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Proof of heaven popular, except with the church
They claim that they’ve glimpsed heaven but survivors of near-death experiences face a surprising skeptic: the church.
May 19th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

Proof of heaven popular, except with the church

By John Blake, CNN

“God, help me!”

Eben Alexander shouted and flailed as hospital orderlies tried to hold him in place. But no one could stop his violent seizures, and the 54-year-old neurosurgeon went limp as his horrified wife looked on.

That moment could have been the end. But Alexander says it was just the beginning. He found himself soaring toward a brilliant white light tinged with gold into “the strangest, most beautiful world I’d ever seen.”

Alexander calls that world heaven, and he describes his journey in “Proof of Heaven,” which has been on The New York Times bestseller list for 27 weeks. Alexander says he used to be an indifferent churchgoer who ignored stories about the afterlife. But now he knows there’s truth to those stories, and there’s no reason to fear death.

“Not one bit,” he said. “It’s a transition; it’s not the end of anything. We will be with our loved ones again.”

Heaven used to be a mystery, a place glimpsed only by mystics and prophets. But popular culture is filled with firsthand accounts from all sorts of people who claim that they, too, have proofs of heaven after undergoing near-death experiences.

Yet the popularity of these stories raises another question: Why doesn’t the church talk about heaven anymore?

Preachers used to rhapsodize about celestial streets of gold while congregations sang joyful hymns like “I’ll Fly Away” and “When the Roll is Called up Yonder.” But the most passionate accounts of heaven now come from people outside the church or on its margins.

Most seminaries don’t teach courses on heaven; few big-name pastors devote much energy to preaching or writing about the subject; many ordinary pastors avoid the topic altogether out of embarrassment, indifference or fear, scholars and pastors say.

“People say that the only time they hear about heaven is when they go to a funeral,” said Gary Scott Smith, author of “Heaven in the American Imagination” and a history professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.

Talk of heaven shouldn’t wait, though, because it answers a universal question: what happens when we die, says the Rev. John Price, author of “Revealing Heaven,” which offers a Christian perspective of near-death experiences.

“Ever since people started dying, people have wondered, where did they go? Where are they now? Is this what happens to me?” said Price, a retired pastor and hospital chaplain.

A little girl’s revelation

Price didn’t always think heaven was so important. He scoffed at reports of near-death experiences because he thought they reduced religion to ghost stories. Besides, he was too busy helping grieving families to speculate about the afterlife.

His attitude changed, though, after a young woman visited his Episcopal church one Sunday with her 3-year-old daughter.

Price had last seen the mother three years earlier. She had brought her then-7-week-old daughter to the church for baptism. Price hadn't heard from her since. But when she reappeared, she told Price an amazing story.

She had been feeding her daughter a week after the baptism when milk dribbled out of the infant's mouth and her eyes rolled back into her head. The woman rushed her daughter to the emergency room, where she was resuscitated and treated for a severe upper respiratory infection.

Three years later, the mother was driving past the same hospital with her daughter when the girl said, “Look, Mom, that’s where Jesus brought me back to you.”

“The mother nearly wrecked her car,” Price said. “She never told her baby about God, Jesus, her near-death experience, nothing. All that happened when the girl was 8 weeks old. How could she remember that?”

When Price started hearing similar experiences from other parishioners, he felt like a fraud. He realized that he didn’t believe in heaven, even though it was part of traditional Christian doctrine.

He started sharing near-death stories he heard with grieving families and dejected hospital workers who had lost patients. He told them dying people had glimpsed a wonderful world beyond this life.

The stories helped people, Price said, and those who've had similar experiences of heaven should “shout them from the rooftops.”

“I’ve gone around to many churches to talk about this, and the venue they give me is just stuffed,” he said. “People are really hungry for it.”

Why pastors are afraid of heaven

Many pastors, though, don’t want to touch the subject because it’s too dangerous, says Lisa Miller, author of “Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife.”

Miller cites the experience of Rob Bell, one of the nation’s most popular evangelical pastors.

John Price ignored heaven until he met a woman with an amazing story.

Bell ignited a firestorm two years ago when he challenged the teaching that only Christians go to heaven in “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”

The book angered many members of Bell’s church as well as many in the evangelical establishment. He subsequently resigned.

“Farewell, Rob Bell,” one prominent evangelical tweeted.

“It’s a tough topic for a pastor,” said Miller, a former religion columnist for the Washington Post. “If you get too literal, you can risk sounding too silly. If you don’t talk about it, you’re evading one of the most important questions about theology and why people come to church.”

If pastors do talk about stories of near-death experiences, they can also be seen as implying that conservative doctrine – only those who confess their faith in Jesus get to heaven, while others suffer eternal damnation – is wrong, scholars and pastors say.

Many of those who share near-death stories aren’t conservative Christians but claim that they, too, have been welcomed by God to heaven.

