“Proof” of the afterlife in the Globe and Mail!

April 6, 2021 • 12:45 pm

The Globe and Mail is, I believe, a conservative newspaper, and one would guess that it’s that genre of paper that’s prone to printing palpable palaver that props up religion. (Well, one would guess wrong, as now papers like the New York Times do it as well.)

Here from the new G&M we have Cathy Bohlken, a respiratory therapist from Calgary, telling us how, after having rejected the existence of an afterlife, came to believe in it after all. Click on the screenshot to proceed:

Bohlken tells us that her scientific training led her to doubt the existence of an afterlife—until her boyfriend committed suicide. Then she had the need to get in touch with him, and right there is where the nonsense begins. (I don’t mean to be callous here, as her pain must have been immense, but she uses it to promote woo in a widely-read paper.)

I grieved for months, and in the spring I discovered the TV show Long Island Medium. I became completely mesmerized and decided that I needed to find my own psychic medium, hoping that someone could make a connection to Dave.

I went to see a psychic in Calgary who has a good record of helping law enforcement agencies from around the world locate missing and murdered persons.

And here’s how the psychic convinced her of an afterlife. (Note that Bohlken could have given the psychic her name when making an appointment, which would also allow some preliminary investigation.)

Patricia started the reading by trying to identify the different spirits that had walked in with me. She described one of my grandfathers perfectly, but she also said he was talking about somebody else who was there, someone that was missing the tip of a finger. I didn’t know of anyone that was missing any fingertips. (Later, I learned that my other grandfather had lost the tip of two fingers in a lawnmower accident. He died when I was a baby, so I didn’t remember him at all.) This was one of 50 validations of my life that she could never possibly have known.

Patricia sensed that there was somebody else in the room but the spirit was “wispy,” unlike my grandfather who was strongly present. After several minutes, she asked me if someone had died recently. [JAC: She’s a psychic—she should have known that!] When I told her that my boyfriend had died six months earlier, she exclaimed: “In the first year, it’s darn near impossible to reach them, but I will try because he is here.”

“He can hear you,” Patricia said. “It’s almost like he comes to you gently because you were very angry with him when he left.” She told me stories for almost an hour, telling me things that she could never possibly have known. She described how Dave would sit across from me at the kitchen island. How when I was at the kitchen sink, he would wrap his arms around me from behind. “He’s still doing that.”

She explained that “if you even think of them, it’s … like picking up the phone or having him right in front of you. If you know what you feel like, you’ll know what somebody else’s energy feels like.”

Presumably Ms. Bohlken has never heard of “cold readings“, in which experienced “readers” can make remarkably accurate guesses by noticing subtle expressions and body language, and knowing a few things about the subject. Note as well that Bohlken had a very strong will to believe, which would make her fixate on the information that was accurate and ignore the stuff that was wrong.

There would be ways to test these paranormal activities, like the strictures put into place by James Randi in his famous One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, but no psychic ever accepted the challenge (at least two agreed to, but then backed out). I’m sure Randi could have designed a test to see if this medium could, without hints or prompting, tell things about the deceased she couldn’t possibly have known. Penn and Teller could do so as well. I could try, but magicians are much better at this than are scientists, who don’t know all the tricks.

And here’s the kicker that cemented Bohlken’s belief in the afterlife.

. . . About a week after the reading, I noticed a tingling sensation on the right side of my head when I thought of Dave – as if my hair was standing on edge, this ebbed and flowed depending on the intensity of my emotions. When my mom died suddenly a year later, I was more open to the sensation and I felt her energy differently, and immediately.

“More open to the sensation,” eh? And now Bohlken is about to foist this on the world, making credulous people even more woo-prone:

Patricia left me with a parting thought to consider once my grief had subsided. “It’s almost like you wanted to write a book, and now you have the material,” she noted.

Writing a book was not something I had ever considered, but after my experience, sharing my story is something that I simply have to do.

People want to believe this stuff, of course; who wouldn’t like to live on, or get a message that their friends, family, and beloved are out there somewhere thinking of you?

And, after all, what harm is done by making people think that? The harm is twofold. First, the psychic took money (probably a not insubstantial sum) from Bohlken. The amount spent yearly on “psychic services” in the U.S. is about $2.2 billion, or about $670 for every citizen. Twenty-two percent of Americans have consulted a psychic (that means that those who have pay about $3,000 for the consultations), and 34% believe they’ve had a psychic episode. This is, pure and simple, victimization of the vulnerable.

