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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. Free Man

    The Church doesn't talk about heaven because they don't care about heaven and the soul and such things. Churches are about power, wealth, and status. They haven't been about faith and spirituality for thousands of years. Why do you think Christ went berserk over the many changers in the Temple? What, you don't think THAT was why they killed him? It was EXACTLY why they killed him. Priests care about material things, not spiritual things. Spirituality is the domain of the masses, not the pedophile pigs who presume to herd them into heavenly stables.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Tunlese

      Absolutely right.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
  2. Reality

    The Holy Roman "Empirers"/Popes/Kings/Queens/Evangelicals et al continued the money grab selling access to JC and heaven resulting in some of today's richest organizations on the globe i.e. the Christian churches (including the Mormon Church) and related aristocracies. Obvious greed!!!

    May 19, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Free Man

      Here's someone who gets it.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."
      —Lucius Annaeus Seneca (5 BCE – 65 CE), Roman statesman

      May 19, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

      Ephesians 5:6

      Amen.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • Ted

      That mean ole Christian god, being wrathful again...to its own supposed creations. What a loser.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      1 Timothy 1:9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,

      1 Timothy 1:9

      Amen.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  3. TLORop

    People will believe what they want to believe. If you want to be these hallucinations are visions of the after life go ahead.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • Free Man

      Excatly, just as you will probably continue to believe that Obama is a decent human being and qualified to be President and that he has the magical power to spend debt away and that if he denies Benghazi, it never happened.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • james

      yeah....you have to believe too... at least your aware that truth is trying to find it myth...in order as to go to hell...instead of being waking up to reality of what science believe that there is no god...or to getting bigger chances that you go to hell...hahahah...good luck guys...

      May 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • WhenCowsAttack

      @james- some Christians really show their true colors when they fantasize about other human beings tortured for all of eternity, then LAUGH about it.

      You're one sick fvck.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      james
      Rehashing the old pascals wager does not lend credibility to the already dis-proven bible.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      1 Timothy 1:9

      Amen.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  4. james

    CHOIR LOFT: science boy, you know only 3rd dimention...the people like you can easily fool because your 3rd dimention science mentality is limited....hahahaha.....

    May 19, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • mama k

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35WVf6Uvk8U&w=640&h=360]

      May 19, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • Science

      Holy Hallucinations 35

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XTCRdC8Dlo&w=640&h=360]

      May 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |

      Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

      May 19, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  5. mama k

    Colin D (May 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm):
    "My church talks about Heaven all the time, also about Hell, Hell is as real as Heaven and both of them are earned through actions or lack of actions"

    Lord Jesus is the most powerful figure known to mankind (May 19, 2013 at 2:15 pm):
    "Hell does not exist neither is the word hell found anywhere in the ORIGINAL Hebrew bible..."

    Come on Xtians – which is it??

    Why don't you get this one settled before you start yakking about marriage.

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    (Thomas Jefferson – from Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)

    May 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • Renee

      Hell is definitely mentioned in the original Hebrew Scriptures. It is simply called "Sheol" the place of the dead. This is the place where Yahshua died and took the keys of hell and death from Lucifer. He was resurrected from the grave by The Glory of The Father. Hades, Hell, Sheol, is definitely not the place you want to go when you die. Be redeemed now before The Messiah comes!

      May 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • mama k

      Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things the over 40,000 sects of Christianity don't agree on.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Sheol means the "abode of the dead", so in essence it is a grave. No surprise that dead people end up in a grave. Of course, christians had to commandeer this jewish word and pervert it into something else entirely.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      The wicked shall be turned into hell, [and] all the nations that forget God.

      Psalms 9:17

      Amen.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  6. james

    i believe that there is being that the creator......but its hard to explain...thats it....the 3rd dimention of reality can't explain it...that simple why we have limited ideas about anything...

    May 19, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • Renee

      The Most High still exists. His Son is Yahshua, The Messiah who came to preach the gospel and for us to receive remission of sins so that we will not be exposed to the condemnation. Repent ye, for The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!

