I’m not sure exactly what made me purchase Lee Strobel’s 2021 book, The Case for Heaven: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for Life After Death. I think it might have been an impulse buy after Bill and I had a talk about near death experiences. I have mentioned a few times in this blog that Bill had a near death experience in 1980, when he was 16 years old. He and his buddies were drinking beer somewhere near Houston, Texas, when one of his buddies’ girlfriends was having a teen girl hissy fit. She wanted to leave, so Bill’s friend, with whom he’d gotten a ride, mounted up his Subaru Brat– basically a car with a truck bed in the back. As it was 1980, it was legal for Bill to ride in the back. He went to climb in, but his friend hadn’t noticed and started to back up. Bill lost his footing and was soon under the car’s tires.
Fortunately, because he was so young when he had his accident, Bill’s injuries didn’t kill him. Save for a couple of scars and arthritis in his chest, as well as a couple of crushed disks in his back, he was mostly left with no physical ill effects. But he did have an experience that changed his life and, in my opinion, made him a different person than he might have been. He says he experienced a NDE that day and described it as being very peaceful and comforting. I had long ago read Life After Life, Dr. Raymond Moody’s 1975 book about NDEs, and found it fascinating. So, I probably bought Lee Strobel’s much newer book, because I figured it might be kind of like Raymond Moody’s book. But Strobel’s book isn’t like Moody’s book. It has a much more religious bent to it, which, for me, made it somewhat less of an enjoyable read.
Lee Strobel is a journalist who has a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale University. For a good portion of his life, he was skeptical about religion. But then he found himself in a medical crisis. When he came to in an emergency room, the physician tending to him told him that he was a step away from a coma and two steps away from death. Mr. Strobel suffered from hyponatremia, which is a potentially lethal deficiency in blood sodium. I was immediately intrigued by that, since Bill also has chronic hyponatremia, as well as hypertension. He’s one of the few high blood pressure patients regularly advised to salt his food, since his blood is naturally low in sodium. If a person’s sodium is too low, their cells can swell, which can cause health problems that range from mild to severe. In Mr. Strobel’s case, the hyponatremia almost killed him, and during the episode that landed him in the hospital, he reportedly had a near death experience. It profoundly changed his life, and he went from being a skeptic about religion, to becoming a true believer.
Strobel writes well, which stands to reason, as he was once the award-winning legal editor for the Chicago Tribune. His work has put him in touch with many interesting people, some of whom he describes in The Case for Heaven. I mostly enjoyed reading his thoughts on what happens after we die, as well as some of the stories he includes about people’s NDEs. The book attempts to provide concrete that Heaven is for real, and for some people, it will succeed and be a great comfort.
However, for me, this book was kind of difficult to get through. The religious aspect of it was a bit of a turn off, especially since it’s really directed at Christians. I was raised a Christian, and don’t quite consider myself an atheist, but I’m not a very religious person. I was expecting this book to be more about the actual experience of having a NDE, but after a couple of chapters, it sort of veers away from that topic and delves into other areas that seemed less relevant to whether or not there’s really a Heaven, and more about Mr. Strobel’s beliefs about faith and religion.
I do remember reading some of Strobel’s thoughts on Hell, which were kind of surprising to me. He uses Bible verses to explain what Hell really is, and what it’s actually like. Most of us think of Hell as a lake of fire with never ending suffering and torment for those consigned to go there. Below is a video in which he discusses his thoughts on Hell with podcaster, Alisa Childers. Strobel’s thoughts on Hell did interest me, in fact, probably more than most of the rest of The Case for Heaven did. I might recommend this book simply for that part of it.