Second, essays like the one above merely buttress this kind of scam, and also weaken people’s organs of reason. This is exactly what religion does, but of course “psychic services” are just one form of religion.

h/t: Christopher

79 thoughts on ““Proof” of the afterlife in the Globe and Mail!

  1. The Globe and Mail is a liberal paper though I consider their reporting fairly blanked. The Sun and the National Post are more conservative.

    These “psychics” are so awful because they target the grief stricken with this hokum.

    1. Yeah, very approximately “The Globe and Mail” ~ WaPo, and “National Post” ~ WSJ. We don’t really have a NYT equivalent.

      On the plus side we no longer have a HuffPo Canada!

  2. I wouldn’t consider the G&M a conservative paper — in Canada that would be the National Post. I wouldn’t consider it lefty, either, as they have endorsed Conservative politicians. I’d say they are centrist with a liberal tilt.

    I haven’t seen this particular piece yet, but the “First Person” feature in the paper is essentially a “Letter to the Editor,” to which any reader can submit an essay or personal story. It’s edited, obviously, but is meant for people who don’t normally have the clout to make it onto an op-ed page. Bottom line is you can’t infer much about the newspaper from what’s published in this feature.

  3. Ha ha I noticed that I put “fairly blanked” when I meant “fairly balanced”. I actually like the Globe and Mail for a lot of their stories.

    1. I don’t know if it’s true anymore but the Mop and Pail used to be Canada’s “newspaper of record”. Up until about 2000 they had a good weekend edition with a book review section, but then the quality started declining until I stopped reading it.

  4. Bohlken went straight from mentioning her “scientific training” to describing her visit to a psychic with only being “mesmerized” by a TV program as explanation. So much for her scientific training. I have no real knowledge of a respiratory therapist’s training but my guess is that it is practical training in therapeutic methods and equipment created by scientists, and not much science. She’s like those nurses who have spent the last year taking care of COVID patients but are not planning on getting vaccinated themselves.

    1. I wouldn’t necessarily believe that part of the story. IMO “I once was lost but now am found” stories tend to exaggerate the nonbelief of the person to start with, as well as the suddenness of the change. After all, it wouldn’t be much of a story if it was “I always believed in God but never thought much about it. And I’d toyed with the idea of psychics, but never gone until my boyfriend died” isn’t as powerful a story, is it?

    2. Yes, Paul. They(the nurses) are very odd ducks aren’t they? I can’t get my head around anti-vax medical professionals. It doesn’t compute with me.

  5. How are you to tell if that tingling in the feet is mom or dad or maybe it’s just diabetes.

  6. I can fully understand why the bereaved hope against hope that there is an afterlife and that they will be able to communicate with, and later join, the person that they have lost. (Even rational people like Sherlock Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have been suckered by woo, after all.)

    But the world/life/the universe won’t be changed, however desperately we would wish them to bend to our imaginations. And pieces like Bohlken’s simply won’t help others in her sad position to face that reality. What they will do is give credence to exploitative con-artists wanting to fleece grieving people out of their money. And even in the best-case scenario, where the “mystic” offers the benefits of their “gift” for free because they truly believe in it themselves, they are bestowing an empty hope and preventing their clients from accepting the hard truth of our mortal existence.and coming to terms with it.

    As our host so kindly acknowledged here at WEIT earlier, in the past few days we had to take the hard decision to euthanise our cat, Marcus Clawrelius. On many occasions since then I have heard sounds that I momentarily recognised as him jumping down from a bed upstairs or coming through his cat flap, or seen movements in the garden that I interpreted as his return home, before realising my mistake and experiencing the loss again. Grief is tricky – it catches us unawares – but whilst the death of anyone we love is hard to come to terms with, in the end we do have to do that in order to carry on with our own lives.

    1. Sorry to hear about the loss of Marcus. I’ve also had the same experience after having had cats and a dog euthanised. Mostly I’ve seen or thought I’ve seen movement, in doorways for instance, at the edge of my peripheral vision, and momentarily expected to see the late lamented pet coming through.

