Christianity Today has posted an interview by Mark Galli with Dinesh D’Souza, the former policy analyst and political commentator turned Christian apologist. In the interview, D’Souza discusses his latest book, Life After Death: The Evidence (Regnery 2009), and the debate over post-mortem existence:
Why do we need a book on life after death when it appears that most people believe in it?
Life after death is a universal sentiment, but in modern times and only in one civilization—the West—a powerful movement has risen to deny life after death. Ordinarily you could ignore the deniers because they are a small minority, but they tend to be some of the most educated people, and they appeal to the authority of knowledge and science.
This book is different in that it doesn’t attempt to present what the Bible says about life after death. Rather, it’s an attempt to provide secular corroboration through reason and science for what believers have affirmed by faith. There’s a lot of powerful evidence, and new evidence, that shows that not only the afterlife but also the Christian conception of the afterlife can be affirmed by modern science.
What to you is the strongest argument against life after death?
There are two strong arguments. One was made most famous by Sigmund Freud. It essentially says that belief in the afterlife can be safely dismissed because it is a case of wish fulfillment. Freud distinguished between error and illusion: An error is a mistaken belief; an illusion isn’t a mistaken belief, but it’s a belief rooted in what you hope will be rather than what is the case. For example, if a servant girl says, “I’m going to marry a prince,” is she making an error? No, because she actually could marry a prince, but it’s an illusion. The chances of this are preposterously low, so it reflects her wishful thinking rather than any clear-eyed view of the facts. Freud basically said that we all have this juvenile desire to survive our deaths, so we made up this idea.
What is the second strong argument against life after death?
The argument that insists that science has searched for the soul, some ghostly immaterial part of us, and has found nothing. What we call immaterial things—our thoughts, our emotions—are extensions of material objects in our brains, and when the material objects disintegrate, the rest of us goes with them.
Read the whole thing to find out how D’Souza responds to those two arguments.
Life After Death: The Evidence marshals recent findings from quantum mechanics, the AWARE study (“Awareness During Resuscitation”), and other discoveries in neuroscience that suggest the mind cannot be reduced to the brain and that consciousness and free will seem to operate uninfluenced by the laws of nature (read D’Souza’s article at the Huffington Post about NDE’s and the case for the afterlife). He also turns one of the atheists’ favorite arguments against Christianity – the problem of evil – back on the materialist by showing that our revulsion over unpunished evils demonstrates that moral beliefs must correspond to another post-mortem reality. While a recent name in apologetics, D’Souza’s has been impressive in his debates with the New Atheists (watch this one with Christopher Hitchens, for example) and this new book looks like it will be an interesting read.