Heaven is Real, Says Magazine That Doesn’t Employ Fact-Checkers

Newsweek, which has done away with any aspect of fact-checking whatsoever, has a cover story this week about how Heaven is real… written by a doctor who follows the popular script of falling into a coma, going to “heaven,” and then cashing in by writing a book about the experience:

Dr. Eben Alexander knows how silly this sounds, he admits, so he prefaces his “proof” with this:

I know how pronouncements like mine sound to skeptics, so I will tell my story with the logic and language of the scientist I am.

“Language”? Who cares? Big words don’t make your experience any more factual.

But “Logic”?! I can’t wait! Show me the evidence!

Before you go into his proof, take a second to imagine what you *think* Heaven would look like. As it turns out, your preconceived vision is probably pretty damn accurate! (Who knew?!)

There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind — my conscious, inner self — was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.

It took me months to come to terms with what happened to me. Not just the medical impossibility that I had been conscious during my coma, but — more importantly — the things that happened during that time. Toward the beginning of my adventure, I was in a place of clouds. Big, puffy, pink-white ones that showed up sharply against the deep blue-black sky.

A sound, huge and booming like a glorious chant, came down from above, and I wondered if the winged beings were producing it

This new picture of reality will take a long time to put together. It won’t be finished in my time, or even, I suspect, my sons’ either. In fact, reality is too vast, too complex, and too irreducibly mysterious for a full picture of it ever to be absolutely complete. But in essence, it will show the universe as evolving, multi-dimensional, and known down to its every last atom by a God who cares for us even more deeply and fiercely than any parent ever loved their child.

Wow. All that stuff about Jesus and God is true, too? Amazing. And very convincing, if you’re predisposed to believe in bullshit.

This is what it boils down to: He’s a doctor. Colton Burpo (the subject of the similar, bestselling Heaven is for Real) was 4 when he “experienced Heaven.” But they’re practically saying the same thing. You get the feeling an agent somewhere was thinking, “If the American public fell for what a four-year-old boy said, just think of what’ll happen when a doctor says it!”

But a fancy title doesn’t mean we should believe everything the person says. Doctors can be wrong, Presidents can be wrong, and we all know Pastors can be wrong. Just because you have an honorific in front of your name doesn’t mean you automatically deserve respect. You have to earn that. Even when you do, you can lose it quickly — Dr. Oz promotes quackery, after all. Maybe Alexander is a skilled neurosurgeon, but he’s abandoning everything he ever learned about science when he proposes a “We don’t know what happened to me… so it must be Jesus!” answer.

Either Heaven is for real and the only people who can see it and come back to tell us about it just happen to be coma victims who are also Christian… or Alexander fell into the same trap as many others before him and has convinced himself his experience must be the truth because it felt so real. (Because that’s how good science — and bestselling books — work.)

Keep in mind he’s publishing this article in Newsweek — which has no fact-checkers. And writing a book about it, which also allows him to avoid fact-checkers. (You can’t trust the publishers — since they’re in the job of making money, not selling facts.)

More importantly, for something that Alexander claims to be scientific and logical, note that he’s completely bypassing publishing all this in a scientific journal, where peer review would be applied. He hasauthored or co-authored over 150 chapters and papers in peer reviewed journals…” but when it came to the issue of Heaven, he just felt that writing a magazine article would be more convincing…

Right.

It’s all a sham.

Gawker makes the point clear by offering a quiz where you have to decide whether a particular passage is taken from the Newsweek story or from descriptions of people who have taken drugs.

I failed.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000584124403 Courtney Coburn

    There is a 3rd  book about this very topic just released 5 months ago:
    To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story by Mary Neal, MD. 

    • allein

      There’s also one published last year called “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life Beyond this World” by Kevin and Alex Malarkey. (Not surprisingly, Kevin is a Christian therapist, according to the bio on the B&N website.)

      I assumed it was a parody when I first saw the author’s name. I was wrong.

  • newavocation

    I guess writing an article was easier than climbing and mountain to find a burning bush and a couple of tablets. Maybe he plans on being Prophet Alexander and on all the TV evangelistic shows now. 

  • Ian Reide

    Once upon a time, a long time ago, I read every issue of “Newsweek”, but I stopped a long time ago. People can improve. And, this guy got the front cover!

  • http://twitter.com/JJtheTVnewsguy James Jackson

    You can’t fact check opinions / personal reflections / hallucinations.  I could write a book claiming I personally met with a messenger of God who presented me with secret golden tablets holding the keys to afterlife and all human fulfillment, and no amount of scrutiny would be able to prove or disprove my encounter with the angel (except of course unless I couldn’t produce the tablets.  But that didn’t stop Joseph Smith right?)

