NDEs and Anaesthesia Awareness

Question from Uriadka:
“Dr. Jeffrey Long: The key thing is to know a few of the consistently seen elements of near-death experience that are the strongest evidence for their reality. For example, when you’re under general anesthesia, it should be impossible to have a lucidic organized remembrance at that time. In fact, under anesthesia, you’re typically so far under, with general anesthesia they often have to breathe for you. I mean you’re literally, brain shut down to the level of the brain stem and at that point in time some people have a cardiac arrest, their hearts stop, and of course, that’s very well documented. They monitor people very carefully that are having general anesthesia.

So, I have dozens and dozens of near-death experiences that occurred under general anesthesia and at this time, it should be, if you will, doubly impossible to have a conscious remembrance, and yet they do have near-death experiences at this time, and they’re typical near-death experiences. They have the same elements and appear to have them in the same orders as near-death experiences occurring under all other circumstances. In fact, a critical survey question I asked was what their level of consciousness and alertness during the experience was.

Well, even under general anesthetics, under those powerful chemicals to produce sedation, if they had a near-death experience under general anesthesia, their level of consciousness and alertness was identical to near-death experiences occurring under all other circumstances.

There’s absolutely no way the skeptics can explain that away, it’s impossible.”

Let’s go even further: statistically, 1 in 10,000 people have anesthesia awareness. Yet in his study, he had 23 cases out of 2000 patients. They were lucid, had none of the terrible side effects most people have during AA. I think this may prove it.

Answer by SmartLX:
Anaesthesia awareness is a separate phenomenon from NDEs, with one very important difference.

For whatever reason – dosage, faulty equipment, body chemistry – the anaesthetic fails and the patient is not entirely unconscious throughout the whole procedure. This is of course a nightmare come true, as depending on the level of consciousness the patient can experience the sounds, smells and/or excruciating pain of surgery before they’re even able to open their eyes or move a muscle. But the whole reason it’s so scary is that you are unambiguously experiencing real things as they happen, which means it’s easy to determine when it occurred in retrospect even if you give no sign for the duration.

An experience interpreted as an NDE, on the other hand, can occur at any point between the initial loss of consciousness and when consciousness is ultimately regained. If the experience involves elements of the afterlife, there’s no way to place it based on earthly events. If there’s an out-of-body experience where the patient witnesses an event in the room, assuming the events are guessed right the NDE is simply assumed to have occurred at that point, but as you say there’s a period during which there’s not enough brain activity for any such experience. There is always a period before then, and a period after then, where the brain is in an intermediate state that allows dreams and hallucinations.

I made this basic point the last time you brought up this quote by Long, earlier this month. I did not propose that the episodes were happening during periods of anaesthesia awareness, because they really don’t have to. The brain has a pretty wild time dealing with general anaesthetic or any kind of forced unconsciousness at the best of times, and whenever it is active enough to paint an internal scene at the start or end, it will probably do so.

NDEs: The View From The Other Side

Question from Ruslana:
Hello!

I just browsed some of the recent questions/answers, and I wanted to kind of post a rebuttal to the individuals who claim that folks like Tsakiris, Long, and others are potentially proving NDEs. I would also like to know if you, SmartLX, agree with me, or not.

