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Lynette Noelle Kelway James

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Lynette Noelle Kelway James


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Sat, Mar 05, 2016 - 12:29 PM

Why do so many former atheists come to a belief in God and the afterlife after a "near death experience"?

Why is it so many former atheists come to believe in God and the afterlife after a "near death experience"? So vivid are the memories of those who have been in such a situation that no one can take away their belief that life does indeed continue after
death and that there is such a place as heaven and hell. Why would a brain that is "dead" produce such images?



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KO
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KO

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Print Mon, Mar 07, 2016 - 03:35 PM
Such experiences have more the character of an hallucination than they do the character of a veridical experience of something external to the experiencer. No one else sees it but the experiencer. They might choose to believe that the experience is veridical for a variety of personal reasons. Not knowing any of them, or their reasons, I can only speculate on why they changes their minds, which does not answer your question.


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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Print Sat, Mar 05, 2016 - 01:47 PM
If by "so many" you mean some, the answer is because people generally buy into the culture's narratives when they lack the knowledge of what is really going on. Science explains these experiences extremely well. In short, lack of oxygen to the brain produces hallucinations that manifest in ways that reflect a culture's norms. These "Heaven and Hell" experiences are virtually unheard of in non-Abrahamic religion cultures. This is strong evidence to that the experience is no way objective, but like other hallucinations, subjective and imagined.

The claim that these images are formed when "the brain is dead" is simply false. There is no way to record when the thoughts are being formed, and people who have no brain activity for a period of time lose all sense of temporal order, meaning a thought they had before they died would seem like they just had it.

Again, people with generally no religious beliefs (technically atheists, but certainly not skeptics) will adopt a narrative of their culture (e.g., Heaven) and like all vivid dreams and especially hallucinations, they feel real. Lacking the scientific knowledge of what is going on, they default to adopting the belief of the culture, which they can accept cognitively, but solidified by a strong affective component (feeling) that makes them often hostile to any scientific explanation.
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Gerri Donaldson

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Print Tue, Mar 08, 2016 - 05:12 AM
There is a bit of research on NDEs and how they can be induced etc! I am currently reading had information of a study where people who had NDEs and those did not where subjected to testing and that it seems that there is a difference in the those that have them and those that don't! Those that do where more likely for them to have what maybe perceived as a religious experience and in particular stimulation of the right temporal lobe! Those that suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy have particular religious experience! In a study by Willoughby Britton, who did a test on NDEs & those who had not! She recorded every thing and 3 things stood out! They had greater temporal lode activity, less sleep and went into REM sleep later than controls! The NDEs seemed to rewire the brain!!! Just like they had temporal lobe epilepsy with the religious experience similar to those who had this condition! It is interesting to note for instance that in Ireland epilepsy is call "St Paul's disease! If you have a look on the net you may be able to find some info on the studies! Also I was listening to a podcast when an atheist talked about her experience in an NDE she said that her experience was traveling along the light, but that light was to her the same as that that was imagined on Stargate the TV. This is also a traveling of a way to a light source! Cultural conditioning very powerful and if we think that we are experiencing something that others have stated and that is what it is then we may accept that information! However, whilst the studies I have heard about say they are real, they have underlying biological cause! It seems that there may be (in the future) a way for all of us to have an experience like this in say a video game!! Interesting is it not????


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Print Wed, Mar 09, 2016 - 09:59 AM
Thank you for your answers. Of course only those who have experienced a NDE can really give a view on what they believe is happening as it is impossible for anyone else to understand what is going on. They can only speculate. What no one has addressed is why so many of those who have come close to death report seeing dead relatives and pets. Why should they do so if it is all down to electrical circuits in the brain. How does someone whose brain is scrambled have such incredibly clear thoughts after it is declared "dead"? Why do so many patients who have alzheimer's disease suddenly start speaking coherently just prior to death when they have had no proper memory or ability to speak beforehand? Something more is going on and it is unwise to dismiss these experiences as just down to electrical surges in the brain. Can anyone tell me why the brain should react in such a way. What would be the purpose of it doing so? Even if it is nature's way of easing us into dying then should we really mess with it as it may well be the way we have evolved for a purpose?

AS I mentioned before, I have come close to a NDE but have not experienced a full blown one and what I encountered at that precise moment I have never been able to repeat. For about 20 seconds or so I actually saw before my very eyes my deceased mother-in-law, beaming and looking about 25. I then saw what appeared to be the same woman but at different stages of her life, in four sections as if a kind of jigsaw puzzle, possibly parallel universes(my interpretation) and yet I have never been able to repeat the experience however hard I have tried and I have never even dreamed of my mother-in-law so what was going on? Of course you can give all sorts of different interpretations but for me it was certainly very real and although it is not what makes me believe in an afterlife it does go some way to confirm what I have always thought possible.


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Print Thu, Mar 10, 2016 - 04:44 AM
Maybe you should try and find that Canadian scientist and it is not electrical surges, but a lot of oxygen, maybe it is the bits of the brain turning off like some of our electrical bits slowing turning off, as in some electrical machines that hold a little charge until it is finally all used up! It is a very interesting subject and many studies have been done on it! I was just reading a book about new technologies called Tomorrowland by Steven Kotler, who in one of his chapters talks about possible tech that maybe able to reproduce the "religious ecstasy" feeling and that it could in fact turn up in such things a video games! Our brain is in fact one of the great frontiers of science which is only starting to be studied! I must admit I can't just say "I don't know, therefore a supernatural being or realm!" This to me would be another aspect of "pascals wager" ! Interesting area of study though!


