The God Squad: Only faith can confirm life after death

April 08, 2011|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

Question: I need your opinion concerning a matter that has shaken my soul and made me introspective about my deepest religious beliefs.

Almost four years ago, I survived a heart attack. I was in cardiac arrest twice and "died" on the table but was brought back.

I've always been a science- and evidence-oriented person, but what I experienced can only be described as an out-of-body experience. At the beginning of the operation, I was awake, conscious and in severe pain. Then everything in the room went black, followed by a sensation of floating, feeling incredibly well, and being surrounded by a blinding white light.


My doctor sounded far away, repeating, "Don't go. Stay with us, George!"

I heard the voices of my deceased parents and grandparents asking me what I was doing there. Before I could answer, I sensed or felt I heard a voice I truly believe was the voice of God telling me it was not yet my time. I awoke and experienced a rapid recovery.

Do you believe in the existence of such experiences? — George, via

Answer: What you're describing is called an NDE (near death experience). According to Dinesh D'Souza in his wonderful book, "Life After Death: The Evidence," the term was first used by physician Raymond Moody in 1975.

Moody reported on 150 cases of people who'd had NDEs like yours: floating above their bodies, seeing a bright light, meeting deceased family members, then reaching some kind of barrier and being told to return to life.

NDEs are nothing new. Plato recounts an NDE in "The Republic."

Ernest Hemingway, wounded by shrapnel in WWI in Italy, wrote to a friend: "I died then. I felt my soul or something coming right out of my body, like you'd pull a silk handkerchief out of a pocket by one corner. It flew around and then came back and went in again and I wasn't dead anymore."

Even the atheist A.J. Ayer wrote of an NDE when, after a heart attack, he was "confronted by a red light, exceedingly bright" that he recognized was "responsible for the government of the universe."

This didn't convince Ayer of the existence of God but did provide "rather strong evidence that death does not put an end to consciousness."

The most famous researcher on death and dying, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, even reported that blind patients had NDEs and could suddenly describe accurately the jewelry of their attending physicians! Today, there's even an International Assn. for Near Death Studies and a journal, the Journal of Near Death Studies.

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