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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. Rich

    The delusions of a dying brain aren't evidence of anything. That's why it's not worth talking about.

    May 20, 2013 at 5:18 am |
  2. Cortanis

    I find this article a bit ironic. Pastors afraid of heaven... I was raised around many religions and I have to agree, not many touch the heaven issue very often or at all. You'd think it would be the other way around.

    May 20, 2013 at 5:08 am |
    • Colin

      Well, they have a problem, don't they. The whole thing is made up, so what do they say? They tend to want to be honest with their flocks, so they have three choices; (i) admit it is all made up and they have nothing to offer; (ii) have a stab with some nauseating diatribe like "heaven is eternal bliss in the presence of Jesus, your dead relatives and lots of happy bunny rabbits"; or (iii) avoid the issue altogether.

      The vast majority choose option (iii).

      May 20, 2013 at 5:13 am |
    • saggyroy

      Aren't there 4 possibilities?

      1. God Exists. Afterlife Exists.
      2. God Exists. Afterlife does not Exist.
      3. God Does Not Exist. Afterlife Exists.
      4. God Does Not Exist. Afterlife Does Not Exist.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:56 am |
    • Athy

      Number 4 is the truth. Religies will vote for number 1. Numbers 2 and 3 are for those sitting on the fence.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:36 am |
    • Melissa Raissa

      I think the reason people talk little of heaven is coz there's very little description of it in the Bible – although there are plenty of parables regarding heaven i.e.

      (1)The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took & planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches."

      (2)"The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough."

      & other stuff... The parables are like metaphors, hard to understand or grasp for some but has meaning to others. I really thought a lot of people understood but it doesn't seem to be the case after reading the comments here. Not that I understand parables fully, but just maybe having an inkling is better than nothing.

      May 21, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  3. Gail D

    If you have seen heaven, you know that, except for those you love and need you, there is little reason else to live. Who wouldn't want to be there ?

    May 20, 2013 at 4:51 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Oh wow, pure stupid. There's plenty of reason to live without believing that garbage. However no-one is making you stay here on this earth that you think is below you. Can you prove heaven is real? Have you ever met a person who came back from the dead to state it exists?

      May 20, 2013 at 5:48 am |
    • Melissa Raissa

      Truth Prevails,

      Lots of people had the same reaction as you when they were told the earth was round & not flat, that the earth is not the center of the universe & so many other "truths" that we know today. But even the things that we know now will be proven wrong someday. In fact, our modern world today is made up of what other people thought of to be stupid at the time. So please, don't call others ideas & beliefs stupid coz you never really know. The whole "Truth" is so much more than what we know now.

      May 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  4. Realitycheck

    I just want to post that I am sick of people who identify themselves as Atheists trash talking the faiths of others. Atheism is as much a Religion as Christianity or Islam or Hinduism or Zoroastrianism.

    Allow me to explain. In Atheism, the typical follower "believes" in the teachings of several "holy books". These include the works of Darwin and Dawkins, as well as the teachings of Science Textbooks. The typical follower has never actually met Darwin (obviously, hes dead) or Dawkins, nor have they met the authors of the Science Textbook which they claim as their authority on how the universe works. Furthermore, they have likely not performed more than one or two of the experiments explained in the Science Textbook. The Atheist simply "believes" that the words written down by people whom they know nothing about are true. This is, by definition, what is called "Faith".

    Does this sound familiar to anyone? This is exactly how every religion treats their "holy book". I just described not only Atheism, but also all of the Abrahamic religions (Old Testament, New Testament, Qur'an, etc.) as well as every other religion, ever.

    Case in Point: Atheism is as much about "Faith" and "Belief" as any other Religion out there, name your pick. The ONLY difference is, instead of a god/gods/higher power, Atheists put their "Faith" into the error-prone species called "Human."

    May 20, 2013 at 4:12 am |
    • HeavenSent

      +

      Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

      2 Corinthians 13:5

      Amen.

