Do young atheists bond in a collective flight from death?
Posted on 01 December 2014, 11:15
A web site called The Friendly Atheist recently came to my attention. The first thing that struck me was that the editor and eight of the nine regular contributors all appeared to be in their 20s or early 30s, the ninth contributor perhaps in his 50s. Their brief biographies suggested that most of them were raised in religious homes and are now rebelling against organized religion without any consideration for alternatives. One wrote that she was raised by a Catholic mom and Jewish dad, and that “steered” her toward skepticism. Another said she was a “recovering Catholic” who found it too difficult to reconcile Catholic dogma and doctrine with her growing feminism. Still another young woman claimed she had escaped from a conservative Christian home school cult. A very young-looking male said he was “turned off” by his Sunday School classes. A young woman grew up in a non-religious home, but apparently read something along the way about Christianity’s “angry God” and decided then that she wanted nothing to do with religion.
I occasionally weaken and fall victim to saying what’s on my mind, as unfriendly as it may seem, and in this case it just seemed to me that they are all still wet behind the ears – too young and too lacking in experience and exposure to have well-formulated opinions on such an important subject, in effect, the most important subject there is, and certainly too young to be preaching or proselytizing on a subject that involves much more study and research than their tender years could have permitted.
Like so many atheists I have met over the years, they seem to assume that all “believers” accept an anthropomorphic God, reject biological evolution, and subscribe to all the many superstitions associated with organized religions. Moreover, they all come across as assuming that that a belief in the survival of consciousness at death requires a belief in the anthropomorphic God of Christianity.
I couldn’t resist sending an e-mail to the editor of the site telling him of my impressions, although I felt certain he would read it with a self-righteous smirk, if he read it at all, and that it would be a waste of my time. I prefaced my remarks by saying that I have no religious affiliation and that many of my Christian friends consider me an “atheist,” since I, for the most part, dismiss the idea of an anthropomorphic God. I further pointed out that I accept the strong evidence for Survival with about 98.8% certainty, meaning I am still a “skeptic” of sorts, at least to the extent of my 1.2% uncertainty about the evidence. But that 98.8% certainty meets the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of our criminal courts, for me at least, and provides me with a conviction that goes well beyond the blind faith of religions. This conviction translates to great peace of mind in my 78th year of life as I struggle with possible terminal health problems.
The main point I wanted to get across in my e-mail is that one does not have to have proof of the existence of “God” or even believe in “God,” at least an anthropomorphic God, in order to believe in the survival of consciousness after death. Or to put it another way, one should not reject the overwhelming evidence for Survival because he or she is incapable of wrapping his or her mind around the idea of God, or is turned off by that unjust, capricious, vindictive, and angry God of orthodoxy.
I further stated that I was not going to address the evidence, as it would require volumes. Moreover, these young non-believers usually go to Wikipedia or some other debunking site and cite the ignorant, distorted, and biased misinformation set forth by know-nothing debunkers. But, as an example of the evidence, I mentioned Leonora Piper, the subject of my book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife. Although Piper’s mediumship convinced many distinguished scholars and scientists of the existence of a spirit world, a person can go to these debunking sites and find many reasons to believe that she was nothing but a charlatan. In fact, I didn’t think much of Mrs. Piper when I first read about her 20-25 years ago, primarily because I didn’t really understand what was going on with her mediumship. I devoted perhaps 50 hours to reading the research, including repeated readings of it, before I began to appreciate and understand it; yet these young atheists are able to write it off after spending a few minutes gullibly reading a debunking web site. I know many of them are smarter than I am, but not that much smarter.
It is easy for young people to live with the nihilistic philosophy of atheism. They are too occupied with careers, raising families, and escaping into the unreal world of television and mass entertainment to concern themselves with death. With much bravado, they say they will be ready when death comes knocking and that they will jump into the abyss of nothingness with little fear. They give little or no consideration to the likelihood that such bravado almost always erodes and turns to despair and hopelessness with age, retirement, fewer family attachments, and deteriorating health. In his 1969 book, The Immortalist, Alan Harrington, an atheist and humanist philosopher, states that “a very few individuals, most having a remarkable capacity for self-deception, manage not to fear the end.” He goes on to say that the rest – those claiming they are not afraid of death – are either lying or are so escaping into trivialities that death rarely enters their minds. “But fear waits behind the door nevertheless,” he continues. “And the day they peer out and discover nothingness, the result can be catastrophic.”
