Near Death Experiences and the Challenges to Religion

What happens During an NDE or OOB Experience?

Just about everyone who has an Near Death Experience (or Out of Body experience) experiences an incredible sense of being Loved by God and they often lose all fear of death.

NDEs (Near Death Experiences) and (OOB) experience Out of Body Experiences are often very similar, or at least there are a lot of overlaps in what people experience. For the sake of this article we will focus mostly on the NDE phenomena.

During a NDE (Near Death Experience) the person has left their physical body (temporarily – it turns out – due to accident, disease or the like) and finds themselves in the Afterlife. The person’s experience there is often influenced by their religious upbringing, if they had one. Many of the people having, and being willing to report, NDE experiences have a Christian background so this may be a factor in why so many of them meet Jesus. They are usually initially met by a loved one, who has passed on, or their guardian angel, and then later, after a time of adjustment to their surroundings, might meet a religious figure such as Jesus. They will often run out of words trying to describe the amazing experience they have in the Afterlife, and will use terms like “indescribable” to try and express the colours, the beauty, the wonder and above all the sense of love that they experienced there. Often, at least initially, they did not want to leave that blissful state and come back to their body.

The Life Review is often part of an NDE. This often causes the person to want to return to their body to correct their mistakes, lead a better life and fulfil the purpose they were born to do.

Most NDE experiences, include a Life Review, which may appear as “edited highlights” of their life to-date, or it can be every part of their life so far. While experiencing their Life Review, they tend to report a sense of love and compassion, rather than judgement and criticism, for the mistakes they have made in their life. Often, during the Life Review, they experience how other people felt about things that they have said and done; both good and bad. Although the person does not usually report feeling judged, they do often say that the life review caused them to want to come back to their body and correct their mistakes and do some good in the world, before they eventually leave that body behind permanently. They may also have become aware that they had a purpose in being born into this life and how to fulfil that purpose.

The NDE often highlights Forgiveness as a key to a good spiritual life. Learn how to forgive. Download Free Ebook.

The Hell Experience in an NDE

Some people, a very small percentage, report having a very rough time in the Afterlife. These could be described as a Hell experiences. The common factor in these is that is the person had been living a bad, or very selfish, life. They came out of their Hell experience when they prayed to Jesus (as these examples were of a Christian background) to help them.

One such story NDE story, is of a man who had a strong Christian upbringing, but had become an atheist. But becoming an atheist might not have been a problem if he had not also become arrogant, manipulative, power hungry and controlling. He had a serious illness and found himself out of his body and in a Hell state. The Hell state seems to be because he had chosen to reject God and also to reject the capacity for good within himself in exchange for power and prestige in the world.

Eventually, his Christian values asserted themselves, and he prayed to Jesus who quickly came and lifted him up and led him into a more peaceful place. After his Life Review, he was allowed to come back to his body, recover from his illness and make amends for the life he had been leading. Note, perhaps it is not that God had rejected him that he had a Hell experience; he had been the one doing the rejecting. If we reject the good, what is left? What is left is everything this is not good; all that is cruel, hateful, cynical, violent, selfish, raging, domineering and so on.

Which Religion is Best?

Which religion is best? “The one that brings you closest to God.”

It is interesting to note that, at one point this man asked Jesus, “Which religion is best?” The answer he said he got was, “The one that brings you closest to God”. I am speculating here, but the Afterlife seems to work this way: Often when people reject God, they also reject what is good. If someone has at least some values based on love, compassion, honesty, integrity, kindness and consideration for others, it could be argued that they are not really an atheist; even if they describe themselves as one. They believe in good; even if they don’t go along with the idea of God. Likewise, if someone rejects those values, it could be argued that they don’t really believe in God, no matter what religion they profess.

Someone may have rejected the idea of God as an old man with a beard, because it did not make sense to them, but they might fully accept the very things which are of the Spirit of God such as love and compassion.  Therefore, the real purpose of an NDE may be to reconnect the person with their desire for good and therefore reconnect them with God, since these are essentially the same. We only do good to the extent that we really believe in good and this shapes a person’s Afterlife experience; whether during an NDE, or when they pass over after death. Living by the Golden Rule “Do unto others…” and cultivating kindness and caring for others, seems to be vitally important message which most of those having an NDE return with.

