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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. Partlow funeral home

    nice one dude !!

    May 19, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      I tried that and banged my shin on the coffee table.

      May 20, 2013 at 12:00 am |
  2. John

    Walk by faith, not by sight...

    May 19, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Tkp353

      Amen.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Which faith? Which god? There are thousands to choose from.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • Tkp353

      Which faith and which god? Open your heart and you will know.

      It isn't easy, and requires you to put logic aside, but He is waiting for you.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Godchecker.com will let you decide which god

      May 19, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Mark

      Only walked earth, and died for you. Try to be grateful instead of spoiled.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Mark: Wrong! No-one died for us. I'm not going to be grateful to something that can't be shown to have been anything more than a normal man (if it even existed at all). The only people I need to give credit to in this world are those who have made an impact on my life, not some character in a 2000 year old book.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Mark

      Interesting that you deny what happened 2000 years ago as if you know, yet you deride those that believe what happened 2000 years ago.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • tenaciousdeucer

      Mark,

      I believe in what happened 4.5 billion years ago. Since the bible states the earth is only a few thousand years old, apparently this agnostic has much more "faith" than most christians.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • are122

      Ya gotta love the people that say the Bible states the world is this or that many years old. Where pray tell does it state that?? Good luck finding it.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • joe

      "Walk by faith, not by sight."

      Which basically says "Ignore logic and reason. Just believe what we tell you."

      This is the dumbest, most self destructive saying I've ever read on the internet. Congratulations.

      May 20, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • AG

      Joe-faith is of an order other than philosophical knowledge which depends upon sense perception and experience and which advances by the light of the intellect alone. Philosophy and the sciences function within the order of natural reason; while faith, enlightened and guided by the Spirit, recognizes in the message of salvation the "fullness of grace and truth" (cf. Jn 1:14) which God has willed to reveal in history and definitively through his Son, Jesus Christ.
      Reason, in its one-sided concern to investigate human subjectivity, seems to have forgotten that men and women are always called to direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them.

      May 21, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • coldcrankcase

      well, AG, that was a lot of pretty sounding mumbo-jumbo that has been tossed about in one form or another for a very long time. the fact still stands that believing a given proposition based on evidence and reason is infinitely superior to believing something based on magical wish thinking (otherwise known as faith). saying that faith is based on human experience and sense perception immediately declares it to be nonsensical and absolutely mutable, as human experience and sense perception are perhaps the most easily shifted and manipulated ideas in the whole of human discourse. also, faith is the surrender of the intellect, not illuminated by it. try again.

      June 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  3. Ray Briggs

    The reason many pastors don't talk about heaven in the way some people might like is because the Bible doesn't talk much about the actual place. (Just take my word for it, I've read it many times cover to cover. I've even read it in the Greek and Hebrew) Some pastors like to speculate and others choose not to. The Bible does talk a lot about who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. So if Rob Bell wants to change that then it will not go over so big. Of course many people have reported going to heaven. It certainly sells books. But as a philosophy major in college, I can tell you this topic is thoroughly investigated under the formal study of metaphysics and sometimes also in psychology (Moody was a psychologist.) They ask great questions, such as, if people are going to and from heaven, how come their experiences are so different? And, how can we tell if these reports are real of contrived? Personally I believe there is a heaven, but Christianity Today magazine has a great article exposing the inconsistencies of Colton Burpo's trip to heaven. But that didn't keep 5 million people from reading his book. Bottom line, God is not as interested in our knowing about heaven (or talking about it) as he is about us knowing what he expects of people who would like to join him there.

    May 19, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Or...
      Men create the bible, all that is in it, including god, just as men have created thousands of gods.

      The bible is nothing more than religious propaganda.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Tkp353

      Religious propaganda?

      How can anyone say that a out a book that was written by 40 different authors over a period of 2000 years...all with the same consistent message?

      Try again.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Mark

      @Richard...Really do you know that to be fact, or is that just your opinion. Because people of Science and atheism seem to be fact driven.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Mark: A statement like that only indicates how little you know about your belief system. It is well noted that the bible was written by 40 some odd men over the course of centuries. It's not just an opinion, it's fact. Opinion is you claiming god exists and us saying no god exists...neither of us can prove the other wrong but one of us see's no evidence to support the claim for a god.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Mark

      I've studied first century Christians and the climate in which the gospels were written. I have studied scholars who know way more about the origin of scripture than you. Yours is opinion, not research. Read Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  4. Choo

    It's called "Dimethyltryptamine", ya nuts. It has been shown to be released just before death. Drug heads take it all the time and experience the out of body experience all the time.