    • Sindigo

      No, but you could fact check statements like: “There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind — my conscious, inner self — was alive and well. ”

      There may very well be a scientific explanation for the fact that he thought his consciousness  was alive and well.

      • Secular Planet

        No, we really can’t fact-check his claim *that* he was conscious at that time, especially if the medical data shows no brain activity.

        • Gus Snarp

          You missed the point. The claim that can be fact checked is that ther is no scientific explanation, not that he was conscious. We absolutely can fact check whether there is a scientific explanation for his experience, and there is. That explanation happens to suggest that he was not actually conscious.

          • Sindigo

            Exactly.

  • Nhobart

    Pure, unadulterated codswallop.

    Next?

  • David B.

    What?! No beer volcano?

    Now I know he’s just making it up!

    • http://fairlyodd.net Frances Bean

      I have four words: Jesus Shaped Bacon Statue

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

         OM NOM NOM!

      • Coyotenose

         Four more words: Bacon Shaped Jesus Statue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/keithacollyer Keith Collyer

    looks like he and the ragazine got thoroughly called out in the comments. Of course, they don’t get printed and put on news stands

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    “Mr. Wade, the anesthesia is beginning to wear off. How are you feeling?”
    “Huh? Oh, uh, just kinda woozy, Dr Alexander.”
    “Yes, because of the cyst’s location, we had you under very deep anesthesia. But we were able to remove it, and you’re going to be fine.”
    “Oh good. Thank you. …Dr. Alexander, I, …I was in heaven! It was amazing and beautiful!”
    “Oh? I’m interested. Tell me about it.”
    “There was a beer volcano, and a stripper factory! It was so wonderful!”
    “Uh, well, Mr. Wade, I don’t think you were seeing heaven, that was probably from the anesthesia.”
    “Oh yeah? Well my hallucination is just as valid as yours, Dr. Alexander, and mine is a lot better than stupid pink clouds! So my book will outsell yours, ASSHOLE!”
    “Uh, nurse, please help Mr. Wade to be comfortable. I uh, need to make my rounds.”
     

    • Findog53

      You sir are another one who makes me rethink my opposition of euthanasia.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        I haven’t received a death wish from a follower of the Prince of Peace in quite a while. I am honored, sir. 

      • Baby_Raptor

        Death threats are always classy. And just what Jesus would do!

      • WICKET99

         I thought you Xtians were pro life.

    • http://fairlyodd.net Frances Bean

      You forgot the Jesus shaped bacon statue and the blow job machine. I do hope I get a death wish too!

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    How can he seriously say “there is no scientific explanation”? I can think of an obvious possibility right off the top of my head– this was a hallucination, brought on by medicine or physical reasons. There. I’m no scientist, but that wasn’t hard to figure out.

    • Artor

      …or just lying his ass off to support his religulous agenda.

      • Baal

         They don’t do that do they?

        • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

          Inconceivable!

          • John

             You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              *chokes*

        • Will Ross

          What, scientists with agendae? Who’d’vethunkit?

          Seriously, the question of whether he’s a scientist is entirely irrelevant. The fact that is hasn’t been peer reviewed or otherwise fact checked, on the other hand…

          Poor, poor Newsweek: first the “rage of Islam”, now this. As a source of news, it’s right up there with the National Inquirer these days.

  • Jon Peterson

    I drowned once. It took about eight minutes from I fell unconscious until the time they restarted me on the beach. I was (am) very lucky. I experienced nothing while I was out. And by that I mean I experienced no passage of time between desperately trying to free myself from the kneeboard my concussed self was tightly strapped to, and looking up into a circle of faces I can barely remember.

    Two years ago, I was in a ski accident. Ski patrol revived me after I spent more than 15 minutes under a tree. I distinctly remember deciding where I was going to catch up with my parents (it was lunchtime) at the bottom of the run. And then I remember the faint wisps of reality my senses were able to pull it together enough to process in the minutes it took them to strap me to a sled and get me to an ambulance.

    In both of those situations, I was effectively dead. There was no monitoring systems to tell me whether my brain shut off, but my body had to be restarted. I was not breathing, and my heart had stopped. There was no afterlife. I did not burn in hell. I did not float away to heaven. I simply ceased to exist.

    You ask me, that’s plenty reason to live. Death is fucking terrifying.