      I’ve also had shocks of recognition on seeing people in a crowd who have reminded me very strongly of recently dead family members. But the rational part of my brain noted that these family members have been fairly äverage” looking. I’ve never had that experience involving my father or my late wife, who were both very distinctive looking in their own ways.

      It’s a sudden shock and it does bring the grief back again – but then I find it brings back some of the good memories with extra clarity. I now have a much clearer personal understanding of why some people see ghosts.

  7. “who wouldn’t like to live on…”

    I don’t know about you, but I at least wouldn’t want to live on. THIS life already seems too long as it is, especially given how we tend to prolong things at the end. Unless an “afterlife” is a significant improvement on this one – and based on these accounts of dead people just hanging around the living, it doesn’t sound like it is – I have NO desire for one. They all sound like Hell to me.

    1. Yes, Jorge Luis Borges’ short story “El inmortal” (“The Immortal”) is “about a character who mistakenly achieves immortality and then, weary of a long life, struggles to lose it and writes an account of his experiences.” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Immortal_(short_story)

      I remember reading a much more light hearted short story that came to the same conclusion, but can’t remember anything about the author or the title. The protagonist was thrilled at first, getting his golf handicap down to scratch, mastering various other arts etc. etc., but eventually, very much to his own surprise, running out of joie de vivre.

      That all said, the choice of waiting until you have decided for yourself that you have had enough and want to pull the plug has its appeal!

        1. But maybe not the film. (I confess to not being a Robin Williams fan, but with a rating of 36% on Rotten Tomatoes the film’s reputation must be based on more than my own prejudice?)

          1. An apt summary I saw in a local paper at the time the movie came out was “A boring robot becomes an even more boring human”.

      1. “Waiting until you have decided for yourself that you have had enough”.

        “The Good Place” also treated this idea in a thoughtful way, or at least as thoughtful as possible when done 22 minutes at a time on Netflix.

      2. There was a Robert Silverberg story I read many many years ago about a society in which virtual immortality had been achieved but most people eventually decided to end their lives out of boredom.

    2. The final season of the comedy The Good Place mined this idea. (Spoiler alert) The people that went to the “good place” enjoyed it for a while, but grew bored and miserable after they’d experienced everything. It wasn’t until they were given an option to check out permanently that they truly found happiness and peace.

      Life is valuable because it is finite.

  8. When I was a child, I became much interested in ghosts and “afterlives” after having been given a book of Montague Rhode James stories by a grandaunt. Oh, those stories were delightfully chilly, and of course they filled me with questions.
    My parents, happy atheists like their own parents and grandparents, told me that they were likely to die before I did, mammals being as they are and all, and they promised that if it were at all possible, they would come back and haunt the living daylights out of me and my sisters, using all of the standard tropes – ectoplasmic manifestations with ‘eads tuck underneath their arms, rattling chains, unearthly howling, thrown dishes, etc. And I assure you, they were just the sort of folk to take great delight in a good haunting.
    However, they also advised me that if ghosts can rattle chains, hurl crockery and audibly move the atmosphere with their moaning and groaning, said ghosts could also just as easily and far more effectively just pick up a pencil and write down whatever postmortem messages all the noise was supposed to convey. My parents advised me to consider the matter: why haunt with histrionics if you can haunt with written messages? Noisy hauntings argue far better for fakery and gullibility among the living, while the dead… well, they’re dead.
    And while I know that their senses of humor would have caused my parents to come back and bug all and sundry were it possible, we have never heard a peep from them since they entered the Void back in the 1980s.

  9. My mother died almost 3 years ago. Sometimes late at night while falling asleep I think of her and miss her terribly. A couple of times I’ve tried to “communicate” with her to tell her I love her and miss her. But I know deep down she can’t hear me and that I’m just trying to deal with the pain.

    1. So sorry for your loss, Matt. Thinking of you, in the full.knowledge that no words can ease your pain.

  10. It’s interesting that different religions have different views of what’s important in their afterlife. For instance, there seems to be a lot of joy taken in thinking about being surrounded by virgins in Islam (for what purpose? Hmm… I wonder.), while I don’t get the same sense of expectation in the Christian version of heaven.

    1. As Billy Joel put it

      They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait
      Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
      I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
      The sinners are much more fun…

    2. The thing is, they remain virgins, whatever you do to them. If I’m going to be there forever, virgins are the last thing I would want. Professionals would be better.

