I am fascinated by Near-Death Experiences, or NDEs. I’ve read dozens of varying accounts, but this one really grabbed my attention—a notorious atheist, Alfred Ayer, in 1988, shortly before his death, had his heart stop for four minutes when he apparently choked on a slice of smoked salmon. Ayer was a British philosopher known for his promotion of logical positivism, and died one year later, in 1989. Here is what he said about his experience:
“Did you know that I was dead? The first time that I tried to cross the river I was frustrated—but my second attempt succeeded. It was most extraordinary. My thoughts became persons.”
Thoughts became persons—what the what? He went on to describe what he so vividly recalled “on the other side.”
“I was confronted by a red light…Aware that this light was responsible for the government of the universe. Among its ministers were two creatures who had been put in charge of space…”
Somehow Ayer was aware, during this NDE, that space was slightly out of join, and that the laws of nature on earth had ceased to function as they should.
Ayer had spent most of his adult life debating the “non-existence” of God—indeed arguing that the very idea of “God” was devoid of meaning, a position known in theology as igtheism. He had gone twelve rounds with the best and the brightest of the bishops and theologians in the land—and in the public mind, he was thought to have triumphed.
According to his own account written for the London Daily Telegraph, “the earliest remarks of which I have any cognizance…were made several hours after I returned to life.”
Who knows if this renowned atheist actually allowed this NDE to change his presuppositions of the naturalistic world view. I would hope that he did. I believe God is very gracious to the skeptical mind, and will provide opportunities for people to see things differently, or to shift their biases against the supernatural.
I’m not endorsing this experience as an actual description of what heaven could be like, but I do find it fascinating that thoughts could manifest in the heavenly realm. The imagination God has endowed us with can be used in such wonderful and powerful ways on earth that I can presume, since our imaginations are in our consciousness, that we’d be able to imagine in the hereafter.
Ultimately, I just found this story ironic—that an atheist had an “experience” that didn’t fit his naturalistic assumptions. Ayer was the founder of the “Philosophy of Positivism,” that states anything that is not verifiable by the senses is nonsense, and that since the senses do not survive after death, NDEs are foolishness.
Reports claim that Ayer’s NDE made him a changed man: “My recent experiences, have slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death … will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be.”
For most of us, deep within the human soul, there is a desire to hope there is more to life than what meets the five senses. Makes perfect “sense” to me!