Reading these books catapulted me back into my evangelical past life, reminding me of who I might be still, had I not sought relief from the dissonance of biblical literalism. For me, the genre’s popularity was not a sign of resurgent faith, but symptomatic of faith’s waning – a last gasp at belief, a signal of a coming break.
I'm not sure that I can add anything to this debate that others haven't said better, except: At different times in my life, I have both a committed secular, agnostic humanist, and a devout Christian fundamentalist. I have lived in both worlds. Both times, I was convinced that I was completely right, and that the "other side" was sadly misinformed. And I had an arsenal of facts and rhetorical tools to fling at the other side. Both sides have a fair number of ideological refugees from the other. What I see now, however, when I read the arguments of either, is the smug self-assurance of the one, and the devout moral superiority of the other. I don't see anything that resonates as truth to me.
Maybe the transcendent nature of the NDE can't be understood with any of our current intellectual tools. As with other facets of this multidimensional phenomenon, we will have to grow some new tools, or evolve a bit further, before we can assimilate it into our world view. We simply lack the experiential vocabulary now.
Somewhat along the same line, I ran across this Seth quote that fleshes out (somewhat) that enigmatic discussion in "Seth Speaks" involving the return of the "Christ personality" later in this century. Presumably, this return will come at a pivotal time in human history when, after some unspecified crises, humanity experiences a "shift" in consciousness. The idea of this shift appears in a number of books and has been appropriated by the New Age movement. The more apocalyptic students of this New Age have made a number of predictions, describing, variously, end-world scenarios, axis shifts, and land mass changes. And all have been wrong. From Book Five of "The Early Sessions":
There will be a change in 100 years... when you will be able to see more... You will see through a growth of ability and consciousness... an enlargement... that has been growing for 500 years... the change began in the Middle Ages, existed briefly, died, then began again... It will involve an expansion of consciousness, not physical knowledge... You will directly and simply perceive more... I cannot make Ruburt find all the words. Your God is part of a larger reality. We see what we can see... This larger reality is also a part of our dreams: it is more important and vital than breath, for you are all part of this individually. There is a give and take between you and the stars on a physical basis, just as there is also a connection between selves and what you call a god. There is no real division between you and God and I... only a unity that you cannot as yet understand.
I'm stumped by Seth's allusion to the change that "began in the Middle Ages, existed briefly, died, then began again..." Maybe a Medieval scholar (who's hopefully also a Seth student) will stumble across this and offer a clue. But I'm stumped, mostly because it's counter-intuitive: Humanity *did* have a shift of consciousness at the end of the Middle Ages (triggered by the mass die-offs from the Black Death), but this shift resulted in the current dominant secular materialist world view (the Age of Reason). Seth seems to suggest that in the latter half of this century, another shift will occur, and it's not unreasonable to assume that it will also correspondent to a mass extinction of some sort (or sudden population reduction). Unfortunately, because we're not there yet, we can't know what this shift entails.
Perhaps it is an awareness of this coming shift that is inflaming both the secularists and the religionists. Both sides fear the triumph of the other; secularists fear that the hard-won achievements of science will backslide into superstition, and the religionists fear that materialism will eradicate any trace of that inner reality that still speaks to those who listen. But I think that Seth is saying that neither doomsday will occur. What is coming is a synthesis of the best of both, yet completely new, and, for now, unknown, and unknowable.