I myself am not aware of all the protocols being put in place for the “studies” that apparently “debunk” the current scientific theories of NDEs put in place. However, like you, SmartLX, have said– there is a huge argument from ignorance here. Sure these men are able to win debates against scientists who do not study NDEs on a regular basis, they can pull these “facts” of oxygen theory, hypoxia theory being debunked out of their debate hats. Once these “facts” are laid out, the skeptics they are debating do not have the liberty to pull out their phones, and check whether or not these studies cited are credible. I guess that is the fault of the skeptics to some extent, as they should be ready for these kinds of rebuttals. However, even if it were true that NDEs occur at the strangest times, and the non-skeptic side is correct that skeptics have incorrect explanations for the causes of NDEs, so what? Let’s give our opponents the benefit of the doubt here and cross off every single theory that we think could cause NDEs. That would at best get them half way to being correct. However, at the end of the day, we still cannot say that the cause of these NDEs is what they interpret them to be– a spirit leaving the body, only to return. Remember, there are still a whole lot of unanswered questions the skeptics are entitled to ask as well such as:
– why do NDEs contradict each other with their underlying messages? Tsakiris debated McCormack on this very topic, comparing McCormack, a man who claims he visited hell, and the NDE of another individual, who claims he or she was told that hell does not exist during his/her NDE. It cannot be that both are right. Therefore, one of them is right, or both are wrong. How can we determine who is correct, assuming one of them is?
– why does the order of NDEs, and the content within change from person to person? One person may have an OBE, followed by meeting a bright light, while another may have no OBE, but see a bright light and have psychic visions. People who believe in NDEs may argue that each soul is unique, and therefore requires a different teaching, hence why different people see different things. However, that seems like a large assumption given what we know
– some NDEs do have living people in them
– not one OBE has been verified under strict protocols. I remember reading some of the OBEs found in popular literature have been enhanced, embellished, or made up completely. An example is a blind individual who claimed they could see their doctor wearing two different coloured socks.
– why do we need brains if we have these amazing souls that can see, hear, and think more clearly than our “lousy” brains?
– why is it possible to have NDEs when we are not even “close” to death?
– NDEs are just that as well- Near Death, regardless of what hopeful people say, the NDEr did not die!

I admit there are things we cannot explain, and I am not saying NDEs are not real, but when these NDErs and people advocating for a non-materialist universe think that supposedly “debunking” our current theories on the causes of NDEs is equivalent to proving that we have souls capable of leaving the body and returning with information, they need to have a reality check. The fact is that the concept of “souls” or an “afterlife” is not particularly high on the totem pole of importance for science right now. If these individuals are so confident, then I look forward to seeing studies which actually prove that Thomas was able to tell the future from his experience, or that Jenny was really able to travel halfway across the world, and report what was going on while she was really “dead”. This would still obviously hold some subjectivity to it, but it would be a start.
My current answer to the cause of NDEs is: I don’t know –
however, I am not going to start pulling answers out of my butt.

Answer by SmartLX:
Quite right on the whole.
– Eliminating all available natural explanations merely leaves NDEs unexplained, not proven to be any kind of supernatural or divine.
– The matter cannot be settled in any kind of debate, for the reason you give: all kinds of claims can be made, but not fully researched and responded to in the time allotted. (Creationists also take advantage of this, hence the name of the “Gish gallop” technique of spewing out a huge number of claims exactly when there’s no time to address them all.)
– NDEs vary because people vary, and the doctrines the stories are required to support also vary. One story is intended to instill fear of Hell, another to reassure against the idea of Hell.
– Of course OBEs have not been verified under strict conditions, or else they’d be an accepted phenomenon. That is literally all it would take. To be fair, to engineer an NDE or crisis-related OBE in suitably strict conditions would probably require unethical conduct by any medical personnel involved. Think Flatliners.

Second-Hand NDEs

Question from Remy:
Dr. Peter Fenwick, British neurophysiologist, noted in many cases, that other people in the room of the dying person ALSO see LIGHT coming in from an unknown source. People who know the dying person and lives a thousand miles away, will have a dream of that person telling them they’re leaving now and not to worry, they’re fine and feeling wonderful. The person wakes up and calls the relatives only to be told…”Yes, he passed on a short time ago.” Some, like actress Susan Lucci, actually saw her grandmother or aunt (I can’t remember) appear in her room in a Light and tell her she is moving on….she called and was told the woman had died in the night about the same time as her encounter….so many accounts…

This happened to me, happens to many, how can so many people detect death?

Answer by SmartLX:
I couldn’t pin down any of these stories in short order, even the Susan Lucci claim, but I have heard claims of this phenomenon before. It can be explained pretty well by considering two factors together. Firstly, predictable timing: in most or all of these stories, the deceased was old or seriously ill and the death was not exactly a surprise, though of course the exact date of death was not known beforehand. Such a person is often on the minds of their loved ones as the morbid suspense builds, and will often find their way into dreams. Secondly, confirmation bias: if you have an experience like this and it’s on the wrong day, or features the wrong person, you’d hardly tell anyone even within your family. The only ones we hear about are the ones where the timing happens to be good.