    • Mike Laing

       I asphyxiated once due to allergy reaction. I saw a bright background with people peering at me, and I knew it was the medical staff when as they were taking me out of the ambulance. I wasn’t dead, but I had gone at least 6 – 10  minutes without breathing. There was never the slightest feeling that I was going into heaven, although it was heaven when I got some oxygen again.
      Like you, zero sense of an afterlife, and dying is fucking terrifying. I never want to do that again ;p

    • Sindigo

      Well, maybe God doesn’t care about you and doesn’t want you for a sunbeam. You’re not one of those atheists I keep hearing about are you?

      BTW, what do you do for your kicks now?

      • Jon Peterson

        Ski and kneeboard. I also added mountain biking and kayaking to the list. >.>

        • Sindigo

          Nice safe and sedate activities then ;)

    • raytheist

      Death can’t be terrifying.   Death is absence of life.   The process of dying might be terrifying, especially if it is slow.  And suddenly being revived with a blank gap in your memory can indeed be terrifying as you try to piece together what happened, I’ll grant you that.  But being dead is just … nothing.  At least, that’s what I’m counting on. 

      • Sindigo

        I think the point is largely a semantic one but death is the act of dying too. In fact it’s definition #1 here http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/death and as such can indeed be terrifying. A primordial fear of death is probably what made this idiot think he saw Heaven in the first place.

        Death isn’t the absence of life. A rock isn’t dead, it’s just not alive.

      • Don Gwinn

        I like the idea, but if death could not be terrifying, no one would be terrified of death.  Many people are terrified of death.  Therefore, death can be terrifying.

    • Gus Snarp

      Maybe you should slow down a little.

      • Jon Peterson

        NEVAR

    • C Peterson

      I’d say that the prospect of death… both the dying process itself and the idea of being without existence… can be scary. Death itself, not so, unless you recall being terrified for the 13 odd billion years you were dead before you were born.

      • http://fairlyodd.net Frances Bean

        I think that’s what he means. I could be wrong though.

        • Jon Peterson

          Yes, you are right.

          Although C stated it more eloquently than I did. :P

    • usclat

      You need to find safer hobbies Jon. Maybe Rugby and Ju Jitsu? :-)

      • Jon Peterson

        How about Calcio Fiorentino and Botaoshi?

        (#1 in http://www.cracked.com/article_19951_5-insane-real-sports-they-need-to-add-to-olympics_p2.html )

    • http://fairlyodd.net Frances Bean

      I fell through the ice of the lake near my house when I was 8 and I was effectively dead for about 6 minutes. It was weird because I did experience something similar to the white light tunnel business they talk about. But even at 9 I wasn’t a believer and I knew enough to know it was my brain’s reaction to lack of oxygen, not Jebus coming to pick me up. 

    • IamNoOne

       I died once and only saw flames at the end of my tunnel. We started roasting marshmallows.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dan.drew.35 Dan Drew

      Great point, and I would also like to point out that you are scary accident prone.  I would never ride in a car with you.

      • Jon Peterson

        Oddly enough, I have only ever been in one collision of any sort… and it was a 1.5mph bump that didn’t even scratch my vehicle.

        … But because I was driving a 1988 Chevy Suburban, and thus essentially  operating a freaking TANK… it utterly destroyed the back door of the little bullshit minivan that was in front of me. Nobody was harmed, unless you count me, because of my wallets later emptiness (insurance companies REALLY don’t seem to like it when you touch another car while still a couple months shy of 17. >.>)

  • dantresomi

    I just wanted to point out that Todd Burpo who is a pastor and the father of Colton Burpo actually wrote the book “Heaven is Real.” I almost purchased the book when i noticed that. I quickly changed my mind since i have no doubt, that poppa Todd served a that plate of nonsense to his son. 

    • allein

      I’ve read it (my mom wanted it; I picked it up for her and read it before I gave it to her, since I wasn’t going to be seeing her for a few days). Save your money.

      Todd is somehow surprised that the son of a pastor has picked up all these things they supposedly didn’t actually teach/tell him (like what heaven supposedly looks like, his miscarried sister, what his grandfather looked like). I don’t have kids, but I’ve done enough babysitting to know that kids pick up all kinds of things you think they don’t hear or can’t understand.

      • allein

        (That is, of course, assuming that Todd is telling the truth.)

  • Fargofan

    You could write books about ideas discredited by science but widely accepted by laypeople (thanks to junk like the Newsweek article).

  • Mike Laing

    That’s it, I’m converting to  Pentecostal. As a man of rigorous logic and skepticism, I have to admit that this is an example of the finest science and research, and this must be submitted to the Lancet. This is a ground-breaking  discovery.
    I, for one, am impressed.
    This guy is a doctor???????????? Doesn’t he know that this is a symptom of oxygen deprivation in the brain???????????
    Oh, my mistake, you have to have a brain to begin with. Either that, or he suffered irreparable brain damage during the event!

