The most recent arrival on the near death experiences (NDE) scene is none other than a neurologist who spent a whole week in a deep coma. The neurologist is Eben Alexander, MD who contracted a particularly severe form of meningitis. The entire article is in the October 8, 2012 issue of Newsweek magazine.
Like all good Christian apologists, Dr. Alexander confesses to having been a skeptic, but neither an atheist nor an agnostic, before this life-changing experience. In any event he has written a book called “Proof of Heaven” and rather than reveal the details of his adventure up in the clouds (yes – he actually was up there in the clouds) I won’t steal his thunder.
As evidence that one does not have to be religious to experience an NDE, my own father had very serious surgery in 1946. Whilst he was still unconscious in the recovery room he ”saw” his father-in-law, my mother’s father, who had died in 1932, standing at the foot of my father’s bed. Tom said to my father “Are you ready yet, Bill?” My father replied, “No, not yet Tom,” and that was that.
My father and maternal grand-father were both agnostically inclined, which caused my mother and grandmother to spend a lot of their time half-submerged in that river in Egypt, de Nile – sorry – couldn’t resist! In contrast when I was seven or eight I heard my father describe his own father as a sanctimonious old so-and-so. I had to look up ‘sanctimonious’ in a dictionary because it was a totally new word for me. That was probably the beginning of my critical thinking adventure
My father was a Chartered Accountant, who had learned to play the church organ in the small Derbyshire village in which he had grown up. When he moved to a larger centre, my home town in Yorkshire, he articled as a C.A. and was forced to supplement his articling pittance by hiring out as a relief church organist to any church that would hire him. When he qualified as a C.A. by the time I was born in 1929 the “damage” was done – his regular exposure to so many faiths had convinced him that none of them had any claim on the truth, so on Friday nights he would play bridge with the Irish priests at St.Peter-in-Chains, the Roman Catholic rectory.
Of course, the operative words in “near death experience” are the first two. Neither my father, nor Dr. Alexander nor the thousands of people who claim to have had NDEs have been clinically dead at the time of their “experience.” National Geographic had an article in 2010 that high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood as it passes through brain cells causes hallucinations which often materialize as common phenomena associated with NDE such as Dr. Alexander describes in his book. So far no-one has emerged from an NDE with stories of horned creatures with barbed tails (or they have kept very quiet about it), so we can assume that everyone who has had an NDE has been in Pearly Gate territory, not “the other place!”