      72 seems like a lot, but you’re there forever. After 852,525,766,259,463,233,222,666 quadrillion years: “Not her again!”

    3. I understand that there could be some disagreement around the translation there, as Arabic writing doesn’t record vowel sounds. The newly martyred entrants to Paradise may be greeted by 72 white raisins instead…(if any of this was true, of course)

  11. You must have meant $6.70, or else 220 billion, or else I need more sleep.

    Any letters to the editor on that?

  12. No one seems to consider the consequences of being able to speak to the dead (through a medium). If the dead can see what’s going on in your life they are nosey beggars and potentially nothing you do will escape their view (just like the omnipresent god). Yet most don’t consider the privacy implications in bathroom and bedroom activities, mostly because the idea is too awful to consider.

    Plus what if the ‘dear departed’ was actually an abuser pre-death? No escape?

  13. Wow! I never believed that there would be such negativity out there in regards to my story. The Psychic that I saw is Patricia Monna. She has helped law enforcement agencies from around the world locate missing and murdered persons, 29 to date. She is the real deal. I would hope that people would have an open mind to the possibilities. There were so many things that she shared with me, that she never could have possibly known. I won’t begin to list them all, because that would take a lot of time. All I’m saying, is to be open to the possibilities. Google Patricia, and you might be surprised by all of her accomplishments. She proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt, that our journey does not end once we pass from this life.

    1. There’s lots of negativity because there’s not a shred of evidence for psychic abilities when tested rigorously, not “tested” the way you did, by being credulous. I also see that Patricia Monna is an expert in “remote viewing” and crystal healing, as well as other woo-like activities like crystal healing.

      If this person is a genuine psychic, why didn’t she already know without you having to tell her that your loved one was dead? And why is she still in the psychic business: she could make millions by predicting what the stock market will do (she does predictions, too).

      Did you EVER consider that by touting this kind of charlatan (granted, you think she’s for real), you are contributing to the wasting of money and hope by other people? Or do you think that every person who charges money for psychic consultations is a real psychic?

      Scientists are open to possibilities, but to consider them seriously we need evidence. And that you don’t have (a list of “coincidences” won’t suffice given that cold-readers do this all the time).

    2. “She has helped law enforcement agencies from around the world locate missing and murdered persons, 29 to date.”

      How many missing and murdered people has she failed to find? How many has she described as ‘being in the water’ or ‘lost in the woods’ which would be a good guess but not supported by location details? Or perhaps other people have confessed to her. There are plenty of explanations that don’t involve the supernatural. In the absence of any other evidence the supernatural explanation should be the very last option considered.

    3. Here’s an article from the Skeptical Inquirer about psychics and crime: https://skepticalinquirer.org/exclusive/police-psychics-do-they-really-solve-crimes/

      Although I guess you choose what be sceptical about…

      I note that there are no independent claims of Ms Monna’s psychic powers in crime solving reported in reliable news sources – if her claims were true it’s a wonder that every news outlet hasn’t reported them and that every murder case, at least in her local area, hasn’t been solved.

    4. Cathy, I am genuinely sorry for your loss. Sadly, we all have them. However, we can’t wish them away, as much as we want to. And handing over cash to someone who says that they can help is truly not the way forward.

      I may be mistaken, but I believe that there are only two ways to appear at the top of a Google search in the way that Patricia Monna does: 1) buying ads in the hope of making more money than the ads cost, and 2) being genuinely noteworthy. From my own Google search I think I know which one applies in this particular case.

    5. Hi Cathy, do you have links to articles where the police or law enforcement agencies themselves say she helped? Because I can only find links where Patricia says she helped, not any statements by law enforcement agencies where they said she helped.

    6. If the psychic could “never possibly have known” about your grandfather’s missing fingertips, then how could you have subsequently found about his accident with the lawnmower?

      1. I, and pretty much everyone I know has an older relative, or a dear old friend who is missing a fingertip. And it would be an easy manner to bring that out (relative? dear old friend?… missing…. ?? hmm….) Use vague questions, probe for a positive reactions. If its “cold”, back off and claim that the messages were unclear. It its “warm”, continue to probe.
        A believer is born every minute.

