Atheist's 'near-death' experiences


There are a couple of good threads discussing Atheists and death/afterlife and some people (I wont name names, jump in if you feel moved to) have some VERY powerful stories about near-death episodes in their lives. This really got my inner Socrates working. I just couldn’t put the pieces together in my head and make them work. I’m hoping those with first hand knowledge have a more enlightened point of view than mine.

Ok, so here is my conundrum:

If you are an Atheist and had a ‘near-death’ experience isn’t that an oxymoron for you? Since Atheist believe (no judgment intended) that when you die you cease to exist then it is not possible to have any sort of death experience and ‘come back’, right? There is no way to experience not existing. And if you feel like you did, how do you come to terms with coming back? Isn’t the fact that you had some sort of transitive emotion or experience enough to make you question the possibility of an out of body experience? If that’s the case, what left your body?

Like I said, I’m not trying to judge you or paint you into a philosophical corner. I am just as uncertain about what happens to us after death as the next guy, and not knowing scares the heck out of me sometimes. The only difference is I believe I have a soul (whatever THAT is) and God wants me to be with him (wherever THAT is). I also appreciate the fact that y’all come to this forum at all :thumbsup: Every encounter I have had with Atheists have been enriching in some way.


That’s why it’s near-death :wink: (also, I’m agnostic, although I still do not believe in an immortal soul)

I never actually died or had an out-of-body experience, only lost consciousness, breathing, and heartbeat – which is really close, but evidently not enough to count when given CPR. The border between ‘alive’ and ‘dead’ is still fairly fuzzy but I remained on this side of it, if only barely.


I knew I didn’t do a good job of explaining that. :o My point was, for an Atheist, life/death are binary and mutually exclusive. You can NOT learn about death and still be alive, not even a little bit, because in order to become dead you have to leave life completely.

But as a believer life-death is a transition, a journey. So I could, theoretically, “travel” half way there and return back to my body.


If you are an Atheist and had a ‘near-death’ experience isn’t that an oxymoron for you?

“Near-death experiences” are what happens when the brain shuts down – when it’s starved of oxygen, say. As far as I know, they can be reproduced at will using a centrifuge.

for an Atheist, life/death are binary and mutually exclusive.

They are the end points of a spectrum and there are fuzzy boundaries at both ends.


To learn for certain, yes, but to flit around the edges of death for a time can be quite enlightening too.

But as a believer life-death is a transition, a journey. So I could, theoretically, “travel” half way there and return back to my body.

As a nonbeliever, it’s a journey also – just one with a very defined end, which we may pass near many times before actually arriving at. You don’t have to have faith in an afterlife to almost die.


Near death is not the same as death. I say this to remind all the people who believe in an afterlife…that being nearly dead isnt’ the same as being dead. So…maybe you want to watch how much “faith” you put into near death experiences as a clue to the afterlife.

This is precisely why the fact that I had a near death experience does not automatically mean I believe in an afterlife. I wasnt’ dead…I was dying…and then lived. Two very different things indeed.

I absolutely question my out of body experience, and the rest of it. I was most definitely in an altered mindstate, etc.

However…the experience was powerful and useful to me, even if it cannot make any promises to me about eternity.

What it did teach me was that the process of dying, at least by extreme bloos loss…was pretty good. Very OK. The kinds of things I was thinking, and experiencing were not what I would have predicted or expected. There was no regret, fear, etc.

I didn’t, nor have I ever claimed to have come back from the dead. Only from a near death state. I use the term Near Death experience, because that is what my culture calls these types of experiences.

I had a very hard time after I came back. Severe depression, etc. Because I came back from a state of OKness to a very not OK world. I had a terribly difficult time. Sought counseling,etc.

Many people have poo pooed my experience due to this. Because the only near death experiences they want to hear about are the ones that confirm their faith. They believe that they should all be enlightening, and make one never fear death again, and transform a persons life in a very definite way…etc.

I have been interviewed by people who study and write books on the subject, who have been angry that my experience didn’t fit their agenda. They have argued with me about it. They don’t like that there are experiences out there that don’t confirm what they want/need to believe.

It would have been easier for me to die. I know that everyday. I could have slipped away. Most days, I’m not sorry I am here…to raise my kids, and experience all that life is. But sometimes…when things are really hard…the cool OKness of dying does seem very attractive.

It took me years of struggling to come to terms with not having died.

I have no idea how/why I had the out of body experience, or what “left” my body. It may have been a hallucination. No one was able to completely confirm what I saw as actually having happened. What I saw was something that could have been put together in my mind, an easily imagined scene under the circumstances.

I do not know how to interpret other people’s NDE’s. I accept that they experienced what they say they did, and would appreciate if people did the same for me.

I just ran into this over last weekend. Someone angry about my NDE, because it doesn’t support their idea of the afterlife.

Something to think about when we read those books on such subjects…there are lots of stories they are leaving out.



I can understand this a little, I think. Everybody wants proof-positive that their beliefs are absolutely true, I guess then they can become stunt doubles or sword swallower’s or whatever.

I don’t want to critique anybody’s personal NDE, I’m just curious how they reinforced or changed your view of death and whether there is ‘something’ afterwards or not.

Thank you for your moving testimonial, you make death sound just like I had hoped. Peaceful. :heaven:


It didn’t particularly transform my life, but it did remove my fear of death. Whether that’s a good thing for my general health or not… we’ll see :o

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