      May 20, 2013 at 4:34 am |
    • Sue-ann Excatholic Beautiful Lady in Waiting

      LOL, this has to be, hands down, the wackiest post I've read online in awhile. Sweetie, get yourself an education! Ditch the sky faeries (Thor, Thoth, Shiva, deity of Abraham, Mithrias etc) and spend some time improving your diet and lifestyle so that you can actually process the cold hard beautiful facts of your life. No soul, no hell/heaven/afterlife, just Earth. We just froze our DNA at 21st century evolution. We spewed carbon that will melt the ice releasing the methane warming Earth, changes are a coming. In 100,000 years Human will have evolved to be slightly different than we are now (hint hint, we're actually chaning our DNA now by sitting, viewing computer monitor, eating Doritos with plastic container) and 1 million years + etc. Every atom in your lethargic putrefied body that is neither hydrogen nor helium, was born in the fiery core of a star. Can you process that? Last century, scientiests created NUMEROUS new elements to add to the existing NATURALLY OCCURING Periodic Table of the Elements. when our star (sun!) has burnt up its fuel and dies in 13.8 billion years, the elements that Humankind created will be thrust into the galaxy for the next generation of stars/life/life forms! etc. ... and you think your burning bush cute story about the middle east is worth dignifying as even remotely informative? PLLEEEEEEEEASE!!

      May 20, 2013 at 4:48 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Sue-ann,

      The words of his mouth [are] iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, [and] to do good.

      Psalms 36:3

      Amen.

      May 20, 2013 at 4:59 am |
    • Colin

      Actually, there is a very big difference. When Darwin, Dawkins or any other scientist makes an assertion about the natural World, they have to back it up with research and experimentation that is (i) doc.umented and recorded; (ii) repeatable and verifiable by independent third parties; and (iii) peer reviewed and scrutinized. If a scientist – Dawkins, Darwin or anybody else published a paper with a breakthrough conclusion and said “I have no data to support my contention, just take my results on faith” they would be laughed out of their positions. This is why one can have confidence (not faith) in what science says. This is why medicines work, planes fly and computers function.

      Would you get in a plane if the head mechanic told you he heard a strange noise, but to have faith because he prayed that the plane would still fly? Well, that is what religion expects of you. Can you tell me one example in history where a religious leader subjected his views to scrutiny and verification?

      Religion is the very worst of humanity. It teaches us to be dumb. To simply and blindly accept things because they are written in old books. To bury our heads in the sand and pretend away our problems. To believe things because it is somehow wrong or immoral to question them. This is why there are literally hundreds of passages in the bible praising blind faith and gullibility, but not one in favor of healthy skepticism.

      No, my friend, you have it backwards. Science delivers, religion promises.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:02 am |
    • Honey Hush

      HeavenSent
      Timothy 2:11 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be silent.
      Obey the bible, the word of god and STFU already. Go carnal gal.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:02 am |
    • cedar rapids

      Dont be silly Realitycheck. Unless any of the textbooks you talk about try to claim that its done by magic then you dont have a comparison. You also confuse religious faith with everyday 'faith', there is a difference. The idea that accepting what a stranger wrote in a scientific textbook is the same as accepting that a burning bush spoke is just silly.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  5. karmanos

    I don't believe we have to wait until our death to experience either heaven OR hell. Both are available right now and are what we make of it. I don't believe in a "place" for either one; instead, I would call them spiritual planes.

    May 20, 2013 at 3:43 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Luke 16

      Amen.

      May 20, 2013 at 3:48 am |
    • Gail D

      Oh, It's a place allright, and it's a dimension, a parallel plane to our own mortal existance. Buf heaven makes earth look black and white. and Love, as we know and feel it, pales to disdain by comparison of His love. Yet, it is the best we have for now. We are of the image and likeness of God, he lives in us, we are part of Him. He laughs, jokes, all the emotions we have. When you leave this life ALL your Mind, Thoughts, Personality go with you. You will still be you, but better, more perfect and happy beyond your wildest expectations. The human condition cannot withstand the glory that is Jesus, but our souls can. Once there, you really don't want to come back. And if you look in His face, you never will

      May 20, 2013 at 4:58 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Gail D: What a load of crap!!! You have no way to back what you say with any substantial peer-reviewed evidence. Please tell us you don't have children, we wouldn't want them brainwashed by you and your ilk.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:44 am |
  6. miscreantsall

    Believe what you will because you need to. That's okay.

    But most of this is just bull, really a lot of bull.

    If there is a heaven (as we define it), 99.99% of us will never see it because that's how few of us are worthy.

    But go ahead and think you are going to heaven to be forgiven and join your loved ones (that you treated like crap). I hope that works for all of you.

