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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. DJR

    I believe that the church should talk more about those that GOD has set as weeds sewn in the harvest. That what we know is nothing. As most can't understand atoms or photosynthesis. It's not that we don't learn or believe in their existence, it's just that we can't see them duplicating or nourishing a living thing. People only want to believe in what they can see, own, or feel. Thus faith. Those who got it are told GOD seeked them out, chose them. Don't believe in heaven? That's O.K. It's a relationship, and maybe GOD doesn't believe in you either. Don't get GOD? Neither did many in the time of Noah. Theres parts to heaven, a higharcy in heaven and a dictatorship in heaven, Theres a peace that we cannot conceive, no fleshy wants or needs, no testosterone, no greed or lust, no individual self pitty, No massive brain mess. You will love the LORD our GOD with all your soul, might and HEART. Of course theres a heaven. The GOD who sees are insignificance rules there.

    May 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  2. JAMESVIVA

    In Africa there are people who died and came back to life after three or more days with more revealing heavenly stories, at homes,hospitals and accident scenes.sometimes even at the morgues. it is a common phenomenon in Africa, just that they don't have the means to publish them widely,stop all this crap and fallible wrangling.

    May 19, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Sounds like they don't have very good doctors in Africa.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • One one

      Don't you wonder why this happens only in Africa ? I'm pretty sure they have computers, TV, books etc in Africa. If someone rose from the dead after 3 days, it would get big news coverage. That is unless it was just local religious juju BS.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • yep

      wow,, they had to smell pretty bad

      May 19, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  3. Andres

    God will appear to us in the easiest way for us to understand his presence. Like the little boy say a white Jesus with blue eyes so he would rejoice and have no fear. Everything is possible for the All-Loving, All-Mighty, Spirit-of-the-Universe, the Many-Names-and-Only-One GOD.

    "What this (life) is all about is teaching us to love,” how wise and how far are we still after centuries of civilization. That is the devil gene within us, nothing elsewhere need be, that seeks to destroy everything around us and within ourselves because of self seeking and selfish motives. It may ultimately be the cause of our demise.

    May 19, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • @OD

      If Jesus was a true savior he would tell us to wash hands and stop using lead pipes for plumbing

      May 19, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Back up your claims....where is this devil gene again?.
      By the way , god created satan knowing full well the consequences, so god is OK with whatever satan does.
      The brainwashing is complete on this one.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Andres,

      Those whose faiths are never wavered by adulthoods' childishness ways and means refuting the Fathered of All Life Manifestations will one day stand upon the Rock of the Immovable!

      May 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Roger that

      God will appear to us in the easiest way for us to understand his presence.

      Okay... The easiest way for me to understand his presence would be for him to ACTUALLY APPEAR. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  4. Table 52

    Anyone out there who has read, "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand? Can you tell me why we ignore the evil in this world, reducing it to just because that is the way humans are................

    May 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Andres

      It is my belief that as part of the Universe, therefore we are all part of God, with immense potential for good but also, as the writings say, I chose to believe that we all have this Mr. Hyde, the voice or gene, the one that makes us all capable of evil things if we so chose to. I also believe our ancients may have chose to call this otherwise inexplicable behaviour or character defect, the anti-God, the devil. But in a plan of salvation, of an all powerful, all loving God, beyond human comprehension, everyone who accepts God at any moment must surely be saved, and salvation (in Christianity terms) would then be perfect and fully Divine. At least that is my vision of how much God loves us all. That is why the angels must surely be jealous (now that is another topic).

      May 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Andres,

      Our bodies are of the "Celestial Variations of Living Manifestations" and our egoistically centered spiritualisms are bound up in the "Atomized Domains of Cellular Biology.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
  5. 1mommicked1

    heaven is a place. its not about where its about who. the afterlife is a time to be with Jesus Christ, not a destination to a place

    May 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Seek firstly the kingdom DOMAINS of the Godly and know fully well its real locations! For doesn't everyone truly know that the kingdom DOMAINS of the Godly lay inside our physical beings? For the dumb and even dumber are dumbfounded and they should be left fending for their own ways thru this Life's encroachments. Death comes soon enough! Be then prepared for death's gate!