“Conservative Christians aren’t the only ones going to heaven," said Price, "and that makes them mad."

There was a time, though, when the church talked a lot more about the afterlife.

Puritan pastors in the 17th and 18th centuries often preached about heaven, depicting it as an austere, no fuss-place where people could commune with God.

African-American slaves sang spirituals about heaven like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” They often depicted it as a place of ultimate payback: Slaves would escape their humiliation and, in some cases, rule over their former masters.

America’s fixation with heaven may have peaked around the Civil War. The third most popular book in 18th century America – behind the Bible and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” – was "Gates Ajar," written in the wake of the war, Miller says.

The 1868 novel was “The Da Vinci Code” of its day, Miller says. It revolved around a grieving woman who lost her brother in the Civil War. A sympathetic aunt assures her that her brother is waiting in heaven, a bucolic paradise where people eat sumptuous meals, dogs sun themselves on porches and people laugh with their loved ones.

“This was a vision of heaven that was so appealing to hundreds of thousands of people who had lost people in the Civil War,” Miller said.

Americans needed heaven because life was so hard: People didn’t live long, infant mortality was high, and daily life was filled with hard labor.

“People were having 12 kids, and they would outlive 11 of them,” said Smith, author of "Heaven in the American Imagination." “Death was ever-present.”

The church eventually stopped talking about heaven, though, for a variety of reasons: the rise of science; the emergence of the Social Gospel, a theology that encouraged churches to create heaven on Earth by fighting for social justice; and the growing affluence of Americans. (After all, who needs heaven when you have a flat-screen TV, a smartphone and endless diversions?)

But then a voice outside the church rekindled Americans' interest in the afterlife. A curious 23-year-old medical student would help make heaven cool again.

The father of near-death experiences

Raymond Moody had been interested in the afterlife long before it was fashionable.

He was raised in a small Georgia town during World War II where death always seemed just around the corner. He constantly heard stories about soldiers who never returned from war. His father was a surgeon who told him stories of bringing back patients from the brink of death. In college, he was enthralled when he read one of the oldest accounts of a near-death experience, a soldier’s story told by Socrates in Plato’s “Republic.”

His fascination with the afterlife was sealed one day when he heard a speaker who would change his life.

The speaker was George Ritchie, a psychiatrist. Moody would say later of Ritchie, “He had that look of someone who had just finished a long session of meditation and didn’t have a care in the world.”

Moody sat in the back of a fraternity room as Ritchie told his story.

It was December 1943, and Ritchie was in basic training with the U.S. Army at Camp Barkeley, Texas. He contracted pneumonia and was placed in the hospital infirmary, where his temperature spiked to 107. The medical staff piled blankets on top of Ritchie’s shivering body, but he was eventually pronounced dead.

“I could hear the doctor give the order to prep me for the morgue, which was puzzling, because I had the sensation of still being alive,” Ritchie said.

He even remembers rising from a hospital gurney to talk to the hospital staff. But the doctors and nurses walked right through him when he approached them.

He then saw his lifeless body in a room and began weeping when he realized he was dead. Suddenly, the room brightened “until it seemed as though a million welding torches were going off around me.”

He says he was commanded to stand because he was being ushered into the presence of the Son of God. There, he saw every minute detail of his life flash by, including his C-section birth. He then heard a voice that asked, “What have you done with your life?"

After hearing Ritchie’s story, Moody decided what he was going to do with his life: investigate the afterlife.

Raymond Moody revived interest in heaven by studying near-death experiences.

He started collecting stories of people who had been pronounced clinically dead but were later revived. He noticed that the stories all shared certain details: traveling through a tunnel, greeting family and friends who had died, and meeting a luminous being that gave them a detailed review of their life and asked them whether they had spent their life loving others.

Moody called his stories “near-death experiences,” and in 1977 he published a study of them in a book, “Life after Life.” His book has sold an estimated 13 million copies.

Today, he is a psychiatrist who calls himself “an astronaut of inner space.” He is considered the father of the near-death-experience phenomenon.

He says science, not religion, resurrected the afterlife. Advances in cardiopulmonary resuscitation meant that patients who would have died were revived, and many had stories to share.

“Now that we have these means for snatching people back from the edge, these stories are becoming more amazing,” said Moody, who has written a new book, “Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife.”

“A lot of medical doctors know about this from their patients, but they’re just afraid to talk about it in public.”

Ritchie’s story was told through a Christian perspective. But Moody says stories about heaven transcend religion. He's collected them from Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists.

“A lot of people talk about encountering a being of light,” he said. “Christians call it Christ. Jewish people say it’s an angel. I’ve gone to different continents, and you can hear the same thing in China, India and Japan about meeting a being of complete love and compassion.”

It’s not just what people see in the afterlife that makes these stories so powerful, he says. It’s how they live their lives once they survive a near-death experience.

