Science and philosophy gave him something he never thought he’d find… respect for religion |312|

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Science and philosophy gave him something he never thought he’d find… respect for religion |312|
by Alex Tsakiris | Apr 26 | Consciousness Science

Dr. Bernardo Kastrup explores his new found respect for religious myths in, More Than Allegory.

photo by: Bernardo Kastrup
Today we welcome Dr. Bernard Kastrup back to skeptiko to talk about his new book, More Than Allegory. In the book, Kastrup explores the potential for religious myths to propel us beyond the ordinary:

Dr. Bernardo Kastrup: Authentic religious myths can bring us beyond the constraints of this [reality]. That’s what they’re pointing to. They’re pointing at something beyond linear logic; beyond space and time; beyond the constraints that we willingly adopt in our ordinary relationship with reality. We shouldn’t give those constraints up but I think we shouldn’t lose, willingly, our only umbilical connection to something that goes beyond that either.
 
#2
Alex's questions at the end of the podcast:

Are the religious traditions that are so much a part of our culture worth saving, preserving, nurturing?

Is there, as Bernardo suggests, something more in those traditions--something inherently mystical and something important for us individually and for our culture to advance?
 
#3
If we strip religions of the sociopolitical stuff that gets annexed to them, we end up with the kind of events that are discussed in this forum. For example, Prophets were well known milenia before we went to the lab and discovered that retrocausality or precognition were for real. Besides the ability to access further, is there that much difference? Bernardo has a valid point.
 
#4
Alex's questions at the end of the podcast:

Are the religious traditions that are so much a part of our culture worth saving, preserving, nurturing?
The people who like their religion should be free to practice it. That is enough.


Is there, as Bernardo suggests, something more in those traditions--something inherently mystical and something important for us individually and for our culture to advance?
I know, I know, ... so most religions include stuff that is probably not exactly right ... but many religions are a lot closer to the truth about consciousness, human nature, and cosmology, than materialist science. I don't make a big distinction between religion and spirituality, those who do could rightly disagree. I am not that critical of religious dogma because ultimately if everything physical is imagined ... it is hard to criticize people for using their imagination when it gets them closer to the truth, closer to God when there are so many forces that point to a meaningless existence: natural disaster, disease, war, death, materialism, and more recently scientific materialism.
It is not mysticism that religion contributes. Materialism is mystical. How does matter produce consciousness? Where did the multiverse come from?


The benefits of religion are largely practical.

Religion is good for the individual.

Andrew Sims, past president of Royal College of Psychiatrists: "The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality on mental and physical health is one of the best kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally. ... In the majority of studies, religious involvement is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction; hope and optimism; purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes towards suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction… We concluded that for the vast majority of people the apparent benefits of devout belief and practice probably outweigh the risks.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/video-lecture-by-john-lennox-explains.html

Research shows that belief in the paranormal and religion can be conducive to the health and well being of people. These beliefs can help people cope with grief, divorce, job loss, the fear of death, particularly in the terminally ill, and can deter suicide. ... Furthermore, research also shows that having meaning in life is necessary for people to thrive ...
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2012/09/skepticism-big-lie-activist-skeptics.html

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/62014-...ife.html#articles_by_subject_benefits_meaning
Materialism: Meaning is an illusion. Science: People need meaning to thrive.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/08/materialism-meaning-is-illusion-science.html

Belief in religion and spirituality gives meaning to life in a way that atheism cannot.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/04/belief-in-religion-and-spirituality.html

Christianity and religion have made an enormously positive contribution to civilization.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/video-lecture-by-john-lennox-explains.html#lennox_civilization

Exploding the persistant myth that Christianity impeded the growth of science. by James Hannam in firstthings.com. "... the "scientific revolution" was a continuation of developments that started deep in the Middle Ages among people whose scientific work expressed their religious belief. ... Given the advantages Christianity provided, it is hardly surprising that modern science developed only in the West, within a Christian civilization."
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/video-lecture-by-john-lennox-explains.html#lennox_civilization

Religion provides a solid foundation for ethics and morality in a way that atheism and materialism cannot.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/04/video-john-lennox-on-problem-of-evil_7.html

Belief in religion and spirituality is enormously beneficial to the individual.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/video-lecture-by-john-lennox-explains.html#lennox_individual
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2012/09/skepticism-big-lie-activist-skeptics.html#well_being_references

