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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. Lisa

    Like the Shroud of Turin, the Church suspects that science will eventually find proof that Heaven isn't actually real. That's why they're unwilling to back these stories.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • fatdogtavern

      If only a super advanced alien race would wash up on our shores and say "god? Never heard of it." The concept of religion has hamstrung humanity for far too long.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  2. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    Truth absolute is LORD GOD of universe and after world, good lord designed this world for us to be in heaven, by following truth absolute in life, but human have turned to hindu secular ism, criminal self centrism, in following of hindu Lucifer, criminal secular, self centered of all as their god, forget it, the one who denied truth absolute in life, the heaven, they have no chance to enter heaven, good LORD GOD has created for the obedient to truth absolute on earth.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Reason & Logic

      You don't sound very god-like to me. You should be ashamed of your own beliefs.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Colin

      Good morning Osama Bin Laden, how is the Tourette Syndrome today?

      May 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Mohammad never existed. Islam is as phony and cobbled as Christianity, both created to support imperialism.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Jesus is the Son of God

      How is Christianity phony? Its number 1 teaching is love, the most powerful and effective emotion known to everything. Love God your creator and love each other even your enemies. What exactly is phony or corrupt about this? The wages for sin is death, Jesus came down from heaven to pay that debt for all of mankind so that we nay live beyond death. he died for strangers who mock him, deny him, and show him no respect. and this isn't love? Learn before you speak, experience before you judge. http://www.theeternalwisdom.com

      May 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      It's phony because Christ never existed. He's a character from Essene mystery plays whose story was slowly constructed over hundreds of years.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Jesus is the Son of God

      @ sey. For someone who never existed he sure made a huge impact on this world did he not? Jesus in fact by FAR made the biggest impact in this world, and today is still the most influential figure known to mankind. More songs, books, writings, religions, wars, schools, debates, etc were started more from Jesus than all famous characters in history put together. Prove me false if im wrong. Who is more famous or more powerful than Jesus? What name carries more weight?

      May 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Jesus

      Easy...
      Superman.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • G to the T

      Actually I had read once that Darth Vader is the most universally recognized character in the entire world.

      May 21, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  3. Matthew Kilburn

    One of the reasons we don't hear about heaven quite as much in church as we used to might be BECAUSE we hear about it so much from other places. People, not just religious people, were much simpler minded in times gone by. Today, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who believed in heaven who didn't have some personal concept – with varying degrees of scriptural basis. We don't hear about Heaven, at least in some part, because we don't need to hear about it.

    Instead, churches tend to focus on messages we hear far less often: for conservative churches, personal morality and goodness. For liberal churches, social justice and equality.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  4. Mopery

    I know not of this place you call heaven, but to me it sounds more like the dying have been given a glimpse of Asgard, atop Yggdrasil. Surely the Valkyries had lifted their heads to see Valhalla, where sits Odin the All-Father. Praise be to Thor! Here we have mortal proof, indeed proof undeniable, of the existence of Valhalla.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  5. Jesus is the Son of God

    I personally do not believe these experiences were reality but indeed a vision of some sort. I found a very interesting website that made sense of the popular questions on the supernatural that we ask today: Is there life after death? Is there a God? Why are we here? Is there a hell? etc..If you are open minded and are seeking the truth, visit www . theeternalwisdom . com. I hope it is helpful and leads you to the answers you seek.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Jesus is the Son of God

      http://www.theeternalwisdom.com

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

      If Jesus is the son of God, why did his father make him go through the barbaric crucifiction in order to forgive the original sin? Why not just forgive it, after all, he is God, he makes the rules.

      When we realized that Adam and Eve was a myth, and there was no original sin, what does that do to this theory?

      May 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Lisa

      A "vision" like people have when they're really strung out on LSD, inhale the smoke coming from exotic burning bushes, or go without food in the wilderness for, say, 40 days?

      Yup, those kinds of things can really have you seeing some weird stuff, all right!

