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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. Bob

    I am the resurrection and the life; he that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. ...Jesus John 11:25

    May 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Bob

      Since we've got other Bob dumping bible bile on us, let's take a closer look here at some of the hideous stuff in his Christian book of nasty:

      Numbers 31:17-18
      17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
      18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

      Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

      Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

      Leviticus 25
      44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
      45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
      46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

      Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

      Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

      And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

      So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      May 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Bob, if you don't know what those scriptures mean by now, you haven't done your homework.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      My cats help me with my homework. I mean, I need protein to study.

      Amen.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  2. Bob

    I am the Light of the world..he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness. ....Jesus John 8:12

    May 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Bob

      Numbers 31:17-18
      17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
      18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

      Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

      Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

      Leviticus 25
      44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
      45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
      46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

      Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

      Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

      And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

      So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      May 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Bob, if an enemy wants to kill you, would you seek out someone wiser how to save yourself?

      May 19, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      My god is a mean killer. I mimic him on my cats.

      Amen.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • forests

      Jesus John? Jesus, Bob, there was know Jesus John. Use sceince because it works.

      Darryl Forests

      July 21, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  3. Bob

    I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father, but by Me. ....Jesus John 14:6

    May 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • One one

      2 Thessalonians, 8-9:"In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."

      May 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Bob

      One, indeed. The Bible not only speaks of heaven, but often warns of hell.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Bible verses

      How quaint. Babble to prove the babble correct, form a circle dosado to the left forever.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • Glenn

      Followed by a lively debate on whether Jesus would support universal healthcare. Yes, what would Jesus do?

      May 19, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  4. Bob

    Unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God. ...Jesus John 3:3

    May 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Joe

      And just to make sure you have the whole message, Jesus himself said "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of My Father."

      May 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Bob

      Joe, amen. Another great verse.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  5. Bob

    Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where is a house you could build for Me? declares the Lord. ..Isaiah 66:1

    May 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Not heaven. The original phrase is "shamayim" meaning "on high", of which it is speaking of the Canaanite practice of the king of a tribe building his temple on a mountain overlooking the populace. The god El and his wives and sons never purported to come from the sky.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Bob

      Seyed, Shamayim is Hebrew for heaven my friend.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      It is commonly used as heaven now. Originally it referred to elevations. There are many uses of it in the Septuagint referring simply to mountain paths as well as the temples themselves.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  6. boredofceleb

    The angel told Alexander in a part of his threefold prophetic message: "There is nothing a person can do wrong"??? This opens the gateway for criminal behavior for those who take this literally. (This makes no sense at all, therefore I have to assume Alexander was hallucinating or having some brainchemical reaction).

    May 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Joe

      Agreed completely. He was either off his rocker, hallucinating, or actual got a visit from a nice demon to return with that message. That's actually a profoundly Satanic message - do your own will, and there is no sin.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  7. ZiJay

    It sounds from the last sentence of the article that we are all going to heaven anyway. No one saw hell in their near death experience!

    May 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  8. Bob

    My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. ....Psam 121:2

    May 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  9. Widow

    The whole thing is crazy.. If there is an afterlife then great if not great too.. Why obsess about it when there is no proof either way.. Everyone who had a near death experience and saw "Jesus or St. Peter at the gates or the white light" should go take a sip of some DMT.. It is the chemical in your brain that initiates the "afterlife trip"... It isn't some miracle that you go into that state of mind. Either way knowing there is an afterlife or isn't is 100% meaningless. If you do things just to get into heaven instead of being a good person just to be a good person shows a selfish greed. Why waste time here on earth obsessing about what might exist while losing out on creating meaningful memories here on earth with the ones you love? Pretty crazy to waste time on earth wondering if you are going to see people who died that you miss in the afterlife while missing out on time with people who love who are alive.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Joe

      It has some pretty profound impacts on the way you might wish to live your life.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  10. Diane

    What's interesting is the profound affect these instances have on people. It's more than a dream that wears off, but rather, life altering. I believe it was Diane Sawyer who did a story on this, only they didn't experience heaven they experienced hell. It was fascinating. One man, a college professor and a bit of a carouser and who thought religion was weakness, etc., suffered a heart attacked in his 50's and nearly died. But he experienced a traumatic "after-life" and called on God to help him. He recovered and went on to be a Methodist minister. Now, he doesn't know what really happened to him nor does he try to claim that he really went to hell, but he knows something happened. Again the profoundness of it all changed the course of his life in a way that he never would've imagined for himself. That is what is so compelling to me when I hear these stories.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      What a sad story. From professor to professional swindler.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  11. jj