I notice that many Amazon reviewers were already fans of Mr. Strobel’s work. He wrote a well-received book called The Case for Christ, that I’ve seen many people referencing. Some write this book isn’t as good as that one is, while others opine that The Case for Heaven is a perfect companion to the earlier work. I haven’t read any of Strobel’s other books, so this is my first experience with his writing. I can tell that he has a gift for grabbing his readers. I was into the book when I first started reading it. But then, after a couple of chapters, continuing to read became a real struggle. I found myself rushing to finish it, skimming instead of really focusing on the writing. I’m a pretty experienced and enthusiastic reader, and I try hard to finish the books I start. I just found this book hard to finish, even though it’s well written and researched. Strobel does, for instance, include an extensive reference section for those who want to explore more.
So, I’m left with a mixed mind about The Case for Heaven. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it… and nothing really exciting sticks out for me about it, other than the fact that Mr. Strobel has had hyponatremia, like my husband has. But I’m sure that some people– particularly those who are very religious, and regularly read books about faith and Christianity– will enjoy this book and be comforted by it. For me, it was just kind of “meh”… and I much prefer Dr. Moody’s classic, Life After Life. I think I would prefer more of a scientific approach, complete with stories of experiences of NDEs, rather than discussion about the Bible or religion.
I think if I were rating this on a five star scale, I would give The Case for Heaven three stars. It’s probably best for people who enjoy religious books, especially from a protestant Christian perspective, and especially for those who have read Mr. Strobel’s other books. As for me, I’m happy to move on to my next title, which has already grabbed my attention.
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No, I’m not referring to the 1986 pop song by Wham!, which I used to love when I was 14 years old. I’m referring to the place commonly referred to as Heaven. But if you’re curious about the song by Wham!, here’s a link.
Anyway, for those of you who don’t care about Wham! or already know this song, I’ll get on with today’s topic of near death experiences (NDEs).
Many years ago, I read a book called Life After Life. It was written by Raymond A. Moody Jr., MD. I don’t know who brought it into my parents’ house, but I found it in a handsome antique bookshelf my mom had. The book, which was originally published in 1975, is about near death experiences. Dr. Moody had noticed that he had many patients who had experienced “life after death”. They had seen themselves being operated on or watched as other people tended to them, as if they were witnesses in a room. They had floated above their physical bodies and, in many cases, drifted toward whatever waits for us after we die.
A lot of people don’t believe in NDEs. For instance, I have learned never to bring them up or respond to threads about NDEs on the Recovery from Mormonism message board, because there is a vocal, persistent, and obnoxious posse of people there who have no tolerance for discussion of life after death. Many of the people who are against NDEs are atheists. They don’t believe in God and don’t like discussions about what happens to a person who dies temporarily. They often dismiss these phenomenons as a release of endorphins that make dying more tolerable.
Honestly, I don’t know where the truth lies. I am not a particularly religious person myself. I do think I’m kind of spiritual. I’m not quite at the point at which I would call myself an atheist, though, because I have experienced some things that make me wonder if there really is a “hand of the almighty”.
For instance, about 21 years ago, I had an extremely close call while driving to work one afternoon. I was in my Toyota Corolla on a two lane road. I came upon an intersection where there was just a stop sign. Someone was at the stop sign and had pulled slightly out into the road. I had to swerve to miss the front end of the car at the stop sign. As I was swerving, another car approached in the opposite direction on the two lane road. I hadn’t seen the oncoming car because of some trees that obscured the view ahead.
Somehow, I managed to maneuver perfectly, with very precise timing, and missed the car at the intersection as well as the oncoming car. I could have very easily hit them head on, but somehow I didn’t. I think this might have been the day that John F. Kennedy Jr. died in a plane crash with his wife, Caroline Bessette Kennedy, and her sister. I seem to remember thinking about how they had so suddenly died on their way to a wedding.
I can’t explain how my reflexes worked so fast. I am certainly not a terrible driver, but I’ve never been particularly gifted physically. Still, I somehow managed to avoid what would have been a terrible accident. And yes, it really did seem like there was a guiding hand that did the steering for me. It just wasn’t time for me to have a car accident that took me or the other driver out of the world. I should also mention that in 1998 and 1999, I regularly considered suicide because I was crippled by depression and anxiety. I never made any truly serious attempts, but I did think about it a lot. I suppose that a head on collision would have been one way to end it, if I’d really wanted to or it was my time to go.