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

      Hey Colin, are you one of those who wants a participation trophy just for signing up to play a sport. Jesus came and died so we can earn a place in heaven by believing in the torture he went through for us. Heaven comes at a price.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Reason & Logic

      It amazes me that someone like yourself can be so assured of your faith yet be so ready to discount these experiences. I was raised Catholic and spent twelve years in parochial school. I do not discount the teachings nor do I discount these experiences by people who have partly passed over. These visions are real, they are our stepping through the doorway to the spiritual world.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Jesus is the Son of God

      @ colin one of the biggest realities of life is that we die. Death has been accepted as being part of life. What people do not realize it is the exact opposite of what life is, death was something not meant to be. Everyone knows the reality of death but many lack the knowledge of why we die. The wages for sin is death this is the eternal law, there's laws in this world and outside of it. Jesus came to pay that wage even for people like you who have no understanding or wisdom. you speak the way you do because you do not know any better which is why i don't blame you for saying the stuff your saying. It's for people like you who Jesus especially prayed for:LUKE 23:24-"Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice." May God bless you and open your eyes brother

      May 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  6. Matt Knott

    The Pineal Gland is our biological Third Eye. The Pineal Gland is literally connected to your eyes!! How else do you think you can close your eyes and visualize something internally? You can visualize anything you want, any memory that you have! You have what acts as a third eye, or single eye..within you. The Pineal Gland is literally connected to your eyes! I mean how much more sense can that make & blatantly obvious can it be?? lol stop relying on Science to prove everything to you and open your mind more! Do you not see that science is LIMITED? It can't be proven by science yet that DMT is released in the Pineal Gland... but science can't and may never prove everything! Thus we must step beyond it's current limitations.. maintain an open mind & add up all the evidence currently available to reach a logical conclusion.It only makes sense that the Pineal Gland releases this DMT which expands our consciousness fully. The Pineal Gland is in the exact geometric center of the brain.. but IS NOT actually a part of the brain. DMT is also believed to be released at the following times.... when the spirit enters The Pineal Gland of the Fetus at 7 weeks.. our individual life force (This is the same time when the Pineal Gland 1st appears and also when the first signs of a gender appear in a fetus) when dream each night, lucid dreams, at the moment of physical death, during near death experiences, out of body experiences, certain forms of proper meditation & hypnosis, astral projection, and remote viewing. No doubt that it can't be proven by science yet that DMT is released in the Pineal Gland... but science can't and may never prove everything. Thus we must step beyond it's current limitations.. maintain an open mind & add up all the evidence available to reach a logical conclusion. DMT & The Pineal Gland form a gateway to the afterlife/ spiritual realms. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever after researching this the past 3 years and establishing a ton of connections within my research. The rest is up to you!

    May 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Milton Platt

      Publish the proofs for the conclusions you claim.......i

      May 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      "There is no one whose views are not subject to question."

      May 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Saying it over and over again doesn't make it any more true. You only make yourself sound like some annoying spoiled little child.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  7. dave yagna

    yes, Hinduism has always believed in afterlife of various types according to present life karma. Hinduism also believes in multiverses and trillions of universes. it scriptures written thousands of years back ( proven dates ) mention creator of this universe ( like ceo ) of like milky way for example..called one of his creations on earth ..a king to his place called brahmlok. whithin few minutes he planned to sent him back but also told what will be the use as world would have moved few thousand years forward. so imagine their life span. and this only this world's creator. imagine Lord of all Lords who created multiverses flowing on his single hairline.....
    yes! prejudice will stop people from understanding this...world beats to tune of cnn / fox / star / bbc...let it be

    GOD BLESS ALL

    May 19, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      no, hinduism believes in santana dharma - reincarnation. there is no afterlife, you are born again in an endless cycle that can only be escaped by reaching nirvana.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Matt Knott

      bootyfunk.. and what happens when I reach nirvana then physically die? My spirit just simply ceases to reincarnate and then disappears?? lol

      May 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • The real Tom

      How is that any more laughable than a belief in any other sort of afterlife, Matt?