    What a poor understanding of the concept of proof.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  12. Jesus is the Son of God

    The misconception of hell http://theeternalwisdom.com/Misconception_of_Hell.html, a strike at God's everlasting and unconditional loving character. Power hungry false religious leaders have taught many false doctrines under the umbrella of Christianity for control. Visit this blog breaking down these false man made teachings.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Joe

      I'm sorry but do you understand just how many times Jesus references (and interacts with) hell and demons including his descent upon His death, and promises it as a reward for a sinful life? How many exorcisms He performed? How clear He was in His warnings to those who did not do the will of God? Again I'm sorry but the real 'theft of message' comes from weak-willed so-called Christians who wish to only focus on the 'love.' God is LOVE, and He dispenses justice as He wishes.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • One one

      Is it like this ?

      2 Thessalonians, 8-9:"In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."

      May 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Joe and one one are

      cuckoo

      May 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  13. andydbrown

    "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." Surprise! Surprise! How did I know an article about heaven from CNN would promote universalism and declare the Holy Bible as just plain wrong. Ha! The WHOLE point of Jesus' sacrifice for sins is because no one in righteous – no not one and if you think you're going to heaven because "basically you're a good person" or somehow God is going to wink at your sin, good luck with that. Let me quote what Jesus said (far more important than some "we are the world" article on CNN!), "I am THE (only) Way, THE (only) Truh, The (only) Life; NO ONE comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6) When someone else lives a perfect life as Jesus did, dies and resurrects themselves I'll be willing to believe otherwise.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • WhenCowsAttack

      So explain to me then, why God placed so many millions of human beings in areas of the world where they have NO chance to hear about jesus?

      Was that pure sadism?

      May 19, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
      • andydbrown

        The old "what about the person who never hear do Jesus strawman argument". There are very few people who actually fit that bill. Who hasn't heard of Jesus? This is just an excuse. The height of arrogance is someone like "whencowsattack" who thinks they know a better plan of salvation than God, HA! JGod spoke of people like you when he asks in the book of Job (Old Testament), "Will you condemn Me to justify yourself?" EXACTLY!

        May 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • AG

      Keep in mind Matthew chapter 25. Jesus is the way, and he is not dependent upon man's Scripture interpretation to decide who he can admit to the kingdom. Jesus makes the determination, and it is by His grace that anyone gets in.
      Those who innocently do not know and embrace this might still attain salvation but those who knowingly and willingly choose to reject it, reject salvation on God’s terms.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  14. Darwin was right

    Christians don't do much careful thinking about this heaven nonsense. First of all, they say you go there FOR ETERNITY! That's MILLIONS X BILLIONS X TRILLIONS X QUADRILLIONS, etc. of years, more years than there are ATOMS IN THE UNIVERSE, and every day of this eternity you gotta bow down and worship this GOD guy – how BORRRRING! And it never ends, or else it wouldn't be eternity! A few quadrillion years of that boring bull dumplings and I bet you Christians would be begging to end it!

    May 19, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • djk2450

      After death, there is no more concept of time as we know it here on earth. The Catholic Church does speak and teach of Heaven as a final destination, as well as hell. The protestant denominations seem to be focused on money more than anything else. Peace and God bless.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Grant

      It looks like you are equating the afterlife to current, mortal life where boredom is an element of life. What if, that emotion ceases to exist in the afterlife?...along with other emotions like hate, fear, insecurity, etc.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  15. Jimcon

    It is merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  16. Darryl Forests

    lol Alexander also believes in psychics and mediums and ectoplasms which is nothing more than cheesecloths. All mediumship is fraud like Alexander's made up story about his NDE. lol

    May 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  17. jacob

    Well, the great thing here is believing in God, the commandments, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in a loving way produces essentially good people for the most part, we are human though. Believing in Heaven can't hurt. Eternal bliss sounds good to me. Of course you can choose not to believe, that's good to, your exercising free will. But sure would be a shame to miss out on that eternal reward. As for the article, I don't get it, each time I go to Mass the homily always weaves Heaven as well as the Eucharistic liturgy. I guess if you don't spend any time examing what is said theologically with a anthropology insight you might miss what is said. I saw saw posts about theist being happier, I was a theist and am Catholic now and Much happier now. In fact science is even clearer now than before. I'm am an obstetrician, love seeing those babies come into this world. Peace to all of you on this forum.

