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In this slight book, George Gallup Jr. adds the ammunition of Gallup polls to the growing body of data concerning near-death experience. Though we are not told how large the sample was, Gallup reports that 15 percent of those queried responded that they had had an unusual, near-death experience. The respondents, like those queried by Moody, Sabom, and others, ran the gamut from religious believers to non-believers, and also varied widely in educational background, income, and career. Gallup did not confine himself, as they did, to documentable hospitalized patients (or similar restricted samples); he picked up word of near-death encounters in childbirth, during a criminal attack, and at other crucial moments. (He also adds religious or mystical encounters--a motorist about to hit a train, for instance, who heard a voice telling her to step on the gas.) There is the familiar litany of out-of-body experiences: voices heard, lights seen, descent into tunnels--and emergence into life with renewed hope and a lessened fear of death. In lieu of interpretation, Gallup provides additional polling results on attitudes toward religion, heaven and hell, etc.--without, however, finding much in the way of correlations. (For what it's worth, we learn that 67 percent of the general public believes in life after death, compared with 17 percent of scientists. On the existence of heaven and hell, the differences are more extreme.) How reliable non-depth polls are in matters of belief, no one of course knows. But for politicians, psychologists, social workers, or others concerned, Gallup's appendices of the answers, broken down by age, sex, income, religion, region, etc., may be more interesting than the not-too-illuminating discourse on intimations of death or afterlife.

Pub Date: June 13th, 1982
Publisher: McGraw-Hill