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Dec 20 2012

Peddling rubbish in the wake of tragedy

In the wake of a tragedy, we all want to comfort the bereaved. But to what extent should you make up stuff in attempting to do so?

Eben Alexander is a neurosurgeon who claims to have had a near-death experience while in a coma for a week. What he experienced apparently convinced him that there is heaven and an afterlife. He has (of course) written a book about it that has become a best-seller, since many people are desperate to believe that the end of their life will not be the end of their story and will seize on anything that promises them a sequel.

After the recent shootings, Alexander appeared on Fox News and reassured everyone that all the dead children were now alive and happy, just in a different place. One of the hosts Gretchen Carlson asked a surprisingly good question as to whether the dead children would keep recalling the horrific experience they went through. Not to worry, said Alexander, “They will know what happened, but they will not feel the pain. They will feel the love and cherishing of being back there. And they will know that they changed this world.”

Another host asked about the shooter’s fate and got this reply: “The shooter is in a place of reviewing his own life…it’s what’s called a life review in the whole near-death literature; it’s a very real phenomenon of reliving all the events of one’s life and reliving the pain and suffering that we’ve handed out to others, but from their point of view. And in that realm that pain is felt much more intensely by the perpetrator than it was ever felt by victims here on Earth.”

So the children and adults who were killed are now happy and their killer is not.

Frankly, even if I believed in an afterlife and the possibility of near-death experiences revealing some aspects of it, I would begin to suspect that Alexander was pulling my leg here. While supposedly being almost dead for a short while, he seems to have acquired quite extraordinarily detailed knowledge of life there, as if he had taken quite an intensive course in how the afterlife works.

Are people in mourning comforted by this kind of drivel? Or do they feel insulted that others think they can be consoled at a time of immeasurable grief by being fed fabulous tales?

5 comments

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  1. 1
    ladyatheistatheist

    Afterlife fantasies have a way of sorting out injustices that couldn’t be managed by humans in life. Coincidence?

    Wouldn’t God forgive the shooter? After all, it’s God who gave him a mental illness and no prospects for a happy future on earth.

  2. 2
    mnb0

    After my father was murdered fortunately nobody confronted me – not even believers – with this kind of manure.

  3. 3
    smrnda

    I’m kind of surprised that a neurosurgeon wouldn’t be exploring possible physical causes for his ‘near death experience’ rather than assuming it must have been supernatural. It’s like a psychiatrist who starts hearing a voice and decides that it’s really god, with no possibility that they could have been hallucination (and without any interest in checking.)

    I think the guy’s just a shameless opportunity. He realizes it’s a great way to make money, and his status as a medical professional probably makes him see more authoritative.

  4. 4
    JagerBaBomb

    Well, my experience with being put under anesthesia convinced me there’s nothing after we die. It’s not like sleeping–you’re awake one moment, groggy the next, and waking up an indeterminate amount of time later. It’s like you die for a short duration, really, since your sense of everything just… goes away.

    And how could we even know if there really was anything after death? Our sense of perception is firmly rooted in our physiology. Without our nerve system in place and working normally how would we ‘feel’, well, anything?

    If our souls really do go on grand adventures after our bodies perish, we certainly wouldn’t be aware of it in any meaningful way.

  5. 5
    Thorne

    Wouldn’t God forgive the shooter? After all, it’s God who gave him a mental illness and no prospects for a happy future on earth.

    How do those idiots like Fisher and Huckabee know that their god isn’t the one who SENT that guy into the school in the first place? Maybe he’s gone straight to heaven for killing all those kids before they could be corrupted by liberal education and become atheists. Bet they never thought of that!

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