If I am interpreting Harrington correctly, atheists tend to bond with each other as a “collective flight from death,” the underlying fear often being a subconscious one. The feeling that they are all marching into the abyss of nothingness together offers some comfort and a bit of courage.
Harrington goes on to say that “an unfortunate awareness has overtaken our species: masses of men and women everywhere no longer believe that they have the slightest chance of living beyond the grave. The unbeliever pronounces a death sentence on himself. For millions this can be not merely disconcerting but a disastrous perception.”
Harrington believed that when people are deprived of rebirth vision – the belief that we live on after death – they “suffer recurring spells of detachment, with either violence or apathy to follow.” He saw mass-atheism as responsible for most, if not all, of society’s ills. No doubt he would have included the recent turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri in this category. “...behind the proud and gleeful faces of the rioters, the raging countenances, the expressions of abandon, greed, and hatred, the contempt, and derisive laughter, can be detected the face of people desperate to be reborn,” he wrote, referring to riots in Detroit and Johannesburg.
Erich Fromm, another humanistic philosopher, agreed with Harrington. “The state of anxiety, the feeling of powerlessness and insignificance, and especially the doubt concerning one’s future after death, represent a state of mind which is practically unbearable for anybody,” he offered.
To quote William James, one of the pioneers of modern psychology: “Let sanguine healthy-mindedness do its best with its strange power of living in the moment and ignoring and forgetting, still the evil background is really there to be thought of, and the skull will grin in at the banquet. In the practical life of the individual, we know how his whole gloom or glee about any present fact depends on the remoter schemes and hopes of which it stands related. Its significance and framing give it the chief part of its value. Let it be known to lead nowhere, and however agreeable it may be in its immediacy, its glow and guilding vanish. The old man, sick with an insidious internal disease, may laugh and quaff his wine at first as well as ever, but he knows his fate now, for the doctors have revealed it, and the knowledge knocks the satisfaction out of all these functions. They are partners of death and the worm is their brother, and they turn to a mere flatness.”
Sadly, most people don’t really grasp all of this until they are nearing the abyss, if then. In the meantime, they smugly act as if they have it all figured out. If only these young atheists could understand it now, they might more effectively “live in the present” and have no need for that “collective flight.”
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores.
His latest book Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I is published by White Crow Books.
Next blog: December 15
Leslie Harris, Mon 12 Jan, 10:48
I have re-posted my comment to Amazon.
Thank you for all the work that you put into this research.
I wonder if Leslie Harris would be so helpful as to post his comments of January 9th as a review of “Astral Intimacy” on Amazon? Such would be greatly appreciated and might encourage others to read the book.
Miles Edward Allen, Fri 9 Jan, 15:33
Thank you Mike for another insightful article.
Over the last several years, my reading in the next life / afterlife field has become very frustrating. This is largely due to the never ending contradictions and anomalies that I encounter. What has made that worse is apparent lack of recognition of this; I simply haven’t encountered anyone even mentioning this, let alone trying to clarify it.
Mercifully, I learned about the Miles Edward Allen book “Astral Intimacy” via Wendy and Victor Zammit’s weekly newsletter of several issues back. It was a massive relief to find a carefully researched and written book that started out by saying that there are massive differences in what is reported from the next life, much of which is down to the fact that many communicating entities firmly believe that they know everything when in fact their experience is extremely limited.
I am most grateful to Allen because he has restored my interest. He has categorized everything and listed comment from many different sources; it is also well referenced. In particular, he has managed to restore my sense of perspective, which has been severely battered over the last several years!
