from science to something that is based on belief.

      • its not all based on belief. god is real people have talked to him and people have even seen and talked to his son

        • Same logic applies to aliens and bigfoot. Some people think they’ve seen/heard/been probed by them.

          Of course, normally, we just call such people delusional and move on with our day.

          Consider, if somebody talks to God, God has removed faith and left only knowledge. Since faith is the key to Heaven, anybody who talks to God is doomed to Hell.

    • Wouldn’t god rescue the ER child whether or not I pray? The books (and there are discussions and new media methods of learning too) I’ve read from others who have read books, helped my mind figure this logic out. The New Testament, 1/3 of the Old Testament and The Koran, didn’t. Ironically you are telling god what to do: save the child! I’m assuming he has better ethics than me if he exists.
      If god has worse ethics than me I want him to see my example of how I treat the idiots in this life.

    • I wonder what you would say to the Christian who relied on your god to “save” their injured child–only to have that child die because they were denied the medical treatment that comes from us mere mortals. Hmmm..god’s will perhaps?–how lame.

      The real psychopath is the person willing to rely on some invisible sky fairy to heal the sick and injured as opposed to proven medical treatment.

    • look into mirror neurons and ted talks on empathy
      empathy is part of the way the brain works, and thus consciousness.
      We dont need no soul.

  3. Sorry I couldn’t read all of this. Too long, at work. The Kimberly Clark and Maria case was investigated after the fact by Hayden Ebbern, Sean Mulligan and Barry Beyerstein from Simon Fraser University. Kim’s account that the shoe was impossible to see from the outside and hard to get to from the inside, turn out to be false. She also published the account 7 years after the event. I’m dubious of her account as if I experienced something so impossible why wait so long. Maybe she thought it was an everyday occurrence type of miracle… Either way, I find that the chances of people deluding themselves, exaggerating, reading into the event or just flat out lying, much better than the chances that we have spirits that can’t be detected, can gain information without any physical form, and go to some secondary undetectable plane of existence much less.

    • I have no idea if there’s an afterlife or not, but I do know that thinking that something doesn’t exist because we can’t detect it is a very arrogant (and common) assumption. We should assume that there’s a LOT out there that we can’t detect because our current tools simply aren’t capable of it. Don’t mistake what might be the limitations of our tools for something not existing.

      Think of what we can detect now that 30 years ago were dismissed as fiction (if they were conceived of at all) but have since been proven to exist due to improvements in technology, i.e. the Higgs Boson, etc.

      Surely people 100 years from now will look back and laugh at our ignorance of all sorts of things that we don’t know about now due (at least in part) to the limitations of our tools (if not our imaginations, as well). The afterlife may or may not be one of those things, but there are likely to be lots of them, nonetheless.

      • That’s fair, but the scientific method also teaches us it is even sillier to take untested hypotheses as anything more than untested hypotheses.

      • As another poster pointed out taking an untested hypothesis and declaring it as true simply because it ‘feels’ right shows some irksome arrogance as well.

        People have this very annoying tendency of concluding they’re right just because it ‘feels’ right and an even more irksome tendency to attribute.anthropomorphic characteristics to events that do not have them (look up Theory of Mind).

        For instance, it’s a lot more comforting to think when you croak you’re going to see your relatives as opposed to oblivion and your carcass simply rotting in the ground but that doesn’t make it true. The quantum mechanics and physical phenomena you describe are amazing and paint a far more fascinating and elegant mosaic of the universe than arm chair philosophy could ever hope to create. This is why so many people turn away from science because it forces them to confront their own inaccuracies and reassess the validity of their own deeply held beliefs. Look no further then what happened to Galileo.

        • Sure, but I think you’d find that there are lots of religious people who don’t feel that whatever they might believe in is untested. Beliefs might be seen as validated by experience (as in the Harvard neurologist in this article), by tradition/authority, etc.

          Of course, to most scientists/science-advocates that doesn’t cut mustard because they typically make fundamentally different assumptions as to what constitutes valid epistemology. However, they often make the same mistake that others do in assuming that their epistemology reveals knowledge, when it is much more accurate to think of epistemologies (and methodologies) as creating knowledge.

          So I don’t see it as an issue of people necessarily clinging to beliefs despite evidence to the contrary, nor of people not having evidence to support their beliefs. It’s fundamentally an issue of differing (and sometimes competing) epistemological assumptions. Both sides have evidence to support their arguments, but both think the evidence of the other is either weak or invalid, and this has a lot to do with what they each assume constitutes valid methods/sources of knowledge.

          You also might want to read some better sources on the history of science. The persecution of early scientists is as much a myth as the persecution of early Christians: while it did happen in both cases, it was much, much less widespread and brutal than popular versions of events would have people believe. So while persecution does make for a nice founding myth, in both cases it isn’t born out by the historical records we have available.

          If you look up the history of Galileo’s life, you might find that events played out quite differently than is popularly believed (the Wikipedia page has a pretty decent summary of it). In short, it had a lot more to do with politics than it did with the persecution of science.

          I think there are plenty of good uses for scientific methodologies. That being said, I don’t think that they’re the only ones we should use. There are lots of ways of knowing available to us; my approach is to try to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses as both ways of creating knowledge and ways of being in the world.

        • What you’re referring to in your claim is Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance, which simply asserts the following: “Incoming information that diminishes one’s current belief system will cause discomfort; resulting in the lessening of divergences by irrational means.” For this part of your claim, you are correct. However, adhering to this notion, these divergencies in themselves must have substance – that is, must be soundly based on fact (known truth). To say something like, “people turn away from science because it forces them to confront their own inaccuracies” is void, because you haven’t specified the context in which you’re referring to science, and because the claim itself is an exaggerated generalization (not all people are unable to identify their liability to error). On another note, I take it that by “science” you are indicating neuroscience (a modest but iffy assumption I generated because of the nature of this discussion/article). Now, as I stated earlier, the divergencies (incoming information and beliefs) one might encounter in contrast to their own must be factual in order for them to take residence. In this case, however, there is no factual model (in neuroscience) that can be used to diverge one’s belief that consciousness is separate from mind. Of course, there are generalized models – simple and complex propositions, theories, and systems that researchers study and use as a foundation to the discipline – but there is no universally accepted understanding in this aspect of science. If you still do not believe me, consider this: NDEs (Near Death Experiences) are becoming more common (rooted from statistics). As these happenings increase in volume, scientists strive to understand consciousness and it’s role in explaining them. However, the insufficient amount of knowledge in this area leaves materialist scientists baffled; opening a new can of worms in the form of a dead person and their ability to see a bright light at the end of a tunnel (if you get the subtle joke). Scientists may begin to do case studies; maybe even studying each individual case or account and determining the possible factors that contributed to the individual’s “spiritual” encounter (listed on many sites and in many books). However, the fact still remains: the amount of current knowledge linked to consciousness is too premature to disprove (or prove) one’s ability to believe in NDE’s; therefore heaven, hell, and purgatory are all subjective (until we find truth – in death or in the future). If you’ve read this far, I both thank and congratulate you. I invite you to back-check my information, and to formulate a civil rebuttal so that we can enlighten and challenge each other. After all, this is the most fun I get all day. P.S. Don’t even start with Galileo. ;)

          Best Regards,
          Current law student,
          Graduate of Philosophy with a minor in Biochemistry,
          Mitchell McRae

      • The Higgs was theorized in the 60’s and as far as I know was not dismissed as fiction. It has merely been detected lately.

        Am I right in thinking that you are not willing to say any theory is impossible?

        As a great man said “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

        This like so many other paranormal ideas cannot be disproved by definition. The spirit cannot be detected in any way, and the “proof” of impossible knowledge is easily explained. (At least in this case)

        As gentle as I’ve been I wouldn’t even call the philosophy: “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” as arrogant.