  • Amy Davis

    He lost me at brain-free consciousness…

    • http://www.twitter.com/alcrans Aloysius Cranston

      That is EXACTLY what I was going to say.

  • http://snigsfoot.blogspot.com/ Rob Crompton

    “…my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension…”

    And then when he woke up his brain-free thoughts turned to writing a book about it.
    Presumably brain-free consciousness is a super workaround to overcome the inconvenience of having to rely on tedious old empirical stuff.

  • A3Kr0n

    Pink puffy clouds against a blue-back sky?  Dr. Eben Alexander should do a personal study on salvia divinorum. He’ll find his heaven again in a pipe. This is nothing new, and it isn’t supernatural.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      My trip did NOT involve pink puffy clouds… but there were pretty lights and I couldn’t stop laughing.

  • Sailor

    It seems very strange such a scientific fellow cannot tell the difference between an experience and external reality. If the brain surgeon of the same name  mentioned below is the same person, he may not always get things quite sorted out with his patients either:
    http://www.ncmedboard.org/images/uploads/disciplinary_reports/DiscMay-June2010.pdf

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    What, this guy never had a dream before?

    • BeasKnees

      Exactly what I was thinking.  This is ridiculous.  

    • Gus Snarp

      And he’s written a whole book about it. This guy sure knows how to cash in on getting a nasty infection.

  • Gus Snarp

    “There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind — my conscious, inner self — was alive and well.”

    Um, yes there is. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Dr. Novella explain exactly what was going on here many times. Maybe this guy should consult a few colleagues before proclaiming “no scientific explanation”. Try this one: everything you think was going on while you were in a coma happened in only a few minutes while you were coming out of the coma, or even after you were completely out of the coma and it only seems like you had this long drawn out experience throughout your coma, just like you can’t really say how long a dream went on…

  • Anne Murphy

    My husband had a coma experience many years before I knew him.  He “lived” a lifetime as a WWII soldier while in the coma, and can describe quite a bit of detail of that mental experience.  He’s been an atheist since he was a child…

    I guess that proves that WWII really did happen!  He should write a book about it!

  • C Peterson

    I am a scientist, and I spent many years in the medical device business, working with doctors, and the vast majority of them are not scientists, and indeed, are quite poor at scientific thinking. So I’m not going to assume that a doctor is a scientist simply because he says so… especially in a case like this where we hear obviously non-scientific words.

    I’m wondering how he knows he was having conscious thoughts while his cortical brain activity was low? Does he not realize that all he has now are memories of something? Does he not realize that his entire experience may have occurred after his brain activity increased, and it is a distorted sense of time that is making him think it occurred earlier? Has he never experienced this in an ordinary dream? Does he not recognize that there are a million much more prosaic explanations for his experience than “heaven”? Does he not recognize that science places little value on experiential “evidence”? Does his vocabulary lack the word “anecdotal”?

    The story is entirely non-scientific, and the magazine damages its credibility by suggesting otherwise (if not by simply wasting space printing yet another version of the same thing we’ve heard before).

    • Baal

       I was a grad student who took classes with a ton of med students.  About half of them were down right pissed to have to learn about ion channels and their role in membrane work potentials (for example).  They were of school that says medicine is an art and not a science. 

    • Gus Snarp

      Just like the congressman who said that many well established theories of modern science were “lies from the pit of hell”, based on what he learned “as a scientist”. He’s not a scientist, he’s a doctor. Some doctors are also scientists. All doctors had to study some science. But most doctors are not scientists.

    • Gwen

       I work with doctors every day, and I am astounded at the lack of skepticism, and propensity to believe in all sorts of bullshite. Doctors are NOT scientists, nor are they trained to be critical thinkers.

    • Maddy

      PS This is not friendly aethism this is limited thinking lack of care and respect so prevalent and “normal” in a certain strata of society. Nothing new and just the usual profoundly closed minded and excruciatingly boring opinions.

  • Jim Thomason

    “This is what it boils down to: He’s a doctor.”

    Double underline that statement. I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the “surgeon’s photo” of the Loch Ness Monster (wikipedia - http://bit.ly/LIStxf), so called because it was supposedly taken by a doctor, which lent all sorts of credibility to the Loch Ness Monster sitings. After all, he’s a doctor! An upstanding member of society! Why would he lie about such a thing?