Leslie Harris, Fri 9 Jan, 05:21
I agree with your endorsement of Miles’s latest book. Yes, there are some conflicting communication coming to us relative to the afterlife, and, as previously discussed, much of it has to do with 1) distortions in the communication as it is filtered through the medium’s mind or misinterpretations by the spirit control as it is received from the spirit communicator; or 2) spirits being at different levels of the afterlife and not fully comprehending higher or other levels. It is as if aliens came here from another planet, one ship landing in Alaska, one in Australia, and still another in the heart of Africa. Once the three ships returned to their planet and reported on what life on earth is like, there would no doubt be many conflicts in what they reported to authorities.
Michael Tymn, Mon 29 Dec, 04:57
It is now about a decade since I began reading in the matter of a next life after this one. The first several years of that decade included reading books and reports that nothing short of irrational raves. It has taken a long time to find and read the relatively few authors and discarnate communicators that make sense – specifically, they give considerable evidence for their reports and observations.
Leslie Harris, Sun 28 Dec, 00:02
But for all that, two things stand out. The first is the massive variation in reports on the next life and the second is the consequent contradictions and anomalies.
Recently, the whole matter of people passing on to the next life and finding Yeshua (the Greeks mistakenly called him Jesus because of sloppy translation) has really got up my nose, particularly when it is all reinforced by the ‘teachers’.
In particular, I became were annoyed with myself for not having made reference notes from the very beginning so that I had a basis of continuous comparison. At my age, I really don’t want to start all over again so that isn’t going to happen now.
When my dissatisfaction with the contradiction and anomalies was reaching a great height, a brilliant light appeared on the horizon.
In their current newsletter, Victor and Wendy Zammit mentioned a book, ‘Astral Intimacy’ by Miles Edward Allen. I bought a Kindle copy and began to read.
One of the first things that I encountered was this:
“There are many books available offering a single view of the afterlife. Most of these are honest attempts to record the experiences of a person who has died and managed to make contact with someone on Earth who is sensitive enough to receive and translate their thoughts with some degree of accuracy. Because these books offer a single view of a multi-faceted world, they provide pictures that are incomplete at best, and are often not pertinent to the reader or indicative of his or her future.”
At last, here is an author who STARTS by saying that the ‘single view’ is, at best, a long way short of comprehensive. (He could have said a lot more but I suspect that he was being diplomatic.)
On its own, this opening statement doesn’t contribute a lot but . . . but he then proceeds to list anomalies and contradictions in the body of the text with meticulous referencing. I am only half way through it but it has already had the effect of regenerating my waning interest – which had been flagging quite severely recently.
I would recommend this book to all with an interest in the next life because it doesn’t set out to be the be all and end all. It tells it like it is – there are many contradictions and anomalies.
I’ve been following this blog for a long time, and find this entry and follow-up comments to be one of the best! Thanks to all of you for your insight!!
Anthony G, Tue 16 Dec, 17:05
Thanks also to Amos. I am trying to generate a wider perspective and these comments are helping me to do so.
Leslie Harris, Thu 11 Dec, 01:41
Jon and Michael,
Leslie Harris, Thu 11 Dec, 00:39
Thank you both for your observations. You have given me a lot more to think about and it will take a little time to absorb.
Thank you for your comment. I can’t add much to what Jon and Amos have already said, other than that “seeing Jesus” doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus is “God,” whatever God is. Perhaps Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, et al sit on the “Board of Directors” or its equivalent. I like to think of Jesus as the Chairman of the Board. Also, there does seem to be a distinction often made between “The Christ” and Jesus, the latter being a representative of the former. So much of it is a matter of applying terrestrial thinking to celestial matters that we are incapable of comprehending.
Incidentally, Raymond Lodge, in Chapter One, also talked about seeing Jesus. It could be that this is the way it was filtered through Gladys Osborne Leonard’s brain. That is, whatever the communicating spirit was trying to communicate came out as “Jesus.”