You didn’t actually mention that the experiences are dreams, though I’ve read some described as such. As for waking experiences of soul lights and visions of the dead, these are purely anecdotal, exclusively told in retrospect and attributed to people whose loved ones are dying, which doesn’t put them in the most stable of mental states.

Regarding Fenwick, a scientist who appeared in his documentary on NDEs tore it to pieces afterwards. Others have criticised his assumptions and unwillingness to consider natural explanations. Like many NDE advocates in the scientific community, his main strength appears to be reassuring those who already believe.

Alex Tsakiris on NDEs, and the Impotence of Debate

Question from Uriadka:
Does Alex Tsakiris prove NDEs?

He often uses a variety of NDE researchers and says that all these skeptics and atheists including Sam Harris, Christof Koch, have gone from skeptics to somewhat switching sides in the NDE debate.

Here is a link where he debates Mike Shermer.

http://skeptiko.com/dr-michael-shermer-on-near-death-experience-science-379/

He brings up some decent points in all of his debates, about how some studies seem to disprove certain scientific explanations for NDEs, and then he sites doctors and people with high credentials as proof of NDEs being soul related. He just seems to always beat skeptics when they debate. If you have an opportunity, look up some of his NDE debates, and he always seems more well versed, and it gets me to question whether or not skeptics always present things out of context.

Here is an example of a quote by Dr. Long:

“Dr. Jeffrey Long: The key thing is to know a few of the consistently seen elements of near-death experience that are the strongest evidence for their reality. For example, when you’re under general anesthesia, it should be impossible to have a lucidic organized remembrance at that time. In fact, under anesthesia, you’re typically so far under, with general anesthesia they often have to breathe for you. I mean you’re literally, brain shut down to the level of the brain stem and at that point in time some people have a cardiac arrest, their hearts stop, and of course, that’s very well documented. They monitor people very carefully that are having general anesthesia.

So, I have dozens and dozens of near-death experiences that occurred under general anesthesia and at this time, it should be, if you will, doubly impossible to have a conscious remembrance, and yet they do have near-death experiences at this time, and they’re typical near-death experiences. They have the same elements and appear to have them in the same orders as near-death experiences occurring under all other circumstances. In fact, a critical survey question I asked was what their level of consciousness and alertness during the experience was.

Well, even under general anesthetics, under those powerful chemicals to produce sedation, if they had a near-death experience under general anesthesia, their level of consciousness and alertness was identical to near-death experiences occurring under all other circumstances.

There’s absolutely no way the skeptics can explain that away, it’s impossible.”

On his shows he has Brain surgeons saying there is no way some brain in that state could create an experience feeling so much more vivid and lucid than real life. It kills me how many atheists have converted due to him:

He engages with Shermer (a skeptic)

: On that last part, I don’t know that that’s really the direction where things are going. The last time we talked to you a couple of years ago, one of the guys you brought up on your team was Dr. Christof Koch, right? A guy I’ve spoken to, interviewed on this show. Hey man, he’s moved over. He switched gears, right?

Michael Shermer: Sort of moved over.

Alex Tsakiris: Okay, sort of moved over. The position has shifted. These guys are no longer holding to the mind equals brain thing.

Another clip I was going to play for you, but I’ve played enough clips, you were very nice to do it.

Michael Shermer: Even Deepak says you need a brain.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, hold on. I could play for you the clip of Sam Harris and David Chalmers. So, Sam Harris, I don’t think much of Sam Harris, but he’s a name everybody knows. David Chalmers, one of the leading researchers in consciousness for a number of years, and they’re there talking, and they say, “Dan Dennett, consciousness is an illusion. You don’t really think he believes that, do you? I mean, we’re not still stuck there, right?”

So, this idea that you’re putting forward, this kind of militant, materialism, mind equals brain, we’ve moved past that. All the leading players have moved past that Michael.

Michael Shermer: No, they haven’t. No, no.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, Christof Koch has moved past it. David Chalmers has moved past it. Sam Harris has moved past it. Who are you going to point to?

Michael Shermer: I know Sam quite well, he hasn’t moved past anything, what are you talking about?

Alex Tsakiris: He’s not a strict materialist. He’s not a strict mind equals brain guy, no. He’s totally in the panpsychism, spirituality, something other than strict mind equals brain materialism.