    May 19, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • centeredpiece

      That says nothing about whether there are NDEs or not. It's like saying that because science can put you to "sleep" with anesthesia there is no such thing as sleep!

      May 19, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Choo

      CenteredPenis: I understand the confusion. You are saying my argument is based on the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy or as science nutjobs say: correlation doesn't imply causation; however, either way all we can do to "prove" an NDE as existing are to take a look at neurochemistry (since soul chemistry obviously can't be measured and likely is nonexistent). A dying brain releases excessive amounts of DMT as has been shown with animal studies and volunteer human studies. In addition, potheads take DMT and report the same experiences as people who experience NDE.

      Essentially the argument about sleep would be more like: We know sleep happens and we've induced sleep and here is how we think it happens.

      As far as, NDE's being a real experience whereby a soul goes to clouds and meets its family or what have you, yeah, this says no. Unless that transit to heaven would be mediated by a substance taken by potheads all the time.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • jesterof

      BS

      usual sleep and state under anesthesia are totally different

      May 19, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  5. charlie

    Do any of you "believe in" particles, or sub-atomic particles, or particles that have no mass and are only packets of energy? Scientists have "experienced" these things but you and I who have not, still behave as if we believed in them. Think about it.

    May 19, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Thezel

      exactly

      May 19, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      I have seen them through technology. They are there, I have seen them...do you have a point?

      May 19, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Science has provided a great amount of peer-reviewed evidence to support their claims. Heaven and hell can't be shown to exist in the same way.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • centeredpiece

      Very good point, Charlie. People "believe" and "take on faith" at least as many scientific theories as religious dogmas. And many of those theories are not really susceptible to "proof" any more than religious beliefs are.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:57 am |
  6. DrDroid

    Here's a couple of links people should read:
    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/science-on-the-brink-of-death
    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/this-must-be-heaven

    May 19, 2013 at 8:03 am |
  7. Jack

    I think this whole thing is a property rights issue. What I mean by that is the misguided idea that children are property. Someday we will teach parents to treat their children with the respect they deserve by prohibiting them from entering churches until they reach the age of maturity. Much like we do with Bars and Taverns and Pubs.
    If children were protected from the intoxicating effects of religion until adulthood, would religion disappear in a puff of maturity?

    May 19, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • centeredpiece

      Sure and let's not saddle them with concepts like language or toilet training or anything else that might channel their little minds in a narrow way! Once we grow up we are fully able to choose what – if anything – to believe. It is the parents' job to instill values and behavioral norms in their children. Elsewise they will be feral and lack any ability to choose anything when they reach adulthood.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • are122

      Looking at the world and the news, I believe this is a work in progress. North Korea is a good example.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  8. cosmo

    What I want to know is since I don't need to worry I will be with my loved ones. What about the A- Holes in my life? Are they going to be there?

    May 19, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • DWH

      If your as good as you think, and they are as bad as you say, you won't have to be around them much if at all unless they change. Just remember though, they are still human beings – they wern't always that way, they were just kids that got all messed up in this life – it sounds like.

      In the afterlife Good and Evil do not mix as there is a strict seperation. Here however, they can and do – to an extent. Part of the reason we are here I believe, is to experience Good and Evil and to make our own choices.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  9. Chris D.

    To Colin.. you have a Catholic view of Christianity. If you want an explanation that makes sense, seek out the Reformed Faith (reformed from the Roman Catholic).

    May 19, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • centeredpiece

      I'm not sure what you mean by "Catholic" view? And, by the way, which "Reformed" view do you espouse? Episcopalian? Baptist – and is that primitive Baptist, Southern Baptist or Free Will Baptist? Or maybe Calvinist? And if so, is that Presbyterian USA or Presbyterian Church in America or Orthodox Presbyterian? Or Lutheran – but would that be Missouri Synod or Evangelical? And, being Protestant, do you believe in OSAS? Or do you believe in free will? So, hey, yeah, the "reformed" idea(s) are the one and only true interpretation of Jesus!?!

      May 19, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • jesterof

      wrong

      May 19, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  10. MagicPanties

    This article takes forever to finally quote some skeptics.
    Yes, NDE's can be simulated with oxygen deprivation (e.g., test pilots).

    Of course we all would like to "continue" in some fashion when we die, but wishing/hoping doesn't make it real.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:56 am |
    • Science

      MagicPanties

      The nomex flight suit..................a wounderful invention !