Michael Tymn, Wed 10 Dec, 21:04
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 10 Dec, 18:24
Your comments piqued my interest. I don’t have the same concern that you seem to have regarding Claude’s heavenly descriptions that Jesus was near. I would expect that each spirit would find itself in a ‘mansion’ of spirits with like-minded belief systems. Probably not everyone experiences ‘heaven’ in the same way. It seems reasonable to think that people of various cultures—-Icelanders, Australian Bushmen, American Indians, Chinese Peasants, Aristocratic Europeans, African tribesmen etc. etc.—-would find themselves upon entering the next sphere of existence in an environment agreeable to their beliefs rather than one that is completely foreign to them. How disconcerting it would be to find oneself in an environment in which one had to leave behind everything one knew and loved for some unknown reality, a reality which might contradict what one understood to be true in life Imagine what it would be like to be an Australian Bushman and find oneself in a European heaven! As Patience Worth has said, “When the physical man closes his eyes at death, his ‘in-man’ awakes in yester-year.” That is, we awake to find a world that is familiar to us and perhaps, since there is no time nor space, a world in which we remember our best selves.
The realm of spirit probably is not a set-in-concrete reality that is the same for everyone as it is on earth and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Like attracts like and I would expect to find myself in an environment in which I felt comfortable, loved and secure—- agreeable with my belief systems and with like-minded people. I am not less sure of an afterlife because of these disparate reports, but more sure.
If one believes in reincarnation as I do, perhaps we all have had an opportunity to experience some of those other ‘heavens’ and will continue to experience others as we grow in understanding and move closer to God.- AOD
Leslie, I have some thoughts.
It’s not surprising that for Claude, Jesus was the dominant figure. Claude was from a Christian country and he died when millions of others were dying at the same time due to the war. From his communication it appears that Claude was probably an open-minded person and therefore he quickly became acclimatized to his surroundings/vibration. In that situation, post physical death, he might know more about the nature of his reality (i.e. he knows he’s not dead), but there is no reason to suggest he knows it all. Because he doesn’t mention other religions doesn’t mean to say he’s not aware of them, and at the time of his communication he probably had very limited knowledge other than what he was personally experiencing.
There are plenty of afterlife communicators who talk about after-death states/places/ heavens/hells that reflect people’s beliefs. Robert Monroe, the OBE pioneer, called them belief system territories. Judge Patterson-Hatch communicating through Elsa Barker talked about Christian Heavens.
Patterson-Hatch is an interesting subject. He was a successful lawyer and Judge; he was wealthy, and in the late 1800’s he presided over the largest divorce case (in terms of a settlement) in US history. He also was a student of the occult and wrote books under the Hindu name of Karishka (See here).
When Patterson-Hatch passed away in 1912 the Times called him “a remarkable man” who was “exceptionally versed in the deep philosophies of life” and who had “obtained a deep knowledge of universal laws, which, although natural to himself, appeared as mysticism to those who had not followed his great mental strides.”
I only mention all this because he seems to be a man who was very grounded in the physical world, but at the same time, he spent a lot of time trying to understand the nature of reality.
Soon after he passed an entity claiming to be Patterson-Hatch began communicating with an American poet named Elsa Barker, who was a friend of a friend of his. He communicated via automatic writing in the form of letters and later the letters were published as a trilogy called “Letters from a Living Dead Man.”
It appears from the communication, that not surprisingly, after Hatch passed he didn’t find himself in the belief system territories or the Christian heavens, but he visited them and talks about them.
In this letter, (fittingly, a Christmas communication) he tells Barker,
“I have been in purgatory, the purgatory of the Roman Catholics. Do not scoff at those who have masses said for the repose of the souls of the departed. The souls are often conscious of such thoughtfulness. They hear the music, and they may smell the incense; most of all, they feel the power of the thought directed to them. Purgatory is real, in the sense of being a real experience. If you want to call it a dream, you may; but dreams are sometimes terribly real.
Even those who do not believe in purgatory sometimes wander awhile in sadness, until they have adjusted themselves to the new conditions under which they live. Should one tell them that they were in purgatory, they might deny the existence of such a state; but they would readily admit their discomfort.
The surest way to escape that painful period of transition is to go into the hereafter with a full faith in immortality, a full faith in the power of the soul to create its own conditions.
Last night, after visiting various places upon the earth, I went to one of the highest Christian heavens. Perhaps I could not have gone so easily at any other time; for my heart was full of love for all men and my mind was full of the Christ idea.