Michael Shermer: We did a public event together in Austin that he’s going to post in a week or two that you can listen to, where we talk about…

Alex Tsakiris: Ask him, bring him on, I’ll have both of you guys on at the same time and I’ll invite the people to talk to you.

What are your thoughts on this? Does it make sense from the brilliant Alex T that souls and NDEs are real?

Answer by SmartLX:
It’s my opinion that before too long there will be an article on this site regarding every prominent NDE advocate, simply because the people sending in the questions appear to be literally working their way down a list. I should go back and check whether they’re coming in alphabetical order.

As far as I can find, Sam Harris and Christof Koch have not said or written a word in support of genuine NDEs, and Sam Harris in particular has certainly not moved an inch on the existence of souls, which is what Shermer is trying to say above despite the interruptions. (Don’t accept that? Comment and post something to the contrary by Harris himself. He’s written about spirituality, sure, but expressly to reclaim the word from supernaturalists, so read carefully.)

What seems to be happening is that at certain times in the supposedly ongoing debate, when people like Tsakiris have made a point which they don’t consider their opponents to have answered, NDE supporters write stuff like this to say Harris et al are beaten and will shortly have to concede. This is invited by Tsakiris himself who asserts as above that his opponents are coming around to his side while they’re not present. This is not the same as extracting any kind of actual concession, but it’s good enough to reassure a lot of believers.

I’ve written before on the attempts to debunk various scientific explanations of classic NDE phenomena, and here for instance I’ve addressed the undisputed fact that dreams do not occur during periods of very low brain activity, such as anaesthesia, cerebral hypoxia/anoxia, or just plain deep sleep. In order to reach these states from a starting state of consciousness, one must descend through intermediate levels of brain activity during which dreams are possible. In order to wake up to tell the tale, one must then ascend through the same levels, often more slowly. That’s two intervals either side of the “dead zone” that allow for the unconscious experiences people report afterwards. To summarise, there is always time to dream.

Winning a debate is not the same as winning an argument, which is not the same as winning someone over. I think of it in stages.
Stage 1: You win a debate if you appear to be ahead on points, literal or figurative, at the end of an exchange of predetermined length. No one’s mind is required to change.
Stage 2: You win an argument if your opponent cannot respond to your points, given ample time to research and consider, despite actually trying to do so. Still, though your opponent is no longer on solid ground they may cling to their position in the belief that it will eventually be vindicated.
Stage 3: You win someone over if they change their mind and adopt your position.

The religious appear to be good at debates, largely because those who participate in them are trained to be good at them, but this merely allows them to subjectively win the occasional debate even with bad logic and poor (or zero) evidence. Subsequent analysis of what they actually offered reveals how little they were working with, and thus a debate will hardly ever advance a religious viewpoint past stage 1 for anyone who does not already believe.

“Hell Paging Dr Rawlings, Code Blue”

Question from Uriadka:
Does this prove hell and NDEs? This story seems really compelling, and prayer seemed to get a person out of hell, like many hellish reports:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwLJBSqrrfY

Rawlings told the story of his patient who collapsed during a stress test, and “before we could stop the machine, he dropped dead.”

Well, apparently not completely dead, because in the patient’s own words,

“When I came to, Dr. Rawlings was giving me CPR, and he asked me what was the matter, because I was looking so scared. I told him that I had been to hell and I need help! He said to me, ‘keep your hell to yourself, I’m a doctor and I’m trying to save your life, you need a minister for that.’ … And I would fade out every so often, so then he would focus CPR again and bring me back…Whenever I would come back to my body, I kept asking, “Please help me, please help me, I don’t want to go back to hell.” Soon a nurse named Pam said, “He needs help, do something!” At that time, Dr. Rawlings told me to repeat this short prayer. “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jesus, save my soul. Keep me alive. If I die, please keep me out of hell!”

The experience of the patient, Charles McKaig, then became pleasant, and he reported seeing his deceased mother and stepmother and being surrounded and comforted by the Holy Spirit. Upon awakening, he was an immediate evangelical Christian.

In Rawlings’ words, “After this was all over, I realized what really happened. It was a double conversion. Not only had this make-believe prayer converted this atheist … it had also converted this atheist doctor that was working on him”

Answer by SmartLX:
“Compelling” is a subjective term. The sincerity of the patient supposedly compelled Dr Rawlings to accept Christianity; honestly I guess you had to be there.