        • It was dismissed as fiction by the first journal he submitted it to, but that’s beside the point. My point was simply that we shouldn’t discount the existence of something because our current tools are unable to perceive them.

          My other point is that there IS lots of evidence for what you’ve called “paranormal”, though I think this is a bad word to use for it. However, the evidence that exists doesn’t come out of valid epistemologies in the eyes of the hard sciences.

          I don’t have a problem with that on a certain level because everyone has their own epistemological biases and assumptions. The problem I do have is the failure to recognize that empiricism isn’t the only way of knowing things. It’s certainly a very useful one for accomplishing some things, but it’s blind to a lot of others. Every epistemology has its blind spots.

          So, yes, I do think that the assertion of empiricists that there is no evidence for the existence of what we might categorize as “religious phenomena” is tremendously arrogant. The arrogance that bothers me is not so much this particular claim, it is the implicit assertion that empiricism is the only valid means of knowing, and that is a very arrogant claim indeed.

          Another problem with the claim is that it also assumes that only particular types of methods are valid, as well, that only the anointed instruments of science can provide us with truth. Here’s what I mean by this:

          Surely any reasonable person would agree that someone who denies the existence of microscopic organisms but refuses to look through a microscope doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on.

          Similarly, I would argue that the opinion of someone who denies the existence and/or validity of religious experiences but doesn’t take the steps necessary to have them (i.e. engaging meditation, prayer, ritual, with the proper attitude, etc.) doesn’t really count for much.

          Anyway, I recommend some reading in the history of science. It’s pretty enlightening.

    • I think you need to perhaps resist the temptation to uncritically accept skeptics accounts of events.

      I should also point out that consciousness itself can’t be detected, hence it would surely be surprising if the self/soul/spirit could be detected.

      • 1. I criticized the evidence I presented, didn’t I? The accounts of events were from Clark herself and from first hand observations.

        2. What have neuroscientists and psychologists been doing all these years?

        You obviously mean the soul or spirit when you mean conciousness. No it can’t be detected because by definition it is impossible.

        Despite not knowing everything there is to know about the brain, despite the comforting fictions that permeate our culture, the best truth we have is that you are the meat between your ears and you die with it.

        • Neuroscientists and psychologists observe the brain and peoples’ behaviour respectively. You never observe anyone else’s consciousness but only their reactions to an experience or the correlated brain activity.

          No, the soul/spirit/self is not identical to consciousness, rather it is that which has conscious states. I explain more fully at the following link. Section 3:


          • You’re making the unsupported assumption that consciousness is something more than those reactions and the correlated brain activity and consequential physical activity.

          • It’s not an assumption, it’s a fact. Consciousness and the neural correlates are not the same thing since they don’t share the same properties. So for any reductive materialism to be true it would necessitate the non-existence of consciousness. Since we all know at least the existence of our own consciousness, then reductive materialism is necessarily false.

          • Please respond with your understanding of what consciousness is. The way I was address this issue I took consciousness to mean everything that occurs in your mind, including interpretation of your senses, understanding, motor control, speech function, self-awareness…

            As I understand there is an undeniable relation between your brain and all these features. Damage the brain in certain places and some of your mental faculties will be damaged.

          • No when I talk about consciousness I’m not referring to what consciousness *does* but rather what it *is*. And to be conscious is to experience emotions, feelings, pain etc. Self-awareness means to be aware that you are a self. So self-awareness is certainly not the same as consciousness since dogs for example probably are not aware they are selves (they don’t recognise themselves in mirrors anyway).

            Yes brain damage suggests brains create consciousness. However it can’t suggest that they are one and the same thing. If X either creates Y, or changes in X precipitate changes in Y, this does nothing to show that X and Y are one and the very same thing. My body casts shadows on a sunny day, but my body and my shadow are not one and the very same thing.

          • How do you know they’re not the same thing, since, as you said, consciousness has never been observed.

            If it hasn’t been observed, you can’t say definitively what it is or isn’t, there is no “fact” about it.

            On the other hand, if there is a fact about it, it’s been observed, and your whole point is shot down.

          • As I said they aren’t the same thing as they don’t share the same properties. The physical realm is characterised by structure and dynamics — and nothing more. Physical objects have a location, they are publicly observable, they have mass and so on.

            Consciousness has none of these things but instead is characterised by qualia and intentionality. Therefore necessarily they’re not one and the same thing even though one may bring into being the other.

          • Your assumption is that consciousness is something different. That it’s some kind of strange ghost that can exist without the mechanistic physical, chemical, and quantum reactions that take place in our brains.

            Your question contains within it the unsupported assumption that consciousness, such as we know it, is not simply a manifestation of these. However it is entirely possible that consciousness has as much actual existence as the colour blue, which is merely a definitional construct for a particular wavelength

          • Sorry Thwim, there’s no pint to this conversation since you’re unable to understand what I’m saying.

          • No, I can understand what you’re saying fine. I can see your assumption. The problem we’re having is that you can’t.

          • Well Thwim, whether it’s my lack of understanding, or yours, it remains the case that nothing further will be achieved by continuing this conversation :-)

          • Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.C.S. LEWIS

          • Seriously? Here’s a word perhaps you should consider reading up on:
            So. Deconstructing the milk jug analogy, because it’s the most idiotic part of the argument:

            In reality, it’s like spilling a billion billion milk jugs and seeing if a single one of them is a map of London.

            Except it’s not even *that* random. It’s more like spilling a billion milk jugs in different depressions, and the one that’s closest to a map of london gets a billion more spilled in it.. and somewhere along the way one of those spills happens to look like a map of London.

            Now that we’ve done that, how we can trust our own thinking to be true is simple. We compare our thinking and predictions to the observations we make. Where the observations show our thinking is wrong, we adjust. Most people have been doing this for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s what we call thinking.

            You should try it some time.

          • I am quoting C. S. Lewis. It isn’t my idea. I was bouncing an idea off to see what it would test, knowing that it was something I thought about but never seen debated.
            I was quoting, you were insulting. I don’t think I will be trying to share some ideas to this discussion anymore, I thought it was an open conversation and not a oppressive forum.
            I see evolution didn’t help in your cause.

          • So… you quote something stupid without applying any critical thought to it yourself, and then get upset when you’re treated with all the respect due to someone who doesn’t have their own ideas and doesn’t critically think about the ones they parrot?

          • I have thought about it, I just didn’t write what I thought. I figured I would post a quote, get a reply, and then reply back. I don’t think you can get the full grasp of my psyche based on one post, with or without my own ideas attached to it. Maybe you didn’t account for shyness? How can you assume I haven’t critically thought about it? I am not pretending to be a profession of logic, but reading this post reminded me of it and I just thought to share what was in my head as I was reading. Sorry for taking the time to care about what you think.

          • Fair enough call on the assumption. It comes from the idea that people generally don’t deliberately put forward less than their best foot on first outing — unless they’re trolls.

            So my assumption was that was either the best you had, or that you were a troll. If either of these assumptions were true, it’s unlikely that there’ll be any sort of meaningful conversation which either of us stand a chance of learning anything from.

            If these assumptions aren’t true.. then mea culpa.

            The quote, however, remains a piece of crap — unsupported by either sound thinking or understanding of the premises being discussed.

          • I would not use my real name if I was a troll :P
            I am at work so I apologize for any mistakes.
            My only thought about your reply about the C. S. Lewis quote is that you didn’t explain the concept of purpose. If I were to go by observation, I would see in life that a hunger for something usually means the very thing we hunger is in and of itself a real and true entity. If I hunger for food, I assume there is the existence of food to satiate. If I hunger for sexual gratification, there is that existence. But what of purpose? Humans seem to strive for a lot of meaning in basically everything we do, feel, think. Wouldn’t it be funny that we hunger for purpose and yet there isn’t any?
            Please be gentle, I am interested and want to learn but I am not going to act like I am a genius or anything.

