Atheists have deathbed experiences and near-death experiences just like everyone else does. The philosophy of Positivism, founded by the famous atheist named A. J. Ayer, is the philosophy that anything not verifiable by the senses is nonsense. Because NDEs mark the end of the senses, Positivists believe the survival of the senses after death is nonsense. But this philosophy has been challenged by its founder A. J. Ayer himself. Later in life, Ayer had an NDE where he saw a red light. 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” (Ayer, 1988 a,b).
1. The NDE and Conversion of the Famous Atheist A. J. Ayer
Reprinted from: Can There Be Life After Life? Ask the Atheist! by Gerry Lougrhan, Letter From London, March 18, 2001.
When the famous English novelist, Somerset Maugham, was expiring in France, aged 91, he summoned the world-class atheist, A. J. Ayer, like a priest to his deathbed, to reassure him that there was no afterlife. Professor Ayer duly delivered the words of consolation Maugham longed to hear.
But when Ayer himself was dying two decades later, he wasn’t so sure. Having choked on a piece of smoked salmon that stopped his heart for at least four minutes, the famed philosopher saw, and heard things he had spent a lifetime denying.
On his return from he knew not where, Ayer wrote a chagrined but enigmatic account of what has become known in Britain and beyond as a near-death experience (NDE). Read about A. J. Ayer’s NDE in his article entitled, “A. J. Ayer – What I Saw When I was Dead.“
Millions of people say they have had an NDE, as it is now commonly known, while many more are thought to have had the experience but are too embarrassed to talk about it. A 1991 Gallup poll in the United States indicated 13 million Americans claimed experience of life beyond the grave; in Britain, a Mori poll showed seven people out of ten believed NDEs happened and constituted evidence of an afterlife.
An intriguing aspect of the claims is their similarity: a tunnel, a rushing sound, a brilliant light, a feeling of ecstasy and being told it is not yet time to die. Also frequent are: the out-of-body experience in which a person appears to observe his body from above – often watching medics trying frantically to revive his corpse; an instantaneous review of a person’s whole life; and sometimes seeing dead friends and family. One woman said she met a brother she did not know she had. Her father told her later: “You did have a brother. I am the only one alive who knew about him.”
Of the many testaments on record, that of Jack Foreman, a US naval technician, combines most of the common elements. Foreman was “cooked” by a radar leak and had major surgery for a large hole in his diaphragm. Several days later, he appeared to die. “I could look down on my whole body,” he later reported. “One medic was applying electric paddles to my chest to shock me back and shouting ‘Breathe, you son-of-a-bitch, breathe.’ They stabbed needles into his lungs to extract fluid and injected adrenaline direct into the heart. Foreman says he saw his entire life pass in seconds: being in the womb, the ceremony of his Christening, an embarrassing incident as a small boy when he soiled his pants. He heard a loud rushing noise and appeared to be speeding through a dark tunnel with a light of unbearable brightness at the end. This light took human form and he received a message, though not in words, “You must go back.” The tunnel experience happened in reverse. Because of its radioactive status, Foreman’s body had been taken to a cleaning room. He had a feeling that he re-entered painfully through his toes and when he spoke, the medics were totally shocked.
The majority of recorded claims link NDEs to feelings of joy and comfort. A statistician calculated that 69 per cent of the thousands of cases he investigated reported a feeling of overwhelming love. When he broke his subjects down by belief (Christian, Religious but non-Christian, Non-religious, New Age, etc.) he found 100 per cent of people calling themselves atheists had experienced “tremendous ecstasy”. Sixty-three per cent reported the life review experience.
Stories such as these are denounced as laughable by skeptics, who argue that some people copy what others have said or project their own childish ideas of heaven: a robed Jesus, joy, flowers, cottages, even reunions with deceased pets. The existence of an American society, Hello From Heaven, is seen as proof of the battiness of these gullible dreamers.
Scientific rebuttal usually refers to residual electrical activity in the brain cortex. Medics mostly argue that the feeling of peace could be caused by the release of endorphins in response to extreme stress or cardiac arrest and anesthesia of the brain state; neural noise and retino-cortical mapping could explain the rushing sound, the tunnel and the darkness and light.