      May 19, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  6. yep

    the lazy and cheap way out - there is a god.

    someone who can stand on their own two feet without the need to follow – atheists and Realists

    May 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Andres

      what is your gain by not believing in an afterlife? an empty existence on earth, no trust in anyone but yourself, or maybe no goal but earn your riches and enjoy them while they last? careful with the pandora's box my friend. Talk is cheap until you see evil blossom in your head.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Wrong

      Andres"what is your gain by not believing in an afterlife? an empty existence on earth"

      No. Since I believe this world is all we've got, I'm doing my best to leave it a little better for my having been here

      May 19, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  7. Donald Shimoda

    To Chad and other non-realists on this blog; no one knows what happens when you die so why pretend? The available evidence would suggest nothing happens. Why do you pretend to know something that is obviously impossible to know?

    May 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Well, now, Donald, that's the question. Yet Chard does this all the time. Any minute now, he'll be along to tell you that you obviously haven't read this or that in the Bible, don't understand this or that from history, are poorly versed on sumpin' sumpin, and proceed to tell you that you need to fix yourself just to be his equal.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • Andres

      The evidence suggest otherwise but the worse blind is the one who wont open his eyes. You just have to be willing to see further. Your willingness will let you see. I dare you to ask the Universe, Him, if there is something greater than you out there.

      I DARE YOU!!! PEACE

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

      What evidence?

      May 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Donald Shimoda wrote, "Why do you pretend to know something that is obviously impossible to know?"

      Atomic Cosmology. Impossible to know? Celestial Cosmology. Impossible to know? Cellular Cosmology. Yet again, impossible to know? I do not 'pretend' in my knowing understandings of such Cosmologies. Many posters here are immature in things they dribble here. Many "adults" are still nothing more than being infantile nuisances meant to irk others' emotional states.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
  8. @OD

    Can you imagine how many lives could be saved if Jesus just told us how important it is to wash hands? Well I guess he was to busy walking on water and reattaching some guy's ear...sorry for the sarcasm here but I couldn't help my self entertaining this thought.

    May 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • yep

      go figure.. and those people he raised from the dead had to smell really bad. You know, being dead and all for a while.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  9. Bob

    Joy, while you and your pastor are picking and choosing the quotes from the Christian book of nasty that you like, let's not skip over some of the nasty demands in there from your vicious jerk in the sky too:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    May 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • yep

      there is a psychiatrist who helps deprogram christian children, saving them.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • GottaLuvJavaScript

      Yes, yes. Join the church of atheism. Go where nothing and nobody matters except "you".

      May 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • yep

      did you know there are fewer racist atheists than religionist? Did you know atheists respect living and breathing life?

      Religions and dictators,, they try to control others, expect people to believe what they say is fact and use fear. Not a good bunch.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • Glenn

      What people fail to understand is the religions/cultures of the world are a perception of the world founded in genetics. Some actually do perceive a world according to scripture. Many are taught in childhood and it is not innate to them.

      Mental health dictates raising children according to their own nature. Once the mind has developed properly than adults can choose and make choices which are best for them, not for some one else's religion.

      For a saner world accept it as it truly is, with all it's diversity.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Table 52

      Google Louie Zamparini and Watanbe "the Bird" and tell me again that aethists are misunderstood nice guys

      May 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  10. lol??

    The angel told Alexander, author of proof bla bla bla, "“You have nothing to fear.”

    What kinda fruitcake spirit is that??

    "Pro 9:10 The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy [is] understanding."

    May 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  11. Zach

    So how many of you think Jesus had blue eyes? Last time I was in Palestine I did not see many with blue eyes except the western Jews.

    May 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • yep

      jesus came from Africa,, he was black. Funny, the KKK, white supremacist and tea party all pray to him.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Glenn

      I was told he had to be brown. The Europeans had not interbred at that time. All the Jews were brown too.