      May 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Matt Knott –

      Your posting fervor indicates that you are entertaining some very interesting ideas (psychedelic experience and nirvana, among others); however, at this point your understanding seems to be a bit naive (for example, you seem to conflate Buddhist nirvana the concept of a soul and, perhaps, an afterlife – they are not the same). Anyway, you seem to have a curious mind – continue your education!

      May 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Really-O?

      ...Erratum...

      "...for example, you seem to conflate Buddhist nirvana and the concept of a soul and an afterlife/reincarnation – they are not the same things."

      May 19, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  8. HockeyGuy

    The next time a Jehovah's Witness comes to your home ask them if they believe we are going to heaven.

    Oh they believe in Heaven .. but they only believe a select few will go there when they die.

    How sad is it to go door to door telling people the good word ... but that good word to them is Jesus died for your sins but you are not going to heaven..

    knock knock .. hello .. did you know your not going to Heaven?
    Why thank you...

    NO.. they are the people who the bible talks about .. they use the scripture and twist it for their own meaning.

    Thats a sad life but they are not the only ones that don't believe we are going to heaven.

    Please inform yourself about the people who try to teach you about God.
    There are a few good people out there.
    There are many more who use the church as a Party .. to meet others, find spouses and basically not do God's work.

    but there are a few people who do believe in God and know he is there to help you.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      i'm amazed all christians don't believe exactly 144K people are going to heaven since it says so in all bibles. but christians are famous for picking and choosing...

      May 19, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      The next time a religion peddler of any cult, age or gender comes to my door, I will tell them exactly what I've told all others: "Get the fuck off my property with your sicko crap!" Their reaction is always priceless.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      The last time they came to our door, they went away saying they needed to speak to their elders and would get back to us...we haven't heard from them since and our next door neighbor's are JW's who go out of their way to avoid us.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  9. william

    Because even they don't believe it. The church has been playing us for fools for centuries They've known the truth about Jesus, God, and the afterlife the entire time, but can't possibly tell the truth now... there are too many crucified, immolated, tortured skeletons in the closet. If the sheeple ever found out what has been kept from them, that these "holy men" have been living a lie the whole time, and that it's always been about power, control, and money, and nothing else, they might all end up at the end of ropes.... if they're lucky.

    May 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  10. Casey

    As I read through these posts it is quite saddening that most of you MUST be correct in saying there is no such thing as God or Heaven. Here's some facts that you all should keep in mind:

    1. You are ignorant. You know nothing and cannot prove whether or not God does or does not exist.
    2. Your brain is responsible for your COMPLETE reality. IE it can make you feel, smell, see and do anything. It literally shapes YOUR unique reality, or at least its a catalyst for it.
    3. These visions that people have with near-death experiences have solid scientific theories behind them, however nothing is proven other than these people have experienced something that most have not. You can speculate all you want but do not let yourself think even for a second that you know what dying is like because you are still alive.

    Finally, I am not a Catholic or even a Christian. However I do have something (whether it be God, Mother Earth..etc) that I hold myself accountable to. I do believe that something will happen to us when we die and I don't think we will just go away forever. Maybe our energy will turn into something else or help to construct something else.

    For all of you that do not believe, I feel sorry for you. But keep that belief to yourself because nothing good will ever come from you trying to convert believers into non-believers. Oh and one more FACT–People that believe in God are happier than those who don't.

    Have a nice life.