Many people are never the same, Moody says. They abandon careers that were focused on money or power for more altruistic pursuits.

“Whatever they had been chasing, whether it's power, money or fame, their experience teaches them that what this (life) is all about is teaching us to love,” Moody said.

Under 'the gaze of a God'

Alexander, the author of “Proof of Heaven,” seems to fit Moody's description. He’s a neurosurgeon, but he spends much of time now speaking about his experience instead of practicing medicine.

He'd heard strange stories over the years of revived heart attack patients traveling to wonderful landscapes, talking to dead relatives and even meeting God. But he never believed those stories. He was a man of science, an Episcopalian who attended church only on Easter and Christmas.

That changed one November morning in 2008 when he was awakened in his Lynchburg, Virginia, home by a bolt of pain shooting down his spine. He was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, a disease so rare, he says, it afflicts only one in 10 million adults.

After his violent seizures, he lapsed into a coma — and there was little hope for his survival. But he awakened a week later with restored health and a story to tell.

He says what he experienced was “too beautiful for words.” The heaven he describes is not some disembodied hereafter. It’s a physical place filled with achingly beautiful music, waterfalls, lush fields, laughing children and running dogs.

In his book, he describes encountering a transcendent being he alternately calls “the Creator” or “Om.” He says he never saw the being's face or heard its voice; its thoughts were somehow spoken to him.

“It understood humans, and it possessed the qualities we possess, only in infinitely greater measure. It knew me deeply and overflowed with qualities that all my life I’ve always associated with human beings and human beings alone: warmth, compassion, pathos … even irony and humor.”

Holly Alexander says her husband couldn’t forget the experience.

“He was driven to write 12 hours a day for three years,” she said. “It began as a diary. Then he thought he would write a medical paper; then he realized that medical science could not explain it all.”

“Proof of Heaven” debuted at the top of The New York Times bestseller list and has sold 1.6 million copies, according to its publisher.

Alexander says he didn’t know how to deal with his otherworldly journey at first.

“I was my own worst skeptic,” he said. “I spent an immense amount of time trying to come up with ways my brain might have done this.”

Conventional medical science says consciousness is rooted in the brain, Alexander says. His medical records indicated that his neocortex — the part of the brain that controls thought, emotion and language — had ceased functioning while he was in a coma.

Alexander says his neocortex was “offline” and his brain “wasn’t working at all” during his coma. Yet he says he reasoned, experienced emotions, embarked on a journey — and saw heaven.

“Those implications are tremendous beyond description,” Alexander wrote. “My experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness; that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares about each one of us.”

Skeptics say Alexander’s experience can be explained by science, not the supernatural.

They cite experiments where neurologists in Switzerland induced out-of-body experiences in a woman suffering from epilepsy through electrical stimulation of the right side of her brain.

Michael Shermer, founder and publisher of Skeptic magazine, says the U.S. Navy also conducted studies with pilots that reproduced near-death experiences. Pilots would often black out temporarily when their brains were deprived of oxygen during training, he says.

These pilots didn’t go to heaven, but they often reported seeing a bright light at the end of a tunnel, a floating sensation and euphoria when they returned to consciousness, Shermer says.

“Whatever experiences these people have is actually in their brain. It’s not out there in heaven,” Shermer said.

Some people who claim to see heaven after dying didn’t really die, says Shermer, author of “Why People Believe Weird Things.”

“They’re called near-death experiences for a reason: They’re near death but not dead,” Shermer said. “In that fuzzy state, it’s not dissimilar to being asleep and awakened where people have all sorts of transitory experiences that seem very real.”

The boy who saw Jesus

Skeptics may scoff at a story like Alexander’s, but their popularity has made a believer out of another group: the evangelical publishing industry.

While the church may be reluctant to talk about heaven, publishers have become true believers. The sales figures for books on heaven are divine: Don Piper’s “90 Minutes in Heaven” has sold 5 million copies. And “Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back” is the latest publishing juggernaut.

Colton Burpo says he saw heaven and describes the color of Jesus' eyes.

“Heaven is for Real” has been on The New York Times bestseller list for 126 consecutive weeks and sold 8 million copies, according to its publisher.

The story is told from the perspective of Colton Burpo, who was just 4 when he slipped into unconsciousness while undergoing emergency surgery for a burst appendix.

Colton says he floated above his body during the operation and soared to heaven, where he met Jesus. Todd Burpo, Colton’s father, says he was skeptical about his son’s story until his son described meeting a great-grandfather and a miscarried baby sister — something no one had ever told him about.

Todd Burpo is a pastor, but he says he avoided preaching about heaven because he didn’t know enough about the subject.

“It’s pretty awkward,” he said. “Here I am the pastor, but I’m not the teacher on the subject. My son is teaching me.”

Colton is now 13 and says he still remembers meeting Jesus in heaven.