This sounds like a great many NDEs we’ve had described to us here, with the added wrinkle that the patient was repeatedly coming and going. This is a nightmarish scenario for anyone, and during the unconscious periods between consciousness and brain inactivity, what dreams might have come had every right to be hellish as the brain struggled to get a handle on its circumstances. Once it was given a simple purpose – pray for salvation – perhaps it was able to regain some order and return to more peaceful dreams. It worked so well that the sheer contrast between mental states had an indelible effect on both patient and doctor, and the subsequent dreams kept to the Christian theme.

This story doesn’t even attempt to serve as proof of a divine experience, the way some other stories do. McKaig had an out-of-body sensation but didn’t learn anything about his surroundings that he wouldn’t otherwise have known. He came back from clinical death but wasn’t miraculously cured of any conditions; he was a simple heart patient going in and coming out. He had an experience in a traumatic situation, it ended, the world is no different for it except for the opinions of two people. For the rest of us, it’s only the least bit “compelling” if you already believe in what they’re pushing.

A Christian Plants His Feet

Question from Vern:
I’m a Christian. I think atheists have the wrong idea. I had a Near Death Experience involving Jesus. He told me the day my wife would have a baby boy, 3 years down the road. Sure enough it happened, he told me it would be a blond boy and sure enough it was. My wife and I have no family we know of with blond hair, so we were surprised. I have also researched Near Death Experiences, and they favour Christianity. This, plus read the Bible if you have not. Many historians and scholars agree that the Bible is true. Many many people witnessed Christ die on the cross, and they met him afterwards. He did rise from the dead. How can you deny it? There is lots of proof including the infamous shroud of Turin, the bible itself, and I met the lord. How can you dismiss it like this? Our religion has more proof than others, look at all the evidence.

Answer by SmartLX:
Everything but the kitchen sink here, it’s a pretty good jumping off point after a bit of a break. So let’s break it down.

– Thanks to some very persistent questioners we’ve covered every aspect of NDEs here: their place in Christian culture, famous claims, medical explanations and denials thereof, the information they impart and so on. Have a read if you want to consider experiences outside your own. From an atheist’s perspective, they favour Christianity basically because Christianity favours NDEs. (There are genetic and also potential practical explanations for your boy’s blonde hair which I won’t get into.)

– When a historian claims that the entire Bible is true, including the supernatural parts, he/she is not speaking as a historian (unless it’s as a really bad one) but as a religious apologist. Most of the arguments about judging the events of the Bible on their historical merit using the criteria of historians are totally invalid because historians have no standard of evidence for accepting supernatural events. Theologians, on the other hand, have to take it as a premise that God and Jesus are real to proceed with any of their work, because you can’t ponder the nature of God as anything but a moot point unless you think there is one. Consider how many of the scholars you refer to are in fact theologians.

– Post-crucifixion Jesus is documented as only appearing to a handful of people, except in just one passage in 1 Corinthians 15 where he appears to five hundred or so. An account of 500 witnesses is not 500 witness accounts. As for the greater argument about his divinity, it’s another popular subject here. Look.

– The Shroud of Turin appears to have finally bit the dust as a genuine relic in just the last few weeks, as reported here. Generally speaking, it goes through periods of high and low credibility based on studies and studies of studies. At the absolute best, it was really Jesus’ burial shroud, but tells us nothing about what happened after his burial as we have no idea where it came from.

– Your supposed personal experience of Jesus is not good evidence for anyone else. When you claim the supernatural you ask people to weigh the reality of the impossible against the integrity of your character and the constant impeccability of your senses and faculties. I don’t know you so I can’t even make that judgement, but it wouldn’t go well even for my dearest friends and family if they made the same claim. There are just too many ways that such an experience can seem real and not be.

If you want to follow up on one specific argument for Christianity, look it up here by keyword. If you think it’s less than done to death at this point, comment and we’ll talk about it.