    Of course, it all turned out to be a hoax because, surprise surprise, doctors will lie and be dishonest so they can cash in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ellenbeth EllenBeth Wachs

    Having been one of those that has had a “near-death” experience, I can assure you looking back on it from the perspective of science and reason, it is quite explainable using physiological and biological references rather than transcendental.

  • Tainda

    If there aren’t a bevy of hot men, I don’t want to go anyway

    • Coyotenose

       Would a bushel be enough?

  • Philo Vaihinger

    Even the “respectable” American media are desperately in need of an enema.

  • Andre

    Note that this occurred in, and this doctor used to practice at, the hospital in Lynchburg, VA, home of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. Maybe some Christian doctors played a trick on him with lights and singing and such to make him think he saw heaven.  Or maybe he’s trying to push his religious agenda and make a buck on the side.

    Lynchburg is not a nice little town anymore (all the personality and charm that was in the city has been converted to low rent strip malls surrounding Liberty U). I can’t imagine why a very accomplished neurosurgeon (Harvard!!1!eleven! he mentions in all his bios without any context ever) would end up practicing in that crap-hole, unless they felt the draw of Falwell. 

  • Waynedunlap

    This guy does seem a bit hard to believe, but I don’t see anything in the quotes from him that he is saying that Jesus or the God of the Bible is involved.  The books that I think are much better to check out are as follows:  Science and the Near-Death Experience How Consciousness Survives Death by Chris Carter and Evidence of the Afterlife The Science of Near-Death Experiences by Jeffrey Long, M.D. with Paul Perry.  These argue that when there are vivid after-death experiences after the heart stops and sometimes under anesthesia as well, it is unlikely that this could happen without it indicating that consciousness is separate from the brain.   Under these conditions, any experience would be at best extremely hazy otherwise.  Neurologists will argue that it is simply a false memory, but what doesn’t make sense is why most of these experiences are very similar.  Also, they have had people who have come back stating that they saw dead relatives but were puzzled how they could have seen their sister since they had just talked and she was in good health.  It turns out that the sister had just died suddenly from a car accident or something else.  I’m not saying that I necessarily believe that after-death experiences are truly indications that life continues after death, but I feel that it isn’t completely black and white so I’m not sure why most here are so certain that it unlikely.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      Neurologists will argue that it is simply a false memory, but what
      doesn’t make sense is why most of these experiences are very similar.

      Shock surprise: people undergoing the same medical conditions will experience similar symptoms! Whoda thunk it?

      • Rory

         Not to mention that when practically every damn one of these near-death experience stories involves the same tunnel of white light, it’s hardly a surprise when people start to incorporate common imagery into their remembering of such events. If you were told from a young age that dying is like getting flushed down a cosmic toilet, then people would be waking up from comas talking about the great whirlpool to the afterlife.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      so I’m not sure why most here are so certain that it unlikely.

      I don’t have to be certain that the afterlife is bunk to recognize that Dr. Eben Alexander’s account does not rise to the level of scientific proof which he promised.

    • Coyotenose

      ” I’m not sure why most here are so certain that it unlikely.”

      1. We have overwhelming evidence that these are symptoms of medical issues. We have zero evidence that they are related to anything supernatural.

      2. People used to tell stories about being abducted by faeries, until the imagery of Little Green Men in Flying Saucers was invented and became embedded in the culture. Suddenly it shifted to being abducted by aliens. See the relationship?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

    newsweak has been a joke for a long time now, and this only confirms it. and it always amuse me that all these folks claiming to have had “after life experiences” and awareness also seemingly also conform to judeo-christian mythology. what, no animist or buddhist or jain ever had a similar experience, which conformed to their understanding of life after death? i’m sure lots have, it’s just that our media won’t ever report on them. i mean, newsweak would never put up a front page story from a doctor who had the last name of ‘gupta’ and claimed that elephant headed Ganesh took him up and into the sacred burning grounds of shiva when he almost died, or whatever. 

    • Reginald Selkirk

       Hindu near death experiences

      During NDEs, Christians see Christ, Hindus see deities from the Hindu pantheon, and so on.

      I’m sure you’re shocked to read that.

    • Reginald Selkirk

       Edward T. Babinski

      you’ve probably already heard of Betty Eade and her heavenly
      explorations during her NDEs. She’s a Mormon, and lo and behold her NDE
      turned out to reveal that Mormonistic teachings were closest to the
      truth… in some cases devout Buddhists or Hindus or Native Americans meet, respectively, Buddha, Krishna, or a totem animal.

  • Don Gwinn

    But, but, but . . . . but he’s a doctor!  Just like Paul Broun!

