Pharyngula

Ray Comfort is gonna die

As are we all. But Ray Comfort imagines what his last words will be, and they’re quite a doozy—twelve paragraphs of god babble, more mindless regurgitating of his usual evangelical spiel, culminating in this:

So, please, repent today. Confess your sins to God, and then forsake them. Then trust alone in Jesus for your eternal salvation and God will forgive you and give you everlasting life.

So, as he lays dying of terminal logorrhea and metastasizing melodrama, Ray Comfort’s last thoughts will involve hectoring everyone else around him. He’s not a very nice person. I don’t think he’s even seriously thought about what death means, either.

I’ve had my own near-death experience. It happened last summer, when I was undergoing all these examinations for my heart. I had a stress test. And I failed it.

A stress test is where they make your heart work very, very hard while they examine it; I was put in a kind of exercise/torture device and told to start pedaling as hard as I could, while electrodes all over my naked chest were recording the electrical activity, and the doctor made sonograms of my heart, which I could watch as I worked up a good sweat. And it was reassuring: my heart was strong, unscarred, beating well, with no irregularities. I made it through the whole test and did well. Then it was over, and I got out of the device, and that’s when the trouble began.

I’ve got coronary artery disease. So although the muscles of my heart are in good shape, the blood vessels supplying them are clogged and constricted. What happened next was a peculiar sensation: my heart was starved for oxygen after that workout, and it started to fade out on me. It was like driving along on your car and suddenly the engine starts to gasp and splutter because it’s not getting any fuel, and I felt the same thing you would in such a situation: helpless, because no amount of pumping the gas pedal helps, nor can I will gas to the motor, and betrayed. I rely on that heart, I take it for granted, and there it was, failing me.

If I hadn’t survived this event, as you obviously know I did, I also know what my last words would have been, and they wouldn’t have been a prolonged screed about how everyone ought to be an atheist. They would have been, “I think I need to sit down.” And that’s what I did. I wobbled a few steps into the bathroom and flopped down on the toilet. There was absolutely nothing romantic or poetic about this.

And then I felt myself going. My guts went all watery, and I felt the unpleasantness of nausea with a flabby feeling that no, I wasn’t even going to have the strength to vomit. My limbs went all rubbery and limp. I kept sweating — a cold, clammy sweat. There was a roaring whisper in my ears, and all I heard as the doctors milled about was a distant “waa waa waa” sound. My peripheral vision faded, and it seemed like I was staring down a narrow tunnel.

And I was alone.

My wife was there, there were a couple of doctors and nurses present — let me tell you, if you ever have a cardiac event, do it while in a hospital while wired to every instrument that goes ping you can find — but they all felt distant and remote. And I thought, “So this is what dying feels like.” I felt no panic or fear, just a little sad about ceasing to exist, and I thought about the important things in my life.

I had married the love of my life, and she was standing there with me. We had had three kids, and I could see them all in my mind’s eye, and they were strong and smart and good, and I could trust that they’d be all right — my only wish was that I could see them one last time. I did not see my whole life flash past my eyes, but I did recollect a brief and simple happy moment, remembering when my children were small and they’d lift their hands to hold mine. There were no regrets, my job was done.

And then…the demands of cardiac muscle eased as respiration finally rose to meet them, and I felt my heart strengthen and pump solidly again. I wasn’t out of gas after all! It was just a temporarily clogged fuel line. We’ll get that fixed at the repair shop and I can keep going down the road for a good long while yet.

So I rise from the not-quite-dead-yet, but having taken one step down that path, and I can tell you that as the darkness descends, there will be no gods or angels rising to judge you. You’ll be alone, no matter how crowded the room, and the only judge you’ll face is yourself. There will be no authority looking over your shoulder and telling you whether your life was worthy or wasted, and if there were, its opinion would be irrelevant — all that will matter is that you can look back and find happiness and accomplishment. We live our lives for our life’s sake, rather than for illusions about rewards and satisfaction after we’re dead.

If your last thoughts are about haranguing everyone else about their theology, you’ve been living that life wrong.