      May 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Yeah, yeah, Renee, the kingdom of heaven has been "at hand" for 2000 years now, and apparently you dupes are still falling for it. The very first failure of that "2nd Coming" prophecy dropped from the lips of your favorite charlatan, the late, great Hebrew philanthropist and philosopher J. Christ, 2 millennia ago, when he assured his disciples that he'd be back IN THEIR LIFETIMES. Didn't happen then, hasn't happened since, isn't happening now, won't happen in the future. Why not? Because he's DEAD! It's been TWO THOUSAND YEARS! Sheesh! Get over it already.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I will believe in a creator when someone provides indisputable proof of a creator. Thousands of years and thousands of gods since humanity first emerged, and still no proof of any creator or any god.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • you

      Occam's razor: It is more likely that everything evolved through chaos or through a God who could manipulate substance to create everything. I would dare say Occam's razor would say God is more likely. Not only that but why is DNA called a Code a A system of signals used to represent letters or numbers in transmitting messages or A system of symbols and rules used to represent instructions to a computer; a computer program. How would nothing create a code? Science only adds to God and his wonder.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Check

      @you,

      Yeah, and years ago Occam's razor (if it had been implemented) would have stopped at "goddidit" regarding lightning, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, earthquakes, diseases, etc. Sure glad we didn't cut off exploration. We don't know what we don't know - so Gee, let's (Gillette's!) keep exploring.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • you

      @Check
      It is obvious that you are trolling atheist. On an article of religion....
      Why do atheists troll? What need is there to prove god does not exist why>>>> Preach<<<< about a non existing God. To an atheists there is no proof of God but there is also no proof of God not existing. So as a scientist why make a conclusive statement that god does not exist when there is no evidence that he does not. Why its illogical an unethical for scientists to say without a doubt god does not exist.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • Check

      @you,

      I did not say that a god or gods definitely do not exist. The beings proffered in your Hebrew writings are highly unlikely, however.

      In the absence of proof one way or the other to an hypothesis, the default stance is to withhold belief until proven. Not a whit of your hypothesis has been proven.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. - Romans 1:25

      May 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  7. Kevin

    Hope for heaven. Worry about the way you live. I do not see the reason, and this in any matter of the sort, to talk about the prize or about winning or whatever else, when there are things that have to be covered before getting to either. That is just my opinion. Another thing is that you can't expand on what you don't know. I do not know a person that has been to heaven and come back to describe it. What is said of heaven is or should be from the Bible. Even if someone had come back to tell you, it would be as a person telling you that they got an award without altogether getting you an award or telling you how to get it. That is also why most preachers do not talk about the apocalypse so much-those who really got the biblical message at least in my opinion. Jesus did not expand much Heaven/Hell as he did on how to leave. He talked about how to live most of all, not heaven or hell. they were both secondary in his discourse while retaining their position as the end of all things. Since Christianity is living like The Christ, another reason to focus on the way of life if because Jesus did. Athletes do not prepare to hold the gold medal in their hand. they prepare for the race.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Living your life anticipating an unsubstantiated reward that you only get after you die is pointless. A good life is it's own reward, and morals are best found in reality, not a book of myths written by men in a time when natural phenomena were not understood and therefore attributed to the actions of a "god".

      May 19, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  8. zhoro

    Thousands, parhaps millions, of people have accessed the transcendental experience through millenia-old methods such as meditation or entheogens (mostly banned nowadays for fear and control reasons). Those people don't see the world the way the majority does. Were the majority to take even a glance beyond the habitual material existence, profound changes would occur in the structure of our lives and society, changes for the better. The problems of this world will not be fixed with the means of this world. Until the notion of what we can reality get upgraded and the interconnectedness of all aspect of existence become an actual living experience, like the palm of one's hand, fundamental human behavior will not change and all efforts to solve the world's problems will fall short, fail or generate new ones. The Golden Rule, Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do To You, is based on Reality, not wishful thinking or romantic notions. There really are no others.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  9. james

    hahaha.....poor.....science? science here in asia especially in the Philippines cannot explain the extraordinary phenomenons..such as witchcraft black spirits vs your advanced science...came here in the philippines and try your research here about your scientific minds if you can solve the problem....most of the patients here doesn't need scientific explanation just use the supernatural way of curing the disease....how can you explain about man with fever and doctors says the patient have fever because of bad weather but in the supernatural way of healing he got a 1 kg of sand lifted from his body?...............science i challenge you! explain that phenomenon