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Steffen Haugk
Friday, March 11, 2016 - 03:42:27 AM
@Lynette Noelle Kelway James: You ask "What would be the purpose of it doing so?". This is not a good question to ask a humanist. I am sure you understand why. There is no purpose to us having five fingers and not six or seven. It's just the way it is. You can ask why and try and find the cause, but there is no purpose to it.

I personally do not pretend to know the first thing about how the brain works. However, when it comes to explaining why you saw your mother-in-law, I find hallucination a better explanation than a resurrection or a ghost. The idea of a dead see-through person walking amidst the living cannot be anchored in any knowledge or experience we have of the real world. Hallucinations on the other hand are to an extent understood. Not by me of course. But, I know I can dream of a living person, and I can conjure up a living person's face when I am awake sometimes. This person could be a distant friend. I can well imagine that the ability to 'see' this friend will not stop when this friend has died. You said that it was very real to you. I have no doubt about that. But the mind playing tricks on you seems more likely to me than a hologram of your deceased relative.

Lastly I would like to express doubt that 'many' Alzheimer patients turn into eloquent memory artists at the point of death.

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Lynette Noelle Kelway James
Sunday, March 06, 2016 - 12:11:39 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: http://www.salon.com/2012/04/21/near_death_explained/
http://www.nderf.org/NDERF/NDE_Archives/NDERF_NDEs.htm
Just a couple of links for you to look at , if you haven't already come across them. One thing that stands out is the change that takes place in those who have such experiences. Most no longer fear death and start to live more useful lives, feeling more compassionate and believing in God or a higher power. Although I have not had a total NDE experience I have been with people and animals when they have died and some very strange things have happened which correspond with what others have reported. What seems certain is that they are NOT hallucinations being far more vivid and they stay in the memory for decades whereas most hallucinations fade after a while. Hallucinations don't have the same life changing effect that these have and most importantly NDEs very often include visions of deceased relatives, sometimes even when the "dead" person does not know the relative has died. Also what about people who are born blind who are able to see? No, there is so much more to this experience that needs considering.

To me the most importance aspect of the whole phenomenon is the loss of the fear of death which does not usually happen in drug induced states, so something else must be going on. We may never find out the whole truth but it is now considered so important that more and more professionals are getting involved which is a good thing but until each one of us has such an experience no one will know for sure, which is good if it makes for better and more productive lives.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Sunday, March 06, 2016 - 12:38:52 PM
Just a couple of links for you to look at , if you haven't already come across them.
I have in great detail. This is one area I study as a social scientist and have written about on several occasions.

One thing that stands out is the change that takes place in those who have such experiences. Most no longer fear death and start to live more useful lives, feeling more compassionate and believing in God or a higher power.

I am not sure where you are getting this "data" from, but it is irrelevant to truth of the claims. The idea of valuing this life more is not compatible with the idea of an eternal paradise. Religions are very good at persuading people to want to die and "deal with" this imperfect life they have. Regardless, no matter how warm and fuzzy eternal paradise makes people feel, it does not speak to the veracity of the claim.

What seems certain is that they are NOT hallucinations being far more vivid and they stay in the memory for decades whereas most hallucinations fade after a while.

I can appreciate that this "seems certain" to you, but science disagrees. Hallucinations can be as vivid as they come where often people hallucinating cannot distinguish between the hallucination and reality. Also, fading memories have to do with many factors including meaning to the individual. There is much research that shows that false memories are some of the longest lasting, because they are usually the most bizarre.

Hallucinations don't have the same life changing effect...

Again, you seem to be under the impression that if an experience has a "life-changing effect" then it must be true/real. This is fallacious thinking. There are many made up anecdotes, stories, movies, etc. that have "life-changing" effects on individuals. This does not mean they really happened.

Also what about people who are born blind who are able to see?

They can't see. These are urban legends taken from the Internet. People who have never been able to see do dream in images and can imagine what things look like, but in no way can they see.

To me the most importance aspect of the whole phenomenon is the loss of the fear of death which does not usually happen in drug induced states, so something else must be going on.

The power of belief. All it takes is the belief that one will live forever in paradise with 72 virgins for that person to not fear death and sacrifice their own life (e.g., fly a plane into a building). Vivid imagined experiences solidify this belief. Nothing miraculous going on here.

As a humanist, I don't need to pretend I will live forever in paradise to live a more productive life. My life is limited, therefore precious. My time here is therefore infinitely more valuable than one with infinite time. I have limited time with those whom I love and therefore I need to make the most my time with them, and appreciate them everyday.

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KO
Monday, March 07, 2016 - 04:32:27 PM
some very strange things have happened which correspond with what others have reported.
Surely, you can understand that saying that you have had strange experiences is not an argument that should convince anyone else of anything.

What seems certain is that they are NOT hallucinations being far more vivid and they stay in the memory for decades whereas most hallucinations fade after a while.
It's simply not true that hallucinations fade more than veridical perceptual experience. People

Finally, you're allowing reports of first person introspection as evidence for your position. If that works for your argument, then what of the people who die and are revived and saw nothing. Is that evidence, in your mind, that there is no such thing as heaven? If not, then you are cherry picking.

Finally, what we have here is a case of competing explanations. These people have had experiences of going someplace (not clear how many people). That's the phenomenon to be explained. Two theories are offered: (1) their immortal souls went to heaven temporarily and (2) they had powerful hallucinations.

Your explanation is unrepeatable and cannot account for the people who die temporarily but have no such experiences (a great many do). It also requires us to believe in something for which there is no evidence and no possibility of testing for its existence: the immortal soul. However, oxygen starvation or other pathology as a theory *also* explains the experiences. And it only requires current brain science, and we know we have brains, so there is no unusual mysterious object posited to explain the phenomenon. Positing the existence of a soul and heaven is not a very good explanation and does not comport with what we already understand about the brain.

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