An Atheist in Heaven: Eben Alexander’s Venture Into Eternity

I adored th[e] simplicity—the absolute honesty and cleanness of science.  I respected that it left no room for fantasy or for sloppy thinking.  If a fact could be established as tangible and trustworthy, it was accepted.  If not, then it was rejected.

This approach left very little room for the soul and the spirit, for the continuing existence of a personality after the brain that supported it stopped functioning.  It left even less room for those words I’d heard in church again and again:  “life everlasting.”

Dr. Eben Alexander was an atheist.  After 25 years as a respected academic neurosurgeon, Dr. Alexander could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul.  He had heard of near-death experiences, but they seemed implausible and, therefore, uninteresting.

Then his own brain was attacked by an E. coli bacterial infection, a rare form of meningitis which is fatal in more than 90% of cases.  For seven days, he lie comatose in Lynchburg General Hospital, brain activity reduced to pure physical impulses.  The part of the brain which is the locus of higher functions such as memory and intentional decision-making or logic was completely inactive.

Doctors, certain that his death was inevitable, wanted to discontinue treatment with antibiotics, and encouraged his wife to prepare for a final goodbye.  But Eben Alexander didn’t die; defying medical predictions and confounding his doctors, Dr. Alexander awoke.  Even more surprising, his cognitive function returned rapidly.  The doctors’ dire predictions of serious brain injury were quickly disproven, as language and memory and emotion returned.

Before his illness, Dr. Alexander’s rational approach had led him to believe that the universe had evolved by happenstance without the aid of a Creator.  During his coma, though, he had seen for himself that heaven was real.  He had entered a new realm, a spiritual realm, where music and light combined in unimaginable beauty.

Something had appeared in the darkness.

Turning slowly, it radiated fine filaments of white-gold light, and as it did so the darkness around me began to splinter and break apart.

Then I heard a new sound, a living sound, like the richest, most complex, most beautiful piece of music you’ve ever heard.  Growing in volume as a pure white light descended, it obliterated the monotonous mechanical pounding that, seemingly for eons, had been my only company up until then.

…Then, at the very center of the light, something else appeared.  I focused my awareness, hard, trying to figure out what it was.

An opening.  I was no longer looking at the slowly spinning light at all, but through it….

I recall that Eben Alexander’s dramatic story Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife elicited a small firestorm of television and radio interviews when it was released in 2012.  Myself, though, I stumbled across it in the airport bookstore when, having packed hastily, I forgot to bring a book to read on my flight from Detroit to Phoenix.  For the next five hours, I lived in its pages—smiling at Eben’s memory of life in the afterworld, warmed by his recollections of vibrant colors and rich music, of beauty, and of the Creator whom he called simply “Om”.

I did notice that Dr. Alexander, while he wrote of attending an Episcopal church and gratefully received the Eucharist, said nothing about meeting Christ during his adventure outside of the bounds of time.  I was not troubled by that.  He had not actually entered into full union with God and with the saints—only with the messenger who turned out to be the sister whom he’d never met.  And much of what he discovered regarding one’s relationship with God was consistent with Catholic teaching.

Proof of Heaven will surely be a comfort to those who are facing the loss of a loved one, or who can only watch as a friend or relative slips from this life into coma and into eternity.  It will be a strong witness to those in the medical community who, like Dr. Alexander before his illness, imagine that they know better than their patients.  And it will be a joyful read to the rest.  I am happy to recommend it.


  • Stan Norman

    A man suffers horrible trauma to his brain and hallucinates, and you consider this good evidence? I can get quite weird dreams from eating pickles before bedtime. Should I consider those real too?

    • Stan Norman

      Oh, and as an interesting aside I once had a near death experience myself – complete with light at the end of the tunnel and looking down at myself. The human brain, traumatised, has some impressive defense mechanisms and can produce some powerful disassociative effects, but that does not make those real in any objective sense.

      Similar effects can be achieved through electromagnetic stimulation of the brain by the way.

      • Curt Cameron

        When I was a kid I had an out-of-body experience a couple of times when I had a strep infection and a high fever. I recall feeling that I was floating outside my body, going towards a windowsill, and becoming very small. I just wish that I had realized 40 years ago that I could write a book about it and make a bunch of money!

