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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. Tea Party Patriot

    A growing number of us are convinced that Sarah Palin is the only one who can heal and re-unify our country. And now that she is no longer affiliated with Fox News she will have time to return to her motorhome and resume her cross country tour. She will have to visit cities both large and small, being careful to speak only to real Americans, dispensing her sage advice and folksy, homespun common sense solutions. We can be a great nation again if we all just follow the "Palin Path".

    May 20, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • Tim

      I can't, like, tell if you're being sarcastic or if you really mean what you are saying. On one side I can laugh and the other I can cry.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • CP in Tampa, FL

      I hope you are joking about Palin the twit. Palin could not even finish her term as governor of one of the smallest states by population in the country. We do not need that idiot anywhere near the presidency. We were already the laughing stock of the world after electing Bush twice.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • EMcK

      By "growing number", I take it you mean growing from around 12 to about 15 people?

      May 20, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • NothingLeft2Loose

      It is growing to 17.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Lawrence

      Can you name one "common sense solution" Sarah Palin has proposed that makes any sense? I know I can't.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • tallulah13

      Troll.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • DC

      you are the problem with democracy. your allowed input without actually knowing anything about politics.

      May 20, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  2. H Kaye

    He says"most beautiful world I have ever seen". Was eyesight/vision involved. Could/would a blind person be able to "see" the same thing. Presumably the disability of being blind does not carry in to the afterlife. Has a blind person ever reported a near death expereince involving sight. . Just curious.

    May 20, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • BobD

      Helen Keller says that Emanuel Swedenborg's account of Heaven and Hell (in the book Heaven and Hell, available with any Google search) opened her eyes to what she says she perceived deeply, that yes, even if you're blind your spiritual eyes can be opened, both in this life and the next. The book she wrote about it in is called My Religion.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Victor

      Hey H Kaye,
      To answer your question yes there have been reports of people that were born blind and had near death experience and saw everything visually. If you get the chance see if you can research this because there are reports of this out there.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Karakaye

      Yes, a totally blind person can see as they transition from this life to the next. How do I know? As my dad, who had been blind for twenty five years lay close to death, saw and described in vivid detail things and people he was seeing from the other side. His body was weak but his mind was sharp, and he was fully awake when he would point to someone he recognized that had passed before him. The hospis nurse said that she had seen many of her patients go through similar experiences and was a firm believer in an afterlife or heaven.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Victor

      One report mention of this was Dr. OZ last episode last week Wednesday on near death experience. This episode aired 05/15/2013 to help you on your search.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  3. Nmg

    I didn't realize other churches didn't talk about heaven. My church talks a lot about heaven. All our doctrines are based on the whole purpose of life and the afterlife is a big part of it.

    Mormon.org

    May 20, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Ah another member of Morons-R-Us...Joseph Smith was a con man and obviously a LIAR.

      May 20, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  4. Mat

    I'd rather live my whole life assuming there is God, only to find out there isn't, than to live my whole life assuming there isn't a God, only to find out there is.

    May 20, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care!

      Another rediculous version of Pascal's Wager. FAIL!

      May 20, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      so sad

      May 20, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • sam stone

      what if you live your life thinking there is a god and it turns out not to be the one you imagine?

      May 20, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • chubby rain

      Thank you, Pascal...

      May 20, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • LinCA

      @Mat

      You said, "I'd rather live my whole life assuming there is God, only to find out there isn't, than to live my whole life assuming there isn't a God, only to find out there is."
      Which god? All of them, or do you have a particular one that you favor? If so why? What makes this one so special?

      Pascal's Wager:
      In effect, Pascal's wager states that while we can't know with absolute certainty whether the christian god exists, a rational evaluation should lead to a belief. If having to choose between believing (in the christian god), or not believing, the reward for being correct, and the price for being wrong, tips the balance in favor of believing.