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

      Not true. Research has shown quite widely that atheists are happier, more psychologically sound, make more money, are higher educated, and are less prone to committing crime.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • I Am God

      The same can be said to fools like you, but please keep continuing to be ignorant of other people's way of thinking.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Danny

      Although I don't believe, I actually agree with your 3 points. Huge difference between belief and knowledge, and we still lack much of the latter.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "For all of you that do not believe, I feel sorry for you. But keep that belief to yourself because nothing good will ever come from you trying to convert believers into non-believers. Oh and one more FACT–People that believe in God are happier than those who don't."

      i feel sorry for you. at the end of the day, you don't want to accept reality. and being in a cult that makes you happy isn't a good thing. i'd rather know the truth and not live my life by a lie. it is VERY worthwhile getting people to think for themselves.

      oh, and one more FACT - People that do not believe in God have higher education levels.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • The Dude

      No need to pity.

      I agree I am ignorant. Thats why I continue to learn and think about the world around me instead of casting my logic and reason aside to believe the tales of the Christ Cultists. But I know one thing is true. None of the narcissistic BS invented by man to explain his existence has nothing to do with the desire for truth and knowledge. It is all about control. I think the civilization that is closest to a truth would be the Native Americans.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      The law of conservation of energy would indicate that the "life energy" for lack of a better term, will simply dissipate, similar to a fire , once it has consumed all of the fuel available, burns out. The energy that the fire released dissipates into the surrounding area.
      Once dissipated, it will be recycled as all energy is, perhaps taking on a different form, like kinetic energy meeting friction turns part of the kinetic energy into infrared energy( heat).
      If all life is a focal point for "life energy", that energy will be free to be included into another form of life.

      Think about this....all of the hydrogen in your body is nearly as old as the universe. Drink a glass of water, put some salt on your food...all of it it billions of years old, so technically we are billions of years old, just made up of recycled universe. I am only counting the time I have had on this earth in my present configuration, but in truth I am billions of years old.

      Chew on that concept for a while.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Ken

      I cannot agree with the statement that we "know nothing" in this. There are some very plausible, scientific explanations for NDE being a natural process that has nothing at all to do with any kind of afterlife. There is zero actual evidence for there being any form of afterlife. Given a natural explanation, or a complete speculation I know what I would place my bets behind 100% of the time.

      We may not be able to prove whether or not God does or does not exist, but this is the same for all gods and goddesses, right? That hasn't stopped most people on the planet from realizing that Zeus, Odin and all the rest of the "mythical" gods aren't worth the time and effort in worshipping anymore, so why would you find it problematic that many have also included God in this list?

      If our brains are responsible for your COMPLETE reality, then that calls into question everyone's experience with God "speaking" to them, miracles, and pretty much all other religious experiences, yes?

      The people who have experienced NDE are also still alive, so they never really died either which brings into question what they can say about what lies after actual death, correct?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "For all of you that do not believe, I feel sorry for you. But keep that belief to yourself because nothing good will ever come from you trying to convert believers into non-believers. Oh and one more FACT–People that believe in God are happier than those who don't."

      We don't need your sympathy...life is wonderful without it. We'll keep our disbelief to ourselves the second all religious groups keep their beliefs to themselves. You don't preach religion in our public forum or schools and we won't teach science in your churches.
      A lot of good has come from my non-belief: I no longer have reason to hate gays (I didn't have reason before but like many chistians, I used belief as an excuse); I no longer fear dying; I live a better more fulfilling life-more care for the planet because I know that only we human's can save it.
      And no it isn't a fact that people who believe in god are happier...in fact people who believe in god are the cases where the most teenage pregnancies happen; the most death as the result of neglecting to get medical attention and instead using prayer; the highest divorce rate; the highest prisoner rate in the USA (75% opposed to 1% Atheists).
      We're not trying to convert anyone, that would be the believers (door-to-door; street corner preaching; bibles in every motel room).

      May 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  11. Len

    How do believers know that God isn't actually using their souls as some kind of fuel up there? Maybe they're just snack food?

    May 19, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      "To serve Man"

      IT"S A COOKBOOK! ! ! !

