Thanks. I remembered that I wrote something on the afterlife several years ago: “The Irony of a Natural Afterlife.”

I read your article and I looked into the NDE research. As far as I can tell, the only way the NDE reports would indicate there’s an afterlife is if they brought back knowledge the dying people couldn’t possibly have, such as specific predictions of the near future. Otherwise, the differences between the reports could be due to cultural expectations and the commonalities could be based on the sameness of our brain structures. There are numerous possible physiological explanations of NDEs, so we’d face Occam’s razor and David Hume’s objection to miracle claims.

I have no problem agreeing that there are altered states of consciousness, including mystical ones. We know as much from entheogens, and I personally have had a couple disturbing altered states, which I also wrote about. The question is whether such experiences can be trusted as revelations about the nature of reality.

If there were an afterlife, why shouldn’t we be introduced to it only after our life, so that there wouldn’t be any crossover? Why should we glimpse the afterlife when we’re near death rather than only after we’ve died? Presumably the super-powerful spiritual entities would be able to keep their secrets if they wanted to, so if we’re supposed to live our earthly life without proof of the world to come, why let the secret slip too early? If they want us to know for a fact that there’s an afterlife, why not build a big, honking spiritual doorway in the sky? The NDE would look like bungling on the part of God or his angels, which is suspicious to me. The natural kinds of afterlife I posit in the article seem more plausible.

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Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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