          • Interestingly, some people have solved this problem. Maybe you’ll find this too glib, but there is suffering (dukkha) and there is an end to suffering.

            You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes, you get what you need.

            Life is life. Simply, it reproduces. It consumes and creates and destroys.

          • Earlier on with your conversation with Ian I couldn’t help to think about what he said: “Consciousness has none of these things but instead is characterised by qualia and intentionality”
            Intentionality, having an intent, having a purpose. I think that’s what he was trying to say separates consciousness with the material world. Sure, we think and see and feel and do all these things freely, but how come as humans we’re so gunhoe to find meaning in it, to find a great good, or purpose, if it was just a massive joke the universe was making? Couldn’t we be just as happy simply eating, drinking, indulging in all of our biological senses without needing to defend it/explain it away? Why would we feel the need to explain ourselves, evne if it is using the argument “I am a hedonist” or “I am atheistic and so I don’t believe in God to have to account my actions to”? I know we are CAPABLE but why do we as humans feel compelled?

          • Evolution explains this rather well. Those who don’t question the reason behind things, who don’t think to ask for example, “Why are there no people near this lovely cave by the creek” or “What is the meaning of this strange colored line on the rocks by the ocean” or “Why is that tribe tying stones to those sticks?” are the ones who end up thinking, “I wish this bear wasn’t eating me!” or “glub glub glub” or “Ow! That hurts!”

            Quite simply, asking questions is a survival trait.

          • I love the concept of evolution but I can’t go back in time and observe that happening so I don’t want to have faith in that theory just yet.

            Back in those evolutionarily early times, though as unlikely the chances are, there is a being that does not think but wants to live. And it dies. Millions of years happen and another being that doesn’t think springs up and wants to live. It survives for a second and is able to recognize a disaster waiting to happen, but surcombs to another disaster, and dies. As you can see, this is an exponentially unlikely event, that somehow these beings were randomly able to not only start to think, but to think correctly at the very beginning enough to live and profligate its own kind? I think both sides have to have a crazy amount of faith to believe in either fervently. I am just unsure and full of doubt and skepticism on both ends.

          • The part you’re missing is that evolution isn’t a binary action. It’s a probabilistic one. Does asking questions or thinking ensure reproductive success? Nope. Does not asking them ensure reproductive failure? Nope. But what it does is adjust the odds. And over time.. such as the millenia the earth has been around.. even fractional differences in the chances become huge multipliers.

          • I understand that, but I still don’t know how can organized thought come about by chance? Wouldn’t it be ironic that organized thought was borne of a cosmic chaos?

          • I think what I am trying to do is make up a rhetorical situation where we are at the moment in time that thought and thinking first appears. Maybe I am simplifying it a little. I just don’t understand how to get from point A to point B, from a non-thinking being to a thinking being. It seems like a small jump but to me it is gigantic. What turned on? Why? How?

          • Ah. I see the problem here. It’s very much the same one as the other person in this conversation was having.

            Perhaps this will help. Let’s say you see a casserole dish on the stove. Wanting some casserole, you grab the dish to steady it as you put in a spoon.

            However, suddenly your hand jerks back and you let out a cry. The dish is hot. Did you think about that? Did you think, this is hot, I should stop touching this and warn other people that there’s something wrong here? No. You simply reacted. Nerve impulses sent electricity to various muscles and organs, prompting further chemical and electrical signals which manifested themselves as you pulling your arm back and crying out.

            What we call *thought* is simply a higher-order manifestation of that, where what we’re reacting to isn’t a single stimuli, but rather the whole variety of stimuli that are affecting us at every moment. From how that worn toe in our sock feels to the electro-chemical-quantum state of our brain as determined by our genetics and life experience up to this very point.

            Evolution has shaped that, over countless failures and successes, mutation by mutation, to be something that is useful to our surviving. So that when we see an oncoming car, we don’t think about red velvet cushions that sound like opera or the like.

            We went from “Ow! That hurts!” to “Don’t like.” to “Don’t like cause it’ll probably hurt” to “Don’t like. Will it hurt?” to “Will it hurt?” to “What will that do?”, etc, all the way down the line to “Why do we think?” with thousands of evolutionary steps, successes and failures, between each one down the line.

          • I get that. Very interesting, and it makes sense. You explained well.
            So ultimately, the purpose of thought is to stay alive. Living perfects thought. And the purpose of life and thought is to live. So what is “true”, or “knowledge” is “what helps you live”.

            Going back to the C. S. Lewis quote, if we accept the theory of evolution, how can we trust own thinking to be true if our thinking is solely and fundamentally bent on survival? We couldn’t really “know” anything. Everything would be subjective and we could never really know what is “true”, only know what is “tested and approved for survival”. But if there is a being out there, an essence, that from which we get all knowledge, all truth, all virtue, all elements of life, then there is the very real ability to attain true “knowledge”, and be absolutely sure of it.

            Therefore, in the theory of evolution, “knowledge” is a by-product of living, living creates knowledge, surviving is the truth, so

            truth = survival.

            With God (or whatever essence), knowledge begot life, and life learned the truth, so what we know as knowledge is knowledge that sprung forth life, what we know is truth itself, so

            truth = the truth.

            Wouldn’t it be funny, as someone who subscribes to evolution, to hear someone say, “I know that my knowledge is not knowledge in the true sense of the word but simply a set of responses based on the environment and that there isn’t any true knowledge… so what I am saying right now isn’t true knowledge but merely the knowledge I have created for the purposes of survival.”

            Any thoughts?

          • Sorry for the delay. It actually took me a couple of days to figure out what you meant by really “know”ing anything.

            What I came up with is that you’re referring to things like the brain in the jar question. That is, if all we know comes to us from our senses, and our senses are interpreted by our brain, is it possible that we are merely brains in a jar and everything we think we experience is actually some mad scientist pumping a simulation into our heads, and we actually have no idea about reality?

            The answer to that is, “Who cares?”
            If everything we experience is *this* reality, who cares what the true reality, that we are unable to experience from this one, is? It’s intellectual wankery, and is actually counter-productive in that it reduces the urgency of fully understanding this reality to make life better for the people around us.

            Bringing this to your question, the knowledge we have *is* knowledge in the true sense of the word, because it’s the knowledge that matters and can have some effect. Whether it is the ultimate truth if there is another level of reality is irrelevant, because we live at *this* level, and at this level, it’s real.

          • I disagree on a number of accounts.

            I don’t think that everything we experience is *this* reality. I would think you came to read this article because you were curious about the evidence to suggest that there is more to life than just what’s inside this jar. Whether you or I have actually experienced things from outside the jar, there are people who seem to have had or continue to have access to that life. I don’t know if I could ignore them outright.

            I also don’t think indifference is a good attitude. I would rather assume that what’s outside the jar matters, if everything in this life matters, than I would assume that everything outside matters as well. This is the same logic we use with the sun rising; it always has risen, so I live my life like it always will. I can’t prove it my logic, but I just assume it to life.

            I also don’t think that thinking about the life outside the jar automatically reduces the urgency of fully understanding this reality to make life better for those around us. I think whether you care or don’t care about life out of the jar, there are numerous examples of people who just aren’t good to people around them. It could be argued that people who care about life and judgement at the end of life’s day care more about their behaviour to those around them. It is easier to ignore the consequences of action (or inaction) when you don’t think there is a sentient being meeting you at Heaven’s Gates, so to speak. So it could be argued both ways.

          • First, I came to this article because I follow Phil King, and I was curious what he was responding to. Truth be told, I haven’t bothered reading the actual article.