    May 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Actually, I think the science that CAN explain those phenomena already exists. It's called psychology.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • james

      RichardSRussell: Are you sure? psychology? can sand lifted from body?....hahahaha....very lol answer..not enough..

      May 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • CHOIR LOFT

      Only the fool claims absolute knowledge of that which he knows not.

      and that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...

      May 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Please provide references to doc.umented cases. To e clear, I think you are Peking bullsh!t.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      spewing bullsh!t.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  10. lionlylamb

    Virtual relativisms are nowhere nearing any augmentation of religious relativity. Neither are naturalistic evolutions. Religions are humanities' considerations of the egoistically spiritual endowments of conditioned soulfully individualized relevancies. Beliefs in the Godly domains' kingdoms are a no-brainer for me. These Godly kingdom domains are universal constructs of human physiologies.

    Common folk people who choose godliness as being their life's crux will find failure after failures in a world getting ever filled with growing faithlessness. Nothing good can ever come from ever mounting humanisms of faithlessness.

    There are many Gods and even many more sons (even daughters) of the Gods. The Gods of celestial creations are of one nature and the sons of the Gods of atomized cellular creations are of another nature. Which of these Gods and/or Gods’ sons creatively evolved one's bodies? Whose Gods and sons of the Gods are for and whose son gods are found against us? For the sons/daughters of the Celestial Gods within atomic manifestations are our bodies' husbanded fathers and the Gods of Celestial Creations are not of our bodies' physiological creations. The human deviltry of socialized humanisms seems to be for the Celestial Gods while hardly anyone pays any attention to our bodies' cellular sons of the Celestial Gods. Go figure!

    May 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • psych ward staff

      Uh oh, he threw up his word salad again – clean-up on page 19 – stat!

      May 19, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Word Salads are a great source of mental nutrition!

      May 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Not really, LL. You just think that because you are vain. Most of us tend to ignore your insubstantial ramblings.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      OMG, is the psych ward using the "catch and release" method?
      I thot this guy was safely back on his meds, but here he is, apparently let out again.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      My psychiatric conditioning is psychological. Learn the differences between the psychiatric and the psychological and maybe then you will be able to see the veils of Cosmic Revelations!

      May 19, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      tallulah13,

      Vain? Me? I hardly ever use your vain words speaking witticisms saying "WE" of which you so I n c o n s p I c u o u s l y enunciate! I cannot speak or even relate to this WE as you so vainly incorporate and do write about! I am but an individual whose conscience is aware of issues that the majorities hardly ever do eviscerate and dare rationalize! People are so dumbed down and grounded by things they tender from others' labeling innuendoes.

      I am no longer boxed in by shallow allegories of mainstreamed r e p e t I t I v e issues. I have no weak bubble to be burst! I dare stand upon my own reasoning abilities and desire to reason without shame filled allegations that are coughed up by the retarded inklings of fragmented consciences that cannot seem to fathom the physiologic cosmological constraints revealed to me! I share my perceptivities! You wreak havoc with your a c c u m u l a t I o n s of verbose redundancies.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Do dare do dare. Oh do dare day.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
  11. Gloria

    People always resist a truth that isn't their own. Having had friends that have had paranormal experiences when they weren't even thinking of such things, and myself as well the unbelivers are in for a pleasant surprise, whether they want it or not.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Billy

      "Having had friends that have had paranormal experiences"

      LOL

      May 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I resist "truths" that cannot be supported by facts. Such "truths" are nothing more than opinions.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I'm not surprised to hear anecdotal evidence of NEAR-death experiences.
      Get back to us as soon as you've got a POST-death experience.
      Like, say, somebody waiting around 24 hours to really check out the scene on the "far side".