    We’re seeing a lot of discussion of two possibilities, but there are actually more explanations.  Brian Dunning at Skeptoid always pulls me up short when he reminds us that “The first step in trying to find the explanation for a phenomenon is finding out whether it ever actually took place.”  
    It’s certainly possible that he experienced these sights and sounds and feelings, which people have been trying to explain as either a genuine case of a soul having experiences separately from the body/brain, or a case of an honest mistake made by a man who was fooled by vivid sensory experiences.  

    The third possibility is that he made up some or all of the story deliberately.

  • Octoberfurst

     I read the article and found it to be absurd.  First of all, he wasn’t dead—he was in a coma. Second, his story of what happened is just so bizarre that I can’t wrap my brain around it.  He’s walking on butterfly wings—(butterfly wings??)–through something like a gorgeous forest with angels flying overhead and he has a traveling companion. This companion is a beautiful young girl who he communicates with telepathically. They then go into a dark void where he sees a glowing orb which he says is god or something like that.  It’s all very strange & totally unbelievable.
      I also find it strange that this happened to him in 2008 and he is only NOW getting around to writing his story about it.  He said he was trying to “come to terms” with what happened to him.   Uh-huh. More likely he was looking for a good agent for his book.
      No doubt he will make a mint selling his “true story.”  Gullible people everywhere will lap it up.

  • advancedatheist

    For once I ‘d like to see one of these people say that the experience of seeing heaven showed him or her that the universe has no meaning or purpose. But I doubt that message would sell many books. 

  • spook

    Isn’t Newsweek the same bastion of journalism known for yet another cover story about Jesus every third week or so?

    • TheBlackCat

       I thought that was TIme magazine.

  • garthhh

    Eat a bunch of a specific type of mushrooms and I bet you’ll have a very similar experience…

  • http://twitter.com/Joel_Chappelle Joel Chappelle

    Let’s get down to brass tacks here, it’s not hard to dupe Christers out of their money. If it were, Creflo Dollar wouldn’t be worth 27 million dollars. I can’t get mad at a guy for sticking it to people who refuse to think critically. The guy took a hard knock and now he’s making lemonade at the expense of people I can’t stand. Good man. 

    Moreover, this kind of story is Newsweek’s wet dream. Can you imagine the mobs of sweaty, churched-up, bible-bangers salivating uncontrollably in the Walmart checkout line when this thing hits newsstands. They don’t need fact checkers, they need accountants, and maybe a framed collector’s edition that comes with a pair of Jesus sandals and a nondenominational promise that each and all can bring  it along to heaven.

  • Msdiver259

    I guess we’ll have to be careful when we sent up those spaceships.  They could smash right into heaven!  What a pathetic fool.  

  • Gwen

    That is precisely why I cancelled my subscription some years ago- and they have continued to get worse. It USED to be a good magazine, until it started pandering for subscriptions instead of facts. Glad to know I made the right move.

  • Msdiver259

    I find it amazing that people are afraid of death when it is inevitable.  I far more afraid of being strapped to a wheelchair in a diaper and bid, being fondles by some underpaid pervert than I am of death!

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    DISCLAIMER: I will not respond to anybody except the “friendly atheist” on this one.

    Wow! What a surprise! Looks the “friendly atheist” doesn’t employ fact-checkers, either. Not surprising, I bet the pay is dirt at Patheos.

    Maybe Alexander is a skilled neurosurgeon, but he’s abandoning everything he ever learned about science when he proposes a “We don’t know what happened to me… so it must be Jesus!” answer.

    Translated: Alexander’s experience conflicts with what the “friendly atheist” believes to be true about the world, therefore, Alexander is somehow unscientific. No evidence needed for that claim, eh?

    Either Heaven is for real and the only people who can see it and come back to tell us about it just happen to be coma victims who are also Christian… or Alexander fell into the same trap as many others before him and has convinced himself his experience must be the truth because it felt so real. (Because that’s how good science — and bestselling books — work.)

    Now there’s a real cheap-shot, implying that “the only people” who have these experiences are Christians who fall into comas. The ignorance is just pathetic. You’re supposed to be on the side of truth and rationality, yet you distort both to push your agenda. Shame on you, I say, shame on you.

    Check the facts, folks, because you’re not getting them here—and that’s a fact.

    • Baby_Raptor

      “DISCLAIMER: I will not respond to anypony except the “friendly atheist” on this one (or R. Wade).”

      Translation: I know people are going to rip my little word salad to shreds, so I’m just going to ignore the truth unless someone I agree with (or the OP, I have to pretend to give a wank) posts. 

      • Coyotenose

        “Anypony”.