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

      That would be called "pascal's wager", and would only work if the Christian god and no god were the only two possible alternatives.

      What if one of the other religions are correct and YOU are wrong? You could be equally doomed.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Jesus

      Your God is an amalgamation of around 35 pharoahs and pastoral deities. The Commandments were stolen word for word from Egyptian Maat worship. Neither Jesus nor Mary seem to have existed, and their tales closely match earlier folktales and mystery plays from all over the Mediterranean. There is zero literal truth to any of the Abrahamic belief systems.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Warren Moon

      For once, what a Jesus says makes sense! (I'm refering to the poster above).

      May 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I'm not interested in any "eternal reward", and even if I was, there is no reason to believe that one actually exists. Life is finite and death is natural. Morals are best determined by reality, not by a book of ancient middle eastern myths written by men with a limited knowledge of the natural forces that control this planet.

      You can believe whatever you want, but I don't see any special virtue attached to thinking that you deserve to live in paradise for all eternity just because you pledge allegiance to a specific supernatural character.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • I wonder

      jacob,

      Some of those babies don't make it, though, do they? As the story goes, they become 'angels' and go to a BETTER place. Why bother saving any of them then and deprive them of an automatic BETTER place?

      May 19, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  18. Td

    @Tim. Give it a rest. No one has ever been brain dead and come back to life. Your brain still functions even after ur heart stops. Thus u still have sustainable memories. It's not rocket science here people.

    There is no god just atoms.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Sue

      I kind of feel sorry for you. Judgment day is going to be a bit of a surprise for you.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Gary

      Sue: google "Pascal's Wager". Odin has a big surprise waiting for your sorry ass.

      Seriously, do it. Read up on why the bet you are taking gets a big Fail Whale, you stupid fool.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Sue: Empty threats only convince children or fools.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Grant

      We're thrilled to have you as an expert on what does or doesn't take place after death.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • AG

      Howdy you see Pascal's Wager as a cause for no God? Different philosophical systems have lured people into believing that they are their own absolute master, able to decide their own destiny and future in complete autonomy, trusting only in themselves and their own powers. But this can never be the grandeur of the human being, who can find fulfilment only in choosing to enter the truth, to make a home under the shade of Wisdom and dwell there. Only within this horizon of truth will people understand their freedom in its fullness and their call to know and love God as the supreme realization of their true self.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  19. Jimcon

    Tell a devout Christian or Muslim that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence what so ever.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  20. Jimcon

    religions serve to divide us and foment most violent confrontations between groups of humans. One of the problems facing schizophrenics is that 75% of the US population claims to believe in things that are no less crazy than whatever is rolling around in the psychotic brain. It might be a bit easier for ordinary people to pull off the feat of the hero of "A Beautiful Mind" and identify which of their thoughts are delusions if talking snakes, invisible Gods, and all manner of paranormal insanity were not taken so seriously by so many.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Glenn

      For much of my life I suffered from mental illness, mostly depression. I wanted nothing more than to feel normal like everyone else. Where happiness was not found in a prescription drug. My own desire was eventually fulfilled. Perhaps the result of a personal search for happiness or just simply a lucky occurrence.
      It took nearly 15 years for my heart and mind to mend itself and for me to return to my natural state. My fractured psyche is whole again. My depression is gone and sense of reality is far different.
      The one thing I was immediately stuck by was the desire of seemingly normal people to be something far greater than they could ever be. Being human was not what they wanted. They wanted to live in a world of the supernatural where miracles associated with the gods and prophets were common. As a man who only aspired to return to a natural state and embrace the humanity that everyone took for granted on a daily basis, I found their logic quite disturbing. If they understood what it meant to be mentally ill they would rejoice in their mental health, keep their imaginations under control and accept their humanity far easier. But, they don't.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:51 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.