Earlier this month we shared the story of Sasha Eliasson, the man who died twice last year—and lived to tell the world about it. The first time he died, Eliasson was left with no vital signs after the damage from a terrible motorcycle accident caused his body to shut down. His second death was during surgery several months later. Both of the clinical deaths lasted about two minutes time before doctors revived him.
When we shared his story it received more than 500,000 views from our readers, fascinated by his first-hand account of death.
“Death is death. Once you’re dead, that’s it. It’s over,” Eliasson said during his first Reddit AMA earlier this year. Instead of the “light at the end of a tunnel,” he said he felt only black emptiness—as if in a dreamless nap.
These words created controversy. By sharing his experiences with death, and his interpretation of the afterlife—or lack thereof—Eliasson has faced criticism, doubt, and even personal attacks for his claim that he experienced no afterlife.
“If this guy saw only darkness then he was heading the wrong way. I had near death experience and I saw all white then I woke up,” read one comment on the story. Another reader opined that, “God didn’t let him see that after life cause God new for sure he wasn’t going to die…”
We spoke with Eliasson, and asked him about the different types of responses he’s received. He said that although the original purpose was to share his experience and answer questions, the focus has shifted.
“The whole point of my Reddit post was to share my experience and answer questions, nothing more,” Eliasson said. “Obviously, the topic of religion and afterlife became the main focus of discussion and as always, start discussing religion and people get defensive.”
Eliasson said that the majority of the negative responses were from those with religious beliefs, who told him he was condemned to hell.
“[They said] that I deserve to die because I am a sinner, that I was promoting atheism and so on,” said Eliasson. He described those negative responses as hurtful, but indicative of a problem much bigger than his own personal feelings.
“What all those comments are doing is proving how big of a problem religion is in the world. Challenge someone’s belief and wapahhh, you have a conflict. People need to understand that beliefs are personal, they should be formed by your own experiences and interpretations of the world, not adopted. Beliefs about the existence of God and afterlife shouldn’t be any different than your own personal belief on what flavor ice cream is the best. I don’t see people going around stating that vanilla is the best and everyone who thinks differently will go to hell. Or that chocolate is the one true flavor and if anyone draws a picture of it, they will be beheaded.”
Despite the controversy, Eliasson says he believes the attention was good and that his story has initiated an important discussion.
“People need their beliefs challenged,” he said. “People need to find the courage to second guess their beliefs and find their own truth. Live YOUR life. We will never truly know the answers to whether or not there is a God, or an afterlife, so why waste our precious time arguing about it?”