Bill, on the other hand, has experienced a car accident that could have killed him. I have written about this before, but here’s a repeat for those who missed the story the first time. In 1980, when Bill was about 16 years old, he was in Houston partying with some of his teenaged buddies. They were drinking beer in a parking lot.
One of Bill’s friends had a Subaru Brat. See today’s featured photo for reference to what they looked like. Basically, they were like a car mixed with a pickup truck, and they were really ugly. Back in the 1980s, we also had Pontiac El Caminos, which were equally ugly car/pickup truck hybrids kind of similar to Subaru Brats. I guess El Caminos were for people who liked that style of vehicle, but wanted to buy American. Just imagine! That Subaru Brat truly could have been the vehicle that literally delivered Bill to the edge of Heaven!
Anyway, the guy who owned the Brat had a girlfriend who was angsty about something, which is customary for most teenaged girls. She threw a tantrum of some sort and decided that she wanted to leave the beer drinking festivities. Bill had gotten a ride to the parking lot with them, so when he noticed his friend was about to drive off, he made a move to hop into the “bed” of the Subaru Brat. As he was mounting the car’s rear bumper, Bill’s completely oblivious and preoccupied pal started to back up the vehicle. He didn’t know that Bill was trying to get into the back of the car. Consequently, the teenaged brat driving the Subaru Brat backed over the sixteen year old version of my husband as if he was a speed bump.
Bill has told me the story about his car accident many times. He’s said he was extremely frightened as the car’s rear tire rolled over his chest, thankfully still somewhat protected by cartilage. He felt the gravel beneath him give slightly, which was probably one reason why he didn’t die. Then he blacked out and found himself in a very still expanse of nothingness that was absolutely peaceful and comforting. Bill said he somehow knew that if he gave into the peacefulness, he would be okay… but he would cease to exist. However, he was completely fine with no longer existing. He was in a place where there was no suffering or stress. It was just calm and devoid of any negativity.
Of course, Bill didn’t end up going toward the bright light at the end of the tunnel. He soon found himself back in his own body. He was terrified and racked with pain, and he had a collapsed lung and eyes filled with blood. He spent a week in the hospital and the doctor told him that he probably survived because he was so young and his chest cavity hadn’t yet hardened into bone. He also told him that he would have arthritis in his chest to look forward to as he aged. That prediction has, in fact, come to pass.
I have often marveled at how kind, mature, unselfish, and gentle Bill is. He doesn’t like religion, but he is very much in tune with God, in a way that isn’t annoying or obnoxious. One other thing I’ve noticed about Bill is that he has an amazing ability to find pain in me. When I have a sore muscle or painful trigger point, he can somehow find it within seconds. He knows exactly where to touch me to relieve the ache. It’s like he has a healing quality. I don’t know if that is related to his experience with near death, but I sometimes wonder if it is. All I know is that he’s a very unique and interesting person. I don’t know anyone else like him.
So why is this topic coming up today? It’s because this morning, as I was thinking about what to write about, I happened to see a video about a man who had a near death experience. This video is about Scott Drummond, who had a NDE when he was 28 years old.
And… sure enough, I looked up this video and see it’s associated with a LDS Web site… The channel affiliated with the above video only has two videos on it, but it has a lot of subscribers. Scott Drummond does mention skiing in Park City, Utah, but that doesn’t necessarily make a person LDS.
Well, whether or not Scott Drummond is Mormon, I am interested in hearing his story. Bill was not LDS when he had his experience, although he did later convert for awhile. He joined the church in 1997 and officially left it in 2006, so he was Mormon for nine years. I have read a lot of stories about NDEs and they seem to have a universal theme, regardless of a person’s religious beliefs. I find these stories fascinating. Even if there’s nothing once the brain and body are totally dead, it’s comforting to think that the process of dying isn’t horrible. Once the lights go out for good, you won’t know the difference, anyway. I don’t remember what it was like to be pre-born, after all.