      The Romans blamed the Jews for his crucifixion. It's why Pilate placed the words "King of the Jews" on his cross. He has written what he has written. Jewish law was fulfilled.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  12. DocBlogger

    The religious books were written in ignorant times. Other than for philosophy, the science is way off. Earth was created in six days. We are center of universe.

    May 19, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • yep

      and a perfect god left a mess,, all those meteors and asteroids. He should have never rested on the 7th day.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  13. truth

    I'm sorry if you go to a church that never talks about heaven. I've never been to one. Either way, the focus of Christianity is on the saving grace of Jesus, without which, heaven isn't relevant anyway.

    May 19, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • Peanut

      Why was a Jesus needed by god to save anything?

      May 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • @OD

      In Jesus time people used to die because they didn't understand how important it is to wash hands, while Jesus did the walking on water, it took another 2000 years for people to realize that they need to wash hands...couldn't Jesus just tell us this?

      May 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • yep

      and jesus turned water into wine. It'd been a miracle if he did it without water.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  14. @OD

    How can we provoke God to talk? No really, we suppose to figure it out all by ourselves but if we wrong we get punished. This would be the most idiotic way to raise a kid, wouldn't it?

    May 19, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • Peanut

      Yeppir.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  15. gary

    ancient myth and folklore - it's all make believe .. no heaven or hell or god or devil etc ... all ancient myth

    May 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • speltomqt

      Let's see. Should I listen to the successful neurosurgeon who has carefully reflected upon a life-changing experience, or should I listen to someone like Gary, who is re-posting something that he posts on every religious article? That's a tough one.

      And I am not saying anyone should blinding follow or automatically believe either. I am just saying that you should listen and think. For once.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  16. lionlylamb

    One has to have a need for resonations of their ill-worded namesakes. The faithless ever will harken upon those whose faiths are centralized in there being but One Father of All Living Manifestations! 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 within atomized cellular creations are of another nature. Which of these Gods and/or Gods’ sons/daughters creatively evolved one's physiological bodies? Whose Celestial Gods and sons/daughters of the Celestially Manifested Gods are for and whose son/daughter gods are found against us? For the sons/daughters of the Celestial Gods living 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/daughters of the Celestial Gods. Go figure!

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

      Pure meaningless drivel.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Dippy,

      What is it in a name like 'Dippy' saying such dippy thoughts of resentfulness?

      May 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Truth hurts, doesn't it, Loopy?

      If you don't want others to make fun of your posts then don't post meaningless sh!t. That's all you do here. If you can't take it when you're called on it, then grow a set of balls.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Tommie girl child,

      Just based upon worded accounts, you are nothing but a foolish old girl who just loves to come across as being someone that willfully stains others who dare to instill a different light on subjective rationalisms. Your ridiculing behaviorisms are fast becoming a non-intellectual nuisance. Go and play in the kiddie pools and leave those who willingly want to fathom rationalisms with little revulsion.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  17. Joy Devore

    Just letting CNN know that my pastor at Media City Church here in Burbank just preached a message on heaven today! I posted this article on FB this morning, and then went to church and heard that sermon. I had to laugh, 'cause the timing was so perfect...lol 😀 So, I guess some churches are still excited about what's waiting up yonder 😉 Aaaaand, for all you Baptists out there wondering...nope, he didn't shy away from talking about hell either.

    Here's what John saw about our future in heaven:
    Revelation 21
    9 Then one of the seven angels who held the seven bowls containing the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come with me! I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

    10 So he took me in the Spirit[b] to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal. 12 The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates. 13 There were three gates on each side—east, north, south, and west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

    15 The angel who talked to me held in his hand a gold measuring stick to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 When he measured it, he found it was a square, as wide as it was long. In fact, its length and width and height were each 1,400 miles.[c] 17 Then he measured the walls and found them to be 216 feet thick[d] (according to the human standard used by the angel).

    18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. 19 The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones:[e] the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.