    7. I don’t wish to pile on, but there are several magicians that do even more remarkable things in front of vast audiences, live and on camera. They can have you sign a card, and then after various interactions they reveal that card in a way that means they must have had the card before you signed it. The only difference is they are not claiming to be magical. But if they did you would probably believe it.

  14. Test for psychics:
    Psychic: “What is your Credit Card Number?”
    Client: “I’m thinking of a sixteen digit number…”

  15. Why isn’t there an entire industry built around this psychic that can find missing and murdered people? It boggles the mind how people can believe such tripe. With gullible people like this, it is no surprise QAnon conspiracies catch on.

  16. “and right there is where the nonsense begins.”
    is a line I intend to steal like a thief in the night. Thank you PCC (E.) I’ll send you my column.

  17. On the subject of psychics, I’d like to recommend the book The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova. It’s more about the psychology of confidence men (er, people) than it is a collection of cases, but she does talk about cases and boy, there are some doozys.

  18. Just a couple of days ago the New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman had an interesting piece in the Los Angeles Times titled “How Christians came to believe in heaven, hell and the immortal soul” (https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2021-04-04/christians-heaven-hell-soul).

    As he explains, “Billions of Christians around the world believe that when they die, their own souls will go to heaven. The great irony is that this is not at all what Jesus himself believed. As a Jew of the 1st century, Jesus did not think the soul went anywhere after death. It simply ceased to exist with the body”.

    It would only be at the time of Universal Resurrection, some time in some undefined future, that the dead would come to life again with their full physical body, according to Old Testament. The idea of an immortal soul separating from the body at the time of death was inherited from the Greek-Roman world when Christianity started spreading around the non-jewish world.

    It’s fascinating to think how a bunch of historical contingencies are shaping the beliefs of billions of people.

    1. My grandfather was a Methodist minister and absolutely believed that when he died he would be reunited with my grandmother (who predeceased him) in heaven. I am nearly 50, still single, and unlikely to marry now; I don’t believe there is any form of afterlife but I would love to be able to ask my grandfather who he believes I am going to be reunited with in heaven. I honestly don’t think he would have a decent answer.

      1. My grandfather remarried after my grandmother died. That’s going to be quite an interesting three way reunion. Sorry, no, it’s going to be a four way reunion. It was my step grandmother’s second marriage too.

        At any rate, I assume God has found a way to cure her Alzheimer’s.

    2. I totally disagree with Professor Ehrman. The ancient Israelites believed exactly the same as the oldest Greeks, namely: that the souls of the dead went to the underworld (Sheol = Hades). For example, the Bible tells that Saul brought up the spirit of the late Samuel from the underworld and “Then Samuel said to him: * Why have you bothered me by making me come? *” (1 Samuel 28:15).

      In Jesus’ time, the Sadducees were the only Jews who remained faithful to the traditional idea that the underworld was the ultimate destination of souls. The rest of the Jews believed that the souls of the underworld would be resurrected, as promised in Daniel 12: 2: “some to live forever,
      and others to eternal shame and horror. “

      1. There is actually a long theological tradition aligned with Professor Ehrman’s position. See for example the various references in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_mortalism#Theological_arguments.

        Obviously I am not arguing for the Truth of the matter here, which would be as meaningless a concept as saying that theological argumentations can discover any truth about the world. And historical records have their own limitations when it comes to understanding what people from a particular social stratum of the population really believed in the Palestinian region of two thousand years ago.

        I just find the historical facets of the discussion fascinating in terms of how people today reach their firmly held beliefs.

  19. My article was edited. She did know that he had passed away, what was supposed to have happened was her asking me if he had passed away recently, because she could sense that he was there, but that he was coming across very “wispy”, unlike my grandfather who was very strongly present. Patricia has been interviewed multiple times on her incredible abilities. She was also interviewed in the States on a television show called “Beyond Belief”. You are absolutely entitled to your opinion, as am I, without resorting to trying to shame me for my beliefs. There is so much research currently under way about the possibilities of our energy continuing to exist after our bodies have passed away. Google the TED talks video by Dr. Stuart Hameroff called the Future of Consciousness. All I can say, is that you will be very surprised when you do eventually pass away.

    And truly, you don’t have to feel sorry for me, or that I am delusional in any way. My mind has been opened to the possibilities, and I am also nobodies fool.