            Second, asserting that there are people that have had or continue to have access to another reality is completely nonsensical because there is absolutely no reliable evidence thereof. Hell, given my childhood sheets, there’s more reliable evidence of my passionate nights with Michelle Pfeiffer in that cat suit than there is of any other realm.

            Go to any psychiatric ward and you’ll find dozens of people with dozens of experiences of dozens of different realities. Does that mean any of them are actual realities? Your argument — that someone’s subjective experience of a reality that does not match our own, or have any evidence toward it other than their personal experience, is enough for us to have to consider it as an option — suggests that we do. And that’s simply silly. Can you ignore outright the guys who think that our government has been taken over by shape-changing reptillian aliens? Or the ones who think mankind was put on earth by the alien godlike being Xenu? If you can ignore either of those outright, what makes the ones who think they’ve seen Heaven any different?

            Assuming what’s outside the jar matters is exactly what’s counterproductive, because it takes away time and energy from putting your brain to use on more productive topics.. like those *inside* the jar. What’s worse, it’s assuming there’s a jar in the first place — again, something being done without any sort of reliable evidence. It’s like saying “Well if everything in life is important, then I assume the dietary habits of unicorns from Pluto are also important.” WTF?

            And it is not the same logic as the sun rising. The sun rising exists in this reality. The sun rising has probability based on history and evidence. The sun rising has proper theories, that are both falsifiable and have withstood all tests to this point, explaining not only why it has risen, but why it will continue to do so.

            Of course you can’t technically *prove* it will rise tomorrow, but we can damn well predict it and see if our prediction is verified or not. And that’s the difference. That’s why to equate the sun rising with the existence of an other reality because you can’t prove either is asinine.

            It could be argued that belief in an afterlife makes people behave better, but any such argument would have to somehow deal with Timothy McVeigh, suicide bombers, and a little thing called The Inquisition.

            Hell, I put it to you that belief in an afterlife where you’re judged makes people behave *worse*, because it opens a person up to suggestions of what that judging being wants from you, and how dangerous and harmful actions in this life can be justified by the one after.

          • I am going to be pondering about this for a while, I think you got me because I’m stumped.
            Would you consider providing me with an email address? Even if it is secret, I don’t care to go back on this webpage to reply back. But either way, I will reply back.

          • What a fascinating conversation, Danielle – you and Thwim are on complete opposite sides regarding your entire view of life and existence. As a casual observer, I tend to agree with Thwim’s points – but then again I am a pessimist by nature. I do however believe that as a person, you are probably full of love and empathy, are self-aware and confident, and generally lead a much happier life than Thwim (or I) do. At times, I wish I could be in your shoes, as then daily life wouldn’t seem like such a chore. Yours has meaning.

          • 3 Thoughts

            The idea of what is included in the Universe i.e. The Jar has changed drastically overtime. Higgs Boson, dark matter, as examples. So it is our job to push the boundaries of what is in the Jar and what is out of it (maybe one day we will find a magic portal into the outside of the Jar… you never know, and it is the job of scientists to push the boundaries of what is knowable). If we are left to only deal with what we know NOW as being part of this universe, how will we ever grow?

            Religion used to be the preachy, oppressive force in our lives, telling us what is true and what is not true. Now, it is science that is oppressive and using a specific sort of epistemology to drill down our throats. If there is a way that we can integrate the principles of science and religion, I would think we would really open the doors to a plethora of discoveries.

            Tools change over time, and we as a species will continue to add to our knowledge based on using the right tools. If we want to learn about the sky, use telescopes. If you want a religious experience, use a Bible or other holy book.

            It is pretty sad that you didn’t real the article. Curious mind? I think not.

          • You don’t have to go back in time to observe evolution.

          • Exponentially unlikely is an insignificant problem in an infinite universe.

          • The process of thinking is basically a process of pattern matching. Some patterns are very small and we can grasp them ‘intuitively’ without thinking. Some patterns are very large, and we grasp them with invented calculating process, mathematics, for instance, itself a pattern matching process which maps other patterns.

            Science, Philosophy, Religion, etcetera etcetera, all are pattern matching processes which try to explain larger patterns.

            Sometimes there is a pattern. Sometimes there is not. Sometimes we get caught in recursive, maybe self-referential patterns. Thinking about thinking is such a thing. Thinking that all these patterns must have a purpose is such a self-referential pattern about patterns.

            Sometimes our thinking system is faulty, or inadequate and we can’t just recognize that. Sometimes the system is too large to grasp and we apply known patterns at a scale we can manage.

          • Even our all too human, failed and faulty thinking system has developed a series of intelligent rules. We call them logical fallacies.

          • Danielli ignore Thwim. C. S. Lewis hits the nail on the head.

          • What a fascinating conversation, Danielle – you and Thwim are on
            complete opposite sides regarding your entire view of life and
            As a casual observer, I tend to agree with Thwim’s points – but then
            again I am a pessimist by nature. I do however believe that as a person,
            you are probably full of love and empathy, are self-aware and
            confident, and generally lead a much happier life than Thwim (or I) do.

            At times, I wish I could be in your shoes, as then daily life wouldn’t
            seem like such a chore. Yours has meaningg

          • I wouldn’t say necessarily that I am on a completely opposite side. I see thwim’s points to be sound and I can confidently say I wrestle with the concepts daily. I view myself as being stuck in a sort of purgatory of thought, in limbo between these two extreme camps, being educated somewhat in both, because neither fully satisfy me.

            I like to think that I am full of love, empathy (perhaps even to a fault) and that I am self-aware. I could be more confident as I tend towards shyness, and happiness is a commodity that I could always do more with… I am definitely not a pessimist, I tend to be an optimist, an idealist, I am gullible, trust too easy, fall in love too fast, tend towards oversensitivity, I let myself be vulnerable and put my heart on my sleeve. I am a musician, that is my choice of study at university, so these can exacerbate these qualities. I took science as well in university, I think only adding to my dichotomous persuasion. So all in all, not sure if living in my shoes is necessarily going to seem less of a chore. Being like thwim (or yourself) seems much less like a chore, because I invest too much importance to so many things, often getting hurt in the process. But I really appreciate your comment, I’m glad we had a casual observer :)

  4. Assuming we accept the very real observations of science and put mythology aside, there are still some very good reasons to believe in either a mechanistic or spiritual version of reality… or even both at the same time.

    I’m always reminded of the following quote when these discussions come up.

    “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein

    As far as “heaven”, I’ll reserve judgement on its existence, but I certainly want no part in a place predicated on judging the imperfect by perfect standards. If there’s a ‘god’ then he/she/it can’t possibly be as trite as many religions make him/her/it out to be.

    • read the bible yes its a long book but it is all based on real events that happened a long time ago

      • I’ve read the bible more than a few times thanks.

        For those who’ve studied judaic philosophy and history, the old testament becomes a rich text indeed, but one which is quite clearly metaphorical in most regards.

        In fact if you’ve studied the judaic kabbalah, then you also realize that Jesus was speaking metaphorically too, and that much of what he said was taken out of context by literalists over the centuries.

        Based on his references, the nature of his admonishments of the pharisees, and given his life long study of judaic philosophy in the temples as cited in various texts, he was clearly a Kabbalist and therefore more akin to a philosopher than a religious nut who thought he was the son of god.

        Why do you think he spent so much time bringing a “new covenant” anyways? Because the old one worked so well? Because it was in line with reality? Because he thought the old texts the unalterable word of god? For pete’s sake, he even downplayed the ten commandements in some regards.

        No, let’s face it, in order to accept him, religious literalists had to make him into something he wasn’t. The spirit of Christ however is a broader concept one can embody similar to kindness, love compassion etc. Jesus was putting forth an example and was insistent that others could follow this path as well as he. He spoke of himself as Christ because he was embodying the spirit, not because he thought he literally was “The Christ”.