Ayer’s account of his own NDE, for a man of such formidable intellect, was surprisingly similar to most of the others on record, though more elegantly observed. He wrote of “a red light for governing the universe” and some barrier he crossed, “like the River Styx.” The experience, he said, “weakened my conviction that death would be the end of me, though I continue to hope it will be.”
For Ayer to admit doubt about his life-long conviction “no God, no afterlife” shook the academic establishment in Britain. As a student, he had debated with some of the greatest minds in the country, including the Jesuit Fr. Martin d’Arcy who described Ayer as “the most dangerous man in Oxford University.” Not bad at age 21!
Following the classic route of Eton, Oxford and the (Welsh) Guards, Ayer became that rare thing, a popularly-known philosopher, mostly through his appearances on the BBC radio program, “The Brains Trust.”
Serious research on NDEs has been going on since the mid-1970s. What put the subject back on the front pages was a new revelation concerning the Ayer experience. Many of his friends felt his published account reflected an academic’s urge to embellish and tease the classical reference to the River Styx, for example. What’s more, the doctor who attended Ayer suspected the smoked-salmon story was meant to impress his friends. He found no salmon in his patient’s throat, but if you want a truly high-class way of dying, you couldn’t do better than choking on this expensive delicacy!
None of his circle, however, denied Ayer’s claim to have had an extraordinary experience while his heart was stopped. And a year later, his wife said, “Freddie has been so much nicer since he died.” What his friends questioned was whether his NDE account was the entire truth.
Now the surgeon who attended him has broken a long silence. He told an author who wrote a play about the affair: “Ayer told me he saw the Supreme Being.” There was no further elucidation. The physician said simply that when Ayer recovered, “he told me he saw the Supreme Being.”
His friends were astounded. Ayer had admitted there was a god! Was this another joke? If not, why did he withhold it from his story? Was it that he could not face the possibility that he had built a glittering career on a false premise?
In the post-Christian age that is Britain today, few people are ready to admit to belief in the supernatural, at least not if Jesus or God are involved, though stone circles and pyramid power seem quite acceptable. However, a London magazine last week carried a strange claim from one of those least likely to fall victim to delusion, a veteran journalist.
Robert Blair Kaiser is an author and a former correspondent for Time magazine. Reviewing a book about miracles he wrote: “In 1994, behind the wheel of my Mercedes, I lurched out of my driveway and was awakened from my dreamy preoccupation by the sight of a speeding car bearing down on me, not five feet away on my left. I knew I was a dead man. “All of a sudden, that car was on my right. The driver weaved a bit, braked for a moment and then drove off, shaking his head in disbelief, as I was. For it was clear to me, there was no way he could have missed crashing into me, no way he could have steered aside. His car had flashed through my car, his steel and glass and rubber passing through my steel and glass and rubber like a ray of light through a pane of alabaster.” Kaiser ends his anecdote with a reflection: “This miracle moment was a turning point in my life, for I took it as a sign that God wasn’t finished with me yet and that I had some new business to attend to.”
Mr. Kaiser may well be right. But has he reflected that maybe it was the other guy God wanted to keep alive?
2. Famous Atheist, Anthony Flew, Converts to Deism with the Help of Christian NDE Researcher Dr. Gary Habermas
Antony Flew (1923-2010) was a British philosopher belonging to the analytic and evidentialist schools of thought, he was notable for his works on the philosophy of religion. Flew did not have a near-death experience but he was friends with Christian NDE researcher Dr. Gary Habermas who was a big influence on Flew’s conversion.
Flew was a strong advocate of atheism, arguing that one should presuppose atheism until empirical evidence of a God surfaces. He also criticized the idea of life after death, the free will defense to the problem of evil and the meaningfulness of the concept of God. In 2003 he was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto. However, in 2004 he stated an allegiance to deism more specifically a belief in the Aristotelian God stating that in keeping his lifelong commitment to go where the evidence leads, he now believes in the existence of God.
He later wrote the book entitled There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, with contributions from Roy Abraham Varghese. This book (and Flew’s conversion itself) has been the subject of controversy, following an article in The New York Times Magazine alleging that Flew had mentally declined, and that Varghese was the primary author. The matter remains contentious, with some commentators including PZ Myers and Richard Carrier supporting the allegations, and others, including Flew himself, opposing them.