      May 19, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Danny

      A good point I like to make. Even if a being came from the sky and claimed it was the one and almighty god, can we really trust this being? What if the spirit world is real, and this god who has revealed itself to us is a malevolent, fallen spirit with issues?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      maybe people go to heaven to be slaves for god and the angels. the bible promotes slavery throughout, so this seems pretty likely to me. you get to "serve" god forever.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Len

      Danny
      Good point! I like to point out that any alien race intent upon collecting humans for a zoo should only mimic the ra.pture. The Christians among them would be so docile that they would put up with any indignity these aliens put them through because they would believe that it was God's will. They actually expect to be sn.atched from this planet by a powerful force. It would be too easy!

      May 19, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  12. Jeffro211

    I want to remain hopeful that there is something bigger after this life since the experience of many in this existence is suffering and pain. Please do not selfishly take away another's hope.

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

      What if it is just a fantasy, and people are actually wasting their lives waiting for it to happen, like some people do when playing the lotto?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      i'd rather know the truth than live by a fairy tale. i'd rather value the life i have here, value my friends and family here in the really-real world than pretend i'm going to get to see them in magic cloud land when i die. when you focus your life on heaven, you devalue your life here on earth. use the time you have here wisely - there's no magic disneyland afterwards. sorry.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      There is an infinite amount of hope in science. Learn to accept the beauty and wonder of nature, instead of fearing it.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  13. Gk Schmidt

    My grand daughter was 3 years old when her other grandmother died during the night.
    In the morning when I woke her up she told me an angel had come to see her. It surprised
    Me to hear her say this because we had not talked of angels to her. It seems interesting that spirit
    Speaks to our innocent and young children.

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

      By your logic, my childhood imaginary friend is real. I should call him up and see what he's been up to all these years.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  14. Name*penguin

    How would one know that these near death experiences aren't heaven but, instead, a descension into hell? Seeing bright golden lights and a calm feeling may just be a physiological manifestation of the brain shutting down. (When my heart stopped, I envisioned a bright golden glow. But for all I know it may have been caused by the shock of the defibrillator)

    May 19, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  15. Bootyfunk

    lack of oxygen to the brain explains this guy's bright light tunnel. he's ignoring biology, which explains his experience as self-contained within his own brain. nothing divine. just oxygen-deprived hallucinations.

    you can also see things by:
    taking drugs
    dreaming
    hitting your head on a solid object
    inducing extreme fear/panic

    May 19, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  16. Chrissy

    I usually will side with science on these types of discussions, but there is one thing that puzzles me about "near death" survivors experiences. I understand how science can explain, the tunnell, bright ligth, feeling of euphoria, etc..., but has anybody every heard how scientist were able to explain, they only see family and friends who are already dead, during these brief visits to heavan? You never hear them talking about seeing living friends or family in heaven. I admit, I haven't done reasearch on this subject, but it was something I always wondered if there was a scientific explination for that. Any ideas???

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

      " but has anybody every heard how scientist were able to explain, they only see family and friends who are already dead, during these brief visits to heavan?"

      that's just not true. you may hear from the people promoting NDEs more saying that, but there are plenty of people that report seeing people who are alive or have had mundane experiences.

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

      Thanks, for that information. Like I said, I haven't really looked into this, it was just a random thought whenever I read or hear stories like this.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      This is a good article about NDE's: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=peace-of-mind-near-death

      May 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      yeah, it's usually the ones that want attention most that talk the loudest. i saw "heaven" is a good story. i suspect it's mostly people that want attention, like UFO sightings.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      The effects of the chemicals that are released by the body have a direct line to the parts of the brain that control memory and imagination. Combine the two and you will see what you remember seeing. They do not see the people as they are, they see them as they remember them.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  17. ACooke108

    There is nothing that depresses me more than listening to people comment on an article like this, screaming at each other with absolute certainty that heaven either does or does not exist. It's in your head, it's not in your head, blah blah blah. You don't find that out for sure until you die, for good.