    21 The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.

    22 I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. 25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. 26 And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. 27 Nothing evil[f] will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

    May 19, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • WhenCowsAttack

      Well that's a bummer, night is my favorite. No night? And does that mean I don't get to sleep anymore? I really like sleeping.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • lol??

      BTW, what were all those jokes about Burbank supposed to mean??

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

      Are yes, REVELATIONS! from everything I have read it would appear that the author of revelations was regarded as being completely INSANE and had they had Lunatic Asylums where he lived then he would have been certified and locked away.
      PLEASE tell me that your post was just a joke, surely you don't actually believe any of the crap that you quoted.
      In any case if heaven is so GREAT why is it that the SHEEP go to their doctors as often as the sane people, why don't they just let nature take its course and they can go to heaven and enjoy themselves.
      I have YET to get a SENSIBLE answer to this question, I emphasize a SENSIBLE ANSWER not some ludicrous harangue full of idiotic biblical quotes.

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

      Joy Devore,

      Your Word declaring God to be in the above voids of celestial cosmologies will never be for mankind's ascensions. Celestial Life was born from the atomic cosmologies and back to the atomic our spirited souls will one day go. The KJVB teaches one that, "The kingdom (domains) of God are within/inside us". Why should one believe that after death one flies outwardly into the spatial beyond when scripture tells us otherwise as to the kingdom domains of God's literal location?

      May 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • Bob

      Joy, while you or your pastor are picking and choosing the quotes from the Christian book of nasty that you like, let's not skip over some of the nasty demands in there from your vicious jerk in the sky too:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      May 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Bob,

      It seems to me that your taking scripture out of context may only muddy the spiritual waters of humanism.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Joy Devore

      Hmmm...it's strange that there's not a Reply button for the replies. I guess I'll just talk to everyone this way.

      WhenCowsAttack: Lol 😀 Yeah I like sleeping too, and don't get enough of it. But we like to sleep because that's how we get refreshed. Imagine if you were never tired, and always felt refreshed. That's how it will be in heaven.

      lol??: I don't know what you're talking about. What jokes about Burbank? I was laughing because right after this article posted, one of the pastors (who happens to be in Burbank) preached a sermon on heaven. I'm saying if you wanna hear a pastor talk about heaven, just head over to that church.

      Keith: I understand why you feel that way about the book of Revelation. There are some strange things in there that even some Christians don't know what to do with them. Have you ever had a vivid dream that you remember enough to recount to me now? It's kind of like that. John had a vision and felt compelled to write it down. He did, and that's where that book comes from. To you it may mean little, but to me I see in it the future, because I believe that John was inspired by the Holy Spirit just like Daniel and Isaiah were.
      As far as your question about doctors: Think about it. Why does anyone go to a doctor? As human beings, we are given responsibilities to fulfill. We can take care of other people better, if we take care of ourselves. Mothers want to stay healthy, so they can care for their children, and fathers for their families. A social worker might care about the kids she's protecting, or a cop about keeping the streets safe. Christians are ambassadors of Light. Our responsibility is to love people by showing them God's love, and we're also supposed to take care of the earth. So, by staying healthy, we're actually honoring God and are better able to fulfill his commands. You'd think we'd all be in perfect shape then, right? ...working on that one 😉

      lionlylamb: I keep a glass bottle filled with water in my car. Does it make sense to look at that bottle of water and assume it's the only water source? What if I had 5 or 10 bottles? Or a factory of water bottles? The truth is, the more water bottles that are filled, the greater you will assume the source is, right? For my one bottle of water in the car, maybe I've filled that up from my own tap. But a factory full? Well, they probably have a greater source. Imagine how great a source heaven is, since it is available to fill every person! God is greater than our understanding. He lives in heaven and within those who receive Him.
      There is another thing, though. I don't think you're totally getting that verse in Luke. Jesus was answering the religious leaders, who were demanding of him when the kingdom of God would come. They were becoming anxious and wanted deliverance from their situation – which was that their people were ruled by puppet kings and eventually Roman prefects. The leaders wanted to know when a physical kingdom was going to rise up from among them and fight the heathens, thereby restoring peace and prosperity to Israel. Jesus basically saying, No, that's not how it's going to happen. You don't have to wait for somebody to come rescue you. Put your faith in God. He has a bigger plan for a bigger battle, and it involves you. This kingdom conquers through life, not death.