        I giggled.

    • Coyotenose

      Geez, what a little coward. And such pathetically fallacious responses. You couldn’t come up with anything that wasn’t a whine about how the mean people don’t take coma hallucinations as evidence. Why are you Creationists always such disappointingly bad liars? At least try to make it interesting when you throw hissy fits and lie about how science works.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    *SMFH*

    Heaven and Hell; they’re a state of mind, man. They’re not actual locations.

  • Hengwyte

     Visited the GAWKER quiz…how the heck did you fail?  No history of drugs?  It was way too easy, I nailed all the heaven quotes, but slipped up on one of the drug quotes which sounded, well, like a doctor’s confused vision of heaven. 

    As everyone confirms here, doctors are not pure scientists, and while that lack of scientism can be dangerous in some, it’s not such a bad thing in others if they’re good with their hands.  And too, while not defending Dr. Oz, there’s nothing wrong with a little placebo magic…even if it’s hucksterism in a pure sense, our minds can be fooled to not just believe crazy things (like trips to heaven while in a coma), but to convince our body to get well under the influence of some of those beliefs.

    The key to unlocking dreams and fantasies of heaven seems to me to lie in the baby discipline of neurophysics…what the heck is going on in the microscopic world of brain matter?  Deep down we get to play on the same field as the Higg’s Boson — now there’s a heaven’s gate to pass through.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      I got 50% — but they ALL sounded like legit “chemically enhanced” experiences, and I marked them all as “drug induced”.

  • murphium

    Heaven is real… no wait, sorry it’s just lens flare.

  • David_in_Houston

    It is impossible to prove that “heaven” is real, simply based on someone’s story telling. Whatever credibility Newsweek had, it is completely gone now.

    I had two out-of-body experiences when I was a child. The first one, I was choking on a hard butterscotch candy in front of my home. I saw myself choking (as if I were standing outside of my body) for about 10 seconds, then the candy finally went down my throat. The other time, I got up quickly from the sofa, and as I was headed down the hallway I fainted (due to a lack of iron — said our doctor). I could see myself falling slowly backward as I landed on the tile flooring. Both of those experiences give me some solace in wondering if we still exist after we die. But it’s never made me think that there is such a thing as heaven and hell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/arturo.y.dybuco Arturo Yap Dy Buco

    The Revelation even says that when people die, they loss consciousness and will have to wait for the second coming of Jesus Christ.  Only Enoch and one other went directly to heaven.  Therefore, this story is false even under the teachings of Christianity.  I’m just quoting from the Bible and this does not necessarily mean I believe them.

  • Liliana

    So everyone is wrong except you!  lol

  • http://goddoesnt.blogspot.com/ James A Lindsay

    A better headline: “Heaven is real,” says man with bacteria eating his brain.

  • Miss_Beara

    He is coming out with a book about his “experiences” and will undoubtedly become a best seller. 

  • LouisDoench

    Gawker makes the point clear by offering a quiz where you have to decide whether a particular passage is taken from the Newsweek story or from descriptions of people who have taken drugs.
    I failed.

    What specific drugs should we  take for this experiment? Cause I know a guy… ;)

  • Guest

    No one knows the answer to whether or not God exists, and that is why it is called faith. I have it and so does he. Why should he be bashed on whether or not YOU think his story is true?

  • Jim A

    It was interesting to me that he purported to be a very casual Christian, maybe even a doubter, prior to this experience. I guess that means that practically all ” Christians” not just the most righteous, will get into Heaven.

  • Antmaz

    Some people are just too comfortable with death
    to contemplate Heaven

  • Stephen

    Well, there you go: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/18/newsweek-will-cease-print-publication-at-end-of-year/?hp

  • Prince Walker

    So all Hemant really said was, ‘I don’t believe him.’  Well, he has every right to do so.  He lives in America.  That doesn’t mean that Hemant is right.  He just gave us his opinion.  God, Heaven, The Devil & Hell could exist or they could not exist.  Are you willing to bet your eternity on it?

    • Deven Kale

      Pascals wager? Try harder next time.