    May 20, 2013 at 2:37 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Unto the pure all things [are] pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving [is] nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

      T i t u s 1:15

      Amen.

      May 20, 2013 at 3:27 am |
    • Splinter48708

      Well, the Bible DOES teach Christians that "There is no one worthy, no, not one." So, in that respect, you are correct. However, we do not go to heaven to be forgiven by God. We don't go to God after death to ask forgiveness for sins...It's too late for that and expect to be cast out for eternity.

      We go to God, through His Son, for forgiveness prior to death, and, many times for forgiveness. Why? Because God prefers to be merciful. We, as Christians want God's mercy and his Love. We should fear falling into the Hand of the Loving God, for if that happens, it's not Mercy...It's Judgment Day and those who have died in their sins, refusing to even acknowledge that there is a God, much less asking Him to be forgiven will be told to "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the lake of fire reserved for the Devil and his angels." Those who are Christians, who do God's will on this mortal coil will be welcomed because God knows that we mess up and those that are forgiven know that their sins are also forgotten.

      Thing is, I know there are Atheists who will scoff and denounce me for my Faith in the Lord. But, I am told that there is a place called Heaven where the streets are paved with gold, where all our needs are met, instantly and before we can even ask, where God loves each person there. I'm also taught that there a place where those who turned their backs on God and refused His grace and mercy will forever burn in a pit where the fire is literally eternal, and, yes, there are far more souls there than in Heaven, even though God wants that no one burns in the Pit, but, wants us to return to him. He's waiting for His Children to wake up and realize that even though we do not deserve that right, He will accept us with open arms, tears of Love and Joy in His eyes to say "You are My Child. Welcome Home!" Home for a Christian is with the Lord and, that is in Heaven.

      So, I'm sorry if atheists refuse to believe me. But, I speak truth regardless and I am not going to apologize for speaking truth. I would rather see atheists just ask, one time, "God, if you're real, show me how to pick myself up out of this mess I'm in." And, once God answers that simple request, then, admit you were so wrong and return to the flock. He wants you...He loves you. He doesn't want to sentence anyone to depart from him. But, it's our choice, He will affirm that decision, either with a joyous heart for His Children who accept him...or with a broken heart because He was rejected...

      May 20, 2013 at 4:04 am |
    • BubblesB

      How do you know who will and who won't get into heaven? It isn't your call, thank God.

      May 20, 2013 at 4:38 am |
    • HeavenSent

      But the f earful, and u nbelieving, and the a bominable, and m urderers, and w h o remongers, and s o rcerers, and i d olaters, and all l iars, shall have their part in the lake which b urneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

      Revelation 21:8

      Amen.

      May 20, 2013 at 4:51 am |
    • Gail D

      My condolances to you, I hope the Spirit knocks you up side the head with a dose of reality.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:02 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      " I hope the Spirit knocks you up side the head with a dose of reality."

      Typical christard, wishing violence upon those who don't believe as she does. What about all those innocent children who have never heard of your imaginary friend?? You do know that there are 40000 plus gods and not one can be confirmed as being real...right? (Godchecker.com is a great start for educating yourself)

      May 20, 2013 at 5:40 am |
  7. Bostontola

    The proof of heaven logic is silly. The article says its due to advances in man made medicine that brings people back from near death experiences, but an omniscient god certainly wouldn't be fooled by that. That god would know the patient will survive and wouldn't bring them up to heaven. If god wanted to show certain people a glimpse of heaven, why would those selected be limited to near death people? None of this makes any sense, its just another rationalization to "prove" the unprovable.

    May 20, 2013 at 2:21 am |
    • HeavenSent

      +

      Luke 16

      Amen.

      May 20, 2013 at 3:48 am |
    • metagg

      For some reason thumbing through Luke 16 I find
      “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."
      Uh oh. Well that's some bad news for about 50% of the population right there, unless women don't count, then 25% are in big trouble.

      May 20, 2013 at 4:45 am |
  8. Bootyfunk

    i'd be embarrassed to talk about magic cloud land, too. "when you die, you get to see grandma and fluffy again, so don't be sad!" talking about the afterlife is clue number one that you are in a death cult, as christianity plainly is. it's not popular with anyone with a high school education or above these days. internet = fact checking. and we all know christians hate facts. there are unicorns and talking donkeys in the bible - how can anyone take that book seriously?

