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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. Vic

    http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/entire/pr1992017a/large_web/

    May 19, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
  2. j

    The LDS church DEFINITELY talks about life after death. And the best thing about it? Knowing that you can be sealed (unbroken) from your families for all eternity. Death doesn't have to be the end, it's really only the beginning. I'm not a nut job, I know this to be true. My dear great-grandma was special to me, and when she died it took a hard hit at our family. However, the agony was soon replaced by a comfort knowing that because we know that if we live righteously, follow the commandments, be baptized, recieve the gift of the Holy Ghost and participate in temple covenants and serve our fellow men, I can see her again.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • skytag

      The Mormons have their narrative just like every other religion, and no more evidence that any of it is true, just like every other religion.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      J, you're crazy if you think your grandma is waiting for you on the "other side." Or anyone else for that matter. Why do you believe such foolishness?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • skytag

      "However, the agony was soon replaced by a comfort"

      Exactly. What you believe is a comforting fairytale, nothing more.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • Magnus

      It is your refusal to go outside of your comfort zone to face the real world that is the real tragedy and the basis for your cognitive dissonance. You only want the beliefs that make you feel good. You are a junkie on a life-long bender.
      The rest of us have to clean up your mess. You should be paying more in taxes than non-religious people.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • QDV

      In other words, j is anticipating practicing polygamy in the afterlife on Planet Kolob. "I know this to be true" is just one of the many phrases the wind-up robots learn in order to pass their testimony around.

      For my part, I'm dying with a sword in my hand, as I want to go to Valhalla.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • exlonghorn

      But J, what if your particular brand of fairy worship isn't correct? What if the Muslims have it right? Or the Jews? Or the Greeks? Or the Mayans? Heck, any one of the 4,000-odd religions out there might be the right one. Some have heaven's...others don't. Are you just hoping you were fatefully raised into the "right" religion? Yes? Well here's a secret...EVERY other religion thinks the same thing.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • lol??

      exlonghorn, Jesus is the mediator as the Son of God, Son of Man. Plenty of muscling in on His position.

      May 20, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  3. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    It seems that a brain starved of oxygen is best able to grasp the idea of a loving personal God, heaven, an afterlife etc. Perhaps we should pay more attention to what programs return when they crash for lack of resources or because a cosmic ray flips a bit or whatever. What they return might also point to a loving personal God, heaven, an afterlife etc.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Magnus

      Or maybe we should go around choking the living daylights out of all these religious idiots and then asking the ones who survive what they saw. Hmm. I must admit the idea is attractive...

      May 19, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • lol??

      Cho*king go*es wit*h th*e kin*ky s*ex..

      May 20, 2013 at 12:28 am |
  4. Dyslexic doG

    maybe a near death experience is what happened to Jesus? All this Christianity stuff is just because some guy had a near death experience 2000 years ago.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • required

      How about the angels, guards falling to the ground, the angel rolling back the stone, a soldier peircing his heart with a sword, appearing to the apostles in a closed room... and all the other miracles... how do you write those off?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Magnus

      lol

      May 19, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      @required: The same way they were written ON...through imagination.

      May 20, 2013 at 12:15 am |
  5. Ismael

    Churches most certainly DO discuss heaven.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      only when they want more money in their collection plate!

      May 19, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • STFU

      or to prevent church members from dropping.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  6. Sunfire

    Jesus didn't have blue eyes as he is from the Middle East but than again the Lord is infinite.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Blue eyes?!?! Let's talk about Horus from Egypt in 3000 BC (Jesus is a copy of Horus), or Attis from Greece in 1500 BC (Jesus is a copy of Attis), or Mithra from Persia in 1200BC (Jesus is a copy of Mithra), or Krishna from India in 900BC (Jesus is a copy of Krishna), or Dionysus from Greece in 500 BC (Jesus is a copy of Dionysus) .... or any of the DOZENS of other gods predating the bronze age book character Jesus who were born of a virgin on Dec 25, traveled as a teacher, had 12 disciples, performed miracles, was killed and lay dead for 3 days and was resurrected.

      You Christians are not even original! What a joke!

      May 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • saggyroy

      "How come you never hear of black ghosts?" – Carl Pilkington

      May 19, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
  7. HeavenSent

    Christians come on these articles to teach the Truth of Jesus. Jesus delivered His Truth to us in the form of the Bible, which is the word of God. My camel-toe is booked until Christmas, but leave your number. Read the Bible if you want to learn the pathway to the lap of Jesus.

    Amen.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Phony heavensent has to steal handles to spew her toxicity is no surprise for the BAITER that she is.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:40 am |
  8. Hey! You!

    Has anyone had a near death experience that revealed Hell? Why is it always Heaven?

