“Readers Join Doctor’s Journey to the Afterworld’s Gates”

Heaven-300x250A friend of mine brought the best-selling Proof of Heaven to my attention.

A neurosurgeon who has practiced at Harvard (so we know he’s good!) writes a book and goes on the speaking circuit plugging the interesting idea that his coma-induced near-death experience means there is a Heaven. And there’s a movie out (Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back) with essentially the same story: I was near death, I remember amazing things, this proves there’s an afterlife. The boy’s story includes meeting Jesus and details of events he supposedly could not have known, now backed up by his family. Skeptics will be inclined to note the lack of evidence from anyone outside his immediate family and the influence of the large sums of money to be had by telling such a story to satisfy those who want to believe.

But our Harvard doctor’s story is not as embellished:

During that week, as life slipped away, he now says, he was living intensely in his mind. He was reborn into a primitive mucky Jell-o-like substance and then guided by “a beautiful girl with high cheekbones and deep blue eyes” on the wings of a butterfly to an “immense void” that is both “pitch black” and “brimming with light” coming from an “orb” that interprets for an all-loving God.

Dr. Alexander, 58, was so changed by the experience that he felt compelled to write a book, “Proof of Heaven,” that recounts his experience. He knew full well that he was gambling his professional reputation by writing it, but his hope is that his expertise will be enough to persuade skeptics, particularly medical skeptics, as he used to be, to open their minds to an afterworld.

Dr. Alexander acknowledged that tales of near-death experiences that reveal a bright light leading to compassionate world beyond are as old as time and by now seem trite. He is aware that his version of heaven is even more psychedelic than most — the butterflies, he explained, were not his choice, and anyway that was his “gateway” and not heaven itself.

He is certain his cortex was inactive, yet he has memories of intense experience. There’s no proof of the former and plenty of evidence that the latter can be conjured up like a dream when the brain is barely functioning near death. We call his belief (that it proves something supernatural exists) faith. Science can never disprove such assertions, but knowing not one of them has ever been inexplicable by natural causes when fully investigated should allow us to reject the assertions without prejudice. These are lovely stories and like other fantasy, possibly useful in modelling the world for some, but not true.

For more on pop culture:

The Lessons of Walter White
“Blue Valentine”
“Mad Men”
The Morality of Glamour
“Mockingjay” Propaganda Posters
“Big Bang Theory” — Aspergers and Emotional/Social Intelligence
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
Reading “50 Shades of Grey” Gives You Anorexia and an Abusive Partner!
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
“Raising Arizona” — Dream of a Family

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