      It says, if you believe and are correct, you will gain heaven, while the price for being wrong is nothing. On the other hand, if you don't believe, it says you will gain nothing for being right, yet lose everything if you are wrong. So, belief results in a win/neutral, and non-belief in a neutral/lose position, tipping the balance clearly in favor of the "belief" position.

      Why Pascal's Wager is a fallacy:
      a) Pascal's Wager assumes that there are only two options.
      b) Pascal's Wager assumes the christian god doesn't care whether someone actually believes, or simply goes through the motions.
      c) Pascal's Wager discounts the price paid for belief before death.
      d) Pascal's Wager vastly overestimates the odds for the reward and the risk of punishment.

      Positing only two options is ridiculous. There are, of course, thousands of possibilities when it comes to gods. Based on the evidence available for these gods, it is not reasonable to assume one is more likely than any of the others. To increase the odds of a positive outcome of this wager, the believer would have to believe in, and worship, every possible god. Including the ones that haven't been invented yet. Aside from the drain on the available time, it presents the problem that quite a few of these gods are pretty selfish. They frown upon believers believing in other gods. In some religions that is enough to not be eligible for the reward (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      Also, just going through the motions and pretending to believe may fool your community, but it can't fool an all-knowing god. It is very unlikely that anyone would gain the ultimate reward for simply faking belief (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      The price paid for the belief position isn't nothing. It involves going through the rituals, day after day, week after week. It may have severe side effects on physical and mental health. Sex life suffers, too.

      In estimating whether the cost of any given action is worth it, an evaluation of risk versus reward is in order.

      Risk is (simplistically) the chance that a negative event occurs, multiplied by the cost of that event. As an example, being hit by a meteorite carries a very high cost (probably death), but since the odds are extremely low, the risk associated with it is low. Similarly, the chance of getting rained on is pretty high, but the cost is very low, representing also a low risk. On the other hand the cost and chances of, and therefore the risk associated with, a traffic accident are high.

      The choice whether to mitigate a risk depends on, among other things, the severity of the risk, the cost of the mitigation and the tolerance of that risk. In the above examples, the cost to mitigate each risk are; exorbitant, low and high, respectively. Methods to reduce or eliminate the risk of meteorite impacts are cost prohibitive and far exceed the risk. An umbrella and a check of the weather forecast effectively mitigate the risk of getting rained on, and is easily worth the cost. Car crashes, and their after-effects are mitigated to various degrees by expensive technology (from street surface technology to driver training, airbags and traction control). People bear those costs to their financial ability and tolerance for the risk.

      A similar reasoning applies to reward. The choice whether to pursue a reward is guided by the perception value of the reward, the perception of the odds of gaining the reward and the cost to pursue it.

      In the belief versus non-belief question, believers tend to irrationally overestimate both the reward for belief, and the risk associated with non-belief.

      May 20, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Steven CaboWabo

      Likely that a one god would be more angry with a person picked the wrong god or his beliefs than someone that simply did not think he was there. Think about it. If someone made a choice, belief, decision that was not what you teach and stand for, are you more likely to take that person in to your home than a person that did not make a choice either way.
      So atheist is the safest choice.

      May 20, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • sam stone

      mat: if you just die, how will hou know that there is no god?

      May 20, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Why?

      If I'm right then I've wasted no effort on senseless worship and if I'm wrong then a benevolent god woud understand why I had no choice but to use my god-given brain to base my decisions on honest, logical and rational grounds, not superstition, ignorance and fear.

      May 20, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Nathan

      With more than 10,000 gods worshiped by mankind over the ages, I sure hope you picked the right one!

      May 20, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Lawrence

      Mat – Which god are you choosing to assume exists? There's plenty to choose from, you know.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Rynomite

      Let's say you live to be 80 years old.
      Let's say you dedicate 3 hours a week to going to church.
      3hrs * 52 weeks * 80 years = 12,480 hrs = 520 days = 1.42 years.