    May 19, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      great point!
      And if it happens to a Muslim, do they get a preview of all the virgins waiting for them ... ?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • saggyroy

      Yeah, you're right. And Hell would probably be more interesting to hear about.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      because it's not real, just a hallucination brought on by lack of oxygen to the brain. they see a bright light - which is their brain turning off - and they interpret it as heaven when they are brought back by modern medicine.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Because they want to be in haven, not hell, it is nothing but a flash back, they think it is reality.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • saggyroy

      I had heard of experiments done several times I think, where they put a pc screen up high in an operating room. It shows random numbers. When the patient reports out of body or near death, floating above and watching etc, they ask them if they saw the numbers. None ever did.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Dyslexic doG, In order to qualify for 72 hoors or virgins, you have to be blown into several puzzle pieces, and I doubt even a best surgeon in the world can put your puzzle together after you use high explosives, so forget about coming back, when you blow yourself up, you take your chance.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • Manoj

      Coz our foundation, core of our being is Love, all other emotions are just other forms of love....
      We forgot our true nature and became individualistic and selfish.... This is the hell..
      Unconditional Love is heaven

      May 19, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • David

      I have died a total of 5 times, once from a car wreck, 4 times related to cancer that was diagnosed
      far too late but of which I eventually made it through it all, and once from an accidental drug overdose
      where a nurse misread a doctor's order in the hospital and gave me a lethal dose of pain medication.

      Experiences vary each time sort of like seeing more of a bigger puzzle in a certain way but in all except
      the nurse drug overdose, I did in fact see both heaven and hell and much more which would be very
      hard to explain in this short text box, a series of books maybe.

      In the drug overdose instance, literally skipped over everything like I instantaneously jumped from the
      nurse giving me the medicine to waking up with 50+ people in the room with charge pads glued to
      my chest with nothing in between. Needless to say that one was very different from the rest.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • Magnus

      It's NOT always "heaven", sometimes it's just light, dreams, nightmares, or the pain of the injuries, and pretty much anything that can be attributed to random electrical impulses in the brain at that point. There is no credible reason as to why anyone's illusion of self-awareness must be preserved in any way by the universe.
      The electricity disperses. The cells die and rot. There is no place for a soul to fit in physics or logic.
      If humans have some electrical soul, then computers and all animals and plants with bio-electrical aspects have souls too.
      But why would electrons act in such a manner as to retain some aspect of previous location / vector / angular momentum simply because they were part of a human body for a short time?
      No, I'm afraid all that stuff is bunk. None of it makes sense and there is clearly nothing magical anywhere and no communications have been forthcoming from any so-called god that cannot be ruled out as mental error and bias.

      Nor is there any reason to suppose that a random life-form like us needs to remember and obsess over a previous life so much that the very fabric of the universe is put to work ensuring the continuance of our existence in any way for any reason at all.

      Brains give us a framework from which a self-referential feedback loop is created, giving us the perception of being alive.
      This is why sensory-deprivation tanks can be so dangerous and lead to severe psychosis and death.
      Our brains are just fancy ape brains and not much better. We want food, water, s3x, and dominance. Our instincts are primitive as are our reactions to our surroundings. Being fooled by wind in the trees is not uncommon if you don't know what causes wind or what it is made of. You can feel your lungs breathing it, but your instinct is to keep breathing.
      We have almost no self-control. The world has never seen a day go by without violent death caused by angry primates for thousands and thousands of years.
      Heaven? That's just wishful thinking and folktales. There are modern people who think rhino horn is magic and will buy it over the internet. There is no magic. Just gullible and ignorant people like me and you. When you die it will be over but you will never get to that point to perceive it. Expect that tunnel of light or dream to fade into nothing. That's how it ends, I would think. Santa will never come down your chimney. Jesus will never come back. Get used to this harsh truth or run away.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Read "Man and Superman." Describes a nice trip to hell. Sounds like a heaven of a place. Lots nicer that Dante imagined.

      May 20, 2013 at 12:18 am |
  9. lionlylamb

    A seed grows into a plant yet where did the plant seed first come from? Molecular manipulations by the Godly did make for the evolution of mankind only after all other manifestations were created. For the Godly do inhabit the atomic cosmos and ever will be the inhabitants of all life manifestations within their embodied atomized cosmologies.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      who created God?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Beyond created beings capacity.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • jim

      where do your followers meet? I may be in love.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
  10. Dyslexic doG

    All these people who come back ... are they reincarnated like Jesus. Are they sons and daughters of God ... or God ... this trinity stuff is so mind bogglingly foolish, I get confused. Anyway ... should we worship Eben Alexander and the others?

    May 19, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      they never came back, because they never died. If they were really dead, they would not have come back.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      maybe that's what happened to Jesus? All this Christianity stuff is just because some guy had a near death experience 2000 years ago.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • STFU

      Mohammad, stop smoking PIG flavored tobacco in your hookah, you don't make any sense "they never came back, because they never died."

      May 19, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Word death means end of choice, end of life, never to be returned till last day of humanity. By principal of language, they were never dead, but alive. they are confused. They were never gone for good.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
  11. STFU

    I recommend Catholic bloggers to read: How to Become a Saint in the Catholic Church – For Dummies by Wiley Brand

    http://www.dummies dot com/how-to/content/how-to-become-a-saint-in-the-catholic-church.html
    (for Catholic dummies, please replace dot with . in above link)

    May 19, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
  12. EternalBliss

    To Love ... Without Condition... is the Straight Path of Peace.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Word love means submission, only straight path is to be in love with truth absolute GOD, and be on path of truth absolute in life.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
  13. Magnus

    Confirmation bias writ large. That's the whole of this article from start to finish. A waste of time. This is why CNN is losing.