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

      I can say with absolute certainty that the mind and body rot away to dust. If you want to claim that people have some invisible immortal brain hidden within them, the burden of proof is on yourself.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  18. Banjo Ferret

    Subjective experience is never proof. You simply see what you are conditioned to see, if you see anything at all. Ferretianism is the one true religion. Repent and secure your purple energy bubble! (banjoferret d c)

    May 19, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Rabs

      inability or crudeness of our instrumentation to detect a phenomena does not mean it does not exist

      May 19, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  19. Matt Knott

    TO EVERYONE: Please do yourself a favor and research the following subjects... The Pineal Gland (our biological Third Eye) and DMT or Dimethyltryptamine. (A drug more illegal than Heroin.. the most powerful psychedelic known to man, produced in the human body!) This is our connection with the afterlife! You may change your life or views on the afterlife by researching the two! 🙂

    May 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • The real Tom

      No.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Matt: Do us a favor and stop sounding like a broken record! Back your claims up with SCIENTIFIC evidence coming from a reputable scientific source.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      The pineal gland is part of the endocrine system that produces some very powerful hormones that act as powerful drugs. It is not a third eye (though it is mistakenly called that by psuedo-scientists). It gives of hormones that give off euphoric effects and some then leap to a conclusion that it allows astral projection and astral travel. This is only believed by religious "scientists" to show a "gateway to the astral plane", something there is no evidence exists. There is no evidence, peer reviewed and verified that it does anything other that create some of the most powerful drug-like substances the human body creates. It is part of your automatic response system to things like major injury or the like that could kill you from shock or other effects.

      Third eye...funny...since it is not a sensory organ.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Matt Knott

      Truth Prevails – stop relying on Science to prove everything to you and open your mind more! Do you not see that science is LIMITED? It can't be proven by science yet that DMT is released in the Pineal Gland... but science can't and may never prove everything! Thus we must step beyond it's current limitations.. maintain an open mind & add up all the evidence currently available to reach a logical conclusion. Thus it has been done. Just because something can not be proven by science, does not mean it isn't real, true, or impossible. It only makes PERFECT DAMN SENSE BRO.. open your eyes! (Or Third Eye for that matter)

      May 19, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Matt Knott

      Richard.. you are limited by your reliance upon science, you don't even realize that! Science is limited! The Pineal Gland is literally connected to your eyes!! How else do you think you can close your eyes and visualize something internally? You can visualize anything you want, any memory that you have! You have what acts as a third eye, or single eye..within you. The Pineal Gland is literally connected to your eyes! I mean how much more sense can that make & blatantly obvious can it be?? lol

      May 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • The real Tom

      In other words, you want people to reach a conclusion even when there's no solid evidence to support it? Why? Just to give themselves comfort?

      I am comfortable with not knowing. In fact, I am far more comfortable with it than with some pie-in-the sky tale. Your mileage may vary.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      Where the hell is the "Fake Tom"? I'd like to hear from him.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Matt Knott –

      Your posts may not be related to religion, but you have shown yourself to be a "true believer". Please continue your education – it's worth the effort.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Matt may be onto something. See http://www.wakingtimes.com/2012/06/19/pineal-gland-our-third-eye-the-biggest-cover-up-in-human-history/.

      Or maybe he is on something. . .

      May 19, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • The real Tom

      @bored: don't know; the coward went underground and is busy using other posters' names, I suppose. Why?

      @Matt: why are you so hot for everyone to believe in your pet theory?

      May 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      The pineal gland does flood the mind with helpful chemicals, but we can't presume that it's DMT. The NDE DMT studies were woefully unscientific. All participants of the study were already regular recreational psychedlic users, all with a history of DMT use.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Matt
      As a scientist, I look at the facts and infer. I do not leap to conclusions.