      May 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
  12. Tim

    When did we lose sight of something being faith? I believe in God, that is my faith. If you do not that is still your faith. I don't understand why people feel a constant need to be right? If you do not believe that is o.k. with me. If you want to have a conversation about why I believe great! If not that's o.k. You and I are both still human beings who live on planet earth and need to coexist and fix the problems we have on earth. That is the only fact I know and i am not afraid to admit it. I hope that as my generation gets older that we can come to a place where we focus on the facts more than faith and just help each other out regardless of our belief system. Anyone agree?

    May 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • Sweet Dreams

      Tim, if you can get all your fellow Christians to butt out of the lives of people that have other religious beliefs or no belief in a god at all, that would be a good starting point. Can you do that? If I and my partner elect to abort an unwanted fetus, would you object or let us make that decision?

      May 19, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Tim, if believers (of any religion) understood that their religion is personal, I doubt that there would be any problems. But you have people who try to legislate their beliefs, people who proselytize because their particular sect demands it, and people who fly hijacked jets into buildings in the name of their god.

      Is it any surprise that those of us who don't believe are fed up with this nonsense?

      May 19, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Ang take in "god we trust off" our money.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I love the Green Bay Packers.
      They are the greatest sports team in world history.
      I say this despite the pounding they took from the 49ers in the playoffs last year.
      Yes, belief without evidence — in fact, belief in the face of CONTRADICTORY evidence — that's faith, all right.
      But I'm not trying to get every city hall in America painted Green and Gold.
      I don't insist that every session of Congress start with a rousing chorus of "Go You Packers, Go, Go!".
      I don't demand that the football-shaped "G" logo replace George Washington on our coins and currency.
      I don't require biology classes to teach non-science, like the best techniques for running the power sweep.
      In short, I understand that my own faith-based belief shouldn't be national, state, or local policy.
      Get the Christians to go along with that, and we'd all be cool.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Sweet Dreams

      No one agrees so far. Tim are you doing a hit and run here, why no response, devil got your keyboard?

      May 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Tim

      Sweet Dreams if you and your partner decided to abort a child and came to me the only thing I would do was suggest you talk to people who have had abortions to tell you what emotional feelings to expect afterwards. I happen to know a lot about this subject as my wife had an abortion at the age of 16(she was not my wife at the time). I can tell you from her experience the emotional side of an abortion has not been a good experience for her. I am so sorry that my christian brothers and sisters act the way they do at times. As you know i can no more control the actions of my fellow believers as you can of yours. I want you and everyone else to know that we have more Christians who think the way I do. God bless you!

      May 19, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • Sweet Dreams

      Thanks for that very good heartfelt answer. Hard to disagree with a rational loving person Christian or otherwise. It is just a shame that there are so many that are not in the same place as you are. May your Creator work out well for you, PEACE.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Tim

      Sweet Dreams I think if more people had these conversations and tried to figure out what we can do to stop trying to prove each other wrong we might actually accomplish something. Whatever belief you have the number 1 belief should be we have to treat each other better and take care of what we have on this planet and the people who are suffering on this planet. I imagine it would be hard to stop the human race if that happened.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  13. matt

    Ahahaha! Heaven and God are nothing more than fairy tales.
    Only retards believe otherwise.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Dan

      Hopefully we can all reach the intellectual plane that you're on where we can insult the inferior by comparing them to those with mental disabilities.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • Brooklyn Boy

      Yes – I think that puts it rather well!

      May 19, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • CHOIR LOFT

      The fool has said in his heart there is no God.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Renee

      In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and earth. The Most High exists today as He did yesterday and His Son, The Messiah is soon to return on the clouds of heaven. This is not a fairy tale! Yahshua came to earth 2000 years ago to save people from the condemnation. The "White Throne Judgment" will be the final judgment for the earth as we know it today.
      The earth was judged before the flood, after the flood the five plains, Egypt was judged at the Exodus and Jerusalem in 70 AD!

      May 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • .

      The bigger fool and idiot says there is a god and gives his money to the hustlers selling him the bill of goods.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • Check

      CHOIR LOFT,
      "The fool has said in his heart there is no God."

      A quite old and sometimes effective tactic – declaring that those who do not believe your story are 'fools'. Nobody wants to be considered 'dumb' for not seeing the Emperor's new clothes, or a 'bas.tard' for not seeing the Sultan's new turban, or a 'cuckold' for not being able to see the Miller's gold thumb.

      Even Joseph Smith used it when he gathered his 'witnesses' to his golden plates. He told them that only those with 'true faith' would be able to 'see' them.

      The ancient, primitive Hebrews who originated those Bible stories were quite adept at manipulative mind games.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      CHOIR LOFT notes that "The fool has said in his heart there is no God."

      Yup, pretty foolish, all right. The wise person says so right out loud.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
  14. Thomas Jefferson

    Whenever... preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put [their congregation] off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead of it, what they did not want, or, if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art of science.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
  15. Lord Jesus is the most powerful figure known to mankind

    Hell does not exist neither is the word hell found anywhere in the ORIGINAL Hebrew bible http://theeternalwisdom.com/Misconception_of_Hell.html. The bible says the wages for sin is DEATH, not eternal life only so you can be tormented for ever and ever in the most gruesome way. Read the original text before you put your faith and trust in the translations of white men who's only desires were POWER and CONTROL. FEAR being the bridge to the two. Stop judging and condemning people based off of the deceptions, misconceptions, and lack of understanding you suffer from. Learn the truth before you go around spreading poison.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • mama k

      So Satan is necessary for Christianity and Hell is not?? Hmmmmm.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • CHOIR LOFT

      Jesus said that unless a man is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.

      Apart from that the disembodied human spirit will wander like aimless stars in the blackness of eternity – alone and without hope.

      No God, no hope and no skin. That sounds pretty hellish to me.

      and that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...

      May 19, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • Check

      CHOIR LOFT,

      I guess your god is not the Unconditional Love one, then, huh? Check.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • you

      I concur hell (forever tormented devil prodding area )is a made up fictional place not truely in the bible but with that said the lake of fire is sited in revelations most likely when our sun goes supernova. A loving God does not plan on tormenting people forever but he does plan on them to cease to exist forever. Hell was invented to scare people into the church but i would dare say it was not "white men"(super racist) but Satan (the enemy of god in Hebrew) to make God look like an evil dictator and that's all part of the Great Controversy. Satan deceiving humanity into retaliation. Even putting different races against each other only goes to glorify Satan in his attempt to make people hate instead of love.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      CHOIR LOFT, to be born again means souls that were destroyed in the first earth age ... are allowed to come to earth. that being born of woman. Fallen Angels, as well as Lucifer (also known as satan) were created by God and are not born of woman. Therefore, satan and the fallen angels will never inherit the Kingdom of God.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Check

      @you,

      A god who truly loved me would not make me spend eternity with these irrational, superst'itious, preachy religious folks.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Check, not to worry. Jesus is not going to let us spend eternity with unbelievers.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • you

      @Check
      I don't know why you are on a article about religion and church if you don't want to hear(read) about it lol no buddy asked you to come here but that's the thing wasn't you were interested on some level.
      Heaven is not about preaching. Preaching is an ends to a mean trying to help other people find there way.
      Heaven is about loving your neighbor, being selfless, community, harmony and if you don't seek these things heaven is pointless for you.

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

      @you,

      So, would a Hindu who practices "loving their neighbor, being selfless, community, harmony" get to this "heaven"? A Maori aborigine who practices said same? Isolated Amazonian tribespeople? Buddhists? Inhabitants of North Sentinel Island, who have NEVER allowed a member of outside civilization enter?

