I’ve become increasingly interested in near death experiences, and the ones that interest me most are those involving atheists.  Here is one of the more well-known accounts by a former atheist, Howard Storm, who was an art professor at Northern Kentucky University when he had his experience in 1985 while awaiting surgery for an intestinal problem.  As he lost consciousness, Storm reports that he exited his body and had a distressing, hellish encounter with malevolent beings, who essentially tortured him.  In his agony and desperation, despite his atheism, he called out to Jesus to save him.  According to Storm, Jesus did just this, rescuing him from the tormenting beings and eventually introducing him to some other spiritual beings (angels?), who guided him through an intense life review and with whom Storm says he had a lengthy conversation.  The whole experience was recorded by Storm and published in his subsequent book, My Descent into Death.

After his NDE, Storm was a changed man.  Prior to the experience, he was a confirmed atheist, but afterward he could not stop talking about God and the Bible.  Storm eventually resigned from his teaching position and attended seminary to become a Christian minister.  Today he pastors a church in Ohio and does a lot of painting.  You can check out his website here.

8 Responses to “A Former Atheist’s Near Death Experience”

  1. Dan Newcomb


    Dr Spiegel,

    Dinesh D’Souza has written about NDE’s in his book “Life After Death: The Evidence”. He gives a very interesting overview of the whole phenomena. I have never heard of Storm. I look forward to reading his book. Thanks, d

  2. Jim Spiegel



    That’s an interesting account but not suprising or unusual, since many people who are resuscitated don’t recall having an near-death experience (NDE). One possible explanation–which has been confirmed in some cases–is that a negative NDE is repressed, much like a person may repress a memory of a car accident or sexual abuse. Notice that Mantz says about NDEs that “either they don’t exist or I need to seriously reconsider how I’m living my life.” Although he says this in a light-hearted way, it could be a clue to to why he doesn’t recall having a NDE. Anyway, his remark is logically flawed, because the inference to that conclusion his invalid. It might just be that not all people who lose consciousness through blood loss have NDEs. But that doesn’t change the fact that tens of thousands of other people have had such experiences.

  3. Louis


    “Even if we disregard the overwhelming evidence for the dependence of consciousness on the brain, there remains strong evidence from reports of near-death experiences themselves that NDEs are not glimpses of an afterlife. This evidence includes:

    (1) discrepancies between what is seen in the out-of-body component of an NDE and what’s actually happening in the physical world;

    (2) bodily sensations incorporated into the NDE, either as they are or experienced as NDE imagery;

    (3) encountering living persons during NDEs;

    (4) the greater variety of differences than similarities between different NDEs, where specific details of NDEs generally conform to cultural expectation;

    (5) the typical randomness or insignificance of the memories retrieved during those few NDEs that include a life review;

    (6) NDEs where the experiencer makes a decision not to return to life by crossing a barrier or threshold viewed as a ‘point of no return,’ but is restored to life anyway;

    (7) hallucinatory imagery in NDEs, including encounters with mythological creatures and fictional characters; and

    (8) the failure of predictions in those instances in which experiencers report seeing future events during NDEs or gaining psychic abilities after them.”


    • anon



      You make dangerous assumptions by not examining individual cases.

      If I had a hallucination about a horse, does that mean all horses we experience are not real? Dreams, hallucinations, and real experiences may seam similar, but we cannot conclude one to be the other without detailed analysis.

      Many experience people who have passed on or witness events at the present far from their own point of view. Ex: people recalling conversations in the waiting rooms or details in hospital floors far away from their own.

      People who suffer delirium or hallucinations often have an underlying medical condition while most NDEs do not. Also NDEs are more orderly and logical in terms of account rather than hallucinations. And the key difference between hallucinations and delirium is the the brain is concious while in NDE’s the brain function is unconscious and cannot create images especially if memories cannot be accessed.

      Discrepancies. Please read more cases as there are a multitude of cases where descriptions and events are in synergy.

  4. Kumera


    If NDEs are just hallucinations, then how come they are so consistent? How is it, for example, that watching the events comes from a viewpoint above the scene? Why are they all the same like this? Real hallucinations are not consistent – every one is totally different.

    If NDE’s are just affirmations of cultural expectations, then how come we do not hear about St Peter and the Pearly Gates? How come they all tell the same kind of story, even if the person is a small child, or from a different culture?

    Keith Augustine’s criticisms do not stand up to scrutiny.

  5. Lisa Augustine


    Many people who have had died and could not recall any sort of experience may actually still be able to recall it if under hypnosis- especially if their experience was so negative that their conscious mind blocked it out. Also, Not everyone actually is out of thier body long enough to enter any type of portal or “tunnel” . Some only get as far as to hover over their body while watching the doctors or paramedics trying to revive them., then they find themselves pulled back into their bodies after being revived.

    In Howard Storm’s case, his soul was in his hospital room trying to get the attention of his wife– only she obviously wasn’t able to see his soul. The only reason he left that room was because of the beings who pretended they were hospital staff to entice him out of the room- and then to bring him to a darker dimension. In his book, he noticed that where they were taking him seemed to be gradually going down a decline– and the atmosphere was dark and dingy. They tried to rip him to shreds when they got him where they wanted him- Eventually they would probably have dragged him to the lower levels of Hell after they ripped him up alot. In some of the testimonies I’ve read of those types of After Life experiences, the people continue to not only be tormented by demonic entities who rip at their soul bodies, but they also experience the fire pits and lake of fire.
    As Howard Storm remarked how out of his body, even his eyesight was much more keener- as well as his other senses– those who i’ve read who encountered the many levels of Hell also noticed the same thing he did- but unfortunately, one in that condition would not actually WANT to have such keen senses to see , smell , hear clearly all the horrors around them.
    In my NDE years ago, my soul was half in and half out of my body while my face was head down in the water. This happened as a child; I thought at the time how cool it was that I no longer needed air in my lungs any longer while under the water, and yet I also felt a beautiful sense of peace and serenity. I felt this Higher Presence there with me and the bottom of the pool really looked very bright and illuminated with this beautiful warm light. I didnt want to get out of the water but the Higher Presence actually spoke to me and asked me “Do you really want to hurt your family by choosing death?” and I somehow knew that this Higher Presence was Who we call God- our Creator.

    I believe some people are permitted to recall thier experiences because it would end up being a teaching experience for not only them- but for others. Not everyone is able to handle the memory of thier experience –especially if it is a negative one, so I wouldnt be surprised if their conscious mind blocked all memory of it out.

  6. Josh


    Great discussion.

    I simply wanted to add two cents into this out of an abundance of caution, as researching Rev. Storm’s book before and after I had read it (Great book, btw) I’ve come upon several blogs and forums where readers will accuse Storm and/or others of making up NDE’s to “Sell a book.”

    Howard Storm left a lucrative and stable career as an Art Professor in order to attend Seminary and become a Minister. In all likelihood, if not for his NDE, he would be retired right now and living quite well on a pension. Now, he is not only still working but also is a foreign missionary. Yes, he has sold a book and probably made (a very) few dollars off of some TV appearances. I know Ministers and I know someone who has published a book. Neither made Howard Storm even as much money as he would have made simply sticking with his original career as a Professor, especially over the life of his career.

    To make those kind of life changes, there is no doubt validity to the experience.


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