Dinesh D'Souza on Life After Death: The Atheist Delusion
In this provocative essay, Dinesh D'Souza argues that the atheist critique of life after death is actually irrational. He takes on Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and more to say their arguments lack evidence.
Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine, wryly comments that no one has ever met a dead guy who came back to report on the afterlife. Lots of people have died, and none have filed reports or presented themselves for television interviews to give us the riveting details about what we can expect on the other side. Shermer's contention is that the believer has no good arguments for asserting that there is life after death. The believer's view is held in the complete absence of evidence. It is an assertion not of reason but of faith.
Shermer makes a good point, but it can easily be turned around. What does the atheist know that the religious believer doesn't? Nothing at all. Atheists haven't interviewed dead people any more than believers have. Nor have any atheists themselves crossed the river in death's boat to discover what lies on the other side. Death remains, as Hamlet tell us, the undiscovered country, and even the ghost tells the young prince, "I am forbid to tell the secrets of my prison house."
The bottom line is that the atheist has no better proof that there isn't life after death than the believer has that there is. Both groups are claiming knowledge that neither group actually possesses. For the atheist, no less than for the believer, it is entirely a matter of faith.
This equivalence between atheism and belief might seem equally damaging to both positions, but in fact it poses a much bigger problem for atheism. First, the faith of the believer at least has a plausible source. That source is divine revelation as expressed in a sacred text. So the believer is trusting in what is held to be an unimpeachable source, namely God. From where, by contrast, does the atheist get his faith? Who or what is the atheist trusting for the determination that there is no afterlife?
To this, the atheist typically replies that he is trusting in reason. Sam Harris writes that the truly rational person makes "the same evidentiary demands in religious matters that we make in all others." Richard Dawkins writes, "I believe not because of reading a holy book but because I have studied the evidence."
In this case, however, Harris and Dawkins have rejected the afterlife on the basis of no evidence whatsoever. How, then, do atheists convince themselves that they know things when they actually don't? The answer, surprisingly enough, has to do with a profound misunderstanding of science. In a famous incident a few decades ago, a group of Soviet cosmonauts returned from a space mission with the triumphant announcement that they had searched and searched but not found God. On this basis the cosmonauts affirmed the Communist doctrine that there is no God. I suppose by the same evidence the cosmonauts could have declared that there is no heaven.
Life After Death: The Evidence