      Now you die. There is no god. You have just wasted 1.42 years of your life on stupidity.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Mat

      I'm an American and I believe in Jesus Christ, that's what I was taught from a kid to now, if I grew up in the stone age, I may have been a believer in Mount Olympus group, If I was chinese I may believe in Taoism or Buddhism, or Islam if I was born in the Middle East. Who knows who is right?? I know I will continue my faith in Jesus Christ. It does not hurt me to live right, love and do the right things in life. I hope I am right. And people make sense, some say I'm not gonna waste my time believing,but im just going to waste my time blogging about why I don't believe. Ps. I wish you all a happy life and afterlife, and all the smarty pants on here with your highly educational comments on why you dont believe in God, why don't y'all put your education and efforts to good use on finding a cure for cancer or something....peace out!!

      May 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Rynomite

      "why don't y'all put your education and efforts to good use on finding a cure for cancer or something."

      We are. Religion is the cancer. Atheism is the cure.

      May 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Mat

      You said, "I'm an American and I believe in Jesus Christ, that's what I was taught from a kid to now, if I grew up in the stone age, I may have been a believer in Mount Olympus group, If I was chinese I may believe in Taoism or Buddhism, or Islam if I was born in the Middle East."
      Exactly. The only reason you believe what you believe is because you were indoctrinated into those beliefs at an early age. You were lied to by the people who you trusted the most (they probably didn't know any better, but still).

      In essence, you belief in your god is no different from a belief in the Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny, with one exception. You were allowed, even encouraged, to shed your belief in other imaginary creatures (probably around the time you ran out of teeth to trade), but your belief in one was reinforced.

      You said, "Who knows who is right??"
      Odds are, not a single one of the religions. There isn't a shred of evidence to suggest any of them has a better shot at it.

      You said, "I know I will continue my faith in Jesus Christ."
      Feel free to, but you'll do so without a rational reason.

      You said, "It does not hurt me to live right, love and do the right things in life."
      Belief in imaginary creatures is not required to live right. In a lot of situations, it is detrimental to living right.

      You said, "I hope I am right."
      That's fine. A lot of people spend a couple of dollars every week on the lottery, in the hopes of winning the big jackpot. Their odds of being right are far better than yours.

      You said, "And people make sense, some say I'm not gonna waste my time believing,but im just going to waste my time blogging about why I don't believe."
      If it weren't for believers trying to shove their beliefs on society, I wouldn't be here, either.

      You said, "Ps. I wish you all a happy life and afterlife, and all the smarty pants on here with your highly educational comments on why you dont believe in God, why don't y'all put your education and efforts to good use on finding a cure for cancer or something....peace out!!"
      As mentioned above by Rynomite, we are.

      May 21, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  5. Madtown

    Interesting article. This was my favorite part:

    “Any religion that claims to be the true one and the rest of them are wrong is wrong.”

    May 20, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  6. CP in Tampa, FL

    Heaven is a fictional place made up by man so that people will not fear death and will be able to see their loved ones that have perished already. There is no evidence of god or heaven. Near death experiences are nothing more than the mind playing tricks on you. Humans evolved from simpler life forms over millions of years. Humans share a common ancestor with the chimpanzee. That is why humans have more than 95% the same DNA as a chimpanzee.

    May 20, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • letsgomets2013...and BEYOND!

      There is NO PROOF we descended from anything at all in the ape family.

      In fact, a friend of mine says that he's read a book that says we checked human DNA against that of apes...and guess what - our DNA shows no evidence of anything ape-like in it.

      May 20, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • LinCA

      @letsgomets2013...and BEYOND!

      It may be time for a high school biology class and smarter friends.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • CP in Tampa, FL

      So your friend read a book and he says no way. Well you might want to do a little research yourself. We share virtually identical DNA as a chimpanzee. We diverged from a common ancestor a couple of million years ago. There really is no debate about this among scientists.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • sam stone

      "There is NO PROOF we descended from anything at all in the ape family."

      How is that tailbone?