“He had brown hair, a brown beard to match and a smile brighter than any smile I’ve ever seen,’’ he said. “His eyes were sea-blue, and they were just, wow.”

Colton says he’s surprised by the success of his book, which has been translated into 35 languages. There’s talk of a movie, too.

“It’s totally a God thing,” he said.

Alexander, author of “Proof of Heaven,” seems to have the same attitude: His new life is a gift. He’s already writing another book on his experience.

“Once I realized what my journey was telling me," he said, "I knew I had to tell the story.”

He now attends church but says his faith is not dogmatic.

“I realized very strongly that God loves all of God’s children,” he said. “Any religion that claims to be the true one and the rest of them are wrong is wrong.”

Central to his story is something he says he heard in heaven.

During his journey, he says he was accompanied by an angelic being who gave him a three-part message to share on his return.

When he heard the message, he says it went through him “like a wind” because he instantly knew it was true.

It’s the message he takes today to those who wonder who, or what, they will encounter after death.

The angel told him:

“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”

“You have nothing to fear.”

“There is nothing you can do wrong."

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Art • Belief • Bible • Books • Christianity • Culture & Science • Faith • God • Heaven • History

soundoff (4,945 Responses)
  1. zaphed

    a neurosurgeon experience. wow... may be it was a dream.. this is unbelievable. when i die i dont want to care about anything any more and that includes god and heaven.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  2. jz

    The author is mistaken in two points: First, contrary to his suggestion (by way of a question) that "the church doesn't talk about heaven anymore, the truth is quite the opposite - heaven is a constant subject in the "church". The problem is, what kind of church is he referring to - any particular church or all kinds many of which do not believe what all the Bible teaches. Secondly, entering or going to heaven has nothing to do with one's being a "conservative Christian". Heaven is for those who have placed their trust by faith in the Son of God regardless of whether those people came to know God through a local church or through a personal encounter with God in a forest or desert somewhere.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  3. laguna_greg

    If you knew you were going to Heaven after you die, you would not be motivated to follow the laws of behavior or belief the church says you have to follow.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  4. laguna_greg

    Of course the church is not interested in promoting belief in heaven. The existence of heaven and a forgiving god actually works against the advancement of the Christian agenda.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • counter

      You must put down the joint dude. The Christian "agenda' is the great commission. Look it up. You don't know anything.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      The existence of heaven and a forgiving God is the heart of the Christian message.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  5. MathAtDeath

    These are all hallucinations as Bob said, can be due to chemicals released at death or caused by the brain cells deprived of blood/oxygen. Do you think that a person at that state can be trusted with or capable of solving a very simple math problem, say 3 X 3.1? If so believe what they say about seeing light/god etc. If not just drop that crap.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  6. Phazon

    Those who play with divination get tormented by the demons explain that one Atheists.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Let's see: you just made a nonsensical, unsupported claim.

      There – explained.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Milepost

      The subjective conscience is a power thing.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Grab a period (.) – they are free. Put it anywhere you like and repost. We'll see if you make sense then.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • laguna_greg

      Well, those who tell lies consistently are going to get their tongues pulled our with hot pincers in one of the higher circles of hell. Explain that one, believer.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • G to the T

      laguna – don't confuse one work of fiction (divine comedy) with another (bible)...

      May 21, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  7. Mark

    Ok so no one should be getting excited if there actually IS a heaven...

    We should all be terrified witless if there is, because that only means one thing... THERE IS ALSO A HELL.

    Knowing that it is a possibility to spend eternity being roasted like a pig is nothing to smile about, it's not comforting in the very least.

    Honestly all this talk of heaven is nothing more than baloney. The human mind is so prone to imagination and hallucinations if deprived of oxygen. That's why people use drugs, because they force their minds to trick them too on this 'magical' place inside our heads free of pain.

    There is still no proof of heaven, because none of the accounts here have come from dead people resurrected into life. They only came from people whose brains were deprived of oxygen for a few seconds but they didn't die, their hearts never stopped, their bodies never rotted.

    The questions on whether you believe in heaven or not is only for the living. Whatever comes after death, if any, is inevitable anyway. We cannot prevent our deaths if what comes after is terrifying, we can only accept whatever it is. So the whole point is to not be afraid of death, to live your life without fear.

    Believe in the fantasy of heaven if it makes your fears of death less troublesome. It would mean you'd live a fuller life. It's a fantasy for the living, not a reality for the dead.

    I personally believe that in life, we must have goals. Loves. Desires. Missions we must fulfill. I have a mission and a meaning in life, if I am able to accomplish that, I would be more than happy to die. Death is the absence of organized electrical signals in our brains. By dying, we merely disappear. Just like dust. No second life, no Jesus, no Buddha, no anything.

    Set a goal for yourself and accomplish it. So you can say in your last breath your visit here on earth has been meaningful.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • I Am God

      Hell only exists to those that fear it.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Mark, if there is something after death i.e. "heaven" that does not necessarily imply there is a hell. Sounds like you're buying into the Christian viewpoint.