        The story of Christianity is in my view about the ongoing battle between those who insist on literalism versus those who believe in the embodiment of spirit.

      • Real events as in history? So Adam and Eve and the talking serpent were historical? And they populated the whole earth, right? And Noah got two of every animal IN THE WORLD onto an ark. And remember the time Aaron’s wife turned into a pillar of salt — magical!

        Please, no the bible is not based on real events, most especially not the Old Testament. And the New Testament was written many years after Jesus’ death, and has been translated from language to language over the years. Literal reads of the Bible is not to be recommended.

  5. Uh, because people are getting noticeably stupider?

  6. “The day science begins to study the paranormal, it will make more progress in one decade than all previous centuries” – Nikola Tesla

    • they have and came up with nothing, its been debunked countless times

      • Hey man, those are the words of the greatest inventor and one of the greatest scientist to ever live on earth. I’ll stick to his reality and not yours.

        And they have not been debunked, they have been dismissed and ignored, a huge difference. You fail to fully understand the scientific establishment and the amount of power religion still holds in society.

        • That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.

          • Here is your evidence


            My friend, who is a smart well-rounded person, see’s ghost. She’s not lying, she has no reason to. We may not have the tools or knowledge necessary to ‘prove it’ but the eyewitness account is proof that something is going on.

            The evidence exist, if you search long enough you will find this to be true. Take the Shag Harbour incident, even the government and RCMP have official records stating that a UFO was the cause of the incident and to this day do not know what it was.


          • Very logical indeed . If we cannot explain it it must be paranormal etc. Sounds allot like the Catholic Church’s explanation of miracles. Because you do not understand something does not give you license to make things up. Funny that’s how religions got their start.

          • Well, that is the definition of paranormal so…

            par·a·nor·mal [par-uh-nawr-muhl] Show IPA
            of or pertaining to the claimed occurrence of an event or perception without scientific explanation, aspsychokinesis, extrasensory perception, or other purportedly supernatural phenomena.

            And no one is making things up. These things happen. My friend is seeing deceased people and she is not the only one. Edgar Casey has all his medical diagnosis archived and proven, they just can’t explain yet how he did it, but he did do it.

            The question that needs to be asked is not if this stuff is really happening, it’s why does the paranormal get dismissed, ignored and denigrated by the MSM, governments and establishments. Who is denying us the right to the truth of what this life really is.

          • Well that’s certainly not the case with psi:

            a) people have reported such experiences throughout history and across all cultures

            b) There is scientific evidence which suggests its existence.

            Besides which it is clearly the case that we can assert things without evidence eg there is not a blue whale in that drawer.

  7. I’m pretty sure I’m in even though I’m mostly an atheist. Vorticism has potential. But actual life is pretty simple to live well. It just takes effort; I different type of effort than working long hours and Churching long hours. It takes free time and you have to use your free time to learn how to use people to perform viable strategies that actuate utilitarianism. Reading well read people, and then using your own comparative advantages. The GOP doesn’t have time to read…
    Vorticism should have a clear/simple part of the painting; but they aren’t very well read or wordly. They paint the dumbest subject matter like ships and plastic consumer goods (appliances and stuff that gets dated easily). I saw wind turbines but also a reference to god; the problem N.Ferguson didn’t get is some god might be good, but too much like in the south is bad. There are parts of a good vorticist painting but most of it degenerates to modernist shapes that are often on cheap plates.
    We need enough technology to make Earth redundant, and the Bible is of no use here. I adapted. If you can’t, give your money or your job away to someone smart and just. Now the Jefferson Bible…

  8. You really think god is stuck on a 300AD thinktank, mindset? #$%^ing morons. Macleans is smarter and more just than the people who picked the Bible books.

    • Malceans you guys should pick the best 1/2 of the Bible, throw in some Democritus, The best Shakespeare pages, some Socrates, the most Progressive parts of the Koran, and some of the best human rights laws. Bundle it all together and call it the Maclean’s Bible. If you believe in it your decendants get from magazine subscriptions when you die. Maybe it is rewarding the extreme Chrsitians, the lieralists, is why North America got so ritzy-ly inefficient. I’m celibate now so I have time to change all your diapers; and I’m happy. This country has gone kookie last decade. Why don’t women say: I like you? Part of it is the Bible. Someone like me will enslave all of you one day when I’m gone for just this reason.

  9. Whether it’s the afterlife in some heavenly physical place or just energy released from the body at the time of death like some wireless data roaming endlessly in some never ending dream state (Heaven) or never ending nightmare (Hell). It would be a dis-service to mankind given the complexities of DNA and its will to survive and procreate that we discount a belief (even without scientific evidence) that something exists after death and were not just slabs of meat in the ground. If there is anything that should turn a skeptical scientist into a optimist it should be there own study of human body and how very little they really know about it…how cells smaller than the eye can see an mount an attack on bacteria or viruses, if I touch something hot how fast does that feeling transmit to my brain …process the information then send the signal back to my hand to MOVE IT! How cancer thrives in some and dies in others, how the human brain retains and retrieves more information than any super computer on earth, how an egg transforms from a zygote to an embryo to a fetus and finally a new born child. I know the answers are there for most of this except Cancer but the fact that at one time the answers were not there and people just thought of it as magic, work of the gods or witchcraft should tell you alone to keep an open mind.

  10. Way to go Maclean’s … pandering to the lowest common denominator. Canadian journalism reflecting the inane, idiotic slant of Newsweek. America, home of the best and the worst … and as of late, the very worst!

  11. I guess a main problem is Christianity came from the Roman civilization, which was inferior to the Greeks and their imperfect gods. Because there is evil, we know if there is a “god” being, he is imperfect. Socrates didn’t want the Romans to develop engineering (ICE); didn’t think were socially ready. So we got inferior ethics, and basically waited around for the time of chivalry. With Islam, the inability to criticize Allah will ensure their members become poorer and dumber, comparitively, as utilitarian humanist culture achieves a progressive and stable use of potential dangerous technologies.
    Christians can’t stop the rapture. Muslims can’t stop the end of this world. Maybe thoughtful humanists can’t; but can certainly delay it for trillions of years until atoms fall apart. So we shouldn’t be making Bible-thumpers more powerful. Esle we get Europe as the hope instead of North America. Europeans are sucks compared to North Americans. They know they have been wrong twice before, promoting all technologies in their 18th century awakening instead of the Scottish good ones. And also with nationalism. Whereas North Americans had enough of the Scottish Enlightenment to win both wars for the good guys. But North America fought the Cold War by going iniefficiently to the RW. And now the RW is using religion especially in the USA south and in SK/AB, to move towards failure in winning the peace. The USA has used Intrepid’s marketing techniques (developed to beat Hitler), to cause AGW and a system where rich people who dug up oil to get rich, keep most people dumb and poor and busy enough not to be able to use technology to stop extinction/tyranny threat and not to be able to get longevity and a science of raitonal humane upbringing and the ability to self-select happy daily affairs.
    So is it a European soccer diving pussy future, or is it a North American future before the Neocon idiots took charge. Every other path appears The Fate of Animals. Don’t make me side with zee Germans.

  12. Get back to us when a Hindu comes back and reports Heaven is Christian or vice verse

    • If we are going to choose to be religious and choose Judiasm/Christianity/Islam; all are male-dominated. So if all women do is waste time, Hindu-ism has the advantage of arranged marriages for men. Rich men can’t have time and intelligence, but can get hookers/trophy-wife. But a poor man can have everything but money and intelligence: 3 of 5, under Hindu-ism. The Hindus don’t have oil so they have advantages that Texas and Alberta don’t.
      That’s why I don’t like flamers in our male-dominated society. They are supposed to output ideas or a taxbase or something useful, being men.
      I’d like women to have brains before we get to AI.