      May 20, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  7. mrjackson777

    God speaks to us all in sooo many different ways. He's trying His best to allow us to have faith, yet still believe. He allows so many people these experinces so they can we can have hope. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    May 20, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care!

      Faith is the irrational belief in something in the absence of evidence, or in spite of evidence to the contrary.

      May 20, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • ed dugan

      :God: doesn't say a damned thing except in the screwed up minds of so-called believers, those people who simply can't think for themselves. However, Bell has a point. It there is life after death it is not restricted to those crazy evangelicals – everyone gets to join the party. I know Baptists hate to think of going to heaven and watching someone enjoy a beer. Actually they hate to see anyone enjoying anything! Interesting subject that always ends with the same statement: NO ONE REALLY KNOWS!

      May 20, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Tim

      No, faith is the license believers give themselves when reasons fail.

      May 20, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  8. CommonSense

    “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."
    Funny and sad at the same time.
    This statement illustrates that America is a nation of poorly educated, gullible people. Of course, the answers to life after death are all Christian !! Do the Hindus and Musilms dream that they see Jesus during a near death experience.? I'll bet they don't.
    Hello America!!!! Time to wake up!!

    May 20, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  9. Elvis

    I can confirm that there is a heaven, 'cuz I'm there raht now. Tell all my fans. Thank you, thank you very much.

    May 20, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • ed dugan

      I sure hope it improved your music. Heaven wouldn't stand for that crap!

      May 20, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  10. palintwit

    "Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them."

    -Barry Goldwater

    May 20, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  11. W.

    Heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens.

    May 20, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      And the band plays my favorite song – FOR FVCKING ETERNITY!!!!

      May 20, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  12. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    ALL HAIL HANK! LOL! That was awesome... too bad christards won't comprehend the analogy...

    May 20, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  13. Eric

    Ridiculous. With Eben Alexander's logic, you could just as easily drop some acid to "prove" heaven exists. All you have to do is just interpret your brain not functionally normally as "heaven."

    May 20, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  14. TheAtheist

    It's amazing to see modern people still blindly believe in a god. First of all, we still DON'T know how we came here. Even if we say a god created everything, still we don't really answer how that god was created in the first place. Further, if a creator indeed exists, then he has to be either a moron or a sadist, because in its grand scheme of things, it is perfectly normal for a lion to eat a deer alive. Wow. What a design!

    May 20, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Kirk

      When you brought up the lion eating the deer thing, I could really relate. I'd been raised in the church, but felt like there so many unanswered common sense type questions. Before I junked my whole spiritual heritage, I decided to conduct a more thorough study of it. I was surprised by what I found-things I'd not been taught clearly. If your interested, here's what I found:

      The Bible attributes the whole lion eating deer thing to the disruption of the created order caused by the stewards of the earth having rejected God. In God's original design, there was no death (See Genesis 1-3, if interested.) God gave people and animals plants to eat. The Bible says God will ultimately remake this scenario (See the prophecy of Isaiah 11:6-9).

      Here's a broader summary of what I discovered from the biblical narrative (I realize it may not interest you):

      God created everything. He made us (people) specifically for the purpose of enjoying a loving relationship with him and gave us stewardship of the earth. Inherent to a loving relationship is the element of desire. Had God forced us into relationship, it couldn't be one based in love. Therefore he gave us (Adam and Eve) room to choose. Adam and Eve seem to have been our spiritual representatives, because when they chose to opt out of the relationship God offered, the rest of us were born into a state of being outside a relationship with God. To be outside relationship with God, is to be separated from all that he says comes with him, like life, peace, love, wisdom, lasting joy. The biblical account also says that because Adam and Eve's were the stewards of the earth, their choice to reject God greatly disrupted the physical so creation, throwing things into disorder (like the example you gave). God, because of his love and through Jesus, is offering us another chance to choose him. For those who do, they enter back into that loving relationship with him, but no one is forced to. Ultimately God (at least according to the biblical account) is going to remake the earth. Death will not occur–neither human or animal. God will make everything new again and those who desire to be with him will enjoy his presence and each others' forever. I thought this somewhat hard to believe til I remembered that he'd already done the whole creation thing once before.