      Why does there have to be a hell if there is a heaven? And please don't say, because it says so in the bible.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Milepost

      Heaven and Hell exist in the only place that will allow it vacancy: the subjective mind.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • laguna_greg

      No Mark, it does not mean that there is one. If there was, most people who have NDEs would see hell instead of heaven because they're not very christian or observant.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      Whether or not hell exists is completely independent of whether anyone thinks it does.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  8. terri

    My church talks about heaven all the time. It appears that research for this article is incomplete......

    May 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Did it occur to you that your church is lying to you so they can keep you fearing something that doesn't exist in order to take your money every Sunday? Religion is the biggest con game ever.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      It did not occur to me because it is not true.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  9. MennoKnight

    CNN Belief Blog.... ....Where Atheists come to complain.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • I Am God

      Doubt it. I see more Christians complaining.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • Milepost

      Atheist isn't a proper noun...

      May 19, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Deathlord_Rundax

      Where Christians show their complete lack of understanding of science.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • BukkakeJack

      Where the religious show how uneducated and 1diotic they are.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Where christians come

      To vent their anger and hatred and demonstrate how unchrist like they really are

      May 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
  10. David

    so explain this to me all you Believers...there is a God that you can pray to for like a new bicycle, and he will grant your wish while completely ignoring Nazi Germany or Southern Sudan? Oooh I know he only answers white American wishes.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • terri

      Only when praying within the will of God do prayers get answered. The only way to pray within the will of God is to know God. The only way to know God is to read the Bible....

      May 19, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      My invisible pink unicorn prays all the time.

      I've asked her to pray that Terri get a clue.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Rob S

      I've owned several bicycles in my lifetime, and I've never asked God for one, nor was I ever encouraged to ask God for one, nor did any of my friends ever ask God for one. Methinks you are making it all up? But it's okay for you to believe whatever you like... and do whatever you want – read the three things the angel told that kid – bottom of article. It may enlighten you, but even if it doesn't no harm done. There is no escape from those three statements. You are trapped, like a rat in a cage, by Love.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • counter

      God says "no" quite often. Shows what you know.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  11. acounselorsperspective

    Can we please hear from an atheist who has experienced a near death experience? How many of you have come back from an experience like this and said, "Oh, that was only a neurological event involving the visual cortex, nothing more than a bunch of random neurons firing off and releasing enormous amounts of Dopamine and Serotonin into the synaptic cleft." I would imagine a near death experience would be a transformative experience, one difficult to describe in such logical unfeeling way.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      I am an atheist. I have flown; I have seen other flying beings, great buildings; I have felt amazing peace and joy and I did not ever want to leave.

      And then I woke up. And I was so sad that I woke up.

      So, what exactly was I experiencing? Just a dream? My brain fiddling around? No idea. As I've said before, the brain is staggeringly complex, and no one – NO ONE – knows fully what is is capable of.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Pilots who have had NDEs have compared it to the hypoxia achieved during blackout from gravitational force.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  12. Danny

    If you gooogle Heaven is for Real, even other Christians attempt to expose Colton Burpo's experience as false, possibly the deceptive work of Satan.

    May 19, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • mama k

      "deceptive work of Satan"

      or chicken nuggets being dangled overhead... "say this Colton, then pick your sauce"

      May 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Satan is an invention from the 4th century based on a mistranslation. Originally it only referred to any adversary from an outside nation/religion. Until that point, it was never intended to be an actual person.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  13. Phazon

    Just because we share the same DNA doesn't mean we are decendants of primates. They say we are closely related but not related to.

    May 19, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • David

      but we are primates; humans are primates. so too are chimpanzees. humans and chimpanzees, among other primates, evolved with many branches in between from a common ancestor, which evolved from a more distant ancestor, and so on and so forth, er, back ;). evolution explains the shared DNA.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • counter

      Sorry, macro evolution is not proven fact.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • The real Tom

      The existence of a god isn't either.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      That evolution explains the shared DNA is assumed by many, but has never been proven.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  14. Dick Izinya

    Sorry, folks. "Heaven" is just oxygen asphyxia. The life you have is the only one you'll ever have, so make the best of it. Go out and help your fellow man, and don't worry about pie-in-the-sky.

    May 19, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Rob S

      And you know this...how?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      How can you speak with 100% certainty? You haven't experienced death yet.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • laguna_greg

      as if you actually knew. What a dick!

      May 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • BIll

      HAHAHA there is a reason ur name is DICK

      May 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "Find reality it isn't in a blog."

      Why don't you find the punctuation marks keys first?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  15. Mark

    Your not going to believe this. The alphabet was all over the floor in a giant building, and next thing you know the wind came up and it turned into the library of congress. Nobody to design it and nobody to help it along. Welcome to atheism.