Flew taught at the universities of Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele and Reading, and at York University in Toronto. He was also known for the development of the no true Scotsman fallacy, and his debate on retrocausality with Michael Dummett.
3. NDE Researchers Analyze the NDEs of Atheists
The late Dr. Barbara Rommer had this to say about atheist NDEs:
“It appears that disavowing the reality or possibility of the existence of a Higher Power may contribute to the why of a Less-Than-Positive (LTP) Experience: 19.4 percent of my LTP study group labeled themselves as atheist or agnostic prior to their experience.”
Dr. Kenneth Ring concludes that religious belief is not required:
“Religious orientation was not a factor affecting either the likelihood or the depth of the near-death experience. An atheist was as likely to have one as was a devoutly religious person. Regardless of their prior attitudes – whether skeptical or deeply religious – and regardless of the many variations in religious beliefs and degrees of skepticism from tolerant disbelief to outspoken atheism – most of these people were convinced that they had been in the presence of some supreme and loving power and had a glimpse of a life yet to come. Almost all who experienced an NDE found their lives transformed and a change in their attitudes and values, and in their inclination to love and to help others.”
Some atheists do not need to have an NDE to have their life changed. Dr. Diane Komp, a pediatric oncologist at Yale, was transformed by hearing about children’s NDE reports, such as that of an 8-year-old with cancer envisioning a school bus driven by Jesus, a 7-year-old leukemia patient hearing a chorus of angels before passing away. Dr. Komp states the following about her conversion:
“I was an atheist, and it changed my view of spiritual matters. Call it a conversion. I came away convinced that these are real spiritual experiences.”
P.M.H. Atwater concluded the following about atheists NDEs:
“No matter what the nature of the experience, it alters some lives. Alcoholics find themselves unable to imbibe. Hardened criminals opt for a life of helping others. Atheists embrace the existence of a deity, while dogmatic members of a particular religion report feeling welcome in any church or temple or mosque.”
Dr. Raymond Moody concluded that the identity of the Being of Light is based on the experiencer’s religious background:
“Of all the possible near-death elements, the light exerted the greatest influence on the individual. Patients interpreted the light as a being – a being that radiated love and warmth. Christians recognized the light as Christ. Atheists identified the spirit only as a guide.” (The Light Beyond, p.22)
Dr. Susan Blackmore concludes that a belief in an afterlife is not necessary:
“NDEs happen to people who don’t appear to have any need to believe in an afterlife: they are as common among atheists as they are among the devout.”
In the IANDS FAQ pamphlet the question is asked: Are the people who have NDEs very religious? The IANDS answer is:
“People who report NDEs are no better or worse and no more or less religious than in any other cross-section of the population. They come from many religious backgrounds and from the ranks of agnostics and even atheists. The experience seems more closely related to a person’s life afterwards than to what it was before.”
My own NDE research shows that atheists who return from an NDE may not believe in a God after it, but they do return recognizing a higher power in the universe and behind everything.
Ruth Montgomery gave some examples of the death experience of an atheist who cares little about others:
“Let us take as an example a person who is so sure that there is no God and no hereafter that he treats others badly while on Earth and he feels no moral obligation to lend a helping hand or to be a decent citizen. When he makes the transition he is angry and tempestuous as he finds himself in a situation of his own making, surrounded by other greedy souls who, because they are in like situation, welcome him gleefully to the hell that they have created for themselves. He is shocked. These are not the type of people he wants to associate with. They are fiendish and ill-mannered, whereas he has been a stiff-necked, educated, and polished man, although he never gave thought to anyone but himself. He tries to break out of the fiendish group, but they surround him. He calls for help, but no one with a better nature can enter the group to save him. He has dug his own grave, so to speak, and is allowed to lie in it for a while. He is utterly miserable, for he now begins to see the folly of his ways but does not know how to avert his fate. He is left there until his own remorse for sinful ways begins to penetrate his being and he acknowledges to himself that he wasted a lifetime, a rare privilege, by thinking only of himself. After he reaches full repentance he is then able to free himself of the unrepentant creatures around him, and for a long time thereafter he searches his own soul to review the past mistakes. This is sometimes a long, drawn-out process because he will have to make his way alone. Only he is able to assess his wrongs and seek forgiveness, although there are many here willing to lend a hand whenever he reaches out to them for it.” (Ruth Montgomery)
Concerning the above example of an atheist’s unpleasant NDE, it must be qualified by stating that not all atheists have unpleasant NDEs.
