Tag Archives | Afterlife

The DisinfoCast: Episode 35: Carla Wills-Brandon

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Licensed therapist, grief counselor, author and near-death researcher Carla Wills-Brandon is here to discuss the phenomena of deathbed visions: A culturally univeral phenomena in which the dying report seeing visions of friends and family who have died before them. Wills-Brandon has appeared on numerous programs, including Coast to Coast AM, Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, Geraldo Rivera and many others. Her most recent book is Heavenly Hugs: Comfort, Support and Hope from the Afterlife.
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Near-Death Experiences as Proof of Afterlife? Not Really.

Picture: Dr. Mario Markus (CC)

A rebuttal to the articles: Heaven is Real: A Doctor’s Experience with the Afterlife and A Neuroscientists Describes His Near-Death Visit to Another Realm.

Dr. Eben Alexander’s article can be summarily dismissed with one sentence in the words of the late, great, (kind of a jerk but…) inarguably intelligent, and erudite Christopher Hitchens: “that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” And there you have it. However, considering the nature of my disagreement with Dr. Alexander, I suppose I should put forth an actual case for why I believe his experience does not constitute evidence (let alone proof) for life after death.

There are many possible explanations for what Dr. Alexander went through. Perhaps he really did experience an event in which his disembodied consciousness was whisked away to heaven on the wings of a magical butterfly with a hot brunette in tow.… Read the rest

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PZ Myers Calls Eben Alexander’s Visions Brain-Damaged ‘Bullshit’

Harvard-educated neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander woke up one morning with a bad case of E. Coli eating his brain. Before he could say “alakazam,” his neocortex had shut down completely, while his incorporeal body was whisked away on butterfly wings into the depths of the Infinite Beyond. He saw visions, was given messages, and upon returning to consciousness, wrote down his story, which he summarized for Newsweek.

Upon reading this account, blogging biologist and professional party-pooper PZ Myers basically accuses Dr. Alexander of being retarded.  Relishing in his contempt for any Swedenborgian realities that may lie beyond atoms and the void, Myers wipes his ass with Newsweek on his famous science blog Pharyngula:

I’ve got to wonder who is responsible for this nonsense, and how it gets past the staff at Newsweek. Every once in a while, they’ve just got to put up a garish cover story touting the reality of Christian doctrine, and invariably, the whole story is garbage.

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A Neuroscientist Describes His Near-Death Visit To Another Realm

Picture: Jesse Krauß (PD)

Proof of an afterlife, or simply that we really have no idea how the mind works? Via the Daily Beast, Dr. Eben Alexander recounts his trip to a higher plane of existence whilst his brain was shut down in a coma:

As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. I understand what happens to the brain when people are near death, and I had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death.

In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.

All the chief arguments against near-death experiences suggest that these experiences are the results of minimal, transient, or partial malfunctioning of the cortex.

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The Cosmist ‘Third Way’: An Afterlife For Atheists

Giulio Prisco at Turing Church explains how Cosmist beliefs can provide solace for nonbelievers confronted by the gaping void of permanent annihilation:

I cope with the grief from the death of loved ones by contemplating the Cosmist possibility, described by many thinkers including Nikolai Fedorov, Hans Moravec and Frank Tipler, that future generations (or alien civilizations, or whatever) may develop technologies to resurrect the dead. A related idea is that our reality may be a “simulation” computed by entities in a higher-level reality, who may choose to copy those who die in our reality to another reality. Contemplating these possibilities is my way to cope with grief, I hope you will find your own way.

Cosmism is one of those “third ways” that are often passionately rejected by those who believe in the old ways, but in my opinion it is a Hegelian synthesis of what is good in the old ways: it is firmly based on science, and at the same time it offers all the important mental devices of religion, including hope in resurrection.

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Ketamine Can Induce A Near-Death Experience

Looking down at one’s own body as the soul floats upwards…a feeling of immense calm as one moves towards the light…such reports by those who have come perilously close to death are often cited as proof of an afterlife or spiritual realm. However psychiatrist Dr. Karl Jansen explains that these near-death experiences are identical to a ketamine trip:

The near-death experience (NDE) is a phenomenon of considerable importance to medicine, neuroscience, neurology, psychiatry, philosophy and religon. Unfortunately, some scientists have been deterred from conducting research upon the NDE by claims that NDE’s are evidence for life after death, and sensationalist media reports which impart the air of a pseudoscience to NDE studies.

All features of a classic NDE can be reproduced by the intravenous administration of 50-100 mg of ketamine…including travel through a dark tunnel into light, the conviction that one is dead, ‘telepathic communion with God’, hallucinations, out-of-body experiences and mystical states…becoming a disembodied mind or soul, dying and going to another world.

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How Our Terror Of Death Forms Our Beliefs

stoppingVia New Humanist, Steve Cave on how an obsession with immortality shapes everything we do, believe, and create:

A group of American psychologists have discovered a simple way of turning ordinary people into fundamentalists and ideologues. It can be done anywhere and in a matter of minutes. It is just this: the researchers remind these ordinary folks that they will one day die.

The researchers behind this work were testing the hypothesis that most of what we do we do in order to protect us from the terror of death; what they call “Terror Management Theory”. Our sophisticated worldviews, they believe, exist primarily to convince us that we can defeat the Reaper.

Atheists and agnostics should not think that they are free from such comforting illusions of eternity. The psychologists, psychiatrists and anthropologists who developed Terror Management Theory have shown that almost all ideologies, from patriotism to communism to celebrity culture, function similarly in shielding us from death’s approach.

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Malaysian Guru Offering Tours Of Heaven And Hell

Rejected-by-Hell-againA visit to the afterlife will set you back $61. Via Mind Power News, an account from a reporter who attempted the otherworldly journey:

A group of daring people took the opportunity to be part of a ‘Hell Tour’ in Penang. The trip was organised by Master Kek Eng Seng of the Tze Bei Guan Yin Dhamma Centre, who claims that he can travel through the realms of Earth, Heaven and Hell. For the first time in Malaysia, he offered people the opportunity to visit the ‘Afterworld’.

The number of Hell travelers was brought down to slightly more than 50, including a dozen reporters from the Chinese dailies and yours truly.

As night fell, the group, all clad in white shirts symbolising purity and sincerity, gathered at Padang Brown in Georgetown for the “tour”.

After some prayers and rituals, we were all set to start our journey at around 10.15pm.

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Hell In 3D, From 1860s Paris

comboA strange find from nineteenth-century Paris, a miniaturized version of Hell photographed in 3D, promising rewards for sinners in the underworld. Via Cine-graphics:

In the opening lines of his 1978 publication, Diableries: La Vie Quotidienne Chez Satan, Jac Remise relates how a crew of demolition workers in Paris discovered a mysterious wooden box hidden in the ruins of a condemned building. The box, which had been wrapped with old military belts, was found to contain a collection of photographs depicting a hedonistic world filled with drunken devils, sinister skeletons and scantily clad women. An anonymous note found buried among the glass images added:

“This is the work of my life, it is thus that I dreamed of Hell. If my visions are true, then the wicked may rest assured, the afterlife will be sweet for them to bear.”

What the demolition workers discovered that day was a series of photographs known as Les Diableries, The Diabolical.

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