Those who have been readers of my blog should be familiar with the book Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander. In it, Alexander uses a personal coma experience to attempt to explain the existence of religion and its impacts on life. One of the grandest points Alexander makes is that religion cannot really be qualified, and its impacts cannot be specifically listed – but rather, it is a general concept, a “feeling of love”. Alexander’s view of a general omnipotence of religion is not necessarily an incorrect view – after all, many people on this earth feel the same way. But you can’t use feelings, or personal experience for that matter, to explain deep concepts such as religion.
Beyond the fallacies in his methods of persuasion, Alexander also fails in his use of language. Take this passage, for example:
The place I went was real. Real in a way that makes the life we’re living here and now completely dreamlike by comparison. (Proof of Heaven, pg. 9)
Or take this passage:
The word “real” expresses something abstract, and it’s frustatingly ineffective at conveying what I’m trying to describe. (Proof of Heaven, pg. 9)
Alexander spends pages doing this exact thing: trying, but failing, to express that it’s impossible to prove the existence of God or religion. The funny thing, Alexander’s grander point, that religion is a general thing that cannot be qualified or specified in human terms, in and of itself implies that religion, as a concept, exists.
A difficulty I have often encountered with finding evidence to dispute Alexander’s beliefs is that many theologians and Christian scholars turn to the Bible as contrary evidence. Of course they would do this and it would be asisine to expect them not to do so. But using the Bible as evidence for a logical argument is a whole other debatable issue that I do not intend to focus on in my essay. For example, in “A Christian Rebuttal to Dr. Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven, A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife”, written by Christian minister Robert Alan King, states that “We need to search the Scriptures diligently to see if what is being said is factual (Acts 17:11).” Long story short, King’s main basis against Alexander’s beliefs is that what Alexander says is not necessarily directly stated in the Bible. King continues to dismiss near-death experiences as fabrications and hallucinations that insane people create in order to gain attention. In a way, King is using circular reasoning: Near-death experiences don’t exist because they are faked. And his feelings of the necessity of proof from the Bible could be viewed as a non-sequitur.