Often have I seen Him who is called the Savior of men, and last night I saw Him in all His beauty. He, too, came down to the world for a time.
I wonder if I can make you understand? The love of Christ is always present in the world, because there are always hearts that keep it alight. If the idea of Christ as a redeemer should ever grow faint in the world, He would probably go back there and relight the flame in human hearts; but whatever the writers of statistics may say, that idea was never more real than at present.”
The complete letter is here.
I wouldn’t be too hard on Claude, as Michael has intimated in the past, we are all blind gropers looking for answers.
Jon, Wed 10 Dec, 16:56
Leslie Harris, Wed 10 Dec, 10:16
I said recently that I hold a 95% conviction that there is an afterlife. I will expand on that by saying that this is despite the wildly varying reports via various entities and via various modes of communication. The balance of probabilities warrants this 95%.
From time to time, I read something that crashes this down to about 10-20%. I have been reading a classic example of this in your “Dead Men” book.
In the Claude chapter, Claude’s long descriptions include his view that Jesus is near where he found himself and that many entities thought that they had seen him. Since none of his teachers is saying anything to the contrary, it follows that they are all probably of the same belief.
His long expositions on the matter are all from a set-in-concrete viewpoint. Everything revolves around Jesus and there is not the remotest cognizance of any other religion or ideology.
Given that apparently reliable reports say that many people see what they want to see or expect to see in this next life, this appears to be a case in point. If Claude is so utterly blinkered in this regard, one must logically question how much else of what he reports is similarly tainted.
This is by no means the only example but it is a particularly clear one. And this is where my confidence level crashes!!
As I re-read Mrs. Duffey’s comments, I realize that I misinterpreted what she said. What she said is that her belief is that the writing was inspired by higher unseen sources: that is her belief! -AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 10 Dec, 03:25
I think Mrs. Duffey vetted herself in her introduction to her book ‘Heaven Revised’ when she says;
“I believe that I wrote through unseen assistance, but I hesitate to ask others to endorse this belief. I hesitate even to express it, realizing as I do how often well-intentioned Spiritualists mistakingly attribute to the Spirit-world that which emanates only in their own too often ignorant mind ill-informed minds. I know how difficult it is to draw the line between one’s own thoughts and impressions, and those which result from inspiration from higher sources.
The reader must decide for himself. If he be a believer in spirit inspiration, he will accept my own belief, and think that ‘Heaven Revised’ was written inspirationally. If he be a skeptic, and hesitates to do this, he will be only sharing the doubts and questionings which sometimes possess myself.”
I think that is an honest statement alerting the reader that the writer believes that the material she has written was inspired by, but not necessarily dictated by, higher sources. She clearly says that the writing is her own belief.
Would that more people provided acknowledgement of their inspired writing with a statement like this. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 9 Dec, 16:16
I just spent about 20 minutes searching for that book but without success. My books seem to be like my socks that get lost in the washing machine and go to “sock heaven,” never to be seen again. They used to be organized, but many of them are now not categorized and difficult to find, especially if I don’t remember what it looked like. I have about 1,200 books in my library. As for now, the book has gone to “book heaven.”
That said, I must confess to not remembering anything about the medium or the author. While a very large percentage of the mediums I write about at this blog have been observed and validated by researchers and other credible people, some of the books by authors of a century or so ago are not subject to such validation. One must judge the book by its words and the wisdom offered. My guess is that such was the case with this book.
Michael Tymn, Mon 8 Dec, 21:45
Hello, Michael, I have a question about one of the books that you’ve sponsored, “Heaven Revised” by Duffey. I have not seen your particular edition but have read an online version.
The spirit guide, Margaret, featured therein, in my opinion, offers some of the wisest insight regarding authentic romantic love. I count her words among the best that I’ve come across on this subject.
As you have promoted this book, I’m sure you did a bit of research regarding authenticity. What do we know about the channeling psychic-medium? How credible was this person? What information do we have in terms of vetting this medium?
Your comments, as always, will be appreciated.