Andrew Sims, past president of Royal College of Psychiatrists: "The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality on mental and physical health is one of the best kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally. ... In the majority of studies, religious involvement is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction; hope and optimism; purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes towards suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction… We concluded that for the vast majority of people the apparent benefits of devout belief and practice probably outweigh the risks.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/video-lecture-by-john-lennox-explains.html

Research shows that belief in the paranormal and religion can be conducive to the health and well being of people. These beliefs can help people cope with grief, divorce, job loss, the fear of death, particularly in the terminally ill, and can deter suicide. Therefore, when skeptics and atheists try to convince people to stop believing in the paranormal and religion, they may be doing harm to other people. Furthermore, research also shows that having meaning in life is necessary for people to thrive but skeptics claim consciousness and meaning are illusions. When skeptics spread their philosophy of materialism they may cause harm by taking the meaning and purpose of life away from people.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2012/09/skepticism-big-lie-activist-skeptics.html

Belief in religion and the afterlife eases grief and fear of death. It deters suicide, and helps people cope with adversity such as unemployment and divorce. People who find meaning in life are healthier, but pseudoskeptics espouse materialism which says that life is meaningless.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-harm-caused-by-pseudoskepticism.html

Religion is good for civilization.
Jürgen Habermas
For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk.

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/video-lecture-by-john-lennox-explains.html#lennox_civilization
The positive contribution to civilization by Christianity has been enormous.
Jürgen Habermas
For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk.[37][38][39][40]
From the video:
Behind the European Declaration of Human Rights lies Christianity, behind universities, hospices, hospitals, lies Christianity, behind the abolition of slavery lies Christianity. It is a delusion that Christianity has done no good what so ever.

Not in the video but apropos:

Richard Feynman
Western civilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure — the adventure into the unknown, an unknown which must be recognized as being unknown in order to be explored; the demand that the unanswerable mysteries of the universe remain unanswered; the attitude that all is uncertain; to summarize it — the humility of the intellect. The other great heritage is Christian ethics — the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all men, the value of the individual — the humility of the spirit.
- Remarks (2 May 1956) at a Caltech YMCA lunch forum

Not in the video but apropos:

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry
We have forgotten just how deep a cultural revolution Christianity wrought. In fact, we forget about it precisely because of how deep it was: There are many ideas that we simply take for granted as natural and obvious, when in fact they didn't exist until the arrival of Christianity changed things completely. Take, for instance, the idea of children.
...
Various pagan authors describe children as being more like plants than human beings. And this had concrete consequences.
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Children were rudely brought up, and very strong beatings were a normal part of education. In Rome, a child's father had the right to kill him for whatever reason until he came of age.
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One of the most notorious ancient practices that Christianity rebelled against was the frequent practice of expositio, basically the abandonment of unwanted infants.
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Another notorious practice in the ancient world was the sexual exploitation of children.
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But really, Christianity's invention of children — that is, its invention of the cultural idea of children as treasured human beings — was really an outgrowth of its most stupendous and revolutionary idea: the radical equality, and the infinite value, of every single human being as a beloved child of God. If the God who made heaven and Earth chose to reveal himself, not as an emperor, but as a slave punished on the cross, then no one could claim higher dignity than anyone else on the basis of earthly status.

Not in the video but apropos:

Nancy Pearcey
Westerners pride themselves on holding noble ideals such as equality and universal human rights. Yet the dominant worldview of our day -- evolutionary materialism -- denies the reality of human freedom and gives no basis for moral ideals such as human rights.

So where did the idea of equal rights come from?

The 19th-century political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville said it came from Christianity. "The most profound geniuses of Rome and Greece" never came up with the idea of equal rights, he wrote. "Jesus Christ had to come to earth to make it understood that all members of the human species are naturally alike and equal."

The 19th-century atheist Friedrich Nietzsche agreed: "Another Christian concept ... has passed even more deeply into the tissue of modernity: the concept of the 'equality of souls before God.' This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights."

Contemporary atheist Luc Ferry says the same thing. We tend to take the concept of equality for granted; yet it was Christianity that overthrew ancient social hierarchies between rich and poor, masters and slaves. "According to Christianity, we were all 'brothers,' on the same level as creatures of God," Ferry writes. "Christianity is the first universalist ethos."

...