        What I find incredible is that seemingly normal, functioning people can fall for these kinds of stories, thinking that they’re actually signs of a separate soul. His brain was malfunctioning, therefore the memories he has indicate a reality that we can’t even perceive! It’s like my computer crashed and later I found some disconnected garbage stored on the hard disk, and I jump to the conclusion that my computer’s soul had traveled outside its case while it was being repaired and experienced computer heaven.

        • DKeane

          In computer heaven, Windows boots in a second and there is never a bad sector on your hard disk.

  • DKeane

    I agree with the other two people. Unless he can truly show that he had no brain activity at all, then his entire story is suspect. I bet he is making a lot of money off of this new book of his.

    • ILuvNY6921


      • aqua

        Actually he did- Eben Alexander has since refuted his statement in the book about his ‘complete’ brain death
        Much as I would like this to be true -its essential to question the many inconsistencies in ‘Proof of Heaven’. Among many others
        -According to one Amazon reviewer who investigated it- the weather, which is made much of as significant-wasnt at all as he said-
        -He sais he wasnt religious yet was a practising Christian
        -The whole marketing/Oprah road hes chosen
        -His quite extraodinary ego that comes through
        All these issues and more make me uncomfortable about Eben Alexanders veracity and motives.

    • Caravelle

      His brain activity during the experience is irrelevant; the brain’s sense of time is off in those near-unconscious states so it could just as easily have confabulated the whole thing as he was waking up.

  • Pingback: What Happens After We Die? The Witnesses.

  • fred taylor

    What think ye of Christ ?

  • Cindy Nievinski

    I’ve read heaven is for real and 90 minutes in heaven….your story sounds so similar. I have to believe it’s real…if everyone would just believe this is what we have to look forward to..the world would be such a wonderful place!!

  • Nils Mikkelsen

    Call it whatever you want, but It boggles my mind that ANYONE can contemplate the stars and everything we have learned about them and doubt for one second the existence of an afterlife.
    Some scientists still try to rationalize out exustence talking about the big bang theory and the Higgs boson. Assuming they are correct, am I to believe that it just HAPPENED? That there was nothng before that.
    I think not.

  • gilbert mailhot

    Enfin des témoignages de scientifique qui colabore à tous ceux dans le monde entier qui on vécu une(EMI) expérience de mort iminente, à tout les sceptiques ,continuer à douter (autrefois la masse croyait que la terre était ronde ) . merci dr,Eben du témoignage.

    • Caravelle

      (autrefois la masse croyait que la terre était ronde )
      Et… elle est comment en vrai ?