Best regards, W. Becker
W Becker, Mon 8 Dec, 05:06
Mike, excellent article and I totally agree with you! Your letter to them will provide another perspective, don’t worry about how they receive it.
Yvonne Limoges, Fri 5 Dec, 19:00
Our spirit guides want us to become more enlightened in spiritual matters, so I am sure a serious “conversation” about what you told them was had with their spirits when in the spirit world while their physical bodies slept. Still, freewill always prevails…
Sadly, in my humble opinion, partly feeding this growing trend towards atheism is less attendance (as statistics show) at religious organizations in general which I believe would at least spark a modicum of spiritual sentiment within children especially AND while at the same time not enough “places” where people in general and more importantly parents with their children can go on a regular basis to learn about other spiritual alternatives.
Also, atheism seems to have come more out of the closet. I am amazed on how frequently TV characters (ex. Bones & recently The Good Wife) now come right out and proudly say “I am an atheist.” The science show Cosmos implies it. And, as you know so many of our most prominent scientists. This has a great impact on young minds.
Yet if founding publisher of Skeptic Magazine Michael Shermer can change a little, I believe there is hope.
Thanks to all for the comments. It appears that we are all pretty much in agreement.
To respond to Rex, no, I did not receive a reply from the “friendly atheist.” While atheists don’t generally go to “rubbish” blogs like this one, I sort of expected that it might come to the attention of one or two of them and that I would receive some nasty comments, but so far none.
A few days ago, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News offered some commentary about a billboard somewhere on the east coast in which atheists urged people to not go to church on Christmas, or some such message. He had a psychologist give her views on it and her opinion was that the atheists, realizing they are in the minority,feel a need to bond and defend themselves collectively, or something to that effect.
Atheists continually defend themselves by pointing to all the harm that organized religion had done, focusing on recent Islamic terrorism but also seeing such battles among Christians in Ireland, etc. As I have frequently said, however, I am not defending organized religion. The problem is that atheists in rebelling against organized religion dismiss all things spiritual.
Michael Tymn, Thu 4 Dec, 23:38
My upbringing was similar to yours but from the outset, I could never understand the terminology and the complete absence of logic. Reading whatever I could find on belief systems offered no elucidation, just more illogical and unsupported gobbledegook.
None of this offered any logical connection with the fact that the Universe exists, that it is unkety billions of years old, that humans arrived in the Universe only seconds ago but no ideology attempted to explain anything more than a couple of thousand years ago. In particular, I regarded the concept of humans being the pinnacle of evolution as massive conceit that could be dreamed up only by humans.
Of all the ideologies, the only one that made any sense was that of the American Indians and their concept that everything had a spirit and that there was a pyramid of spirits that culminated on one eventual Great Spirit. Whilst this did not explain the origin of the Universe, it was, to me at least, logical.
When I began to learn about the probability of the human consciousness surviving physical death and having the capability of progressing through ascending planes thereafter, it also made a lot of sense and was a close parallel with the concepts of the American Indians.
My deep discontent with all religious ideologies was finally answered by Findlay’s ‘Curse of Ignorance’. No longer did I feel that I was essentially alone in my views.
I am nearing 82, a retired GM engineer, and I am very grateful that I have been able to learn so much before I die. And greeting from Uralla!
Leslie Harris, Thu 4 Dec, 00:25
Humans are very adept at creating gods in their own image and see no anomaly in there being thousands of gods all looking alike. Each brand of imaginary deity is claimed to be ‘the one true god’ and all the others are dismissed as spurious.
This would constitute laughable childish idolatry if it wasn’t for the fact that adherents of one imaginary deity joyfully slaughter all and sundry in their path, claiming this to be the directive of their particular imaginary deity.
It is probably easier for them to accept an image that closely parallels themselves. (The anomaly of their deity being entirely unable to fight his own wars is quite lost on them.)
With many such people, it also reinforces their deeply embedded male supremacy convictions. The followers of several such ideologies spend a lot of energy dreaming up more and more restrictions on women. It has long been my personal belief that such ideologies are absolutely terrified of women and their potential, further reinforcing the need for their imaginary deities to have penises.
Leslie Harris, Wed 3 Dec, 23:55
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