      There is nothing to indicate any of what you claim...look at your own work and see where you made that unjustifyable leap...that is where you went wrong.
      I make no conclusion since noting is conclusive, but there is no indication that the pineal gland is anything but what it appears to be. An endocrine gland. Anything else is nothing but speculation. There are many, many chemicals that change the way one thinks, and therefore perceives. I had a major injury once and "saw" many things, it was only my own perception of reality that changed...no reality. Hallucinations happen...and your perceptions can be easily fooled. Magicians and illusionists make a living on fooling people....so do all religions.

      Stop leaping to unjustified conclusions....you cannot come to a conclusion without all the data, and we do not have all of the data. We can make a$$umptions, and then test those a$$umptions, burning them in a crucible until we are left with purer and purer knowledge.

      Again, there is nothing to indicate a "third eye":...nothing.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "stop relying on Science to prove everything to you and open your mind more! Do you not see that science is LIMITED? It can't be proven by science yet that DMT is released in the Pineal Gland... but science can't and may never prove everything! Thus we must step beyond it's current limitations.. maintain an open mind & add up all the evidence currently available to reach a logical conclusion. Thus it has been done. Just because something can not be proven by science, does not mean it isn't real, true, or impossible. It only makes PERFECT DAMN SENSE BRO.. open your eyes! (Or Third Eye for that matter)"

      What am I to rely on if not science?? Science influences my every move. I see science as unlimited, just because science has yet to provide an answer does not mean they never will.
      So what if science can't prove it yet? It doesn't mean to get to fill the gap with whatever pseudo crap science you want.
      You're right, science can't and may never (at least in our lifetimes) prove everything...so what??
      I maintain an open-mind every day and I happen to care that what I believe in is evidence based.
      You are making assumptions on an issue that is still being researched and until that research is complete, it is safe to say there is no evidence to support your claim and therefore no reason to believe it.
      If something can't be proven as real, why the hell believe it?? Believing it is what doesn't make sense.
      You are a gullible fool.
      My eyes have been open longer than you have been alive child!

      May 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      So Matt, where can we read your peer-reviewed, published and acclaimed scholarly paper on the pineal gland and DMT? Or are you just imagining that you have (minimally?) followed the scientific method?

      May 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Norman Page

      DMT is *not* more illegal than Heroin! They're both Schedule 1 – same illegality. Do a little research before you post and show your ignorance.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  20. The Dude

    The brain releases DMT upon death. This is Fact. DMT is the most hallucinogenic substance known. So there is your answer.

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pz38P24jHBc&w=640&h=360]

    May 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Matt Knott

      It only makes sense that the Pineal Gland releases this DMT which expands our consciousness fully. The Pineal Gland is in the exact geometric center of the brain.. but IS NOT actually a part of the brain. DMT is also believed to be released at the following times.... when the spirit enters The Pineal Gland of the Fetus at 7 weeks.. our individual life force (This is the same time when the Pineal Gland 1st appears and also when the first signs of a gender appear in a fetus) when dream each night, lucid dreams, at the moment of physical death, during near death experiences, out of body experiences, certain forms of proper meditation & hypnosis, astral projection, and remote viewing. No doubt that it can't be proven by science yet that DMT is released in the Pineal Gland... but science can't and may never prove everything. Thus we must step beyond it's current limitations.. maintain an open mind & add up all the evidence available to reach a logical conclusion. DMT & The Pineal Gland form a gateway to the afterlife/ spiritual realms. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever after researching this the past 3 years and establishing a ton of connections within my research.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • It's Obvious

      Just wasted 10 minutes of my life watching this clip you recommended

      May 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • The Dude

      It is not a recommendation. It is merely a representation of what it is like to be under the effects of DMT. If you can experience things like that you can hallucinate an afterlife.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      @ It's Obvious: You're the bonehead that clicked on it. Why didn't you stop after the first 30 seconds of watching? Any video posted on this site is intended for brainwashing. Still awaiting the Fake Tom's opinions.....would be MOST interesting....

      May 19, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • The real Tom

      It's almost as boneheaded as asking a question that's already been answered twice, bored.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
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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.