Hell state experiences seem to be rare and most people report a very loving and blissful experience, and even those who did experience such an unhappy or ugly state were able to get out of it with sincere prayers asking for help. Those who experience such a low state come out of it, and are shown how they need to change their life for the better. Just about everyone who has an NDE experiences an incredible sense of being Loved and they often lose all fear of death.

Are NDEs and OOBody Experiences a Help or Threat to Most Religions?

People who have had a Near Death Experience often report that their experience of the Afterlife was different, (and sometimes very different) from what their religion taught them to expect.

Near Death Experiences can be seen as a threat to a particular religion; or a confirmation of its core beliefs, depending on how this phenomena is assessed. A lot of the core beliefs of any religion, whether Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and so on, revolve around what happens to their adherents of that religion in the Afterlife. People who have had a Near Death Experience, and there is a growing number of these throughout the world, often report that their experience of the Afterlife was different, (and sometimes very different) from what their religion taught them to expect. Yet, most NDE-ers also report the importance of being a good person and living a good life – which is part of the core teaching of any credible religion.

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Much depends on how the authorities of a religion respond to this challenge. Every religion is facing this challenge; how to cope with the growing body of evidence that adherents to their religion are reporting – namely, that their personal experience of the Afterlife differs, sometimes extensively, from the teachings of that religion? Yet, what is often the case as that the person who has had an NDE reports that their experience of God, during their NDE, was far more benign, forgiving (learn how to forgive with this free ebook) and loving than they can possibly say. They often return with a deep desire to follow the main principles of their religion, and doing something to benefit others, but are far less concerned about specific doctrines of that religion.

If the religious authorities, are threatened by this new form of mass revelation, affecting not only them but also the global community, they could be pushing against something which is meant to happen. They would find themselves backed into a corner and in a position which will get harder and harder to defend. For many reasons (see below) the NDE phenomena is only going to increase, not reduce. It would be better for the religious authorities to study this phenomena, preferably as multi-faith approach, in order to unravel the apparent contradictions in the different reports of NDE experiences.

What Exactly is a Near Death Experience?

A Near Death Experience is where a person leaves their body and has the experience of temporarily going to the Afterlife. They often return with a strong desire to change their life for the better.

A NDE is where a person nearly dies, or even technically dies (ie they are completely unconscious, they have no life signs, their brain stops, their heart stops beating), but they have an experience of the afterlife during the time when they were apparently dead, or at least unconscious. They may have been in a car accident, had a heart attack, or their heart stopped during an operation, and the like, and they recover; but they have had an experience of leaving their body and going to the Afterlife. For some people, the effects of the anaesthetic during an operation is enough to send them out of their body and they experience the Afterlife during that time.

In an Out of Body experience, there may not be a dramatic cause, the person might just spontaneously experience themselves as out of their body. They might not go anywhere in particular, though with practise they might learn to do so.

How we are using the term NDE is not a situation where somebody nearly got killed, but did not lose consciousness and experience themselves outside of their body. An NDE story, as we are using the term, has to do with having an experience of being “out of the body”. It usually included being on “the other side”, the Afterlife, while being fully “outside” their physical body. An NDE is an experience of life after death, where the person came back and did not complete the death process, they did not have to die to experience the Afterlife.

The phenomena of NDEs is a very important one to religion as a person’s NDE experience will often corroborate some of their religious beliefs, but it will also contradict some of their religious beliefs.

The increasing emergence of NDEs is raising questions in the minds of many religious adherents, be they Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews or whatever. Some religious authorities may be discomfited by the phenomena of NDEs, perhaps because it touches on the domain of their expertise (but is possibly outside of their experience); while others seem to embrace it, with some reservations, as confirming the importance of living a religious life over a secular one. The latter see NDEs is a counterbalance to a society that is becoming too materialistic and perhaps see it as a way that God is making His presence known to modern humanity.