Shawn Weed’s Adventures Through the Noose

Question from Kamil:
Hello there, thanks for answering all my questions thus far. I keep worrying about hell, and this testimony hasn’t helped, by Shawn Weed. His video can be found on YouTube, and he seems so genuine. He cries in his video, and I can’t imagine how someone could hallucinate absolute knowledge ex: he wants to know the demon’s height, and knows automatically it is 13 feet tall. Then, he claims he saw such a beautiful angel, again, how could he hallucinate that?
Here is his story, as his video is very long winded, but in the video, he tears up a lot.

Here are the details about Shawn:

-Was in the marine corps. Had a choice to chill with other broke comrades, go to Disney Land in CA w/ comrades, or Vegas w/ comrades. Lacking funds so he chilled with three others.
-One dude wants to take a picture of him in a noose.
-One other dude sneaks up and while in the noose actually gets Shawn Weed in the noose and it tightens.
-Loses consciousness and eventually dies; his soul leaves his body.
-Describes his soul as himself exactly except he is not physical. Shawn tried to enter his body while he was dead, sort of like matching a the last puzzle piece into the last spot. Didn’t work.
-Ends up in a dark parallel plane that extended forever. Complete darkness. He described it as a “darkness you can feel” and the only light was the dim glow of his own soul or essence. There was a ceiling that he could touch but no walls or doors. Just a never ending chasm dividing Heaven and Hell basically.
-(^^^) He would later describe that place as the doorstep of Hell.
-A demon grabbed him by the shoulders and he describes the demon and the pain he went through.
-Demon: 13 feet high, either blackish red skin or redish black skin, fingers as thick as a wine bottle length little more than a ruler per finger, width of hand was like 8-10 inches, says it’s a fair guess when he estimates the demon weighed 3,000 to 4,000 pounds, built like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime just ripped, grotesque face that scared him terribly (not afraid of no man on the planet will fight anyone no matter how big, etc. but only looked for one second with absolute horror and turned away), the demon was strong and in complete control; there was no fighting this thing.
-Pain: As the demon grabbed him by the shoulder, his legs popped and were kicking up and down rapidly kind of like when you twiddle your index and middle finger up and down quickly, pain in the spiritual is all around according to him meaning if you get pain in your ear you’ll feel it all through your soul all the way down to your feet. He described the pain as electrical current that didn’t stop, he could feel the pain everywhere whereas a cut finger will hurt near the finger an not much further…There are no pain receptors the pain of that finger would flow throughout the entire spirit/soul.

-Sees a light and his hand, almost instinctual, reached for this light that grabbed his hand and it was Archangel Michael. He described him as the most handsome man and the most beautiful woman but shaped like a man. Strong, “not bodybuilder muscle popping out strong but trainer strong” and claims he was definitely there to fight. He says he had the most perfect blue eyes, like flawless perfect blue eyes as if the blue sky were taken and put into his eyes.
-Michael says it is not yet his time, and while the demon still had a strong grip on his shoulder, Michael basically hit the demon like a palm to the neck sort of strike and this demon went flying back like a cartoon bent in half mid-air (hands touching toes) sort of way.
-Michael points a direction and Shawn follows, instantly back in his body alive.

***He claimed that once he knew the demon was taking him from the doorstep of Hell to the actual fire and brimstone part of Hell he kept repeating it in his head like “I’m going to Hell” “He’s taking me to Hell” over and over. Said it was mortal doom basically. And he described the hope he had in him sort of ooze out of him after that realization and he became numb and every bit of energy and will to live was gone drained from his soul.***

He said he was an average guy. Never murdered, stole, etc. Did some drinking and drugs nothing excessive just your average guy. Claims that there are good people in Hell, people who would call themselves Christians. His belief is that God doesn’t want average he wants full devotion and the people who follow Christ and God one foot in one foot out end up in Hell. Full devotion to the best of your ability is what God requires. That was the part that blew me away, to think that good people would be allowed to burn eternally for being lukewarm, spit out into Hell.

Answer by SmartLX:
Found it here.

Weed doesn’t have to be lying to be wrong. His experience can have been entirely real to him and yet not involve any supernatural beings. This is the nature of dreams, hallucinations, and false memories.

Whatever really happened, the more he tells this story the more he reinforces it in his own mind (especially with his emotions engaged), until he may believe it entirely when once he didn’t. All kinds of new and specific details can creep in that way too and become canon, so to speak. This could include not only the height of the demon but his memory of how quickly he knew it, so it actually is possible to fabricate a memory of having certain knowledge. Imagining a beautiful angel is pretty straightforward if you believe in angels.