      Your smug zealotry bugs me, that's one of the reasons I bother to post.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • Honey Hush

      HS IS HS, not.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • you

      @check
      It is not up to me Check I do not know what is in a mans heart but Jesus does, I do believe anyone(any religion or not) who loves there neighbor will be accepted by a loving God even an atheist who loves there neighbor. God is humble and accepting especially of those who are loving to others.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      “Jesus saith unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’.” ― John 14:6

      Jesus warned,

      Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: ― Matthew 7:13

      Amen.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • you

      @HeavenSent
      “Jesus saith unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’.” ― John 14:6
      Which clearly states Jesus saves Jesus chooses who is worthy. (Jesus is the judge)Just because a Native American in 300bc for example never seen or heard Jesus doesn't mean he won't be saved, how is that fair. If that man loved his neighbors and did what he believed to be right Jesus would judge him accordingly. That being said it is much easier for a man who knows Jesus from reading the bible to enter heaven because they have his inspiration to be good.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      And, behold, this day I [am] going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, [and] not one thing hath failed thereof.

      Joshua 23:14

      Amen.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
  16. Rickapolis

    The problem with believing that the people who have had near death experiences have really seen heaven is that they were 'near' death experiences. They didn't really die so they haven't really been there.
    Of course, if I'm wrong, ah, just kidding, God. Okay? Just kidding.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Odin is the real God

      Don't worry Ricka. I'm not like that mean Christian god guy. I'll let anyone with a good sense of humor through my garden gates. You're in, dude. Welcome!

      May 19, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • CHOIR LOFT

      I know a man who had the experience of seeing the next world without being in a coma, near a hospital, hurt or even suffering a toothache. The man was fully awake at the time and could describe things often seen by those who were more dead than alive, yet this fellow was completely healthy and aware of his surroundings.

      and that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...

      May 19, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • DougNJ

      Also, although those experiences are similar in description, the interpretation is cultural. Cultural in that the Hindu, Zoroaster, Taoist, etc did NOT say they saw Jesus. Neither did the servicemen during training that knew they would have physiological affects due to extremes. One last thought, Colton's description of Christ's eyes as "sea-blue" does not sound like an Arameic from 2,000 years ago. Sounds more like the Hollywood light brown haired (blonde), blue-eyed Christ.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  17. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    In Heaven, what are the demographics of orientation in troops of Boy Scouts?

    May 19, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  18. RichardSRussell

    Heaven: The place where Joke #1 supposedly hangs out.
    Hell: The place where Joke #2 supposedly hangs out.
     
    Send us a postcard when you get there.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  19. Deuteronomy 23:1

    No man whose testicles have been crushed or whose penis has been cut off may enter the LORD's assembly.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • .

      Ok, Ok, I will cancel the s8x change operation but I still feel like a DIVA, sigh.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I imagine that these guys only wish for the blessed relief of death at the time of injury.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
  20. Tom

    Perhaps pastors don't like talking about heaven because the most interesting NDE experiences do not involve Jesus or any of their orthodox teachings. The church is a very conservative organization and I don't imagine they would be too keen to talk about NDE experiences that have nothing to do with their teachings.

    Also, i'm not sure why they keep talking about that boys NDE experience. It's one of the worst ones I have ever heard. Jesus had blue eyes? Really? There are far more interesting NDE experiences that they could have mentioned. Eben Alexanders is interesting but there are countless others.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Terry

      Yeah, they want to have a monopoly, and anything outside their god business outside of their church is competition. Same old same old con game of religion.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • tallulah13

      NDE experiences tend to follow culture lines. Non-christians do not have christian experiences.

      Of course, there is no reason to believe that NDEs are anything more than chemical reactions caused by stress on the complex organ that is the brain.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Renee

      The concept of NDE is not what The Church stands for. The Messiah came down from heaven and established a "ecclesia" in Jerusalem after He ascended back into heaven. He sits on the right hand of The Majesty in the heavens. These signs in the earth are birth pangs as a sign of His Coming. He did not talk about NDE but came so that the sinners would repent so they would not be exposed to the condemnation known as "The White Throne Judgment." The Church today is divided into many denominations and no two are the same, but those of us who know the truth and understand it, know that "The Heavens were created with the sun, moon and stars and planets" which we call "Creation". Check out Matthew 24!

      May 19, 2013 at 2:28 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.