Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis
I shop at Safeway frequently (try on a near daily basis). And it’s hard not to notice all the glitter and garbage they pepper the market with. You may know what I mean: shelves stacked with tabloids where the headlines very nearly mug you, the latest and greatest flavor-of-the-month movie that formulaically tugs at the heartstrings (I’ll skip over the sugary treats that I’m avoiding on my diet).
So of course this movie pops up out of nowhere: Heaven Is For Real. It’s even showing up on my Netflix movie mailers. I have barely restrained the urge to rush out to a hobby store and buy a large powerful magnet, and very stealthily handle each jewel cover, secretly running the magnet over the magnetic media. Why would I want to do such a dastardly thing?
Because the afterlife poisons this life. It degrades making our own purposes, it falsely lulls folks into saving up for a future that will never arrive. It sends dullards to their deaths in false righteousness, even though an omnipotent power requiring that you sacrifice yourself for it is probably the most contradictory concept in the universe.
Had I known this travesty was being shown at theaters, I would’ve been sorely tempted to picket the movie. But that would’ve entitled a bunch of zealots who claim to spread love in the name of their religion to thrash the apostate.
But hey! Let’s examine the alleged ‘evidence’:
In the book, Todd Burpo, pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, Nebraska, writes that during the months after his son, Colton's, emergency surgery in 2003, Colton began describing events and people that seemed impossible for him to have known about. Examples include knowledge of an unborn sister whom no one had told him about and his great grandfather who died 30 years before he was born. Colton also claimed that he personally met Jesus riding a rainbow-colored horse and sat in Jesus' lap, while the angels sang songs to him. He also says he saw Mary kneeling before the throne of God and at other times standing beside Jesus.
Where to begin? If the dad had been an atheist, and the child had had absolutely NO exposure and/or instruction in Christianity, well hell, that might even shake my steely resolve. But the father was a pastor? Mighty suspect. As to the unborn sister and the great-grandfather? Come on, kids pick up on shit. None of this is particularly earth-shattering. A rainbow-colored horse? That sounds suspiciously like a cartoon of some sort.
Children are vulnerable to outside influences that lead to fabrication of testimony. Their testimony can be influenced in a variety of ways. Maggie Bruck in her article published by the American Psychological Association wrote that children incorporate aspects of the interviewer's questions into their answers in an attempt to tell the interviewer what the child believes is being sought. Studies also show that when adults ask children questions that do not make sense (such as "is milk bigger than water?" or "is red heavier than yellow?"), most children will offer an answer, believing that there is an answer to be given, rather than understand the absurdity of the question. Furthermore, repeated questioning of children causes them to change their answers. This is because the children perceive the repeated questioning as a sign that they did not give the "correct" answer previously. Children are also especially susceptible to leading and suggestive questions.
Interviewer bias also plays a role in shaping child testimony. When an interviewer has a preconceived notion as to the truth of the matter being investigated, the questioning is conducted in a manner to extract statements that support these beliefs. As a result, evidence that could disprove the belief is never sought by the interviewer. Additionally, positive reinforcement by the interviewer can taint child testimony. Often such reinforcement is given to encourage a spirit of cooperation by the child, but the impartial tone can quickly disappear as the interviewer nods, smiles, or offers verbal encouragement to "helpful" statements. Some studies show that when interviewers make reassuring statements to child witnesses, the children are more likely to fabricate stories of past events that never occurred.
Highly damning. Now let’s (briefly) look at NDE’s. The resuscitation techniques developed in the 20th and 21st centuries have increased the amount of NDE’s reported exponentially. This phenomenon is a likely candidate for the survival of these antiquated nonsenses we call religion. In fact, there are so many variances within these experiences, which occur with some frequency, that they have specifically labeled categories.
Sam Harris puts it thusly;
However, the deepest problem with drawing sweeping conclusions from the NDE is that those who have had one and subsequently talked about it did not actually die. In fact, many appear to have been in no real danger of dying. And those who have reported leaving their bodies during a true medical emergency—after cardiac arrest, for instance—did not suffer the complete loss of brain activity. Even in cases where the brain is alleged to have shut down, its activity must return if the subject is to survive and describe the experience. In such cases, there is generally no way to establish that the NDE occurred while the brain was offline.
Well, let me take a stand right now: until someone can prove to me beyond a reasonable doubt that all those memories, experiences, thoughts, or other items associated with the ‘soul’ exist and go elsewhere after the shuffling off of this mortal coil, that information survives the physical death of the individual, I’m going to have to go with an extreme biochemical response to real or perceived danger.
And what I mean by reasonable doubt, is that it can be codified and replicated in a lab.
Till then next post, then.