  • Gene G

            Hey there friendly atheist… I  managed to read your article regarding the commonly known  NDE of the uncommonly known Dr. Eben Alexander (which reminds me of a horrible “Plot Twist” movie by M Night Shyamalan)  and decided to share with you and the rest of the readers that might NOTICE  this message and due to the (generalization –>) curious nature of human beings, which is safe to Assume, since it has been widely accepted  in numerous academic fields and then literally proven by Neuropsychology              Has it ever appeared in your dreams or fantasy or psychology class  that according to the results of a certain (unbelievably remarkable and most likely already banned and placed on Your DEFINITELY Going to Hell by the Church)  studies which compared the INTELLIGENCE level of individuals identifying themselves as belonging to an Organized Religion Jesus Wears Prada Cult and those Chaotic Devil Worshipers  a.k.a  Atheists (<– I don't think the  word intelligence can ever be intentionally used to positively describe ANY  Religious Individuals)  it was unexpectedly determined that Atheists are more intelligent than Church goers….who would have ever guessed that GOD loves stooopid people which are continuously conditioned to NEVER ASK  QUESTIONS…a.k.a Having Faith.        The reason behind, or on top, or underneath of the introduction I constructed  for your reading pleasure  was partly or mostly due to your identification with the group of Atheists and the expectations of the demonstration of significantly high level of insight regarding the topic  which you have failed to provide thus in-deliberately provoking me to deliberately demonstrating my Ninja Writing  Skillllz.    Your article review blog entry FAILED to provide ANY  questions regarding the Scientific & Philosophical aspects of NDE which would challenge the author.  
    "More importantly, for something that Alexander claims to be scientific and logical, note that he’s completely bypassing publishing all this in a scientific journal, where peer review would be applied.These are your WORDS….WHY MUST YOU MAKE THIS STINKY POO POO…*tear tear* Your horrible Nonsensical Observation in which you misrepresent the author by stating Alexander claims the NDE is scientific and Logical….(where and why would he say that?)  He cannot Publish this in an Academic Peer Reviewed Journal….because It's impossible due to the CONTENT not FITTING within the REQUIRED FORMAT that the Journal needs in order to publish…. the only thing he can write about in the JOURNAL are things related to Medical Science called NEUROLOGY/NEUROSURGERY. 

  • maria

    to bad for the unbeliever for I know the truth and my Lord is real thru this knowledge there is hope for tomorrow there is no end and I feel sorry for the angry person that needs to tear down what he does not know or understand…For there is no true atheist not on the death bed many have asked me to pray for their souls…..What I said to them is that they are loved and forgiven heavens gates are opened wide all we have to do is walk thru them if we chose to we are stuck with minds that only have knowledge of this world and are incapable of understanding of things outside this reality….How can you know what color is if you were born blind….

    • Deven Kale

      It seems that you not only disbelieve in atheists, but punctuation and grammar as well.

  • Fred

    “Either Heaven is for real and the only people who can see it and come back to tell us about it just happen to be coma victims who are also Christian.” Evidently, Newsweek isn’t the only one that has done away with fact checkers. Thanks for demonstrating how ignorant, arrogant and illogical atheists are.

    • TheBlackCat13

      Thank you for that detailed rebuttal.

  • Maddy

    One is deeply sick and tired of all the cynics, and heart empty folk who feel so self righteous and judgemental, and sure of their “opinoins”. Why should aethism and total lack of intuition and multiple human experience feel so great to these folks. You guys bore me to the marrow. Odious and full of bigotry you disallow human experience that is not similar to your own. What tiny, weeny hearts andminds.

  • Sam

    Where is your proof that there is no after life???? Consciousness exists and scientists are proving this so just because your rational mind can’t comprehend the concept of other realms/dimensions doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It has nothing to do with religion, it’s way beyond that.

  • Wayne D

    I took the test and got 100%. Still, I have read numerous accounts of after death experiences and none are like the description that this author gives. Hermant, since you flunked, I get the impression that you are putting down life after death experiences without doing any due diligence. The naturalists work so hard to explain away after death experiences as false memories are similar to drugs like DMT or experiences by astronauts in centrifuges due to lack of oxygen in the brain, but none of these match the typical experience of a Near Death Experience. You have people whose hearts have stopped and are also under general anesthesia who have extremely vivid experiences of leaving their bodies and seeing people in the ER working on them and even describing unique machinery they could have known about since they were unconscious when they entered the operating room. Also, they describe going through a dark tunnel, which appears to be a conduit from our dimension to another one. They see dead relatives and some have expressed surprise to see someone like their sister who they had just spoken too recently and though was still alive only to find out that they had died suddenly in a car accident or something similar. The key here is that their hearts have stopped and they are under general anesthesia. What is the odds that they would have a very vivid experience rather than a very hazy at best and most likely none at all? Also, how would they have met up with someone they thought was still alive but who had just died suddenly. Also, to state that this all violates physics is disingenuous since, if their is a spirit world, physicists most likely have no way of sensing it. Just because it doesn’t match what we currently know about the laws of physics, does not mean it doesn’t exist.


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