A few intrepid atheists admit outright that they have to borrow the ideal of human rights from Christianity. Philosopher Richard Rorty was a committed Darwinist, and in the Darwinian struggle for existence, the strong prevail while the weak are left behind. So evolution cannot be the source of universal human rights. Instead, Rorty says, the concept came from "religious claims that human beings are made in the image of God." He cheerfully admits that he reaches over and borrows the concept of universal rights from Christianity. He even called himself a "freeloading" atheist: "This Jewish and Christian element in our tradition is gratefully invoked by freeloading atheists like myself."

...

Atheists often denounce the Bible as harsh and negative. But in reality it offers a much more positive view of the human person than any competing religion or worldview. It is so appealing that adherents of other worldviews keep freeloading the parts they like best.

Not in the video but apropos:

James Hannam in firstthings.com

"... the "scientific revolution" was a continuation of developments that started deep in the Middle Ages among people whose scientific work expressed their religious belief. ... Given the advantages Christianity provided, it is hardly surprising that modern science developed only in the West, within a Christian civilization."
Exploding the persistant myth that Christianity impeded the growth of science.

...

Back in 1978, Carl Sagan included a time line of scientific progress in his book Cosmos, showing that nothing at all happened between a.d. 415 and a.d. 1543. This barren period, he implied, was caused by the thousand-year dominance of Christianity. The “conflict thesis” of science and religion was born in the salons of ancien régime France, where philosophes like Voltaire and d’Alembert used it as a weapon against the Catholic Church. It was further developed in Victorian England by T. H. Huxley in his battle to diminish the influence of the clergy in London’s Royal Society. And it was perfected in American universities by the likes of Andrew Dickson White, the first president of Cornell University, who provided the theory with intellectual ballast in his heavily annotated A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology at the end of the nineteenth century. It has been promoted in countless articles in popular magazines and elementary-school textbooks.

...

... the "scientific revolution" was a continuation of developments that started deep in the Middle Ages among people whose scientific work expressed their religious belief. The conflict thesis, in other words, is a myth.

...

As it happens, much of the evidence marshaled in favor of the conflict thesis turns out to be bogus.

...

It is remarkable that authors who consider themselves skeptics can swallow some of these stories whole.

...

Historians have been debunking these legends for over a century now, but each new generation of popular writers continues to recycle them.

...

Modern science stands as one of the great achievements of Western civilization—not of Islam, China, or even ancient Greece. Many historians of science are still reluctant to admit this. They praise ancient Greek and Arabic sciences as successful on their own terms but have lost sight of the fact that the theories advanced by early science were largely false.

...

Aristotle started from the passive observation of nature and then built up a system based on rational argument. This had two enormous disadvantages: Compared to controlled experiments, passive observation is usually misleading, and not even Aristotle’s powers of reason could prevent blunders in his arguments.

...

Aristotle’s faulty method was struck down by the Catholic Church, allowing previously forbidden ideas to flourish. The Church also made natural philosophy a compulsory part of the courses it required trainee theologians to follow. So, science held a central place in Christian centers of learning that it did not hold in Islamic madrassas. And Christianity itself provided a worldview especially compatible with experimental science.

...

Christianity made science a theologically justified and even righteous path to pursue. Since God created the world, exploring how it works honors its Creator.

...

Christians realized it was impossible to work out the laws of nature through rational analysis alone. The only way to discover his plan was to go out and look.

...

Given the advantages Christianity provided, it is hardly surprising that modern science developed only in the West, within a Christian civilization. Although other religious traditions could have provided a similarly fertile metaphysical ground for the study of nature, none actually did so. Christianity was a crucial cause of the unique development of Western science, the only science that has consistently produced true theories of nature.?
 
#5
Haven't posted in a while, but just wanted to say this was a great interview. Hope to see more along these lines at Skeptiko. Loved to see Bernardo's views swing in this direction. Really syncs up with how I have felt for a long time, so I guess it's a bit pleasing to see somebody use logic, philosophical rigor and an open mind to eventually arrive at the conclusions he has. I also thought Alex asked some great questions throughout the interview.
 
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#6
Great interview! I love running down various ontological paths until words lose their meaning.

Symbol, sensing, meaning, information, identity, character, narrative, myth, logic, nonsense, hierarchy, one, Brahman and God. This podcast had all the right words in it and I think the exploration of these words helps us frame up better metaphors for our own existence.

Are the religious traditions that are so much a part of our culture worth saving, preserving, nurturing?
Yes, but we must insert disclaimers into them all: these texts in whole or part may be mythical and not literal. But then again, how would the religions survive without a dedicated kernel of fundamentalists?

I still get inspiration from certain stories in the Bible and little glimpses of a hidden meaning here and there.