Much of the story is consistent with him having fabricated the whole thing, consciously or not. It reflects his existing beliefs and even special interests. Besides the obvious Christian imagery, bodybuilder Weed portrays the entities involved as distinct beefcake body types. The bit about spitting out lukewarm people paraphrases Revelations 3:16, and reflects many other Bible verses telling Christians to be active in their faith. (Some evangelicals call it being “on fire for Jesus”.)

Let’s not forget that there isn’t even any obvious support for the non-supernatural parts of the story. We have only Weed’s word that he was in the noose in the first place, let alone accidentally strangled until clinically dead with three close friends present. For this story to be taken as evidence of anything, surely it should be the first pre-requisite to establish that he even had an opportunity to experience the afterlife.

Take note anytime you take “I can’t imagine how” as evidence for something. This is acceptance of an argument from ignorance, unconsciously made to yourself. It may well convince you at the time but it has no right to.

A Hindu Gets A Christian NDE

Question from Kamil:
This is the story of Dr Rajiv Parti. I want to know if this story proves Christainity, as it happened to a Hindu man who was raised in India, yet saw Archangels Michael and Raphael.

Parti had prostate cancer. The operation to remove the cancerous cells left him with complications: impotence, incontinence and chronic, excruciating pain. He became addicted to painkillers, and depression soon followed. Two years passed yet the complications remained. Because he couldn’t control his bodily functions, surgeons implanted an artificial urinary sphincter.

That’s when the real trouble began.

Within 48 hours, Parti’s entire pelvic area turned red and swollen. He developed a 105-degree fever. Sepsis had set in. An ambulance rushed him from Bakersfield to UCLA Medical Center, where doctors administered antibiotics for the infection and morphine for pain.

The next morning, Christmas Day 2010, the medical staff performed emergency surgery. General anesthesia was administered. But 15 minutes later, when they inserted a catheter to drain his urinary bladder, the pain was so intense that it triggered an out-of-body experience.

Parti saw himself floating above the scene. He observed the surgeons cutting him open. The smell was awful, and to counteract it, he was aware of the nurses applying eucalyptus-scented water to their surgical masks. He heard conversations taking place, even a joke told by the anesthesiologist.

Simultaneously, Parti heard a conversation occurring between his mother and sister in India. They were discussing what to prepare for dinner that night: rice, vegetables, yogurt, legumes. He saw them sitting in front of a small electric heater, his mother in a green sari, his sister in a blue sweater and blue jeans.

“I would like to say my awareness then went to a serene, happy place,” Parti says. “But no.” Instead, his mind went to a dark place where a great wild fire was raging. Lightning flashed in black clouds, and entities with crooked teeth and horns scurried around. “I was in a hellish realm.”

There, Parti realized his sins. “I was not kind to my patients. When I met someone, I always asked myself, ‘What can I get from this person?’?” He was especially harsh toward those he perceived to be lower in social or professional status. He saw how many people he’d used, how many toes he’d stepped on to get ahead.

He remembered a former patient, a 75-year-old lady with arthritis. “She wanted to talk to me. She wanted a little touch on the shoulder, because her husband was dying of cancer.” Instead, he dashed off a prescription and walked out of the room. In the hellish realm, he felt deeply sorry. He wished he had done things differently.

Then his father showed up and shepherded him to a tunnel. Crossing the tunnel, the dark hell was replaced by “the light of a thousand suns that did not hurt the eyes.” The light, Parti understood, was pure love, and he was being given a second chance to go back and change his life completely.

Awakening in the recovery room, he wanted to get down on his knees. He verified the joke he’d heard with the anesthesiologist, who reasoned, “You must have been light on anesthesia.” He confirmed facts with his family – back in India, his mom was indeed wearing a green sari that Christmas evening, and yes, she and Parti’s sister did sit around the heater discussing dinner.

In his experience, he met with two archangels, who are Christian, and was shown hell, also very Christian. I am wondering, how does a man raised Hindu see such Christian imagery? Does this demonstrate Christianity to be true?

