NDEs: One Man’s Last Bastion of Belief

Question from Kamil:
Is it worth it to believe in religion if the only reason I have to believe is NDEs? I mean, I know you might say no one can tell me what to believe, and I can’t choose what to believe, but the thing is, the nearest NDE study coming out that is supposed to be really large isn’t coming out until probably 2021, which is a long time.

The ONLY thing that compels me, as obvious from my posts, to believe is the NDEs, I see many of hell, many of Jesus, and I fear rejecting fully, in case I do end up getting punished for it. However, if I knew for a 100% fact NDEs were not really the soul leaving the body, I would have absolutely no reason at all to believe, nothing else is compelling at all, or makes any sense. The religious texts don’t make sense, filled with inconsistencies, and contradictions. The idea of “something can’t come from nothing” is not compelling, because then where did God come from? If God can always exist, then why can’t a few particles or even the smallest amount of energy exist? Even if that were debunked, it still wouldn’t mean a God exists. The story of Jesus at surface level seems like a fabrication, or at least part of it.

I believe a man named Jesus existed, and walked on earth, and gave advice/help to people. However, I find it hard to believe that he performed real miracles (maybe he was a good magician), that he came from a virgin birth, or that he really rose from the dead. However, then I am somewhat afraid to question that out of fear. I also find religion somewhat annoying, so when I first started questioning things, I was a tad rebellious. I am afraid that this may partially be contributing to my view to “want” to dump religion, sadly. I know that is biased, and that is also why I am not sure fully where I stand. However, honestly, it is probably 70% the fact that I don’t believe most of it, 10% of me is somewhat stubborn and wants to forget religion, and 20% is just this fear of what if, and in that it is the NDEs that make me uneasy of dropping it.

Should I really wait until 2021 before I can (potentially depending on the results) sincerely call myself an atheist, or should I take everyone else’s word and say “NDEs are just in the brain” and reject it? I know I keep asking this, but it really does seem that NDEs prove Jesus over other deities, I know I live in a Christian part of the world, and maybe other NDEs haven’t been recorded, or people just don’t post them. People from other faiths just say NDEs are not real, but that’s not tackling the issue. If NDEs are hallucinations which are culturally based, then a Muslim should report seeing Muhammad, as their brain would pull from their knowledge of religion. However, getting beside the point, what should I do? Should I wait for 2021 or should I not?

Answer by SmartLX:
After all the arguments for the supernatural or divine nature of near death experiences presented by you, a few other determined repeat contributors and a host of one-offs, the case for this still appears to be very poor. Therefore I wouldn’t judge NDEs to be a worthy reason to believe in gods and an afterlife. That’s not really how it works though; you didn’t decide to believe in them for good reasons or otherwise, you were convinced by what you had read and all our exchanges have been attempts to rationalise this after the fact.

You reject major Christian doctrine and the divinity of Jesus on an intellectual level, and yet you fear to deny Jesus out loud. This nakedly baseless fear is part a seldom discussed but very common phenomenon which I’ve named faithdrawal. Faith is maintained far more by emotion than by intellect, so this is the element of it that dies hardest. Fortunately, without constant reinforcement it fades inexorably.

I may have confused your past writings with those of others, but regardless there are discussions here of all the components of your summary argument for Christian NDEs. You do not understand why Christian NDE claims are so common and other types are almost non-existent if the experiences aren’t really caused by Yahweh and Jesus, but this is your inner argument from ignorance and the core fallacy you ignore through cognitive dissonance. Explanations have been presented, such as the Muslim doctrine that NDEs of Muhammad don’t happen which keeps Muslims from reporting theirs, and the runaway success of the Christian NDE meme in our culture which invites mistaken claims and outright lies, so there is no argument from elimination to be made, but since the alternatives don’t resonate with you the completely undemonstrated supernatural explanation still seems likely to you.

Don’t wait until 2021, because nothing will change as a result of that study. If it supports NDEs as an almost uniquely Christian phenomenon, you will allow it to renew your latent faith and ignore other explanations. If it does not, you will focus on any unanswered questions, of which there will be many. Think through this now and get it over with.

Focus on this, if you will: if there is no God and no afterlife, there is no punishment waiting after death, and if you are confident that religion is wrong then you have nothing to fear. If you did not want or need NDEs to be genuine, if you thought about them through my eyes or those of another indifferent person you’ve discussed them with, how likely would they look? How much of all this is just you holding on for literally no good reason that anyone else can see?

Spoiler: the first time you really ponder this, whether now or later, you will get angry. Let it happen, go think about something else, and come back to it, multiple times if you must. Accept that there are things about your own way of thinking that you do not understand, and take it slow.