    May 19, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • The real Tom

      Another idiotic burp from another doofus who thinks he knows what all atheists and agnostics AND Christians think, when he doesn't know how to do it himself.

      May 19, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Extremely

      lame

      May 19, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Mark

      Typical response from those that can't debate and lack insight. Name calling and repudiaton without intellect. Makes sense!

      May 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • I Am God

      Mark how can you debate such a dumb comment from you?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • The real Tom

      My response was in keeping with your post, Marky. You posted idiocy and I gave you back the ridicule and scorn you richly deserve for it. There's no "debate" with an idiot like you.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Danny

      You should try reading arguments against your own position sometimes instead of believing lying apologists. No evolutionists claims such a ridiculous thing.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Mark

      It's a metaphor. Grasp, inculcate then actually respond.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      Mark ..oh, by the way, you forgot to add in the bit about where your god came from ..just to clear up the speculation of course.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • bitphr3ak

      Lol, humans created the alphabet (different and incompatible ones); we also built libraries and wrote books. We have EVIDENCE for this!

      White lights, out of body experiences, spiritual experience: DMT

      Welcome to science and reason!

      May 19, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You should inculcate what metaphors are, Mark. That was a sh!tty one.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Mark

      Really Danny. Then explain something from nothing for me. And Tom keep calling me names it proves apparently your IQ is less than your age.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • terri

      I took a box full of computer parts and shook it up and waited a few years for the parts to reassemble themselves and now I have a top notch super fast computer that repairs itself and automatically adjusts for technology improvements.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Mark

      Hey all you brilliant scientist explain something from nothing please.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • The real Tom

      So nobody builds computers? There are no factories? They just appeared? No, we can see the factories, dearie.

      And Mark, some idiot who tries to build his case on claims that anyone says something came from nothing is lacking more than a few points on the IQ scale.

      Where'd your god come from?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • I Am God

      Mark scientists did. We ended up in knowing about cells. Sort of disproves your theory of Adam and Eve being created out of no where.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Mark

      Terry gets it. Obviously in the top 10% of this class of evolved minds.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Not too far from the truth, if you consider that 100,000 years ago we spoke in grunts and yelps. And what is a 100,000 years compared to the age of the planet except a swift wind?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Danny

      Your alphabet analogy has absolutely nothing to do with something from nothing. Besides, do you realize that virologists use the process of evolution to develop vaccines?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Mark

      I gotta say based upon your responses you people are either 12 years old , or you have been in an accident. BTW you have all proved my point in one or another. You need an intelligent designer, and you need a creator. we have both in the theistic world, you have none in yours.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Mark, go read "A Universe From Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss and get back to us.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Mark. It is a false a$$umption that all came from nothing. Where did your god come from.

      We do not know if there was anything before the big bang. You have much to learn, and some we simply do not know.

      It is better than, we do not know, so goddidit.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Danny

      You do realize that there is a difference between things that are designed through human intelligence, and things that come to be through adaptation and natural selection? Not everything requires intelligence behind it, this is fact. And you want to name call? Project much?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • I Am God

      Mark the only one making childish claims at the moment is you, unless you think people knowing about cells are all twelve year olds.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Mark

      Wait Sey...did you find a recording of man speaking and or"grunting" from 100,000 years age because you just stated that as if you actually know that.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • The real Tom

      If everyone here is 12, why don't they all believe what you say, since you fancy yourself an adult and brilliant? Maybe it's because even a 12-year-old knows better than to lie about what others think, Marky.

      Nobody says that something came from nothing, doofus. If you want to have a debate, at least attempt to be honest instead of a lying sack.

      What non-believers, for the most part, say about the beginning of the universe is that they don't know yet, and may never know how the universe began. What believers claim is that they know a giant fairy snapped its fingers and poofed the whole thing into existence.

      Obviously you choose to claim you know something no one knows. Who's the idiot?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Mark

      Most 12 year olds know about cells, and can probably create an argument using them better than the minds in this thread

      May 19, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • Mark

      Tom keep calling me names, you are proving that evolution doesn't exist, at least in your family tree.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • The real Tom

      When are you going to post anything resembling an argument befitting your intelligence, Mark?