Answer by SmartLX:
Generally speaking, if you’re hallucinating due to pain or any other medical effect you might see anything that’s in your brain, not just that which is foremost. This was an educated man in pluralistic Indian society, where Christianity is the third largest religion behind Hinduism and Islam (and ahead of Sikhism). He was aware of many elements of Christianity which then figured into his vision. If he’d been from somewhere Christianity is not widely familiar, this would carry a bit more weight.

The evidence he presents for the veracity of his out-of-body experience is the corroboration by his anaesthesiologist and his mother and sister. We have only his word for these corroborations, but even if he did confirm it with them neither claim is unambiguously supernatural. He would know some of his family’s favourite clothes (in particular, if someone likes jeans they wear a lot of them) and typical diet (also typically Indian Hindu vegetarian diet). Hearing the anaesthesiologist’s joke might well have been a failure of the anaesthetic, or else the anaesthesiologist could have told the same joke near Parti before he went under.

It’s worth reading specifically the 3-star reviews of his book about the experience on Amazon. At this level you get comments from people who don’t necessarily reject the NDE claim out of hand, but take issue with differences between Parti’s account and Christian doctrine about what’s actually going on in Heaven and Hell. If you want to accept Parti’s claims as evidence for Christianity, you must also accept them as contradictions of or wholesale additions to certain claims in scripture, such as what becomes of people with specific occupations.

Bryan Melvin: Another Hell Tourist?

Question from Vlad:
Do you believe this man? Apparently people say they knew him and that he is totally genuine. They say they went to school with him and he was a total atheist until this experience, where he wrote books about it and became a pastor, but I have my doubts. I feel he may have lied to make a profit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmp3UNjeu0k

Answer by SmartLX:
Bryan Melvin certainly made a profit whether or not he believes his own claims. It doesn’t cost much to put out a book with a Christian self-publishing company, and the above video is on sale too.

Atheists do sometimes convert to Christianity and other religions, so there’s really no problem with the idea that Melvin was once an atheist. What’s important is the reasons why people convert, and Melvin’s reason is a personal experience which he really has no way to establish as supernatural as opposed to generated by his own brain at some stage during his cholera episode. If it was real to him, and as intense as it sounds, objective examination of his own state of mind would have gone out of the window very quickly.

Seen One NDE, Seen Them All

Question from Vlad:
Hello, was indoctrinated into Christian faith since birth. I have a hard time when people ask me what I believe. On one hand, I trust evolution, I have had difficulties accepting the Bible. The whole idea that religion is a man made construct with “heaven” and “hell” used as a mechanism for controlling populations makes sense. However, in my church, one of the priests told us that hell has been proven to exist. He sent us an email with a few written accounts of religious people who were decent, but drank and partied, and were therefore not accepting God. They then either claim that they may have died and had what’s known as a Near Death Experience or NDE or even dreams sometimes where they encounter hell.

I found a multitude of videos where people claim to have seen hell in either a dream or an NDE, and what I realized is that all these reports sound consistent:

– falling through a black hole
– hearing screams
-seeing souls suffering
– seeing fire
-meeting demons who often say “we got you now”
– the demons beat people, and look like reptiles
– then the person calls out to Jesus or God, and a light appears
-this light saves them

There are many of these kinds of videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOhOynR9Jxg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=II_3H9O4LSo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmp3UNjeu0k
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwFruS4rpdI

All of these sound so similar.

I wonder how so many people could hallucinate/dream the same thing, especially this last link was a mormon woman who didn’t believe in hell, and had no exposure to it. How did she experience what so many experience?

They seem so consistent. Being raised Christian, I always pictured hell as a place with dark rocks that people stand on, surrounded by lava and fire, being burned, suffering, maybe meeting Satan, etc. I never pictured there being demons who claim “we got you now” and attack people while mocking them. All of my Christian friends I asked didn’t picture this either, so what gives? Why do all these accounts report reptile horned demons?

Any rational thoughts on this?

Answer by SmartLX:
Put “nde” or “near death experience” into the search function above to find a positive wealth of articles, because it’s been a popular subject lately. In particular, this piece addresses your specific question about the similarities between claims. Briefly, there can be very good physical or mental reasons why people experience what they do, and they’re all human beings living in the same society.