      May 19, 2013 at 8:05 am |
  11. Ruth

    So many of you are SO worried about being considered a fool. That is evidenced by the unnecessary nastiness and vehemence of your comments. Maybe it's time to start worrying about being considered close-minded instead. Face it guys, no one KNOWS the answer. To imply otherwise is to PROVE you are a fool.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Science

      do a search top right hand coner..............of this page..............type in the fairy place (heaven)............

      you will find your answer !

      May 19, 2013 at 7:58 am |
  12. Cv

    "Jesus has sea-blue eyes"?

    May 19, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Danny

      Not only does he have blue eyes, that angels sung a song to him about genocide, Joshua and the battle of Jericho.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • centeredpiece

      I sincerely doubt that, too. But just because someone put their own interpretation on what they see, that doesn't mean they didn't see something!

      May 19, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • tenaciousdeucer

      ... and he was hung like a narwhal, dad!

      May 19, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  13. Atheists do it better ;)

    Ya selling an invisible product over time is pretty hard.....

    May 19, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • Jim

      Sort of like trying to sell a multiverse belief system or an eternal universe contrary to evidence.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:00 am |
  14. Lou

    Growing up, the church used to teach, or should I say "intimidate" us by their foreboding and miserable description of what would happen to us if we died with "mortal sin" on our soul. Never much about Heaven, but a lot about going to Hell, where we'd burn for eternity. Scared a lot of kids into behaving, which I'm guessing was the church's objective in the first place. Although the church had no proof that Hell existed, ruled by the Devil in horns, they continued to remind us of the misery and suffering that awaited us.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • Colin

      Ya gotta love it when a Christian scorns you with the admonition that you will "go to hell" don't ya Lou.

      Out of all the silly superst.itious beliefs of the Christians, I think the myth of hell is my favorite. Think it through. I don't have to kill, I don't have to steal, hell, I don't even have to litter. All I have to do is have a reasonable, honest and rational disbelief in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty upon me an infinite times worse than the death penalty. And he loves me.

      Let's subject this "cherished Christian doctrine" to the probing light of say.......fifth grade mathematics.

      Approximately one hundred and ten thousand million (110,000,000,000) people have lived on Earth. Given all those who have, over the centuries, rejected the Christian god, or who have otherwise committed mortal sins, there must be literally thousands of millions of people burning for all eternity in the cosmic oven of hell set up by their all-loving god. Some must have been burning for thousands of years by now.

      About 100,000 people die every day. There must be a constant stream of thousands of forlorn souls every day into the one way pit of hell their “all-merciful” god set up and maintains.

      But, far, far worse than sheer overwhelming numbers is the extent of the punishment. There is no way out, no parole, no time off for good behavior. You don’t just burn, you burn for all eternity. Billions of people and thousands of daily new arrivals burning for all eternity!

      No criminal justice system in the history of the Human race, even those established by the most despotic of tyrants, comes close to matching the unfathomable barbarity of their “infinitely benevolent” god.

      Hitler murdered six million Jews in his concentration camps, but compared to the Judeo-Christian god, Hitler was a bleeding-hearted wimp. A goose-stepping girlie-man. Their “all-caring” god not only burns billions more than Hitler, Pol Pot and all other dictators and tyrants added up, he keeps doing so to them for all eternity! I would not wish a bad sunburn on a person simply because they have a different religion to me, let alone fry them for all eternity.

      It is also odd that their all-loving god is also all-knowing and knows which souls will go to hell before they do. He even knows it before they are born, and yet he still creates them. He is worse than a psychopathic teenager than breeds litter after litter of kittens so he can slowly roast them in ovens.

      That is the problem with using the same deity to be both the carrot and the stick. It gets really silly really quickly.

      How they believe this utter garbage in the 21st century completely eludes me.

      May 19, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Mark

      @Colin... And so will heaven!

      May 19, 2013 at 7:58 am |
  15. Tkp353

    The Church has changed so much in the past 40-50 years. Especially in the last decade. I am not here to judge anyone, but it seems the Church has become more about numbers. How many people came forward at the Altar Call, and how much money was in the offering plate.

    It is written that there will be a great falling away in the last days of the true faith. I think that is why God is being limited by our own disbelief that he mostly uses the children as proof that there is something much better waiting for us. For it is also written that unless we have the faith of a little child, we cannot get close to Him.

    Such a simple thing to ask. We are so wrapped up in ourselves that we can't let our guard down and yield to He who made all things. He just wants us to love Him. Trust Him. Talk to Him.

    I'm preaching to myself here. I too, have problems with truly giving up control and letting Him lead me. It's not an easy thing to talk about, or do.