Why so Many NDE Stories Now?

The issue of NDEs is not going to go away; indeed, it is likely to become more pronounced.

Some religious believers seem to try and skip over the issue of NDEs and not address it at all, or only superficially. However, the issue of NDEs is not going to go away; indeed, it is likely to become more pronounced. The phenomena of Near Death Experiences is able to occur, because so many people have been resuscitated from what would have previously been certain death. Modern medical procedures are now able to resuscitate many people who previously would have died. Therefore, more and more of those people return to modern day life with an NDE story to tell. As modern medical procedures continue to develop, and continue to be more widely available, there are only going to be more and more of such cases of NDEs. As more people will have stories to tell, more questions will be asked of the religious authorities, and of scientists, to explain what is going on.

One of the things which boosted and enabled such open discussion of NDEs is Raymond Moody’s book, Life after Life. This was published in 1975 and became a best seller, having sold over 13 million copies. Since then many other books have appeared on the topic and they combined to help make this discussion go global.

Refuting the ‘Chemicals in the Brain Theory’ of Near Death Experiences

Some try to dismiss the NDE as a chemical actions of the brain during extreme situations. Yet, one prominent account is by Eben Alexander, who in his book, Proof of Heaven, claims that as a neurosurgeon he was later able to study his own medical charts from during his own NDE. He came to the conclusion that during his own NDE, his brain was completely shut down, and that his soul had indeed detached from his body and gone on a trip to another world. He states that angels, God, and the afterlife are very real.

Also, many NDE accounts include the person being able to observe, and later corroborate, things going on here on Earth which they said they saw from out of their body. They were able to corroborate seeing things happening in their surroundings, that would have otherwise been impossible for them to know, due to being unconscious, such as under anaesthesia and being treated by medical professionals. Later they would usually leave their immediate surroundings and move away elsewhere and have a deep and profound spiritual experience.

Differences and Contradiction in NDE Experiences

There are some reports of religious conversions after an NDE, yet they are not consistently in one direction.

The adherents of some religions, either are either not having so many NDEs of those of other religions; or they are not reporting them. The adherents of authoritarian religions may be wary of reporting them. The pattern in the Christian world, was that initially people were wary of reporting an NDE experience, and now there are a large number of people doing so. This pattern may be repeated in different religions and in different parts of the world. A few brave souls will share their experience and then others will share theirs.

There are some reports of religious conversions after an NDE, yet they are not consistently in one direction. There are many differences and contradictions between different NDE stories. Some come out of their NDE with a stronger belief in their religion; while others say that their religion “lied” to them about God, and the Afterlife. How do we resolve these and many other apparent contradictions?

The reasons for these contradictions, that I have tentatively come to in my research, is that an NDE is experienced by:
1) someone who really needs it as a dramatic “wake up” call and the experience is specifically matched to their own spiritual needs.
2) someone who is likely to be able to integrate it, but that this may take some years to complete.

The contradictions are also partly explained by the fact that, some who have an NDE may still be trying to sort out what it means to them years later.  They are only able to integrate it over time and may jump to conclusions, or grasp at partial truths, along the way. Thankfully an NDE usually always means that they have strong desire to live a better life, but it may take them a while to re-orientate themselves to that. Most NDE-ers come back with a far more kindly and far broader view of human existence, to say the least. They very often have a spiritual awakening. An NDE is a very intense “wake up” call, to get that person to go in a new direction in their life. Usually, they have been too focused on material things, or a living a loveless life, and they need another perspective. An NDE is often very dramatic, and its full meaning can be hard to comprehend initially, even by the experiencer.

Often to integrate an experience into daily life, it helps if we can talk it over with others. Yet, some NDE experiencers are wary of doing that. They might fear being thought of as crazy by friends or relations; or, if they experienced something in their NDE which calls into questions their long-held religious beliefs, they may fear the disapproval of their friends and members of their Church, or being denounced by religious authorities.

Near Death Experiences and Spiritual Values

Different people have different spiritual needs, so their lesson from their NDEs could be different – even if they are of the same religion.