  • Maurice Brandin

    A failed attempt made by “Creationist” to once again prove the existence of God, and Heaven.
    The book “Proof of Heaven” is a miserable attempt by “Creationist” to counter attack better written and more reliable books on the reality of things. Without an iota of evidence, and based only on the dream of one man, the book is telling you that Heaven is “real”, God exists and He, resides there.
    To begin with, the title: “Proof of Heaven” is a cry of desperation. What a remarkable enticement for the feeble minded, what an eye-catching heading for the wonderers out there, what a final and undisputable argument, a ‘cast-iron’ confirmation: ‘Here it is, no need to look any further’.
    Let’s look at the narrator and principal character in the story. He is a scientist, and not just your ‘run of the mill’ scientist, he is, has he claims, an expert neurosurgeon with years of expertise under his belt. Portrayed as a well-educated, member of the upper echelon if you will, intelligent, accomplished, and an outstanding professional as well as a remarkable family man, a loving husband and wonderful father, loved by kin, friends and co-workers, one can hardly question his credibility; with such qualities and excelling credential, how could anyone doubts the truthiness of his recitations? A meagre plumber for instance, an underprivileged, would have hard time in the convincing, he would not have the required credibility, after all a plumber, even though an expert in his own right, connecting pipes and fixing leeks, could not be equated to a neurosurgeon, an expert in the understanding the intricacy of the human brain.
    But who is this man? Adopted by a loving family he was raised Episcopal, even though he admits not to be a full time practitioner. His father, also a neurosurgeon and a “deeply spiritual man”, most have had a huge influence on young Eben, in his words: “a father he had worshipped as a young boy”. Under these circumstances one can easily comprehend how, even as an accomplished scientist who’s forced to face proof of reality on a daily basis, would have difficulties taking control of his internal emotions and reconcile reality with poisoned believes embedded in his preconceived mind. In his trip to Heaven (Chap 7 Page 40) he was met by a beautiful gilr, a girl with “high cheek bones and deep blue eyes”. He did not say it but I bet his beautiful girl was also blond, white, with a great body and was also a virgin. Well maybe not a virgin, that’s reserved only for the ones of “other” faith.
    Continuing, on page 47, he finally meets up with God: “My situation was, strangely enough, something akin to that of a fetus in a womb.” [Now he goes on to explains to us the uninformed, the life of a fetus]. “The fetus floats in the womb with the silent partner the placenta, which nourishes it and mediated its relationship to the everywhere present yet at the same time invisible mother”. [ Really? And I thought all the fetus did was kicking its way around in its mother womb, inflicting, the poor woman, abdominal pain and major discomfort]. But what comes next is the absurd: “In this case, the “Mother” was God, the Creator, the Source who is responsible for making the Universe and all in it”. What?? Now how did he jump from the fetus to God? Why not from a liquid immersed fetus to a happily swimming fish? Like: [In this case, the “Mother” was the vast Ocean, the Source who is responsible for nourishing and keeping all the little fish happy and alive….]. Now, that would have been a bit more plausible. How did such a leap of faith occurred? The only logical explanation I see is that his mind had been pre-programmed. Carefully and meticulously by bias believes, bestowed on him as a child, believes now permanently carved in some obscure part of his brain that overpoweringly give rise to all sort of fantasies. He is a neurosurgeon, how can he not see that? This believes have poisoned the reasoning of lesser people, but a scientist? His description of Heaven continues with more details, too many to list, detail that borders the ridiculous. His description of Heaven is full of beautiful color, exquisite music, zillions of butterflies, green valleys and he floats over and among all this. He is got a companion with him, a guiding Orb, which also serves as an interpreter; I’m sure as a pagan he could not speak directly to a God which he calls “Om” (Short for Omniscient, Omnipotent).
    This kinds of reminded me of a similar trip, one taken towards the end of the thirteen century, this time by a guy named Dante.
    Dante also was accompanied by an Orb, Virgilio who guided him through Hell and Purgatory and finally he was handed over, for the Paradise portion of the trip, to Beatrice, a ‘beautiful, high cheek bones, blue eyes’ blonde girl with a great body and…maybe virgin. The similarities of the story are astounding. I guess we will have to wait for future books to find out about Eben Alexander’s first two portion of his trip: Hell and Purgatory.
    Anyway, for pure effect the author tosses in a miracle or two, but completely misconstrues Albert Einstein’s quotes. And as far as: The proof of Heaven?? I must have missed that.
    I like to conclude with a cheap shot on my part.(sorry about that)
    This man’s wife name is Holley (Holley??? You’ve got to be kidding). Together they have named their children: Eben IV (what ever happened to II and III?) and Bond (Bond?… like in “double-O-7 ?). I mean are they for real?? And: What’s with the ‘Bow Tie’?

  • etinamax

    I believe he may be profiting while making the talk show circuit and writing books, another Dr. Oz, but who knows maybe he is correct, no certainty either way, may have been hallucinating. But I do believe in out of body experiences, believe I had one myself but can’t know for sure. The bible does discuss out of body experiences, when the silver chain is broken. It doesn’t necessarily mean there is an afterlife, out of body experience might not be a religious experience but an experience purely natural. We will never know for sure.

  • David Onyiuke

    ” What, then, could be the purpose of this latest deceptive endeavor? Whether he realizes it or not, Dr. Alexander reveals this objective in the Newsweek article:

    Not only is the universe defined by unity, it is also—I now know—defined by love. The universe as I experienced it in my coma is—I have come to see with both shock and joy—the same one that both Einstein and Jesus were speaking of in their (very) different ways. Source

    It seems fair to propose that this is one of the primary goals of the Great Deceiver. To convince the world that sin, judgment and condemnation are not actual or final is one of Satan’s greatest ploys. To unite the world in a circle of love, while denigrating and diminishing truth is no doubt a plan that has long been in place by the enemy of our souls.

    There can be only one Truth, however, and that is Jesus Christ (John 14:6). This truth, the reality of the Gospel, will divide—our Lord warned us that it would (Luke 12:49–53). Christians must be mindful not to be swept away in the glimmer and glitz of yet another story of one man’s purported excursion to “heaven.” Rather, believers must remain in the Word and on their knees in prayer, that God would protect them from such deception, and expose such tales for what they are—lies spewed from the depths of Hell.”