    May 20, 2013 at 2:12 am |
    • Colin

      Mythology from the Old Testament includes food (or manna) falling from the sky, people living to be hundreds of years old, unicorns, witches, superhuman strength, a man living in a whale’s belly (or a fish’s or sea monster’s) for a few days, a talking donkey, giants, a talking snake, a Worldwide flood, a dragon (at least in the Catholic and Orthodox Bible) a stick turning into a snake, a river turning to blood, the Red Sea splitting and a dry rock spewing forth water.

      Believing in such nonsense can only be achieved if one subordinates their common sense to a deep desire or perceived duty to believe.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:38 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Luke 16 proves unbelievers, as usual, are wrong.

      Amen.

      May 20, 2013 at 3:49 am |
  9. Gwen Boucher

    I'm Mormon, we talk about Heaven (Celestial Kingdom) quite a lot.

    I think there is massive loss of faith world wide. Too much killing and strife. Christians try to justify being war like. Muslims do too. Faith is weak because we act out on our emotions and do not ask God. I'd say this is a pretty low time in world history. Men seek death and do not find it. Hmmm

    May 20, 2013 at 1:47 am |
    • Breece Loo

      So no one ever mentioned to you that most of that violence and death is motivated, expressed, and defined by the faiths of those who commit the violence?
      You think violence is proof of a lack of faith? Seriously? Okay, I'm done with this one...

      May 20, 2013 at 1:58 am |
    • Roger that

      A massive loss of faith will lead to fewer wars.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:06 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      the bible presents numerous examples of divinely inspired violence. god give commands to kill people for everything from being g.ay to working the weekend. god himself murders children to send a message to the pharoah. and in real life, religion promotes violence, because only one can be right - the others are infidels, fakers. also, mormons have been very anti-g.ay marriage - which sends an anti-g.ay message. you're message is responsible for violence and bigotry against our g.ay brothers and sisters. not to mention the numerous religious wars/conflicts, persecutions. people have been executed for saying the bible wasn't true. check Gianardo Bruno. he was burned to death as a heretic. so get off your high horse pls.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:17 am |
    • Roger that

      Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
      with the cross of Jesus going on before.
      Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
      forward into battle see his banners go.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:54 am |
    • kenny

      why? do you not know the origin of your supposed religion? have you NOT studied world history ? do you NOT have common sense ?

      May 20, 2013 at 3:42 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Bootyfunk, what part of God killing the unrighteous do you complain about?

      May 20, 2013 at 3:51 am |
    • HeavenSent

      And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end [shall be]: for they [are] a very froward generation, children in whom [is] no faith.

      Deuteronomy 32:20

      Amen.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:02 am |
  10. aallen333

    A being from a another realm spoke to his companion about the story of a place called earth. He described this place in the following manner: "There is a place I have been told that is beautiful beyond imagination. There are oceans so blue it puts the sky to shame. The mountains reach the heavens and are full of the most majestic animals. There are forests that stretch as far as the eye can see. The trees have trunks the width of several men and their tops reach the clouds." The being's companion responded by telling his friend that he was full of it and that it was impossible for any other realm to exist besides their own. The being then explained to his companion the their books of faith speak of this place called earth and that when their existence in their realm ends, they are reborn with earthly bodies as what the holy books call "babies". The companion then rebuffed his friends story as a fairy tale as unbelievable and inconceivable. After all who would believe such a thing. The companion then replied, "Those who are there!". I guess the same thing can be said about heaven.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:40 am |
    • Breece Loo

      A great example of fallacious thinking. Thanks for stopping by.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:54 am |
    • Kenchandammit

      A piece of fiction is evidence of what?

      May 20, 2013 at 2:41 am |
    • HeavenSent

      But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such [cases]: but God hath called us to peace.

      1 Corinthians 7:15

      Amen.

      May 20, 2013 at 3:29 am |
  11. His panic

    These stories are not sound Evidence of Heaven.

    Actually, anything and everything that is sufficient to know about Heaven is in the Scriptures. And that is precisely where these stories meet their challenge. They describe a Heaven that is in conflict and in contradiction with the Bible, the Scriptures. Furthermore these stories promote one particular set of beliefs about Heaven that is totally inaccurate to say the least and Anti-Biblical in the worst case. And that is the common belief, that everyone who dies goes to Heaven, especially those who are/were the relatives and family members of the person who allegedly went to Heaven and came back.