The description of this atheist’s death experience sounds uncannily similar to Howard Storm’s NDE whom I profile on this website. Howard Storm was an atheist who was rescued from hell by Jesus. While in hell, Storm was subjected to extreme torment and torture by hideously dark souls. The following passage describes his conversion from atheism while in hell:
“Exactly what happened was …and I’m not going to try and explain this. From inside of me I felt a voice, my voice, say: ‘Pray to God.’ My mind responded to that: ‘I don’t pray. I don’t know how to pray.’ This is a guy lying on the ground in the darkness surrounded by what appeared to be dozens if not hundreds and hundreds of vicious creatures who had just torn him up. The situation seemed utterly hopeless, and I seemed beyond any possible help whether I believed in God or not. The voice again told me to pray to God. It was a dilemma since I didn’t know how. The voice told me a third time to pray to God. I started saying things like: ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want …God bless America ..’ and anything else that seemed to have a religious connotation. And these people went into a frenzy, as if I had thrown boiling oil all over them. They began yelling and screaming at me, telling me to quit, that there was no God, and no one could hear me. While they screamed and yelled obscenities, they also began backing away from me as if I were poison. As they were retreating, they became more rabid, cursing and screaming that what I was saying was worthless and that I was a coward. I screamed back at them: ‘Our Father who art in heaven,’ and similar ideas. This continued for some time until, suddenly, I was aware that they had left. It was dark, and I was alone yelling things that sounded churchy. It was pleasing to me that these churchy sayings had such an effect on those awful beings.”
[Webmaster note: Howard Storm’s acknowledgement of a Higher Power led to his rescue from hell suggesting that calling out to God is one method of leaving hell.]
Ruth Montgomery gives another example of an atheistic death experience except that this atheist was a murderer as well.
“What of a murderer who deliberately kills another for his personal gain or satisfaction? This is not a pretty story. Full of hatred or vengeance, he expects to find nothing when he passes through the door called death, and for a long time that is usually what he finds – nothing. He is in a state like unto death for a goodly while, until at last something arouses him, and he wakens to find out that the hell he had every reason to expect is indeed awaiting him. It is not goblins and devils that he sees, but visions of his own face distorted by hatred, greed, malice, and other defeating emotions. He cringes from the sight, realizing that he sees himself thus, that he himself was possessed of a devil, and that except for his baser nature he would have been able unaided to cast him forth. He is appalled as he realizes that he wasted a lifetime of opportunity. Not for him is enrollment in the Temple of Wisdom or the higher school of learning. This soul will stay in torment for a long, long time, until he believes himself to be totally lost. When he eventually reaches this pit of despair, he may at last cry out to God to rescue him and that wail of despair is heard by God. Other souls are sent to ease his suffering, and if his will is truly uplifted toward spiritual development, he will slowly, slowly, slowly begin to work himself upward until he has learned the penalties for taking another’s life which was given by God. When he is sufficiently strong to do so, he will accost the person whose life he took, and their reaction is such as to ring bells in paradise; for, as likely as not, the other soul has conquered self to such an extent that he has already forgiven the suffering soul who cut short his span of physical life. This forgiveness uplifts the murderer to such an extent that he is gradually able to take his place in the society of other souls and finally to learn some of the lessons of salvation. Remember that a soul on this side, just as on your side, is never without help from God and the good souls whom God created in his own image. Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it will be opened unto you. That is the law of the universe. Ask, receive; knock, open the door of your mind and let the rays of universal love flow in.” (Ruth Montgomery)
The late Betty Bethards was a near-death experiencer and paranormal researcher who concluded the following about atheists:
“If you don’t believe in God or an afterlife, you will probably be kept in a sleep state for the first two to three day period. You will wake up in a beautiful meadow or some other calm and peaceful place where you can reconcile the transition from the death state to the continuous life. You are given teachings in the hope that you do not refuse to believe that you are dead.”