An NDE often encourages the person to align much more clearly with spiritual values like compassion, caring for others, living a good moral life and so on. But, it may severely challenge some of their specific religious beliefs about doctrines and the like. This can be a difficult thing for the person to accept, especially if there are serious consequences to them being open about their change in beliefs. However, another person – even one of the same religion – may not have those beliefs challenged. It seems that an NDE is designed to specifically meet the spiritual needs of the person concerned. Some may need to learn to question aspects of their religion beliefs; for others the lesson may be to follow their religious beliefs more closely.

Perhaps the NDE lessons depend on whether specific beliefs are helping that particular person spiritually or not. Different people have different spiritual needs, so their NDEs will be different. One person may be so strictly religious that they have become very judgemental of others and so they have not much love in their hearts for others (they may need to let go of some rigidity); while another person may need to learn to be more strict in their adherence to their religion to stop them making a serious mistake. However, this is just a guess and much more research is needed.

The importance of love, The Law of Love, including love for other human beings, even those not related to us, is often emphasised by those who have had an NDE. They say that love transcends all other laws and that becoming hard-hearted is contrary to this law. Forgiveness (download free book) is also emphasised on a lot of NDE stories as this is often what increases our capacity to love. The affect of NDE also depends on what the person is able to bring back with them and what they are able comprehend and integrate into their normal daily life.

For those of us, such as myself, who have not had an NDE, trying to explain one seems to be roughly the same as trying to remember and then trying to explain, an incredibly vivid dream. Yet, with the added complication of trying to comprehend or explain something that was experienced outside of time, or at least outside of time as we know it. They say that eternity is not a very, very long time; but is actually outside of time. Also, they see colours that we have no words for and an experience of love and forgiveness that is beyond our comprehension.

Increase in Muslim NDE Stories?

Some have commented on an apparent lack of accounts of NDE from Muslims and speculate why this is so. Some Muslims ask why so many NDE stories are about people meeting Jesus (interestingly enough Jesus in these NDE stories tends to offer a much broader view of what it really means to be a Christian, than is traditionally taught). Yet, Muslims telling their NDE story, do seem to becoming more common. A search on Youtube for “muslim NDE” shows a variety of examples, but we need not be surprised, or confused, that there will be contradictions in what people say they experience. Not only will their experiences differ very widely (and some accounts may even disagree), this is partly because the person’s spiritual needs vary and their ability to bring back the full experience with them will also vary.

The honesty and morality of a random person appearing in a video on Youtube is open to question. Some videos may be frivolous, and some may be fake and designed to confuse rather than to help. Even if sincere, the NDE-er may have forgotten much of their experience on entry to their body, or their memory may have been distorted. Until there is a lot more information, and a wider variety NDEs experiences to go on, it will be hard to get a clear picture and things may be sketchy at best. It behoves us to hold back from jumping to conclusions about the nature of NDEs in general, and what this means in regards to a specific religion, till there are a lot more examples.

Similarities in Christian and Muslim Near Death Experiences ?

The experience of “flying”, “going through a tunnel” and experiencing an incredibly benign loving presence is common to both Christians and Muslims.

What does seem to be emerging is that there are some parallels between what Muslims experience in NDEs and what Christian’s experience. The experience of “flying”, “going through a tunnel” and experiencing an incredibly benign loving presence, among others, is common to both. It will be perhaps be an interesting area of research in the future as to what effects a persons’ religion has on their NDE.

NDEs and Forgiveness

The NDE often highlights Forgiveness as a key to a good spiritual life. Learn how to forgive.

What is often emphasised by people who have an NDE experience of whatever religion (and even those of no religion), is the importance of forgiveness. Learning to forgive oneself (making amends if necessary) and forgiving others is often highlighted as a key to a good spiritual life. Forgiveness helps us to be able to let go of the past and move on. It enables us to begin to see the best in others and to like them more – and perhaps even be able to love them. If you would like to learn how to forgive, please click one of the links on this page.

Written by: William Fergus Martin
Author: Forgiveness is Power & Afterlife Adventures

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