      • That’s why flamers are bad and slightly in aggregate (people are individuals still) straight people or lesbians are better than gay males.
        Gay males get the best of both worlds in our Christian society: to be assertive and the power and wages. Yet they contribute less as they are assertive about wasting time whereas lesbians keep their time wasting to themselves. You will have some 300 IQ Republican General or tech genius enslave you because women didn’t ask his out and improve his loyalty. You can thank one of 3 gods.

        • …or you’ll put checks on power and knowledge and no one will solve this millenium b4 something wipes us out and all our religions with it. I’ll crazy glue the lock to heaven around 2060 while pounding the hell out of some angels.

  13. This article is outrageous for many reasons. This is sensationalistic journalism at its worst, putting provocative ideas on the cover of Maclean’s to sell more magazines. Seriously, Maclean’s that is the best you have. Just as there is no substance to heaven, there is no substance to the article. A few stories of people having visions as they undergo traumatic physical events is not evidence for heaven; it is evidence of physical/chemical entities that underlie what we perceive as consciousness. There is nothing new here. As to the title’s assertion that scientists believe in heaven, here is one Professor, and medical scientist who firmly does not “believe” in heaven. Indeed, the whole concept of “belief” is beyond the thought processes of scientists. Scientific thinkers collect evidence and draw conclusion on the balance of that evidence. There is no belief, there is only considered opinion. On the issue of heaven, the balance of evidence firmly says, there is no heaven. Sorry folks.

    • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. There is not even the slightest hint of a shadow of any evidence of any heaven .
      As populations become more educated belief in imaginary sky Gods diminishes. The thesis of the article is very suspect. The title is false and misleading.

  14. Has anybody been to hell when they ‘died’?

  15. Simply put, there is no such thing as death. We are born again. I don’t think we really go anywhere, except come back in a new body, a new person, a new identity, over and over again.

    • Why do you think that? Keep in mind I’d like to know what you already know, don’t go out and do your research after the conclusion.

  16. Not sure how I feel about the term “heaven tourists”. While not a believer myself, I feel like it is slightly insensitive to link an important theological concept for religious folks with tourism–as if these beliefs are commodified in exactly the same way as travel. Wouldn’t call a priest Jesus’ publicist, know what I mean?

  17. Jews converting to Islam?
    I figure mutant brains should be illegal for now. If this includes modifications to our own (that turn Montreal into “28 Days Later”); that is harder to enforce. I’m worried about a super smart dictator here. And simulations of brains on our existing silicon supercomputers seem safe from this engineering threat. On purpose, someone could use them for a blueprint. By accidnt you can just delete the blueprint. We will need this research one day to solve/estimate the Drake Equation.
    This strength of conviction in not using contemporary learning is a productivity tax on an individual’s life. Nearer term technologies still impart a Cold War 1950-1985 sort of annual civilization-crash risk. We need safe robotic towns. I kind of like using the Sun’s energy in an inner orbit to wind flywheels, but maybe even zero point energy or something. It is too bad the list of names in the Old Testament isn’t an actuary table. I’m supposed to read The Oddysey before Ullyses, but can I still avoid reading: The Portrait of an Artist…”? Of course, the heroic meme is good too. The Grecians would die for their fellow soldiers rather than Gods. The Gods weren’t perfect, this might’ve mildly meant more understanding was okay. Single use surveillence technologies really aren’t a religious meme. Responsible oversight in some passages, sure. But you should maximize your crop yields and agri knowledge, unlike the Book of Jeremiah says. I would like that tale deleted from The Bible, and replaced with Stoics jokes.

  18. DOn’t play deaf-mute with me, MSM: I can hear you talking. What do you think religion should be? The MSM is supposed to be an independant voice. The Greek Gods gave an excuse to watch NFL on Sunday. Though that was too militant by the time of the Gatling Gun. Forbidden Fruit might stem brain modification risks that tend towards suffering or mental illness along with increasing military engineering/industrial prowess.
    I really think people should spend their church time getting a degree for this type of reason.

  19. I don’t know why there is a debate about this….it has all been documented and proven before, in that classic 1978 movie “Heaven Can Wait”.

  20. Contradicting…The MSM and schools tell viewers and students “There is no God”, “Where is proof of God”, “Jesus was not a prophet”…………………..Meanwhile the Israeli Jews are bullying their way on Palestinian lands claiming “God gave them this land”, “We are God chosen ones”.

    Stephen Hawkings was right to do the boycott of war crime, ethnic cleansing and apartheid Israel academia. If the students in America, Canada, Europe only knew who was pulling the strings in the education system to promote one side of the story the students would be furious at being misled and groomed to fight Israel’s wars (Iraq 2003, Syria 2013, Iran 2014)

    • Go back to your office at CAIR, the shift is over. Pick up your 9.00/hr. check for trolling and have a good night, Johnathan.

  21. Who said the Beatles were atheists? In the beginning they were all agnostic, and I’m pretty sure John was a atheist, but they changed later.

    Post-Beatles John went everywhere (according to my sources). Some say he went Buddhist, others say Christian, others say he was hardcore atheist (and “God” and “Imagine” were hard evidence) but his wife did confirm after his death that he held a form of spirituality and believed the human essence lived on after death.

    Harrison embraced Hare Krishna up until his death.

    McCartney was like John, but I think he might have converted to Christianity. Don’t know for sure.

    Starr stated in 2010 he had returned to monotheism.

    So in the beginning, yeah, they were atheists, but after the Beatles they went everywhere.

  22. Susan
    Blackmore’s account is the most credible. If NDE and OBE experiences
    were real (not just vivid dreams) then far more people would bring back
    info they were not previously able to know, and a standard test of
    placing an unseen text atop a cabinet would be read and remembered by
    most of these people.
    This test cannot be passed by any one in an OBE state.

    Why do people believe anyway? … because they want to believe.

    • In my view its important not to to get into polarised thinking on this subject (i.e. you have either left your body, or it’s not real). I think some of the verifiable OBE’s contain verified information that is difficult to dismiss. But I don’t think that experiencers have *actually* left their body, I just think occasionally a third parties field may have temporarily affected an experiencers dysfunctional brain.

  23. I have seen what we really are, we are beings made of light that vibrates at a higher frequency, it resides in this dimension inside the physical body that is just like a suit that is needed to be worn in this third dimension reality. I have experienced how much we are loved and are love, it is way beyond what we experience here as love. It has to be something you personally must experience, we are alone here, inside the finite physical body. It is like a shell that holds what we really are, our reason to come here for this experience is the challenge to love and create a beautiful world together. Raise your consciousness and love one another, that is your reason for being in this dimension. Nothing else matters. You don’t need a religion to be a loving human being.

  24. I have written about my experiences in a book called ” And I Heard The Sky Sing”. You can purchase it at amazon, I write under the name Dianne Browny maiden name.

  25. It is also available at Barns and Noble

  26. Twelve years ago , I was in hospital awaiting open heart surgery. Sunday around 5 pm I died and was brought back to life by a very skillful medical team. When I died, it was like someone turned off the lights, totally black…..nothing else….when I returned to life… it was like someone turned the lights back on ….normal light…nothing else. There was nothing in between. Since then I have spoken to a gentleman who had also died and was brought back to life. He experience was exactly the same as mine. I do not disbelieve (or believe) other peoples after death experiences. Perhaps they were better Christians than my friend and I …perhaps…therefore… their after life experiences were more rewarding. I am not judging other peoples after death experiences…I am only telling the honest truth about what I experienced. Kevin

    • Kevin, it simply means God did not feel the need to communicate with you in this way. When I had my NDE, I needed a jolt because I was on a path to hell.