For instance: in an exploration of the relationship between the Logos and the Abyss, I realized we find the Logos "floating" on the surface of the Abyss in both John and Genesis. I expounded on this more in the last blog I wrote, but in short: Jesus (the Logos, the Word, the Light, the firstborn of creation) walks on the surface (boundary) of the water (the abyss, death, darkness, nonsense, destruction) by faith and then gets in the boat and rebukes the waters and calms the storm putting the Abyss back in its place. Peter (The Rock, brittle, unchanging, structured) tries to walk on the Abyss, but sinks. Those whose mental structures are too rigid are more easily cracked when their foundational faith is shaken.

And in Genesis, the first act of creation is the spirit moving over the surface (boundary) of the waters (abyss) creating light (the Logos) when God speaks the word.

Maybe that seems a bit obscure, but to bring it closer to home: all of our systems of logic shed light on the workings of the creation and are structures built on assumptions or primitive notions which cannot be questioned without entering a vicious circle or infinite regress - in other words logic floats on the abyss of nonsense by faith alone.

And what is more: creation happens when moving along this boundary between what is already created (the Logos) and what is uncreated or pure potentiality (the Abyss). To be a creative person is to dabble in nonsense and insanity - deconstructing in order to come back with something novel. To be spiritually dead is to either lose faith like a rock (like Peter) pushing too far into the boundary thus sinking into the abyss which is dissolution and insanity or to remain safely sane and far from the boundary becoming petrified and brittle in your existing stagnating structure. The Spirit moves over the water and this is life and creation.

Anyway, that's just one example of how I believe deep truths can be exegeted from religious myths.

Is there, as Bernardo suggests, something more in those traditions--something inherently mystical and something important for us individually and for our culture to advance?
I think so.

The problem with religion is the same with any organization (structure) of people: whenever 2 or more people get together hierarchy forms to more effectively coordinate action. Hierarchy filters controlling and low-empathy people to the top.

The other problem with religion, I alluded to above: stagnation and brittleness from old structures which no longer support but imprison - a loss of curiosity which is the quality that draws an individual along the boundary of knowledge between the Logos (the known) and the Abyss (the unknown).
 
#7
Q: Are the religious traditions that are so much a part of our culture worth saving, preserving, nurturing?

Religious traditions cannot be saved or preserved in the way Alex suggests. Religious traditions are living cultural realities which are maintained and nurtured by living human communities of believers and practitioners. We can only save and or preserve things which are already more or less dead.

But I don’t think that is what Bernardo was saying anyway. To my perception he was saying that the religious myths of the various traditions are signs of something in human beings which is deeper and prior to the specific mythological forms they assume in particular religions. An inherent universal experience or sense of the numinous or mystical; of a reality beyond the five physical senses; and the conviction that somehow that hidden reality is of immense importance and significance for us.

If that is what Bernardo was saying I completely agree with him
 
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#8
Another issue which arose in passing has to do with near death experience, or any kind of paranormal experience.
That is, we cannot take the testimony of individuals who have had these experiences purely on face value; or purely in the terms they use to express them.

I mean this specifically if we want to arrive at a real science of the paranormal.
I do not mean that we should not respect the personal significance of the experience for the individual.
These are two entirely different matters.

The very possibility of science is founded on the collection of data in a systematic and disciplined manner which consciously endeavours to eliminate subjective overlays or bias as much as possible.

Near death experience involves many features which are unfamiliar to earthlings; the afterlife realms are quite different to the Earth realm. Raw near death experience is necessarily saturated in subject overlays, interpretation and bias. Therefore it must be processed correctly if it is to become properly scientific data.

The example in the discussion was about people seeing Jesus or Buddha or some other mythological religious figure during their near death experience. If you have read near death literature you will know that behind these specific names there often lies an experience of a being of light. The scientific data is – I saw a being of light; the personal interpretation is – I saw Jesus, or I saw Buddha.

Meeting a person you have known is a different matter. You don’t have to interpret that you met your mother; you know and recognise her.

Near death experiences involve many features which are unfamiliar to earthlings and these features are interpreted through the personal human memory of the individual so as to be rendered intelligible. This is an entirely unconscious process. We do it automatically all the time with all experience.
 
#9
Another issue which arose in passing has to do with near death experience, or any kind of paranormal experience.
That is, we cannot take the testimony of individuals who have had these experiences purely on face value; or purely in the terms they use to express them.
I am very cautious about this approach (without perhaps completely disagreeing with you) because science is drenched with this approach when it comes to anything paranormal (and twisting the data to fit some belief has become horribly common in other areas as well).