[Webmaster note: Betty Bethards’ analysis agrees with Ruth Montgomery’s research who described an atheists being kept in a sleep state for a short period because of their disbelief of an afterlife.]
One particular atheist once emailed me and argued that life outside the physical universe is unlikely. He stated:
“The picture looks bleak so far for our survival. If the spiritual universe is completely outside of the material universe, then it has no true bearing on the physical universe, and if this is the case, then there might as well be no god. God’s existence is only useful if it somehow interacts with us, in the physical universe; after all, all of our thoughts are determined by molecular motion in the brain. Prayer is initiated in the brain. A response, if it’s valid, must obviously move matter through space-time. Therefore, we have this thorny problem: If we believe that there is a spiritual universe, how does it interact with the physical universe, of which we are a part?”
The Webmaster’s response to the above remark is this:
“First of all, you will have to give me some definitions. What is your definition of God? What do you mean by spiritual universe? I will assume you are using the traditional definitions. If you define God as an old man with a long beard somewhere, then I agree with you that there is no God. But if you define God the same way many experiencers do – that everything is God – then you can come close to understanding what they know. In other words, denying the existence of a Higher Power is denying the existence of everything because all things came from God at the Big Bang. In addition to this, it must be stated that the term God has so many different meanings by so many different people, that it is virtually meaningless. Perhaps the only meaning of God is what a person gives it. After all, we create our own reality and what may be true for one person, may not be true for another. There is evidence that, to some degree, we get what we expect after death. If using the term ‘spiritual universe’ means you are referring to another reality called ‘heaven‘ which exists separately from physical reality, then I would agree with you that such a reality probably does not exist. Experiencers have some good ideas about this. From a great number of near-death accounts, one can basically conclude that the afterlife realm is the realm of the mind and imagination. Today there is some very compelling circumstantial evidence that the mind survives physical death. I personally believe life after death means living in pure thought form. Thoughts are a part of reality as well – especially if consciousness survives bodily death as the circumstantial evidence suggests.
This same atheist argued that the existence of a God is unlikely. His reasoning is the following:
“By looking at human behavior as objectively as I can, from an anthropological perspective, all paths lead me to support the hypothesis that God is the combination of projection and transference of a given culture’s (and individual’s) ideals and ideal relationships onto an unseen (yet psychically, very real) entity. Borrowing from analytic psychology, what I believe happens is the creation (or greater potentiation) of a complex, charged emotional contents with attendant thoughts and images, continually reinforced through normal operant techniques through institutions such as churches and their various rituals. My latest thinking on the topic of God is that it’s hard to look at the DNA sequence for a particular trait (speaking as a software engineer), and not say: ‘You know, that looks a lot like machine code! And that, in turn, presupposes a programmer, a Creator!’ At the same time, this is far removed from the idea of a personal, loving, Christian God who cares about us individually and will somehow rescue us from extermination at death. Don’t get me wrong: I very much hope that there is a loving God, but in light of what I know of neuroscience, it seems unlikely. It seems much more likely that we are the miraculous products of natural selection. I also believe that religion is very much man-made, and that if God does exist, he appears to be utterly and absolutely silent, having nothing to do with humankind, other than in man’s dreams, hopes, and fantasies (though these are products of man’s minds). I don’t say any of this to be disrespectful, and I’m painfully aware of how emotional an issue religion is, but I say it in the spirit of honest exploration.
My response to this is that NDEs support much, if not all, of what you are saying. Man created religion and the idea of god(s). The idea of a Master DNA programmer God does seem much more impersonal than the idea of a Christian God. In fact, both of these ideas are probably the product of human imagination. This, of course, is not to say that imagination is not real, unless one believes that thoughts are not a part of reality. The only realistic answer to the question, “What is God?” is that God is a higher, creative power representing whatever you want it to mean. It can mean virtually anything, such as:
- Many Christians believe God is a divine heavenly Father.
- Hindus believe God (Brahman) to be the divinity manifesting everywhere with no exceptions.
- Orthodox Jews generally believe God to be their national deity.
- Cave men may have believed God to be the sun.
- To indigenous cults, God may be represented by a stone statue.