Bill is the only person I have known personally who has experienced a near death event, although I first read about them sometime in the 1980s. I believe him when he tells me that he’s had a near death experience. I know him very well, and he doesn’t routinely lie about things. I consider all of the other difficult situations he’s been in that he’s survived, like being in the Pentagon on 9/11, having just had his office moved from the section that was hit… like being married to a hateful woman who once told him she should just “cut his throat” when she thought he was sleeping… like going to war with a narcissistic asswipe who took delight in playing head games with Soldiers while they were in a war zone… like having an abusive transgendered stepfather at a time when no one had any understanding of what being transgendered meant– a man who blew smoke in Bill’s face and told him that talking to him was like talking to a wall (it’s definitely not)… like being separated from his beloved children and knowing that they were told many lies about the kind of person he is… and even like meeting and marrying me. I could have been a lot more psycho than I am. I’m not a dangerous person, but I certainly could have been.
Despite all he’d been through before we met, he still chose to meet me offline and later marry me. It’s amazing how it’s all worked out so perfectly. There were many instances in which a wrench could have been thrown into the mix and completely fucked up everything. If I had chosen to go to grad school in Illinois instead of South Carolina… if he had not been sent to Virginia in 2001 instead of 2002, when he’d expected to go there… if he had not run into my aunt’s brother, Ralph, who assured me that Bill isn’t a psycho… if I had started grad school a different year or had done just one degree instead of two… if he hadn’t separated from his ex at the time I started school and we hadn’t both ventured to the same adult oriented site at the same time…
Any of those things would have derailed the conditions that have put us together for the last twenty years. Maybe it was just luck or kismet or whatever. But the longer I live with Bill, the more I think our life together was meant to happen. In fact, I think a lot of things we’ve encountered in life were meant to happen. Maybe there’s no real truth to that belief, but it does make the concept of life more intriguing for me.
It makes things more interesting to think that maybe there’s a reason I ran into abusive landladies who made outrageous and false claims against my character. Maybe it was a sign that I needed to fight back… and help Bill fight back against people who don’t treat him right. I did have that bad experience in Armenia before I met Bill. I was successful in my bid not to be ripped off by that woman. Sometimes, I think the world puts certain people in your life to teach you valuable lessons.
On the other hand… it’s just as likely that we’re all here as a cosmic accident and there’s really no meaning in anything. Perhaps we’ll learn the secret of life someday when we each inevitably perish. When I die, will I see a beautiful Alpine or Rocky Mountain landscape with vividly beautiful flowers and amazing trees? Or will there be a beautiful white light and silhouettes of my loved ones who have passed on before me? Personally, I think my idea of Heaven is being greeted by all of the wonderful pets I’ve had who have loved me unconditionally. I’d like to be in that place, with rolling fields, rainbows, brooks, and no need to clean up any residual piles of crap.
I guess I think that believing in a higher power is a good thing, if you don’t rely on the higher power to do specific things for you. I don’t think it’s a good thing to live life thinking that there’s a God above who watches and judges every single thing you do. I don’t think God cares if you curse, for instance. I don’t believe God, who is supposed to be perfect, gets offended by things like cuss words… or really by anything. Why would God be “offended”? That’s the emotion of an imperfect being, like man. But I do like to think there is something bigger out there… and that being is not concerned about trivial issues like whether or not your collarbone is visible when you wear your favorite shirt or how long your hair is… or even where you spend your Sundays, Saturdays, or Fridays.
Anyway, those are my deep thoughts for today. I felt kind of compelled to write them. Maybe someone out there can use them for something good. It beats my usual profanity laced snark, right?
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