The great I don’t know? An agnostic develops serious doubts about his agnosticism, and starts affirming “the great I don’t know”

At Andrew Sullivan’s blog today, an agnostic nurse writes movingly about his hospice work:

I came into this experience as an agnostic who often had leanings to atheism, but while working with hospice patients my faith in something has been restored. When you are with someone as they die, you feel something. I can’t say what it is. There is the remarkable, palpable feeling of departure. No flashes of light, no bursts of choral music, but it is felt. Even when you are not present at the moment of death, when you see someone alive and moments later see them dead, there is an overwhelming feeling that that person is not there.

An experienced nurse had a good way of putting it after I had seen my first patient die (and the first dead body I had ever seen), she said “you really see that we are just flesh animated by spirit”. Other things that have caused me to doubt my doubt are things like every so often getting patients who will report visitations from long dead loved ones, and proceed to die a short time after. […]

After nights sitting up, holding hands, listening to past life stories, pushing morphine, consoling … there came a time when I felt that perhaps logic falls short. […] Now I say I believe in “the great I don’t know.” Something … I don’t know what. Much better than nothing.

As an agnostic myself, with strong sympathies for atheism, I’ve nevertheless long found near death experiences intriguing, and oddly comforting:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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