Certainly, people throughout history have believed things which seem utterly ridiculous to our enlightened minds. As stated previously, the idea of God has so many different meanings to so many different people that it is practically useless to talk about the idea of a God unless a consensus is reached on it’s definition.
Experiencers have much to say about their experience with God. Many times I have read NDE reports where experiencers say that God is a reality that words alone cannot adequately describe. Most of the time, we hear descriptive words such as Love, Life, Light, All, Source, Force, One, Mind, Consciousness, Vibration, Spirit, Being, etc… But, according to many experiencers, even these descriptions are woefully inadequate.
One experiencer described God as: “The light that loves.”
Another experiencer, Chuck Griswold, stated in the NDE documentary entitled Shadows: “Life is love is God. If you add anymore to this definition then you are not making it any better.”
When experiencers say that life itself is God, they are stating that everything is God, or that everything is a part of God, or that all is God. With this definition, we may as well state that reality itself is God. For this reason, we should probably just assign the term “God” to the children’s toy box and simply say that there is no “God” per se. There is only “reality”.
4. An Analysis of Fifty NDEs Profiled on this Website
The following is my, Kevin Williams the webmaster of this website, analysis of 50 NDEs from this website. More information about my research methods can be found at the bottom of this article.
Kevin Williams’ Analysis of the NDEs of Atheists
(1) Concerning the NDE aspect of feeling overwhelming love, more experiencers in the category of atheist (75%) reported experiencing overwhelming love than any other category of experiencer.
This highest percentage may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencers, may be more overwhelmed by the love of a God they didn’t believe existed. This highest percentage may also be a reflection of how most atheists get what they don’t expect – an experience with God – and get what they need (divine love).
(2) Concerning the NDE aspect of experiencing mental telepathy, the percentage of all atheists (65%) reported experiencing mental telepathy.
This is not the highest percentage nor the lowest percentage of people in a particular category who experienced mental telepathy. This is interesting because it may be assumed that the atheist category of experiencers should be the least category of people open to the paranormal idea of mental telepathy.
However, it was the non-Christian category that experienced the lowest percentage of experiencers (50%) experiencing mental telepathy. The highest percentage was in the new age category which may be a reflection of how mental telepathy is considered more of a new age concept than any other category of experiencer.
(3) Concerning the NDE aspect of having a life review, more atheists (100%) reported having a life review than any other category of experiencer.
This high percentage may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencer, need a life review to understand their life from God’s perspective. Atheists generally reject the concept of an afterlife. A life review would certainly teach them how the belief in an afterlife has its advantages. Because atheists do not believe that their actions have divine consequences, this high percentage of atheist experiencers having a life review may be a reflection of how all atheists get what they don’t expect – judgment of their life – and get what they need – a perspective of their life from God’s perspective.
(4) Concerning the NDE aspect of seeing God, the percentage of all atheists (75%) who saw a divine being.
Although this percentage isn’t the highest percentage of all the categories of experiencers who saw God, it may be a reflection of how a majority of atheists get what they don’t expect – an experience of God – and get what they need – knowledge of God. This also demonstrates how people don’t have to be religious to see God after death.
(5) Concerning the NDE aspect of feeling tremendous ecstasy, the percentage of atheists (50%) who experienced tremendous ecstasy.
The atheist category is not the category with the highest percentage of experiencers having tremendous ecstasy. Another point of interest is within the atheist category itself. Because the percentage of atheists experiencing tremendous ecstasy is equal to those atheists who didn’t, this statistic is basically irrelevant other than it destroys the idea that atheists don’t have positive NDEs.
(6) Concerning the NDE aspect of receiving unlimited knowledge, more atheists (63%) reported receiving unlimited knowledge than any other category of experiencer.
Since atheists generally emphasize knowledge over religious faith, this high percentage may be a reflection of how a majority of atheists get what they desire – knowledge – and get what they need – knowledge of God.
(7) Concerning the NDE aspect of traveling through different afterlife realms, fewer atheists (25%) reported traveling through a number of different afterlife realms than any other category of experiencer.
This low percentage may be a reflection of how their NDEs are limited in scope because of their disbelief in life after death. This low percentage may also be a reflection of how a majority of atheists may be getting what they expect – a restricted understanding of the afterlife.