    Not everyone who dies is going to Heaven and as well as there is a Heaven, there is also a Hell. As a matter of Biblical accuracy, the teaching is that there is nobody in Heaven or Hell yet! All who have died are waiting either for the First Resurrection that of the Just and saved or for the second resurrection which is that of the unjust. After the FIRST Resurrection those who died believing in God and in Jesus Christ God's only Son will then enter Heaven will be in Heaven. That has not happened yet!

    May 20, 2013 at 1:35 am |
    • Breece Loo

      Please explain how any description of a heaven could ever be accurately conveyed using "inspiration" and no direct communications?

      Your "scripture" is just paper with some tribal magician's ideas of what a heaven must be like, yet no one has ever come back from the dead, much less having visited the place.

      I often laugh to see crazy beliefs about heaven, like assuming your god will:

      1. do everything for you that you've ever wanted
      2. forgive you no matter how evil you are
      3. tell you all the answers to all of your questions
      4. tell you why he did or does any particular thing
      5. give you any satisfaction for anything
      6. give you any justice or do anything to you at all
      7. do anything to the people you hate
      8. do anything to erase or reverse any crime
      9. show you anything about this universe or any other universe
      10. do or say anything to you when he hasn't done that to anyone so far
      11. reunite your bodiless soul with anyone else whatsoever, including relatives and so on.
      12. punish any wrongdoer or let you know about it
      13. let you watch the eternal torture of all those people you think should be in hell
      14. listen to anything you have to say
      15. help you in any way
      16. direct your actions in any way or guide you in any way
      17. let you observe or be present at your "judgment"
      18. allow you to enjoy yourself
      19. let you roam freely
      20. let you move at all – you could be frozen like Han Solo in carbonite, rite?
      21. let you see your past life in any way
      22. let you see the world you came from in any way
      23. I could go on but really this should be enough for now...

      You people assume your god will do all of these things for no credible reason.
      You view your god as if he was a genie / Santa / perfect computer / total answer-bot, among other things.
      But some of you don't go overboard with this stuff. Yet where do you draw the line?
      There is no reason to believe any of it. No one has actually SEEN any "heaven" or "paradise", so it's all just BS.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:23 am |
    • Kenchandammit

      And you know it's all true because people have been telling you so since you were a little kid...

      May 20, 2013 at 2:46 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.

      John 10:1

      Amen.

      May 20, 2013 at 3:06 am |
    • Nancy

      A book written by a people who thought the world was flat.....'nuf said.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:24 am |
    • Salero21

      Atheism is stupidity in Full bloom!

      May 20, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      S21 is a lying troll in full bloom...ignore it.

      May 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Salero21

      @ Empty Cranium,

      Prove me a liar and a troll I dare you. Otherwise that will be one more proof (like if we need more) that atheism is stupidity in Full bloom.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  12. HeavenSent's Camel-Toe Diaries

    Spend enough time if you wish for the sprinklers to come on.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:23 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Phony heavensent proves BAITERS never change their toxicity towards society. Thanks for showing the world how toxic you truly are.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:26 am |
    • HeavenSent's Camel-Toe Diaries

      Ooh kitty kitty, doo doo ditty, my camel-toe shivers in the snow.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:29 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Toxic is as toxic does as phony heavensent steals my handle to write her nonsense because that's all she has to give is toxic nonsense.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:02 am |
    • The real Tom

      HS has a new favorite word.

      May 20, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  13. juliusa

    I too had a similar experience a couple months ago...