  27. A friend of mine explained this very simply. She said, have you ever wondered why only catholics ever see the virgin mary? And why she always looks like in the paintings you see in church? Why does the Jesus of hallucinations have long blond hair and blue eyes?

    Likewise, if you’ve never heard of angels and you have an NDE, you’re definitely not going to see angels.

    • not true; many atheists have had NDE’s and or have seen angels. I don’t know about Mary but the Old Testament demonstrates that God deals with people where they are at and with language/images they understand. He does not change their understanding and then communicate with them. He comes to where they are and starts there.

  28. Add on top of that all the cases of after-death communication (spirits communicating with loved ones long AFTER they’ve died) and mounting ‘captured’ evidence on shows like Ghost Adventures and Long Island Medium and you cannot ignore the fact that there is something to this.

  29. When you add it all up together, it is pretty compelling.

  30. First of all, I don’t believe that more scientists are becoming religious. Secondly the near-death-experince types, NDE, claim that they see a running shoe, missing dentures, or other ‘well documented’ items as their floating through the air in this peaceful, enlightened, loving, all-knowing, afterlife. Why don’t they ever notice more useful things? Like finding 3 missing girls trapped in a house and imprisoned for 10 years as was recently in the news. They could just as easily float over the house, read the address numbers, and have a verifiable, and meaningful, and convincing story to tell the police, rather than float around and notice a missing running shoe outside the hospital. You can be sure that during those 10 years there have been many stories of incredible ‘insight, and knowledge’ during someones ‘NDE’, just a few miles from that house. This doesn’t say much for the ‘afterlife energy’ which is more concerned with finding a missing shoe, or denture, over a missing girl.

    • Richard I live a few miles from that house and I did once have a NDE, though it occurred long before these women disappeared. My NDE was very brief and I did not see heaven. What I saw was that I was on the road to hell. It was enough for me to straighten out my life when I awoke and to get on the right path. God does not permit NDE’s for the purpose of fortune-telling or crystal ball reading about the lives of others. A NDE is an extremely personal experience allowed by God for the benefit of the person having the experience only. That this person wakes up and talks about it to others matters little. The person is changed forever…and changed in a way precisely intended by God. I told few people about my experience and did not talk about it at all for more than 30 years. But it has had a huge impact on my life and my perception of God and the next life. I take it very seriously.

  31. I’ve tried to believe in an afterlife, but it sure isn’t making much sense. Like, perhaps Eben Alexander met his long dead sister riding a butterfly. But what else are they going to do, and at what point does their relationship become moot? It seems that we need finality in order to make our personalities profound. I question what meaning a relationship in an afterlife can possibly have. When you have transcended death, then what have you? In life, my mother was a very naive, sweet person. She didn’t have all the answers by a long shot. Who will I meet in death? A goddess? Well that’s not my mother. Is she going to be the same simple, sweet person who doesn’t really have a clue what’s going on? How can that be, since she sees God and sees through the veil of death? People who have experienced NDEs always talk about the timelessness of it all, so maybe that has something to do with it. Personally I believe accounts like this, and yet they really don’t jive at all with the logic of this world.

  32. All religious, spiritual, afterlife beliefs, are born of just one source – fear. Fear of death, even more – fear of horrifying, painful, suffering, lingering dying, which the vast majority of us will go thru on our way to ‘lights out’. How anyone can fool themselves in to believing their god is one of infinite love for them, for us all, one that puts us all thru that sort of ‘end’ let alone all the pain of our physical existence, is equally ‘beyond’ comprehension. The only possible intelligent logical conclusion one can surmise from all the pain and suffering we endure, is that IF there IS some ‘THING’ that so many believe is our loving god creator and it’s entourage, then the pain it causes us all is deliberate, for just one purpose – for it and it’s entourage to ‘feed’ on all that pain it and it’s entourage causes us to suffer.

    • While the pain God causes is real, that doesn’t mean you can assume God’s purposes

    • HomeMovies, you are wrong on so many levels. To say that God does – if he exists – cause or feed on our pain. You don’t understand the mystery of suffering, which is something you cannot understand unless you first come to a firm belief that God does in fact exist. The reality is that God did not create a world of suffering; he created a perfect world where he walked with man. It was man who turned from God and rebelled, and this rebellion brought death upon us, along with all its manifestations…including suffering. God could have left us in this state forever, lost to a discouraging fate that gives us no hope. But He is a God of love and a God of hope; he came down into the world and turned the hopelessness of suffering on its head. That is to say, by his suffering and death, he gave suffering and death the power to save – instead of the power to destroy man. So now suffering for all humans has the potential to sanctify them and perfect them and prepare them for heaven. I suffered for 15 years from something beyond my control. During this time, I gained inner strength, became less selfish, more empathetic, more mature, learned to appreciate the small things in life…to be grateful, less materialistic, less fearful, and was stripped by the experience of my worst habits and faults. This is the fruit of that suffering: to make me a better person. I would not trade those years for anything. God often does not take our sufferings away but uses them to purify us or to permit us to make reparation in this life for our sins so that we do not have to atone for them in the next life. He is preparing us for heaven. In Scripture he tells a story about a man who comes to the wedding improperly dressed, and he is thrown out of the wedding. By this story, Jesus is telling us we cannot enter the ‘wedding feast’ of heaven with impurities on our soul. He uses the sufferings in our lives to burn these impurities off because HE WANTS US IN HEAVEN.

  33. All laboratory tested incidences of out of body experiences have so far held no merit or been disproved. If older people want to grasp at straws they are doing nothing more then propelling scam artists to instant wealth and teaching this generation that deception to make someone feel good is a sure ticket.

    Religions have failed and now people choose a sad, desperate attempt at anything to believe they’ll live forever.

    With this trend I expect cases of insanity and delusion to accelerate.

    You think there is no harm in this, you’re wrong.

    • Boo. You obviously haven’t done your research. Read “The Tunnel and the Light” by Kubler Ross – with hundreds if not thousands of case studies of NDEs including those of children. Strong evidence found, including people relating back what family said in the waiting room. Or if you prefer not to mess with your paradigm, then don’t do any research and continue with your ‘opinions’.

  34. Why, exactly, should we consider witness testimony more than imaginative wishful thinking? NDE’s can be reproduced in the lab, and let’s not forget that a near death experience is just that… NEAR death. Not actual death. No major developments or discoveries have been made in terms of consciousness somehow carrying on after the brain no longer functions.
    Even if there WERE an afterlife, it doesn’t prove that there is a deity, much less one of the ones worshipped in the major religions. Sounds to me like a lot of baby boomers scared of dying, nothing more.

    • Consider doing some research into ‘after-death communication’ and then come back and talk to me again.

  35. Irrespective of your beliefs this is a terrible article. At the very least the title of the article is misleading. It is just a discussion about NDEs as it provides no evidence of many “scientists” believing in heaven. Of course, I use the term “scientist” as someone who examines evidence for or against a hypothesis and comes to conclusion based on that evidence. I think we can all imagine many possibilities to explain NDEs that are a million times more plausible than someone actually flying though heaven on a giant butterfly.

    I also find Mr. Bethune’s penultimate sentence annoying. “Theists and atheists alike dispute any earthly authority’s right to judge, and both feel NDEs give them reason to hope for something beyond the grave.” Why does he think everyone hopes for “something beyond the grave”. I certainly do not and I imagine a lot of people understand that nothing, including our universe, lasts forever and that humans certainly could not cope with such a future (despite what they believe). This sentence shows a religious bias and lack of understanding of the range of human beliefs.

    • You have no biases, Tony?

      • Of course I do, but your question is basically irrelevant. I am not writing a cover story for a major magazine. Also, I am prepared to change my view if compelling evidence is presented. This hyped-up article clearly provided nothing new to the debate.

