“And her eyes opened wide, and she started whispering Jesus’ name … and then she started whispering the names of her dead parents … and she smiled … and moments later she died.”
We hear these stories a couple times a year. And I want to believe them. Those who tell us these stories, tell them with such conviction, such sincerity that I believe the stories themselves are true; but did the dying person REALLY see Jesus … and their parents … before they died?
The interpretation of these stories is where I start to question.
“We just know that Jesus was there, in the room, welcoming mom to heaven!” And I respond, “That’s amazing! Wow! You know for certain where your mom is at!” But I don’t always believe my own words.
It seems like every other year somebody with a near death experience (NDE) has these incredible visions of heaven, they write a book about it and make their millions (See “Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back” for a more recent contribution).
But what happens if these NDEs are simply concoctions of end-of-life chemical reactions?
Dr. Rick Strassman, while conducting DMT research at the University of New Mexico, proposed that a massive release of Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) from the pineal gland prior to death or near death was the cause of the near death experience (NDE).
DMT is a psychedelic drug, producing intense visuals, euphoria and hallucinations; and, according to Dr. Rick Strassman, near death experiences. In fact, DMT is an illegal drug that you can find on the streets. So, if you want a near-death hallucination, go ahead and try some. You can – to some degree – chemically induce a NDE, where you’ll see angels, celestial bodies, heaven … or maybe, if it’s a bad trip, you’ll see the other side. Philosopher Terence McKenna suggested that DMT is a pathway drug to other worlds, as most people who use DMT hallucinate heaven and hell type experiences.
But, Strassman’s hypothesis that the human body produces massive amounts of DMT near death has yet to proven. Even if Strassman’s hypothesis that DMT is the hallucinogenic cause of NDE is false, it still is very possible that other chemicals produce visions of the celestial. We just don’t know for certain, but we hope.
And I imagine hope may be the main drug behind NDE. We hope that heaven waits at death. We hope that Jesus is awaiting us, to welcome us into heaven. We hope that heaven is real. And that hope may be founded on reality, or mere hallucination; but we still hope.
There are some animals that don’t show signs of aging … these animals don’t have a decline in functionality nor do they lack virility. This characteristic is called “negligible senescence (or negligible aging)” and is seen in the Rougheye rockfish (which can live up to 205 years), the Ocean Quahog clam (405 years), the Aldabra Giant Tortoise (255 years) and lobsters, which some scientists believe can live the longest of the above list.
Then there are creatures that are biologically immortal. These creatures are not immortal in the “can never die” sense, they simply have no cellular senescence and would live “forever” barring disease or injury. Although, theoretically, there is an aging plateau for these creatures that occurs from exterior damage, not from internal dying.
Biologically immortal creatures include the Turritopsis nutricula Jellyfish, Hydra, some lobsters, and planarian flatworms.
If the lobster can have eternal cell reproduction, and the Giant Tortoise has negligible senescence, why can’t humanity?
This same question is being asked by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, the Methuselah Foundation and the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. It’s being asked because scientists like Marios Kyriazis are suggesting that negligible senescence is inevitable and biological immortality is likely in humans.
Who wouldn’t want immortality? Isn’t this the end that ALL of us are seeking? Isn’t it an innate desire planted within each of us?
Heaven and it’s various forms have motivated thousands of souls towards acts of glory and acts of … well … acts like the Crusades. We’re all on a search to rediscover Eden.
What will happen if we get what we want?
What will happen if/when we engineer a pill/a medication/a five calorie juice drink that creates negligible senescence?
What happens when we produce Methuselahs on a regular basis?
What if Jesus’ view of heaven … of eternal life … happened … here … on earth?
Here’s what I think.
I don’t think negligible senescence will result from human evolution; rather it will most likely result from human manufacturing. If ever such a “Methuselah Pill” is manufactured, it will probably also be marketed. It will be bought and sold by the powerful few who will amass their wealth and power over hundreds of years, creating a race of legitimate superhumans.
Such a race could/will rule the world.
Death as we know it is humanity’s accountability. You can only become so powerful in one lifetime. You’re hatred can only last so long. Death, in many ways, is humanity’s greatest grace.
Think about it: Snooki could produce 20 children.
Stalin might still be killing his people.
Sylvester Stallone could have made 45 Rocky movies
Barry Bond could have hit over 700 home runs.
We would be gods … we would be like God.
I would be out of business. And the world would be WAAAAY overpopulated.
Yes, the world as we know it exists because of death. Death defines our way of life. And while I’m sure that if we’d have the ability to create a “Methuselah Pill” that we’d have the tech to solve overpopulation and the other sundry problems. A whole new world would come into existence. A world where the prevalence of immortality could only be rivaled by the lack of immorality.
A world with human immortality is a world we can’t fully comprehend. It would be a world of gods. A new race … a new stage in the evolution of mankind.
And all this begs the question: Do we want biological immortality?
I’m not too sure I like the idea of arriving to heaven in a state of human perfection, where I’m free of my mistake ridden, gas producing body; and, where I somehow transcend my sometimes mischievous, often depraved, usually creative and darkened mind. I don’t like the perfect me.
Or, rather, I don’t like perfect me in the Greek philosophy sense of perfect, where I’m static, gloriously unmovable and unable to grow. I like the unGreek idea of perfect me, where perfection is growth! Where perfection is sometimes mistakes!
If the next “world” is an “afterlife” where we sit around like a bunch of 60 somethings at a high school reunion reminiscing about the old times, then take my name off the sign-up sheet. Life is growth. Eternal life is some type of eternal growth. But if the eternal is somehow after life, where we sit and admire both our own and God’s timeless perfection … then it’s not for me.
I want messy relationships with God and others. I want a place where it takes an eternity for the finite to exhaust the infinite. I want a place that’s lived in … not some fancy mansion where every little piece of furniture is in its rightful place, where the white carpet can’t be tread upon and the windows can’t be smudged. Give me the place where I can be myself and allow God and others to mold me as I interact with them. I want a place that’s dirtied by the use of people.
But I have a secret doubt that I’m afraid to admit. I’m afraid to admit it because this doubt could undermine both my legitimacy as a Christian and my ability to comfort people during their weakest moments.
Sometimes I doubt the whole resurrection and eternal life thing even exists. In fact, there’s times when I tell myself I have to learn to be content with this life because it could be all I’ll ever have.
I know that Jesus talks time and time again about eternal life, but is it possible that his understanding of eternal life is different than ours? Yes, it’s possible.
For those of us that are Christians, sometimes it’s the highest expression of our faith to believe in something that’s unseen. And so it’s hard to admit when we doubt about the seemingly certain promises of the unseen eternal life that’s promised in God’s Word. It’s as though we’re being faithless and, in a sense, unChristian if we doubt and question the life to come after death.
Realizing that few of us are brave enough to put our doubts out in the public for all to question, I’ve set up this anonymous poll.
Please answer honestly. I realize that many have NO doubts about eternal life. And I also realize that some of you have totally written off eternal life as a type of “opiate for the masses”. Either way, feel free to respond according to what you believe.
Once you take the poll, it will show you the results.