    May 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • lol??

      At least they didn't mention "doomsday" this time.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • Magnus

      I notice the headline doesn't match the article much. CNN trolling again. But they didn't do very well today. Only a few dozen pages. CNN might have a doomsday themselves if they keep going downhill like this.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
  14. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    people who claim heaven, place where Allah lives, is bright white, are lairs, Qur'an says the heaven is full of dark particles, truth absolute, 360*

    May 19, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Spew your hinduism, absurdities under your own ID, hindu, crook.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      I knew you were schizophrenic!

      May 19, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
  15. Brad

    The church doesn't talk about heaven in the popularized sense, and in particular heaven as depicted in near death experiences by non-Christians, because it is against biblical doctrine.

    Biblical doctrine teaches that because of sin upon death we perish with our bodies unless we believe. But upon death the bodies of believers "sleep," and their spirits are "in the twinkling of an eye" joined with Christ. It does not exactly specify where or when. Some believe that this means we "sleep" and then will become conscious again in the blink of an eye as though no time has passed at the time of the Judgment. Others believe it means we are instantly transported to heaven to be with Christ. But it does not specify this, so both are speculation, and the modern belief that we ascend to heaven upon death is a fairly modern interpretation and not wholly consistent with biblical doctrine necessarily.

    What it does clearly assert is that everyone who does not believe in Christ simply dies. They do not go anywhere else or continue on. They simply perish with their bodies.

    Then after the final battle between the forces of God and the forces of the Satan known as Armageddon (in what is today near the Jezreel valley in modern Israel) the dead will rise from their graves, and both the living and the dead will be judged. A new heaven and Earth are created, with a new Jerusalem, after which the kingdom of God dwells on Earth, and the sinners are cast out, while the followers of Christ live in the new kingdom. That is the literal teaching of the bible.

    It's not what I believe (I'm agnostic personally,) but this is why Christian churches do not embrace these fanciful near death experiences as reflective of miracles or genuine insights into a realm called heaven.

    May 19, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • lol??

      2Cr 5:8 We are confident, [I say], and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Luke 23:43
      And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • Brad

      @ Robert Brown Yes, that's one example of such a concept. But there's nothing to suggest that this applies to EVERYONE and not just those two.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • Brad

      @ lol?? Yes, "with Christ," but where and when?

      May 19, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Brad,

      Is it not so written that the kingdom domains of God are our celestial bodies? Is it not also written that we are the atomized building complexes of the Gods? Of what we know about the celestial regions of outward spatial conditions is very little. Could this celestial cosmos be nothing more than the beginnings of a newer structured earth on a scale of unbelievable size?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Brad,
      True and as you wrote about, if you go to sleep, the next thing you know is when you wake up. Either way it would seem instantaneous, but yes, it is all speculation. Personally, I think Christ will be there prior to death and lead you into eternity, which seems to agree with these reported near death experiences.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • Magnus

      Paradise? Back to the Garden of Eden? Is that where he went? lol
      He took two guys with him to be nayked with him in Paradise?
      My gaydar just exploded.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
    • keb carerra

      Then what happens if you are a dead believer and your body was cremated and your family put your ashes in the ocean , and your ashes went all around the world , would you still be able to rise from the dead ?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
  16. Saraswati

    It's a lot harder to preach to an educated audience with information at its fingertips than it was to preach to a largely illiterate populace as Christian leaders did throughout most of the last 2000 years. The likelihood of criticism is much greater and every work is likely to be recorded and brought back to you. The sermons are much more carefully written and make far fewer claims when the odds of being challenged are so great.

    May 19, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • lol??

      Nasty mobs of unbelief takin' over belief blogs, too!

      May 19, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
  17. lionlylamb

    People of elderly ages who are troubled with doubts about the realities of God and God's kingdom domains are of uneducated rationalisms. We are told of in scripture to seek first the kingdom domains of God. Many try to believe that the churches are God's kingdom domains. They aren't. The kingdom domains of God lays inside our bodies as is written of in the Gospels. Our bodies are of Godly manifested buildings in which many a godly being resides and take refuge and safe harborage. To think or say otherwise is to deny Christ's Word and receive the free gift of salvation!

    May 19, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
  18. Tradesman

    We want to believe in something better than what we have got. We want to believe in a place full of love honesty , sincerity and caring In a world that is so cold, a "Heaven" would be a nice place to go to at Deaths door.

    May 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
  19. GARY LINGLE

    Doesn't the Bible say that when we die we go to sleep, only when Jesus returns will the dead be resurrected and rise into heaven to live for eternity. I can't wait to hear Elvis and Michael do a duet.

    May 19, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
  20. Truthis

    Bull.

    May 19, 2013 at 8:21 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.