I was listening to a debate between Dan Barker and Dinesh D’Souza. They eventually got to the afterlife as D’Souza has recently written a book about it. D’Souza explained his evidence for the afterlife as follows: There are thousands of people who have experienced a Near Death Experience, or NDE. Where are they? They are walking around, driving cars, going to work, etc. If the mind is producing hallucinations at the time of death, how did the brain reverse this death process? How can you explain these thousands of people having very similar experiences and ALL of them have had their brains shut off and come back? Why does the atheist dismiss all these thousands of examples and evidence? That’s crazy! Yes, D’Souza, that is crazy. Crazy wrong. Let’s begin at the beginning.
Have you ever seen a magic trick? It’s an illusion. A mind trick performed by someone who’s goal is to make you think you see one thing, while doing another. You don’t actually need a performer to trick you mind. Ever seen one of those optical illusion pictures? You know, is this circle bigger than the other? No, they are both the same size. Is this picture moving? No, it is your eyes playing tricks on you. Ever heard of “phantom limb syndrome”? This is when an amputee feels pain or an itch on the missing limb. An arm has been removed, yet the person feels the missing hand clenched tightly in a fist. To solve this issue, you can’t convince the brain that it is wrong, you have to trick it again. You set up a mirror so the person can see the reflection of the other hand relaxing a clenched fist.
Now my point in all this is that you have seen a circle before. In other words, you have a good frame of reference to be able to see if one circle is bigger than another. The illusion is actually using that against you. You have made a fist in the past. You know what it feels like to clench and relax a fist. And still your brain has been fooled. Still you have seen things that are not there; felt things that are not real. How many times have you died? Indeed if there is ANY experience that we should expect our brains to misjudge, it is death. We have no real reference to it until we have died. Thousands of examples, D’Souza? There ought to be MILLIONS or BILLIONS of examples. This isn’t exceptional; this is mundane. This is as common as the awful fart that stunned unsuspecting people in the room. This isn’t evidence for an afterlife. It’s a bad fart joke.
Now I know the NDE is common. We can actually produce them on demand. In training for space travel, astronauts are placed in a centrifuge that spins them so that the force is equal to several times that of normal gravity. The usual reaction is the passenger passes out. They often describe an NDE. You can do it on your own, but I don’t recommend it. But have you ever lost consciousness suddenly and seen flashes of your life, or a light in a tunnel or something like that? I bet you have. In fact I bet most people have. But I think most people just don’t bother to mention it, like the stinky fart that cleared the room.
And what value does an afterlife have, anyway? This is the life that is worth living. This is the life we have to make a difference. We are charged with leaving the world better than how we found it. Because god isn’t here; we are.