Near Death? No problem for atheist

By | June 5, 2009

See full size imageI feel like I must be a robot or something. I was in a rather remarkable auto accident six years ago, which involved me accidentally piloting an old Honda Accord off of a 50-foot drop-off at 80 m.p.h. In the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania. At midnight on a Thursday.

Somehow, after an airborne flight that took out trees mid-trunk, and left the car crumpled from every direction into a tangled mess of steel, I was able to climb out, crawl up the embankment, and walk half a mile before finally being able to get help.

Though I looked like a mess, and the paramedics who saw the crash site were split between amazement and a conviction that I must have some sort of severe internal injury, I managed to escape with nothing but some superficial cuts, and a broken collarbone.

But I never experienced the sort of euphoria or feeling of a “second chance” that you describe. If anything, I was actually rather irritated that the accident prevented me from taking a job offer I’d received and was unable to delay.

Is it because I’m a strict atheist? Is it because my fascination with probability and quantum mechanics have rendered me amused, but never shocked, by the most bizarre occurrences? I’m not sure. I just know that all I have control over are my own actions and responses — and even those are as likely to be guided by instinctual reaction as by any conscious effort.

Death is nothing to be terrified of. What goes up, must come down. What is born, must die. It’s beyond my understanding why anyone would need a near-death experience to realize this, or to appreciate the joys of living we only get to experience for such a finite time.

— Posted by Dave

via More Light! – Happy Days Blog – NYTimes.com.

3 thoughts on “Near Death? No problem for atheist

  1. Sepp

    Maybe the name “near death experience” is somewhat confusing. It’s really an experience of death from which the person then recovers.

    The experience described by Dave certainly brought him close to death, but his body evidently suffered no injury and he wasn’t dying but merely having a bad accident.

    Atheist or not, I believe if someone does have an experience of death – separating the conscious person from the body for some time – and then returns to life, their outlook changes.

  2. TRO

    His reaction isn’t much different from anyone who is fortunate enough to escape any serious injury in such a circumstance. Even a believer would sit back and marvel at his or her luck and would then experience annoyance at not making the interview after the adrenaline had died away. Oh yeah, a believer would have added a “Thank you, Lord” afterward, but other than that we are all the same.

    I agree with Sepp, this was not a near-death experience. Nor was it a situation where he had time to think about his impending death before hand. Perhaps if he had time to think on it before – say while his plane is plummeting towards the ground – he might have said a prayer.

    Or not. Either way, his post has no point.

  3. Xeno Post author

    I agree with both of you on this. He escaped death, but this was not a near-death experience where the person is pronounced legally dead and then comes back and tells about it.

    As Billy Crystal says in the Princess Bride, there is a difference between “all dead” and “mostly dead”.

    Science would say that being all dead is not an unpleasant experience, it is no experience. The experience of the act of dying may funny, so so, bizarre, sad, horrible, random, or sometimes wonderful… based on what people have said who have been there and come back.

    One idea is that when you die all your nerves start firing like never before and you have a last big dream. That big dream may be about what you have thought about most of your life. Expectations shape this just as they shape your dreams.

    So, we create our own heaven or hell, in life and as life fades. As you lived, so shall you leave.

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