      Anyway, don't know if you find value in this perspective, but it had an impact on me.

      May 20, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      And for the vast majority of human history – everyone met their final fate the same way – by being eaten alive. This is why man invented god and heaven, because reality is horrifying.

      I especially like the part where the neurosurgeon states that his "brain was offline" – I've got news for you, it never came back "online". I can't believe that an actual neurosurgeon said such a stupid thing. I hope he retires from medicine ASAP.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Madtown

      God, because of his love and through Jesus, is offering us another chance to choose him
      ----
      Why is the christian perspective the only way to believe in God? If God created everything, as you say, wouldn't God provide knowledge of the christian way to all his creations? It must not be that important to God that we follow any particular religious tradtion.

      May 20, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  15. Nathan

    “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?”

    Most likely a friend or in-law was babysitting to give mom a break one day, drove by the hospital, and made that comment. Kids are sponges that hear and regurgitate all sorts of information. In fact, that is the case in most of these stories. There was one famous boy who thought himself a dead WWII fighter pilot and everyone was all "ooooohhh! How could he know! he even knows the name and model plane." Then, turns out on further questioning, the family had taken him to an aerospace museum a month before where there was a display of that model plane and mentions of various pilot names and they just didn't think that mattered because how could he remember all that information a month later?

    People see what they want to see, but there's virtually always a far simpler, less mystic answer they don't know about or think to factor in.

    May 20, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  16. Nathan

    "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."

    No, let's be clear. They have personal ANECDOTES, not "proof." Non-confirmable anecdotes are not proof of anything.

    May 20, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  17. richunix

    Billy,

    The Gospel of John is the most wildly quoted of all bible passages, however we do not know who wrote these as they appear in manuscripts written century’s after the man supposedly lived and by authors that never saw the events as they happened. The first complete version is from the 3rd century, however, we do have earlier passages (18 verses, P52) from mid-2nd century and were in the hell did you find these passages? I have taken your reference and tried to match them with the first complete version of John (Codec Sinaiticus, circa 4th century CE), please tell help me here?

    Yours: John 2:2
    "2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

    Original Konic Greek (Codec Sinaiticus, circa 4th century CE) John Chapter 2 verse 2

    εκληθη δε και ο ιϲ και οι μαθηται αυτου ειϲ τον γαμον ·

    and Jesus also was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

    Yours

    John 4:10
    "10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men,

    Original Konic Greek (Codec Sinaiticus, circa 4th century CE) John Chapter 4 verse 10

    απεκριθη ιϲ και ειπε αυτη · ει ηδιϲ την δωρεαν του θυ · και τιϲ εϲτιν ο λεγων ϲοι δοϲ μοι πιν · ϲυ αν ητηϲαϲ αυτον · και εδωκεν αν ϲοι · υδωρ ζων ·

    Jesus answered and said to her: If thou hadst known the gift of God, and who he is that says to thee: Give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

    May 20, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • ed dugan

      Spoken like a true science fiction reader! I'll bet your a trekky also.

      May 20, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  18. RESISTANCE

    Religion is total BS. It should be banned from the planet.More people have been murdered, tortured and persecuted all in the name of religion. Heaven and Hell are right here on earth.

    May 20, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  19. sparky

    Milhouse: Will there be cavemen in heaven?

    Sunday School Teacher: Certainly not!

    Bart: Um, ma'am, what if you're a really good person, but you get into a really, really bad fight and your leg gets gangrene and it has to be amputated. Will it be waiting for you in heaven?

    Sunday School Teacher: For the last time, Bart, yes!

    May 20, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  20. Tom Paine

    I saw this while working yesterday and thought to myself, "Oh this is going to stir up the hornets' nest on CNN's religion blog." lol

    May 20, 2013 at 9:54 am |
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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.