        • Tony,

          I think the evidence, if such there is, depends on what happens when we die. I can’t imagine any kind of conventional scientific protocol that would have any bearing on the question. How would an hypothesis of an afterlife generate a mathematically verifiable/falsifiable observation?

          I can understand skepticism, but dogmatic skepticism, otherwise known as question-begging, seems uninteresting to me.

          My own personal experiences suggest to me that there is so much out there beyond consensus reality that one should not be in a hurry to exclude some possibilities.

          Best wishes,


  36. Why no mention of Anita Moorjani’s “Dying to Be Me”?

  37. Religions of today are man made concepts, heaven, hell, all of these things are ideas that men had. If the great spiritual leaders of the past came back right now to see what religion has become, I’m fairly confident they would not recognize or endorse it. They preached about loving one another and treating eachother with respect and compassion.We have twisted these words as a means to control the masses by making them fear death even more so than they already do i.e. ‘hell’ The reality is the only punishment that awaits bad people that don’t give love, respect, and compassion to their fellow man is that they will never recieve it in this life in return. THIS is what we should fear, not death…

    • I see you are an expert in death. Have you seen much of it? Died yourself?

      • I see you’re an expert in douchbaggery

        • That’s noise, not thought.

  38. Thanks for the reminder as to why I don’t read MacLeans. What dumb tripe.

  39. God’s greatest attribute is His mercy. His heart is an ocean of mercy that allows Him to forgive any sin – if only we would repent of our sins. He told St. Faustina in the 1930s that the greatest sinners have the greatest right to His mercy. At the same time, God is also just. There is a hell for the unrepentant. Read an amazing and deeply moving story about our merciful God in the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul. It is a story meant for our time when the gravest of grave sins are being committed with abandon.

  40. The Unified Field is the proof of God, heaven and hell, in the theory of everything that includes… everything…. including the mechanism of the Intelligent design.
    The Knowledge of ancients combined with the wisdom of Einstein, proof of God, in math.
    The Revelation is come, that science and religion must come together at The Nexus.

    pipermichael dot wordpress dot com

  41. Look up Mary Katherine Baker on Sid Roth’s show It’s Supernatural . She went to hell and heaven. It’s a compelling story… then see what you think. BILL Weisse is on the show also. Just search YouTube

  42. THERE was an OLD INDIAN,named JERONIMO,the day the military killed him,he REPENTED HIS SINS and was found worthy to be forgiven and enter heaven,HOW many americans will be smart enough to do THAT,my guess is not many,AMERICANS THINK LUCIFER will do them better,boy now I call that DECIEVED,hey your whole country is falling apart and you can’t figure out why,has lucifer fooled you……kinda looks that way don’t it……………………………

  43. Thanks for this, good article!

  44. To be blunt, the one problem with people having and describing a NDE is that they all survived with their heads intact. I don’t think we’ll ever know the NDE (if any) among those whose heads were physically destroyed, therefore it is difficult to discount the fact that NDEs could still be the result of some yet undetectable brain activity.

    • You should read ‘Proof of Heaven’ to learn more about that. Also, new science is revealing that the conscious mind is actually wholly separate from the brain. The idea that the mind is dependent on the brain is OLD thinking. In fact your consciousness, the “I am” that is “You” at age 2, age 16, age 35 or 80, is the only part of you that is unchanging and ever more likely, everlasting.

    • Yep, I think that is reasonable. The more I research, the more interested I become in the possible effects of third party fields on the experiencers dysfunctional brain.

  45. According to the absolute point of view, there is only the Absolute, which is infinite, and eternal One. Everything else does not exist. Everything else is illusion. This means that the matter does not exist. Consequently, there are not even living beings. If there is no matter and there are no living beings, not even exist life. But if there is no life, not even death will not exist. The ego, the individual soul, the spirit, reincarnation, karma, destiny, heaven, hell, the devil? Do not exist either. Are also illusions … like those of a film or a video game virtual mirages … … created by a ‘misperception of the True Reality. But all these mirages have a symbolic function tending to what appears to once again make absolute as relative. Suddenly … the matter in the hands of scientists, has disappeared, becoming immaterial. The same scientists have found that the material, as well as having atomic powers, highly destructive, it also has paranormal powers … It appears that a particle can be in two different places and two different particles, placed hundreds of thousands of miles between them, they behave as if to communicate with each other beyond space and time. Scientists have also recently discovered that the observer affects the observed phenomena. This means that if all living things magically disappear, the world would disappear along with them, because there would not be an observer can interpret the phenomenon of the world and translate it as it is translated …

    Dimagrire pancia</a

  46. The Church was established by Christ. No other faiths have divine permission to exist. It has the fullness of truth, s the content of these alleged NDEs can be checked against it. Even aplleged ones of Jesus, Mary, angels, etc. That keeps such fantastic experiences from leading people into believing odd things that cannot be true. Science is employed, too, to rule out that the person was actually not clinically dead, if an NDE is reported, or to rule out hoaxes involving weeping statues and the like. God is not a deceiver, but has given us two tools for knowing what’s real. Some things either science can’t cover or totally cover. “Science” has done some wacky crap, also, when not held accountable. I think that is why Einstein said they both need each other to prevent madness from half the tests. Ultimately, faith can’t be proven scientifically and science is not infallible, well , so faith is in its findings, as well. Dogmas of The Church, however, are infallible. BTW. Do you ever hear of pagan deities appearing to pagans? No, so it comes down to God and the Church He, through the second person of Himself, has chosen to sponsor till the end of time, as mentioned in the Scripture His Church closed to new public revelations, including Islam and odd Christianity-esque faiths with their extra Bibles. God be praised for giving us the light of The Church, even when its members fail it!

    • “No other faiths have divine permission to exist” ?
      Ah, Christian “love” is alive and well, I see.

    • …and another case of “my religion is right and yours is wrong”. People like you make me sick really. Also, don’t talk about Paganism as you obviously have no clue.

  47. Everyone who wonders “Is there an afterlife?” should know that there may indeed be a natural afterlife. This afterlife is consistent with both views given in the article–specifically, 1) that NDEs provide evidence of an afterlife and 2) that science indicates that NDEs are produced by biological processes within the dying brain. This afterlife, while unconventional, is:

    • scientifically plausible, i.e., not supernatural;
    • philosophically, i.e., logically, consistent;
    • and for many, religiously acceptable.

    It is the final moment of your final, never-ending dream (NED)–the one that would have been called your near-death experience (NDE) had you recovered, the one from which you never awake, and the one you never know ends because you never perceive that you’ve died.

    For more on the natural afterlife, just search for “natural afterlife” on the internet. The article “Your Natural Afterlife: the Non-Supernatural Alternative to Nothingness” provides a good overview.

  48. Rarely do I visit a site that’s both educated and entertaining, and let me inform you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Your idea is excellent; the issue is that not many individuals are speaking about it.

  49. My Mom was elderly, but still living in her own home. Mom had been in hospital early in the year for a checkup with her heart meds, but caught Norwalk while in there. It took a while but her health came back. My Mom was totally with it, but occasionally would call me on the phone ,to tell me a little boy had been visiting her, and she would ask if he had come over to my place (I lived near by).. I’d say jokingly, “your losing it Ma”..
    This happened quite a bit before she died, and she would call me and then say, “I must be losing it”…My Mom was a very strong lady mentally, and even physically even in her 80’s. Mom even came out for coffee the night before she died. I asked her who she thought the little boy might be, but she couldn’t think of anyone…Maybe there are angels !!! My Dad said as he was leaving this world, that there was a bunch of people around his bed, all people he didn’t recognize, and all different personalities (off and on this happened for a few days)..

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