Updating William James . . .. . .
NYT columnist Ross Douthat likes to collect nonconversion stories of famous secular people, and he pointed in a recent column to an ironic such story of the 'afterlife' as experienced by the famous atheist A. J. Ayer:
Three decades ago A. J. Ayer, the British logical positivist and scourge of all religion, died and was resuscitated at the age of 77. Afterward, he reported a near-death encounter that included repeated attempts to cross a river and "a red light, exceedingly bright, and also very painful . . . responsible for the government of the universe." Ayer retained his atheism, but declared that the experience had "slightly weakened" his conviction that death "will be the end of me."Douthat goes on to write about other such short stories of nonconversion, but this one most interests me because I can explain its meaning, namely, that the river was, symbolically, a busy street that Ayer had a powerful urge to cross, even against the red light. Why, he could have been killed! That, of course, had to be prevented. Hence the pain that stopped him each and and every time he tried to cross.
Nothing, therefore, to see here. Just move along . . .
Labels: Religious Experience