    1. You don’t seem to understand the difference between someone being skeptical of your beliefs (as I said, someone who could predict the future wouldn’t be doing penny-ante psychic stuff; they’d be in the stock market), and someone “shaming you” for your beliefs. You can believe what you want, but there is no credible evidence for what you believe, and, what is truly shameful is that your column will encourage people to go to psychics who prey on them and take their money.

      I wish I could say that you will be very surprised when you pass away, but unfortunately, since you’ll be extinct they’ll be no chance to be surprised.

      UPDATE: Because readers wish to engage with you, I will allow you to comment further if you want, but please don’t dominate the comments.

      1. Oh no. We all wanted MORE back and forth with her – it could be very interesting.
        No one on this site is likely to be ‘taken in’ – and as Mills notes, it’s good to have the idea revealed, and the reasons for the side you disagree with explicated.
        She was polite also.
        Oh well.
        A few words on Beyond Belief could have shaken her confidence.
        A few words on the reasearch of energy surviving death…
        And then the possiblitity of a new article with less confidence in the woo.
        But now…echo…echo…
        (I know there is a vanishingly small chance of her changing her mind now, and I know the comments section is not the place for a full discussion…it’s just that it was interesting to engage with someone so credulous, and test the waters.
        I am nothing if not ever-hopeful!)
        ps: loving the ‘ways of knowing’ exchange. Good stuff.

        1. If she wants to post again, then, I’ll let her. And I’ll remove the statement that she shouldn’t post here again. It’s just that these back and forth with people like this don’t have any positive outcome: nobody’s mind is changed, and people’s feelings get hurt.

          1. There are two things in this world in which I firmly believe. No one person is more relevant, or important than anyone else, and we all deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. My final parting words.

    2. “She was also interviewed in the States on a television show called “Beyond Belief”.”

      This show is in no way a hard-hitting, objective investigation of phenomena. It’s pure entertainment, and most people in the US understand it as such.

      Ask yourself what is more likely…that someone is using a particular skill that they have honed over years of practice to the give the appearance of magical abilities, or that the person actually has magical abilities? We know for a fact that the former happens all the time, but we have no evidence of the latter.

    3. Since you have contact (by a medium more reliable than CIA goat-staring and Ouija Boards) with your medium, could you get her records of all her interactions with the various police forces? Both the successful ones and the unsuccessful ones.
      Let me guess – she doesn’t actually keep records of the unsuccessful ones?
      Go on – astonish us by revealing that she does have records. After all, if she is claiming to have “a good record”, then she obviously must have records.

  20. I think this is less illustrative of “proof of the afterlife” as it is proof of human frailty.

    Patricia Monna has a lot of angles she is working. You can rent her “healing pyramid of light”, which is constructed in the following manner- “Each copper pipe is filled to the brim with crystals programmed with frequencies of Divine Healing Light that will super charge and heal anyone that comes within the energy field of the structure. Meditating inside of this sacred pyramid will align you to a stream of Divine knowledge and downloads that will cause a ripple effect of miracles to manifest into your life .
    The apex joints were created out of orgonite materials, precious metals, amethyst, rose quartz and clear quartz. Each apex contains a master Lemuirian crystal that is attuned to the realms of Angelic energy”
    She offers Rife Therapy
    You can pay to cruise the Nile with her, practicing remote viewing of the pyramids, and learn about the 65,00 year Khefer cycle of consciousness. (Because she has the ability to travel remotely through time and space, she knows the secrets of how the pyramids were built, and their secret purpose)

  21. To me, this story illustrates the importance of popular but sound scientific education. There are constant stories of how many people are leaving religious denominations, but that does not mean they have rejected superstition. I have the feeling that many who no longer go to church and financially support them, still think “there is something out there, some higher power that rules the cosmos.” It is the kind of thinking that allows people to fall for the type of charlatan that Ms. Bohlken did. That’s why so many newspapers carry astrology columns. The natural world is beautiful enough and holds enough mystery to keep research scientists in business far into the future. All of us don’t have the luxury of obtaining doctorates in biology, physics, chemistry, and the other sciences, but anyone with the ability to read a book can profit from your work and that of Richard Dawkins, Neil Shubin, Lawrence Krauss, Brian Greene, Neil deGrasse Tyson, etc., etc. plus credible biblical scholars such as Bart Ehrman as was noted above.

