The Near Death Experience as Possible Evidence for an Afterlife

Those who study the Near Death Experience tend to remain convinced about whatever they believed before. Those who believed in an afterlife before tend to see strong evidence for afterlife through the NDE while sceptics tend to remain skeptical. [1] Below is a link to a sceptical website that tried to refute common arguments for an afterlife based on the NDE. Hallucinatory Near-Death Experiences. The author of this article is a weak atheist or agnostic and sees no compelling evidence that the NDE is more than the product of a dying brain or a brain that is near death, very much afraid. Different aspects will be discussed.

The life review


There is disagreement about how frequent the life review as a learning experience is though it certainly happens in at least fifteen to twenty percent of cases and other NDE experiencers may have repressed the disturbing memory.

Judgements appear human


Carter Mills saw himself when he was a child and killed a mother bird with a sling shot. At the time, he was so proud of that shot; but during his life review, he felt the pain that the mother bird's babies went through when they starved to death. (Carter Mills) [2]

That all looks a bit harsh for a wrong done at the age of eight, [3] It seems an adult who did anything similar would not suffer harder.

Why do people who eat factory farmed produce, meat, milk, eggs not report suffering the physical pain, boredom and other stress suffered by factory farmed animals? Why do meat eaters from developed countries not report suffering the pain animals go through during slaughter? Third World People sometimes need to use any protein source they can get to keep themselves and their children alive but people from developed countries can survive successfully as vegetarians. It is well known that factory farmed animals live terrible lives and those who do not know the details are wilfully ignorant. Further many people eat far more meat than they need to stay healthy (even without plant protein to suplement their diet) and damage their health by eating too much of the wrong type of meat. As far as this author knows no NDE experiencers report suffering for the unnecessary stress they cause farm animals when they eat more meat than they need.

Basically this is consistent with our dying brains or brains near death judging us. We appear to judge ourselves more impartially than we normally do during life but there is still that, ‘If everyone else is doing what I do then it can’t be very bad.’ feel to the judgement and it looks more like a human judgement than the judgement of a divine omniscient being.

Why NDE experiencers may feel pleasure and pain they have caused others


Reports of the life review frequently include account of having felt pleasant or painful feelings that the NDE experiencer has caused to other people or even to animals as shown above. These pleasant or painful experiences are reported to be so vivid that the experiencer feels exactly as if the pleasant or painful act were being done to himself/herself personally.

Feeling the pleasure and pain of other people, even of animals is a normal part of being human outside the NDE experience. We experience something like another sentient being’s emotions when we see a person or animal feeling a particular way, when we see a film, a photograph, a drawing, hear or read an account. Further when we are kind or cruel to another we conceptualize the other’s feelings by understanding similar feelings that we would have in that situation. We use this conceptualization of the other’s feelings to fine tune our actions and get the result we want whether we are being ethical or unethical.

During ordinary life outside the NDE such feelings are nowhere near as strong as similar feelings would be if we were on the receiving end of any kind or unkind act. If our sympathies with other sentient beings were too vivid this would be disabling and might preoccupy us to the point where we could not run our lives. Further we are genetically programmed to look after our selfish genes and the genes of relatives preferentially. If during ordinary life we truly felt the pleasure and pain of others the way we feel our own pleasure and pain we would be forced to look after all sentient beings the way we look after ourselves and our relatives. Evolution would never allow us to become like that.

During ordinary life either our sympathetic emotions when we do things to others are naturally weaker than similar emotions are when others do things to us or there exist inhibitory mechanisms that prevent sympathetic emotions being so powerful that they become disabling or both apply. The author is not a neuroscientist and knows of no such inhibitory mechanism, none the less if there is an inhibitory mechanism explaining vivid sympathetic emotion during the life review is easy. All that is needed is to postulate that the inhibitory mechanism breaks down and supernatural explanations are not needed.

Expectations also influence what people experience during the NDE, see Cultural Differences, many cultures teach us to expect some type of judgment at death, therefore the NDE frequently includes some kind of judgement. That can predispose NDE experiencers to feel vivid pleasure over past actions that they believe were ethical and to feel vivid pain over past actions that make them feel guilty.

Neurobiological hypotheses


Most of this section is by a different author.


  1. Neurological explanations of the NDE appear sufficient to explain it and supernatural explanations are not needed in the opinion of the main author. None of this disproves the suggestion that the NDE may also be a glimpse of an afterlife as such suggestions are inherently difficult to disprove.