      Bob: First of all, have you read the entire Bible in context? But, since you love Scripture so much, this is in the Good Book too:

      1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (NLT)
      18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say,

      “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
      and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”
      20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.

      24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

      26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

      30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”

      May 21, 2013 at 1:02 am |
  18. Reinaldo

    I have seen that light and feel it. The reason pastors do not talk about it is because they haven't experienced. I was in a moment of sorrow, asking forgiveness to God and Jesus, forgiveness for ignoring myself, treating me badly, for everything, for ignoring them. That night I cried so hard and so deep for about 20 minutes. Next morning I was on my bed waking up and I felt the light, by an angel, I realized it was Archangel Michael because he had a sword. I felt this immense peace and joy for about 5 seconds. It was a taste of heaven and the message that came to my mind with their voices was: we heard you. Telling me that they were with me and they were glad. Everything lasted some 5 seconds.

    The reason church does not talk about that, is because they do not want to share about spirituality, since many people uses that information for their own like Santeria, Vodoo and many psychics. That is why church has loads of information hidden. But if you need an exorcism, a catholic priest can do it. They have the book and the training. They can do all sort of things you do not know. The thing is that people are not ready for it.

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

      yeah,, the religious love to make stuff up.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • Athy

      Delusion at its maximum.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Keith

      Well I have heard some insane reasons as to why the churches don't talk about heaven but this takes the cake, they don't talk about it because others while use it for their own nefarious purposes. And I thought that the faithful where actually required to spread the word of their faith to everyone else! !!!!!
      Wow was I misinformed.
      Obviously this person is just joking and realizes that the reason churches do not talk about heaven is that even the sheep would DIE laughing if they did.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  19. soliman

    The brain tries to translate events happening in your body into a language that other parts of the body could understand. An example, I have always been intense, worried, hardly ever relaxed. so I used to get bad dreams and i would imagine that something has crawled over my body and took control over it and I couldn't move at all. I was told since I was a kid that bad dreams come from the devil so I used to imagine that something is over my body holding me down and I couldnt move a muscle. I did some research and found out that it is a state between being a wake and being a sleep, and when you try to wake up most of your muscles were set to be off by the brain, and it takes time for the body to get out of that state which is why i would feel paralyzed. now that I know that, I no longer imagine that somethin gis crawling over me because the brain knows that my other part of the brain understands why this is happening and doesn't need to translate it into a nightmare.

    i don't know the medical terms but you can research it.

    May 19, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • @OD

      Sleep paralysis, I had it too but when I learned more about it I stopped having it. Knowledge does wonderful things. Some people think that the aliens paralyze them 🙂 lol

      May 19, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • Joy Devore

      I've had dreams like that before...and worse. It's scary and I hope you never have a nightmare again. But if you do, while you're in your dream, tell the thing to go away "in the name of Jesus." It works! I've done it. And if it's one of those dreams where you can't speak, just try your best to say "Jesus" over and over. I know what you're saying about the mind, but there is also spiritual warfare going on. The name of Jesus is more powerful than any other name in heaven and earth, which I assume you know, if you grew up in a house where they told you your dreams were from the devil. I think dreams have to do with both mind and spirit, instead of either or.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  20. Francisco Decastro

    My church talks about heaven. I don't know what this article is talking about. I'm a Seventh Day Adventist and we talk about heaven a lot.

    May 19, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • yep

      I'm sure it does,, and make $$$ too.

      They scammed you!!!

      May 19, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • @OD

      So you believe in your teachers interpretation of a book that was written 300 years after Jesus death...sounds like a reliable source to me...

      May 19, 2013 at 3:37 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.