    It is the picture one gets in their mind when they think of the word "Heaven", and the word "Church". I just know that I can believe in Him to the best of my human ability, follow the two greatest commandments as set forth by Jesus Himself, and be really wary of where my giving goes. Keep in mind that giving is the three tees. Talent, time and treasure.

    I really believe these people are telling the truth. How could a small child, toddler, and non believing adult know of such things that are so consistent? I also have a friend that experienced a near death experience some 20 years ago, and the story he tells is right in line with these.

    As far as not getting everything we ask for, such as world peace, etc., remember that the Garden of Eden incident introduced sin into humanity, and set God's perfect will compared to His permissible will. In all, if any of us go to hell, we have no right to blame God.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  16. William McElwee

    Will this
    print?

    May 19, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  17. Seek Truth

    Sure Pastors are afraid of Heaven. They can't control it or decide who makes it or not. Conservatism, christianity and the Bible, mostly a bunch of lies made up by the Catholic Church to get money, power and control of people. The truth is that religion could be gone and people still would go to heaven and hell. Its all dependent on Service to Self or service to Others. It is all dependent on whether you oscillate in harmony with the Universe or you oppose it all the way. Religion does not even come into it or what brand of religion you follow. That scares religious people and most of all conservatives and fundamentalists. My own grandmother refused to step into a church but she was a most spiritual woman who helped everyone she met. I KNOW she is in Heaven and she has given me proof! In fact, all of those in my family who are gone have made it in spite of all their failings. Some are more ahead than others but that is OK. I have proof also. Even my little dog made it. I do not follow any organized religion but I do gravitate towards Eastern Buddhist beliefs. The only true religion is Spirituality and connection to the Source. That comes about by resonating with Love, Compassion and Service to Others. Most evangelicals have either of those in abundance and the reason why they fail.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • Darlene

      Thank you for your response...I too have been given proof, and I no longer only believe, but now know what my truth is. Namaste.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  18. Reject religion

    I don't believe these stories one bit. This is just pure science fiction. These stories are just mere hallucinations, due to disturbances involving the nervous system, specifically the brain and the lack of oxygen in it during a medical event. The real story is that, after we die, we rot in the ground for eternity, decomposing back into the Earth, except that the vast majority of us are put into a coffin, and some are cremated. That is the true cycle of life. Our soul dies with us.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Mark

      Well at least your will!

      May 19, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • are122

      I thing God gives you the ultimate freedom...the freedom to choose what you are and where you go. If you believe you will rot in the ground and that's it, so be it. If you believe you don't, so be it. There could be no greater freedom given to each individual other than he or she deciding their own destiny.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • DWH

      If the soul dies with us, why would it exist at all? What would be the purpose of existance...? unless you wish to believe in a purposeless existance. As for me, I do not – and do not want to.

      I think sometimes people are just scared of the idea that we do not die, because then they'd have to admit they don't know 'the answer'.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Lulany

      @DWH I think you nailed it exactly. A lot of the atheist I see and talk to are so complacent about their beliefs (or lack of) and want to make it look like they are smarter for not believing in anything but in many cases it seems more like they can't deal with not knowing. That's especially true of teens who were often raised without any notion of religion or spirituality. They don't know how to feel or what to believe so they just go with the most simple solution of ruling everything out.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  19. Onslow

    There is no heaven. It's just the power of the mind dealing with the situation. Please read the book: Paranormality, Why We See What Isn't There, by Professor Richard Wiseman. It offers fascinating explanations for myths like: fortune telling, out-of-body experiences, talking with the dead, ghosts, mind control, etc. All religion is bunk based on primal fears of death and generally counterproductive in a modern society. We need to be much more secular to progress as a country.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Ant

      I'd rather read a book written by someone who's actually qualified to write about the continuation of consciousness after death... like Eben Alexander. Harvard-trained neurosurgeon, several decades or so of practicing experience. Ya, WAY better and smarter than Richard Wiseman and his ilk.

      And nice try to lump the afterlife into religion, these stories are proof that people will continue in awareness after bodily death regardless of what religion has to say about them.

      May 19, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • DWH

      You don't even know if the mind is the brain or not. So how can you say what you've said?

      People just 'assume' things based on very incomplete 'facts'. Some of that is true, people fear death – however that doesn't mean presumptive secularism is 'the answer'. That said, I do see why some people buy into that. Its 'convenient'. Ive learned to be careful of whats 'convenient' – it has a way of deceiving the best of us.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  20. Joe Clark

    Simply because it has already been spelled out quite clearly in the most popular book ever written called the Bible. Nothing more can be added to it on the subject. Its ll there.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • .

      It is all there, why didn't you say so twit.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:00 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.