    On 03/20/2013 I saw myself transitionining to heaven. I didn't see death. I was partially in the body here on earth while I was already partly in heaven. While I was still transitioning, I saw a bright light tinged with gold, just as one of the stories expressed. It was so bright, but yet perfectly soothing as I looked at it. There was a rich presence, which I can only express as the presence of God. It was the most blissful, joyous thing. I knew I was entering heaven, and that nothing this earth could ever offer me could come close. Yet I didn't complete that journey, and here is why... While I was transitioning, a communication came out of me. It wasn't a verbal or mental communication, but it came from deep within the core of who I am. I believe it was from my spirit. It simply was this: "But they need me"! At that time, it dawned on me that if I continued this glorious journey my wife and two kids will not have me be there with them through life on earth. I was specifically aware that I wouldn't be there in the morning to have that chat with my 4 year old daughter that my wife and I had planned to have with her in the morning to comfort and encourage her about something she went through at school the day before. At that moment I was accutely aware that she would face many other experiences through life that would require a chat, comfort and encouragement from her dad, but I wouldn't be there if I continued this transition to the most glorious place I have ever seen or imagined. "But they need me" is the reason I came back to earth, because if the heaven I saw is where I could be right now, then I am certainly not here on earth because of anything earth can offer me. I am here on earth because of what God still has for me to offer my wife, my kids and many others that will encounter me on earth. I am still here on earth, I now realize, because love for them is far greater than my haste to live in this oh so beautiful place I saw. Heaven is real folks. I am a witness of it... PS: I was perfectly well when this happened. And I am a Christian!

    May 20, 2013 at 1:22 am |
    • ep tor

      I also was on a trip to heaven about 30 years ago but came back just before stepping into the light. They were called purple double domes or something similar and boy what a trip – everything was in slow motion, there were lights, people were speaking but their voices were delayed and I seemed to float from one place to another. I wanted it to last forever, but I slowly woke up and had a yearning for orange juice. What a trip.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:21 am |
    • HeavenSent

      ++

      Luke 16

      Amen.

      May 20, 2013 at 3:54 am |
  14. TRUTH

    For anyone who wants to know what happens to these people when they "die", watch this:
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rbu2LNNxs2E&w=640&h=360]

    May 20, 2013 at 1:18 am |
    • TRUTH

      "Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

      And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow...

      ...but this much I say, that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works.

      Yea, this bringeth about the restoration of those things of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets.

      The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.

      And now, my son, this is the restoration of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets—

      And then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God."

      Read more at: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/40?lang=eng

      May 20, 2013 at 1:37 am |
  15. The Deist

    Sure...why not?

    May 20, 2013 at 1:15 am |
  16. lol??

    "I don't know is not acceptable." In prison you HAVE to choose, white, black, or latino.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:11 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      lolly-gag: What a load of crap!

      May 20, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • The real Tom

      lollypoop can't manage to form a sentence to save his life.

      May 20, 2013 at 8:20 am |
  17. joe

    Please, how juvenile.

    This is right up there with all the anecdotal stories about how the latest tropical berry is 5 times better than the last berry or the latest weight loss pill or the latest anything.

    Anecdote evidence is just a sales gimmick. Tens of thousands of people have clinically died and come back and experienced nothing. And, of course, nobody ever experiences hell. It's always heaven. And it's always the God of their culture if they are religious.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • HeavenSent

      For the arrows of the Almighty [are] within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.

      Job 6:4

      Amen.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:24 am |
  18. jen

    Funny that not one of those having "NDE"s imagine themselves in hell. Surely, if the fairy tales were real, and if NDEs somehow involved afterlife, *some* people would be getting a glimpse of hell, not heaven. But even those of vastly different religions reporting NDEs picture themselves in their own version of heaven. Of course there's no mystery there. Just that the high opinion of all these believers about themselves is mildly amusing to a rational person. As for brainwashed kids seeing "sea blue" eyed jesuses, it's kind of sad.

    May 20, 2013 at 12:59 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Their throat [is] an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps [is] under their lips:

      Romans 3:13

      Amen.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:15 am |
    • HeavenSent's Camel-Toe Diaries

      The last piece got stuck but the kittens got it out.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:19 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Phony heavensent couldn't be more toxic if she tried.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:21 am |
    • Istennno

      maybe these experiences don't have anything to do with a human-created god. maybe folks think they see their favourite deities because that's the easiest way for them to interpret their experiences. maybe they don't ever see a hellish place because there is no such thing.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:49 am |
  19. My name is Bond

    I'm on right with it!

    May 20, 2013 at 12:55 am |
  20. dls2k2

    >>“Not one bit,” he said. “It’s a transition; it’s not the end of anything. We will be with our loved ones again.”<< Ah well, that's the break with reality that religions encourage. He's swallowed the kool-aid. Odd coming from a doc, but it can happen to anyone.

    May 20, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • The Deist

      So what? Has nothing to do with you.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:33 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.