      Or did you already do that? If so, my sincere condolences on your lack of brains.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Oh, sweetie, I can't help it you're desperate to look smart.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Mark

      I just throw out a bone and watch the atheist embarrass themselves. Seems like an psychology experiment worth conducting. Thanks for being my little rats Tom and I am, you responded perfectly, take your reward.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      HotAir: He's not too likely to bother, so here's the video...upfront, in his face...I doubt he'll bother to watch it but it's worth trying:
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EilZ4VY5Vs&w=640&h=360]

      I'm looking forward to the release of The UnBelievers by Krauss and Dawkins.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • I Am God

      Mark you are a terrible liar. Psychological experiment? In reality that is called trolling, not a psychological experiment.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      Mark .. still waiting, as others are, for your explanation of where your god came from. As you seem to believe he could not have come from nothing where is that something, and where did that something come from..?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Ahahahaha! So you have no response, Marky? Thanks for admitting it. I love it when twits like you pretend you have a point.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Mark

      In reality trolling is searching for fish. Find reality it isn't in a blog.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      @Mark
      No recording needed. We have enough fossil evidence to show that our larynx was still not fully lowered 100,000 years ago. The range of sounds we use for language would not have been possible, and we would only be capable of the same noises other primate species can make.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Mark

      The explanation is simple to avoid infinite who created this and then that. You put God on the creation timeline. He exist separate from time and space as we know it. So there you have it. He is not material. Now somebody explain something from nothing, in your material only world.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Check

      Mark,
      "In reality trolling is searching for fish."

      I guess that the alleged "Jesus" was a troll then? All of that "you are fishers of men" stuff:
      - Hook them
      - Kill them
      - Gut them
      - Eat them or sell them or make them into fertilizer

      May 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Mark, just keep repeating the "something from nothing" canard. It makes your case look so very...stupid.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      Mark I applaud you. You have balls the size of churchbells to post a comment like that on CNN and not expect a vicious lashback. I get your point, however. Noone can really be certain. Except the Alexander, Burpo, and others who personally experienced the phenomenon of the afterlife.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "You put God on the creation timeline."

      Based on what evidence?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Danny

      Mark, you are starting to sound a lot like John P. Tarver. Hmmmm.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Mark

      I'm begging for an answer to the question..... and fishers of men, again a metaphor to connect. Try not to hurt yourself thinking about that.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • BukkakeJack

      Mark, you just went full retard.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Mark

      Geez Tom are you trying? I said 'You" try to put God on the creation timeline by saying who created God.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Mark

      Bukke, welcome to my paradigm. Also, keep calling me names. And why would say such a mean thing about the mentally challenged. Of which we have many in this thread.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      boredofceleb, those people experienced (or fabricated) something. There is no proof that it was the alleged afterlife.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "He exist separate from time and space as we know it. So there you have it. He is not material. "

      He do? Oh, you meant "he existS". You must have left the rest of your name off your moniker, Piddler.

      Where's your evidence that He "IS" at all? Based on what?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Mark

      Tom still calling me names, you define devolution. FYI you haven't answered my question yet. Oh you can't! He sent his son and raised him from the dead 3 days later. He healed the lame, he is risen. All first century facts.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "He sent his son and raised him from the dead 3 days later. He healed the lame, he is risen. All first century facts."

      Nope.

      You believe these statements to be true. You have no proof whatsoever that they are.

      Honey, you can attempt to pretend that I am stupid. In fact, I suggest you keep right on posting these inanities. It just proves my point: you have no evidence for your claims. You are lying about what atheists and agnostics think because you have to do so to make your "point." Your point is therefore moot.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Mark

      There are all kinds of witness accounts of these activities. read Evidence that Demands a Verdict. I can't lie about what agnostics/atheist believe. I can interpret their beliefs but lying was a incorrect choice of words. Still haven't answered something from nothing.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Check

      Mark,
      "He sent his son and raised him from the dead 3 days later. He healed the lame, he is risen. All first century facts."

      Facts? Really? Evidence?

      Let's see here: The smartest, most powerful being in the universe does the most earthshaking event since the beginning of time and 'he' chooses the lamest form of evidence (hearsay), that is so easily misunderstood, misinterpreted, mistranslated, misconstrued and misused... and eternal fire is the consequence for any oopsies? Really?

      May 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      I am God: Biology has not discovered anything that disproves that God created mankind. But we have never observed random mutation and selection, the processes said to be responsible, to produce anything resembling cells or more complex forms of life.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      The real Tom: So what do you believe the universe came from? The only two choices are "from nothing" or "from something that always existed." If you say, "from nothing," you have no basis for criticizing Mark for pointing that out. If you say "from something that always existed,' then you have no basis for criticizing Christians for believing that God has always existed.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      The Real Tom: "Nobody says that something came from nothing."'

      "A Universe from Nothing," Lawrence Krauss, astronomy professor at the University of Kansas and prominent atheist.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      Check: The lamest form of evidence? Suppose you didn't believe that I exist. What would be the strongest evidence I could give you that I do? To walk up to you and say "Hello."

      That's what God did for the world.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  16. kevin

    All of these stories will have credibility if those of all other faiths experience the same thing when they have near-death experiences.

    May 19, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • exred

      You obviously didn't read the article. Too many big words, huh.

