Author Dinesh D’Souza doesn’t approach the subject of life after death as a man of faith might in his latest book — even though he is just that.
Instead, he tackles the biggest question facing mankind as any skeptical scholar would in Life After Death: The Evidence. The new book earns him the admiration of none other than avowed atheist Christopher Hitchens, which whom he has famously squabbled with on amicable terms.
Life After Death squares off against the naysayers, scientists and non-believers regarding the afterlife in D’Souza’s gentle, pragmatic style. He sets any direct notions of fire and brimstone aside, aiming not for the true believer but for those open minded enough to consider a rational argument for life after death that doesn’t rely on blind faith or wishful thinking.
D’Souza starts his argument with personal recollections of his family‘s own brushes with death, from a near fatal accident involving his wife, Dixie, to his father’s final days.
Neither incident supplies the evidence alluded to in the title, but both help set the stage for the conversation to follow. It’s also the rare time the author draws on emotion to state his case. He’d rather burnish his thesis with logic, twisting his opponents’ arguments to the breaking point until they snap with a satisfying pop.
The first blast of evidence for life after death comes from a uniformity of vision. Why do so many of the world’s religions spell out an afterlife in such familiar refrains? And, perhaps more importantly, why do so many people of faith shrink from defending their belief in life after death?
Not D’Souza. He is more than eager to debate, discuss and disapprove the other side’s rationales, while doing so in a gentlemanly fashion.
He first dismantles the atheist’s trope that a lack of firm evidence is proof enough of death being the final frontier.
“The absence of evidence may indicate only that we haven’t figured out how to locate what we are looking for,” he writes, citing the limited knowledge great civilizations of yore once possessed, like the ancient Greeks. And both sides in the afterlife debate suffer from a lack of provable evidence, a condition that doesn’t seem to affect the certainty atheists display on the matter.
“There are no controlled empirical experiments that can resolve the issue one way or the other,” he writes.
Life After Death also debunks some common misperceptions on the subject. The Egyptian pyramids, which buried servants along with their masters, “refute the idea that ancient religion was merely a tool for elites to reconcile the common people to their to their lot by promising them a wonderful existence in the afterlife.”
D’Souza doesn’t embrace every scrap of data that buttresses his argument. He sheds a cynical light on research involving reincarnation, material which seems too isolated to draw much from, he reasons. Near death experiences are another matter, given how scattered such accounts are across the globe — and over history.
These anecdotal findings aren’t perfect, but they offer an impressive array of information which can’t be fully explained away by skeptics.
Life After Death confronts the subject from both physical and biological realm, contending the science behind the afterlife is far from settled. It’s hard to imagine all the intricate formulas and variables needed to allow for human life aren’t part of an overall scheme, he says, a philosophy which he says helps support his case.
Other aspects of our lives, like ideas and emotions, defy easy scientific measurements, he says. Adding existing laws of physics point to realms not bound by conventional research modes.
Once the case for life after death has been made, the author argues for the noble considerations for such beliefs.
“Critics allege that belief in the next world detracts from the pressing task of improving this one,” he writes. But atheistic regimes like those run by the likes of Pol Pot, Fidel Castro and Josef Stalin have led to the deaths of millions. And the “vision of transcendence,” far from restricting man to create greatness here on earth, actually has improved the lives of others in many ways. The church’s stance against slavery stands as just one area where spiritual minds colluded to blunt a man-made evil.
D’Souza wraps with a chapter fusing science with faith — the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the facts behind it. Here, as with the rest of the book, the author summons statements and philosophies from across the spectrum, from Hitchens to Karl Marx. He applauds some of their conclusions while exploding their mistakes.
Life After Death: The Evidence is rigorously debated without vitriol, a book that assumes the religious person’s unwillingness to battle back against skeptical scientists but merrily uses that group’s regimented thinking to prove his own thesis.
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