David
 
#10
It is not mysticism that religion contributes. Materialism is mystical. How does matter produce consciousness? Where did the multiverse come from?
Agreed!
The benefits of religion are largely practical.

Religion is good for the individual.
However, as Bernardo pointed out, the moment anyone adopts that viewpoint, that value is more or less lost (however, placebos still have some effect even when people know what they are).

Personally, I think that exposure to Skeptiko has similar psychological value, but its foundations seem far more robust.

David
 
#11
I am very cautious about this approach (without perhaps completely disagreeing with you) because science is drenched with this approach when it comes to anything paranormal (and twisting the data to fit some belief has become horribly common in other areas as well).

David
Do you think that scientists have drawn incorrect conclusions about the reliability of first person accounts? The problem of the reliability of first person accounts goes well beyond parapsycology. Aren't scientists equally drenched with this approach in non-parapsychologically related fields? Law as well.

What approach do you suggest?
 
#12
Do you think that scientists have drawn incorrect conclusions about the reliability of first person accounts? The problem of the reliability of first person accounts goes well beyond parapsycology. Aren't scientists equally drenched with this approach in non-parapsychologically related fields? Law as well.

What approach do you suggest?
Well the problem is when investigators routinely re-interpret what people say, to mean what they think it should mean! That is the problem with the scientific approach to NDE's. With NDE's you basically have nothing other than a first person account - but of a very striking nature - but if you start re-interpreting it, it can mean anything.

Searching for commonalities between NDE's seems to be about the best you can do.

What would you do?

David
 
#14
David Eire said

Another issue which arose in passing has to do with near death experience, or any kind of paranormal experience.
That is, we cannot take the testimony of individuals who have had these experiences purely on face value; or purely in the terms they use to express them.


I am very cautious about this approach (without perhaps completely disagreeing with you) because science is drenched with this approach when it comes to anything paranormal (and twisting the data to fit some belief has become horribly common in other areas as well).

David
Doesn't Ray Moody say that nonsense and metaphor are part of the NDE persons language when they so describe? And says it's essential to approach NDEs
in this way? (I stand to be corrected here). So how can you take what they say at face value? I'm not denying something profound happens and BTW,
like Michael Sudduth, I think that "consciousness will continue after death" though the form is a mystery.The point is how the mind will always be a filter.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#18
Am I correct in saying the general opinion here when it comes to NDE accounts is the literalist view?
Perhaps there was a time when that was true...not sure now?

There are people who take the core NDE message as truth, others who think it's a possibility, others who see it as one face of the afterlife, others who suggest it's a deception or at least not the entirety of the truth...and so on...
 
#19
Am I correct in saying the general opinion here when it comes to NDE accounts is the literalist view?
My impression is just the opposite. What is perceived in NDEs has a literal presentation, but what underlies that is something real that it is difficult to apprehend in literal terms. People who see Jesus are seeing the same thing as people who see the Buddha, for example, but presented in different ways. The issue of whether they sometimes see things which can later be verified, e.g. a dead relative who they didn't know in ordinary life was dead, to my mind doesn't change that; they still see the underlying truth of the dead person and attribute to it a literal image.
 
#20
David Eire said

Another issue which arose in passing has to do with near death experience, or any kind of paranormal experience.
That is, we cannot take the testimony of individuals who have had these experiences purely on face value; or purely in the terms they use to express them.




Doesn't Ray Moody say that nonsense and metaphor are part of the NDE persons language when they so describe? And says it's essential to approach NDEs
in this way? (I stand to be corrected here). So how can you take what they say at face value? I'm not denying something profound happens and BTW,
like Michael Sudduth, I think that "consciousness will continue after death" though the form is a mystery.The point is how the mind will always be a filter.


Yes Ray Moody has a strange (to me) theory about NDE accounts being nonsense
I didn't find anything it it that was convincing or even interesting to me
I completely disagree with Ray on this issue

NDEers are not talking nonsense. That it not how to understand them; and it is not what I am saying in my earlier comment

There is a world of difference between - subjective personal interpretation, and nonsense

There is also a difference between subjective personal interpretation and scientific data

ps: nor was I saying that scientific data means distorting their accounts to fit a reductionist materialist ideology as one commenter seemed to presume

Personally I take the testimony of NDEers seriously, and I think it is very likely that we do survive physical death
 
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