(8) Concerning the NDE aspect of being told they are not ready to die, fewer atheists (13%) reported being told they were not ready to die than any other category of experiencer.
This low percentage may be a reflection of how they, more than any other category of experiencer, already knew they were not ready to die (as was the case with Howard Storm) and didn’t need to be told so. This low percentage may also be a reflection of how the vast majority of atheists don’t get what they don’t need – information that they are not ready to die.
(9) Concerning the NDE aspect of meeting Jesus, the percentage of atheists (50%) who reported meeting Jesus.
The atheist category is not the category with the highest percentage of experiencers who met Jesus. Another point of interest is within the atheist category itself. Because the percentage of atheists who reported meeting Jesus is equal to those atheists who don’t, this may be a reflection of how a person’s lack of religious belief has no relevance when it comes to meeting Jesus. It also means you don’t have to be a Christian to meet Jesus during an NDE.
On the other hand, the relatively large number of atheists who do meet Jesus may be a reflection of how some atheists get what the don’t expect – an afterlife and experience of Jesus and get what they need – an experience with a great spiritual leader and/or get what they don’t desire – knowledge that they were wrong about the afterlife or Jesus. It may also be a reflection of the fact that Christianity is the dominant religion in the West were the vast majority of these experiencers come from.
(10) Concerning the NDE aspect of receiving forgotten knowledge, fewer atheists (0%) reported receiving forgotten knowledge than any other category of experiencer.
This low percentage of atheists may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencer, don’t believe in a pre-birth existence. For them, it is possible that forgotten knowledge of life before birth is not realized because they may not be receptive to the idea. However, the category with the highest percentage of experiencers receiving forgotten knowledge are those in the category of being non-religious.
The other categories of experiencers (Christians, non-Christian religious people, and so-called “new agers“) have a percentage that is somewhere in between.
One interesting thing about this is that Christians generally don’t believe in life before birth either, yet a percentage of them received forgotten knowledge of a life before birth. This may be because Christians are more open to the idea of an afterlife than atheists are. This low percentage of atheists receiving forgotten knowledge may be a reflection of how they don’t get what they don’t expect – knowledge of life before birth and perhaps not getting what they desire – knowledge in general.
(11) Concerning the NDE aspect of experiencing fear, more atheists (50%) reported experiencing fear than any other category of experiencer.
This high percentage may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencer, are surprised, if not terrified, in knowing they were wrong about the existence of life after death. Their denial of the existence of a Higher Power may also cause them to have a terrifying experience while in the presence of a Higher Power. It may be that their prior disgust of religious people, such as was the case with Daniel Rosenblit and Howard Storm, caused them to be horrified of their ignorance.
This high percentage may be a reflection of how some atheists get what they don’t expect – learning they were wrong about the existence of an afterlife. It may also be a reflection of how such atheists get what they deserve – fearing what they don’t know concerning the afterlife.
(12) Concerning the NDE aspect of having a homecoming with family and friends, fewer atheists (0%) reported having a homecoming, or something similar to it, than any other category of experiencer.
This low percentage may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencer, don’t believe in life after death, including seeing family and friends after death. This low percentage may be a reflection of how atheists get what they expect – no homecoming.
(13) Concerning the NDE aspect of being told of past lives, fewer atheists (13%) reported receiving knowledge of past lives.
This low percentage may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencers, reject the possibility of reincarnation. This low percentage may also be a reflection of how a majority of atheists get what they expect – not receiving knowledge of past lives. Another interesting fact is that Christians today generally don’t believe in reincarnation, yet a percentage of them receive knowledge affirming the reality of reincarnation.
(14) Concerning the NDE aspect of being in or seeing hell, the percentage of atheists (50%) who reported experiencing or seeing hell.
Because the percentage of atheists who reported experiencing hell is equal to those atheists who don’t, this may be a reflection of how a person’s lack of religious belief has no relevance when it comes to experiencing hell or not experiencing hell. This relatively high percentage may be a reflection of how atheists may feel they are unworthy of heaven, as was the case with Howard Storm, once they realize they were wrong about God and the afterlife.