  22. A very close friend took her own life, over thirty years ago. It was the fifth attempt that I was aware of – there probably were others. In the immediate days after her death, I frequently “experienced” her presence, during which times she spoke and chattered away as if nothing extraordinary had happened, and there I was organizing her funeral, and looking after her child. I found it comforting to have her nearby still, but I always regarded my experiences as a normal, natural reaction to the death of somebody I was deeply attached to. I never regarded these experiences as evidence of ghosts, souls or spirits. Finally, she came to me in a dream and she asked me to come visit her. I thought then that it was all getting a bit too crazy, and the visitations ceased.

    That dream reminded me of these lines from Leonard Cohen’s ‘Nancy’.

    And now you look around you
    See her everywhere
    Many use her body
    Many comb her hair
    In the hollow of the night
    When you are cold and numb
    You hear her talking freely then
    She’s happy that you’ve come
    She’s happy that you’ve come.

  23. Once encountering meaningless nonsense written seriously, I simply stop reading. In this article, it fortunately occurs early, at the end of the 2nd paragraph:

    “….a person’s energy continuing to exist after the body dies.”

    So, much wasting of time was happily saved.

    I don’t read the G&M much, but perhaps this series by readers is pretty much equivalent to an astrology series. No idea whether G&M wastes space with that.

    1. I meant to include something like: the meaninglessness indicated is the word ‘energy’ as used here. So it seems the author’s supposed education in science apparently ceased, at least as far as absorbing any fundamentals, at about the level that the 5th grade in a Catholic polluted school was in around 1952 in Quebec, where I was then.

  24. Grief can do strange things to the mind. I’ve written before that I spent nearly 5 years in prison, beginning in 2013. After the shock, the denial, the bargaining then comes the endless grief … and signs … signs … signs everywhere … a book … a magazine …. a page …. a word said … all somehow meant … for me …. Who would have thought the Universe cared so much for my small pain and grief so as to send me signs that it was there for me? … But being a life-long atheist, I only had the briefest doubt, and quickly saw the universe no more noticed me than I noticed the hapless fly that strayed in my prison cell! But damn … those signs … those signs were everywhere … for months on end! And when I might have wavered … Prof. Coyne’s book on fact and faith showed up in my cell! How’s that for a sign the universe cares?

  25. I am in the fourth year of still-anguished widowhood, having lost my husband of 62 years, and I fully understand how the emotions of loss completely overrule rationality and one’s firm atheism. The feeling of disbelief over the fact of death is intense and long-lasting; for me it took over two years to discard the sense that my husband was not somewhere up in the sky looking down at me and watching my every action, despite his having been cremated. Atheism and undeniable death in no way dispel that feeling that your departed loved one is going to emerge from the bathroom or appear in your kitchen at breakfast time. The presence of a deeply loved one never disappears or becomes diluted. Memories are constantly triggered by some unknown force. One finally understands why the emotions govern most of our waking hours. The signs of a mate remain around us. Maybe the inability to accept permanent loss is evolution’s way of preserving individual sanity and the ability to continue to function. All I know is that when it comes to traumatic experiences, irrationality is discarded and a desperate need to prove events to the contrary prevails. I guess religion takes advantage of our weaknesses.

  26. In regard to the afterlife in different religious traditions, I can testify about our concepts in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. We view the afterlife as hazy but diverse, with amatriciana, arrabbiata and carbonara varieties, and there is a strong sense of the presence of shredded Parmesan cheese.

  27. a psychic in Calgary who has a good record of helping law enforcement agencies from around the world locate missing and murdered persons.

    Who keeps these “records”? Is there a database to which police departments submit the claims of psychics, along with eventually the result of the case, so that other police departments could have an objective assessment of a particular psychic’s effectiveness.
    Does anyone want to hold the stakes on a bet that every time such a thing has been started, it has soon folded because the hit rate is so low?
    The really interesting result would be if the massed ranks of psychics, mind readers and other flimflamologists turned out to have a lower than average hit rate on guessing who the murderer (kidnapper, whatever) was.
    But everything is good – it’ll keep some psychics rich while only reducing a few bereaved people to tears when the psychic’s lies are revealed. And money always trumps tears.

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