      May 19, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Seyedibar

      The problem with trusting these stories is that they are either too disparate or match claims already known in pop culture. Researchers have also noticed a funny phenomenon where more illustrative details are added each time they recount the story. In other words, people's minds are unreliable recorders of the truth.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
  17. Universe

    Islamic scripture (Quran says)

    “They do not value God as He should be valued. God is the Most Powerful, the Almighty.”[22:74]

    “If you obey the majority of people on earth, they will divert you from the path of God. They follow only conjecture; they only guess.” [Quran 6:116]

    “They say , "We live only this life; we will not be resurrected. If you could only see them when they stand before their Lord! He would say, "Is this not the truth?" They would say, "Yes, by our Lord." He would say, "You have incurred the retribution by your disbelief." [6:30]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]

    “Recall that your Lord said to the angels, "I am placing a representative on Earth." They said, "Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?" He said, "I know what you do not know." [2:30]

    “Losers indeed are those who disbelieve in meeting God, until the Hour comes to them suddenly, then say, "We deeply regret wasting our lives in this world." They will carry loads of their sins on their backs; what a miserable load! [6:31]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    May 19, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • MagicPanties

      Thanks for taking the time to make people distrust muslims more than they do already.

      You are accomplishing the opposite of what you wish.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Phazon

      Don't quote the Quran because it is just re worded words from the bible the bible was finished centuries before Muhameed.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Islam is a purposeful reinvention of christianity. Christianity is a purposeful reinvention of judaism. Judaism is an accidental reinvention of Egyptian state religion. The stories were and always will be fiction.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  18. Factoidlover

    Imagine a being of pure light that descended from the sky with appropriate fanfare (lights, trumpets, choirs, etc.). And everyone on earth could see this being at the same time and hear its voice at the same time and understand this voice in their native language. And this voice announced it was from heaven and that everyone was welcomed there – that there was life after death for everyone and that everyone, regardless of creed or deed, would be rejoined with their families and loved ones.

    How many religions would have to reject this experience as false, meaning that the being was untrue, was a demon, or was teaching against the true faith?

    May 19, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • terri

      First of all, God will not allow a demon to replicate the "every eye shall see him" experience. Second, the majority of earth's inhabitants, having rejected God, will not be welcome or be allowed to enter in. Why is this true? Because the Bible tells us that God never changes and that we can trust His word. Since Jesus proved He had power over death, I choose to believe what he told us in His word. And no atheist, satanist, agnostic or scientist has the power over death. Therefore, if someone tells me something that is not in the Bible or is contrary to the Bible, I choose to disregard.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Rob S

      We definitely don't seem to be thinking big enough when we think about ourselves or God, as per the three statements at the end of the article. We may be limiting ourselves to being simply human here and now when there is actually an infinitely larger game being played, and we are all on that same team, no exceptions. But then what do I know?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Ok which is it?

      Terri " Because the Bible tells us that God never changes"
      Please explain how the NT is so much different from the OT god if it "never changes"?

      May 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  19. Mervin Perera

    Everybody is nor born in heaven after death. There is hell as well. if anyone is interested in knowing the Most profound explanation of life after death please visit the http://www.accesstoinsight.org.

    May 19, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • No

      spam

      May 19, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Phazon

      Eccl 9:5

      May 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      Mervin.. do you have clothes in heaven? or are you naked? Where would the clothes come from? are they made locally or imported ? Also when you die do you stay the same age? or continue aging? if a baby is in heaven does it grow older? who cares for it..does it need diapers.. And with" Hell" do they use natural gas or is it some form of nuclear energy that creates the fires and heat. I guess if we are naked when we are in heaven I better start working out !

      May 19, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  20. Nero

    See, the stories almost had me until that kid said Jesus eyes where Blue.......ALL BS

    May 19, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Nurse Nan

      As a believer in an afterlife, who has heard many first hand stories myself, I also had trouble with the kid's story until I realized that we see the "being of compassion" as we know it, as that the only way our brains know to describe it. The kid described his vison of Jesus as that is what his brain knew as a loving compassionate being. His eyes were blue, just because that was what the kid thought they should be... or perhaps because the kid's eyes are blue? But that doesn't matter. As the author said earlier, Jews may see an angel, Christians may see Jesus, Muslims may see Mohammad...We all see a being of light and love. I can't really explain it, but sometimes I think we are not meant to know too much anyway. Bottom line... live in love.. Notice the incredible beauty around you NOW.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      " Bottom line... live in love.. Notice the incredible beauty around you NOW."

      That is probably about one of the most sensible pieces of advice any Christian has ever given on these blogs.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Rob S

      If you're hanging your hat on the blue eyes thing, you are making a mistake. Do some googling about genetics and ancient Middle East populations, skin colors, hair colors, eye colors, yada, yada, yada. Once you've completed that mission you can chuck it all out – because Heaven, if true, is not the Middle East and the whole concept of DNA becomes irrelevant, along with human limitations. Seems Heaven is closer to Disneyland, tickets being free, than the "reality we know here, from what I've read from NDErs. Try "the flowers sing" for instance, or, as Monty Python Show used to say "And now for something completely different!"

      May 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.