Since it can be assumed that people in hell need to be there because of a hellish spiritual condition, this relatively high percentage of atheists finding themselves in hell can also be assumed that they are there because of a hellish spiritual condition as well. This relatively large percentage of atheists in hell may be a reflection of how they get what they need – a purgatory of their hellish spiritual condition – and/or get what they expect – self-punishment for not believing in spiritual matters.
(15) Concerning the NDE aspect of seeing a heavenly City of light or some variation of this, more atheists (25%) reported seeing a City of light, or something similar to it, than any other category of experiencer.
This relatively high percentage may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencer, get what they need – a vision of a higher realm of spiritual existence.
This City of light is often described by experiencers as being similar to the New Jerusalem, a heavenly city described in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. According to Revelation, this city comes down from heaven to the Earth sometime in the future. Because the Book of Revelation is highly symbolic, it can be assumed that this city coming down to Earth is also symbolic. Nevertheless, because more atheists report seeing this holy city, this may be a reflection of how such atheists get what they don’t expect – knowledge that the Bible contains spiritual truth – and perhaps they get what they need – receive knowledge that the Earth will one day be like heaven.
(16) Concerning the NDE aspect of seeing a Temple of Knowledge, more atheists (25%) reported seeing a Temple or Library of knowledge or a Hall of Records than any other category of experiencer.
This high percentage may be a reflection of how some atheists, more than any other category of experiencer, emphasize knowledge over religious faith. It may also be a reflection of how they get what they desire – knowledge in general and get what they need – spiritual knowledge – and get what they don’t expect – knowledge of life after death.
(17) Concerning the NDE aspect of witnessing spirits among the living, fewer atheists (0%) reported seeing spirits among the living than any other category of experiencer.
This fact that no atheists saw spirits among the living may be a reflection of how they, more than any other category of experiencer, reject the idea of ghosts, demons, or earthbound discarnates.
It is interesting to note that more Christians (25%) reported seeing such spirits than any other category of experiencer. This may be a reflection of how Christians believe in demons more than the other categories of experiencer. The fact that no atheists witnessed such spirits may be a reflection of how they get what they expect – don’t receive knowledge of demons and ghosts.
(18) Concerning NDEs that occur due to a suicide attempt, fewer atheists (0%) reported having an NDE resulting from a suicide attempt than any other category of experiencer.
The fact that none of these atheists made a suicide attempt may be a reflection of how they, more than any other category of experiencer, reject the concept of an afterlife and are more connected to physical life than the other categories of experiencers who may be more heavenly minded and therefore have a lesser connection to physical life. This may also show that atheists would probably be less likely to commit suicide than those who believe in a life after death. On the other hand, those who believe in life after death may have an even stronger reason not to commit suicide – the fear of having to go to hell because of it.
(19) Concerning seeing the Devil during an NDE, no category of experiencers (0%) saw the Devil.
This is significant because atheists get what they expect – no Devil. The category of religious experiencers who believe in the existence of the Devil (0%) and get what they desire – no Devil – and perhaps don’t get what they expect – don’t receive an affirmation of the existence of the Devil.
In summation, the following conclusions can be drawn from my brief study:
a. Compared to the other categories of experiencers, more people in the atheists category experienced  fear,  life review,  overwhelming love,  unlimited knowledge,  a Temple of Knowledge and  a City of light, than in any other category of experiencer.
b. These 6 NDE elements are part of the total of 21 elements found in many NDEs.
c. Of these 6 NDE elements, two of them (feeling overwhelming love and experiencing a life review) are in the top 3 most common elements of the 21 total elements researched.
d. Compared to the other categories of experiencers, fewer people in the atheist category  attempted suicide,  saw spirits among the living,  received a homecoming,  received forgotten knowledge,  received past life knowledge, and were  told they are not ready to die, than in any other category of experiencer.
e. Of these 6 NDE elements, two of them (saw spirits among the living and attempted suicide) are in the bottom 3 most common elements of the 21 total elements researched.
f. These conclusions show more atheists experienced 2 of the 3 most common elements; and more atheists experienced 2 of the 3 least common elements. This shows more atheists experienced both extremes – the top 3 common NDE elements and the bottom 3 common NDE elements. Could these statistics be a reflection of how extreme atheism is? It is anyone’s guess.