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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. Chad Rece

    Heaven

    May 20, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  2. joval

    Sam Stone:

    I am certain hawaii exist even though I've never been there. It is called faith.

    May 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      That's not faith; that's understanding facts. Faith is used on things that can't be proved, not on things that can be.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • snowboarder

      @joval, that is a m0r0nic analogy.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Actually .. that would be called evidence. Evidence is what gives us a REASON to believe it exists.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • Which God?

      Wow, joval, that was as dumb a statement anyone could make. You really don't have a clue, do you? Hawaii is a fact, heaven is make-believe, no facts.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • sam stone

      other people have been there, and come back

      how does this related to heaven?

      May 20, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  3. joval

    Maybe the "church" doesn't teach about heaven, because you are going to the wrong one. My church teaches about it. The whole focus of church is what the requirements are to get there.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • richunix

      Which Gospel give thats requirments?

      May 20, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Aion

      If you actually understood the progression of thought within Christianity, you'd understand why they don't talk about Heaven today - because the concept is FOREIGN to Christianity. It's a merger of Platonism with Christianity and mystical Judaism.

      I'd suggest you actually learn more about Christianity from places OTHER than your so-called Church. It sounds to me like you're attending a ridiculous parody of a church.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      How do you know that your particular church has the set of requirements right? Care to share what those requirements are and what church they are from please...I'm sure there christians on here from other churches who like to hear your version and Atheist who would enjoy the humor.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  4. Gregory Adamson

    For those who are religious, go to Youtube and watch videos on religion. If you're able to and allow it, it will open your eyes to what religion really is – just a lot of stories and propably arent true.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • neednewgov

      There is a big difference between believing in God, Jesus and organized religion. Religion is man-made and sometimes has nothing to do with God and Jesus.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • EweTube

      Ewe won't believe what those sheep are doing! OMG!!

      May 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  5. Heretic

    Religion must be treated with ridicule, so lets whip some jesus!

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkpL3vgTR50&w=640&h=360]

    May 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Torture was not unique to Jesus. At least his made him a rock star. What did the millions of others get? Rolled into a ditch and forgotten by history. THAT is a sacrifice. Meanwhile, a 10 second search on Google can fine me a picture of Jesus riding a unicorn. Thank him for what, exactly? Did he topple Rome? Did he end corruption? Is his church infallible? Simple men have done more. As the Hulk said: "Puny god."

      May 20, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  6. Patricia Wirth (aka Peaceable)

    I am certain there is a heaven. We all need to live as good a life as we can, without harming, hurting, or taking away from one another. Hugs, not hits. I'm a mostly-vegetarian. What is the big deal about Chic-fil-A? Peaceable

    May 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • sam stone

      How are you so certain?

      May 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      She can't be. It just makes her feel warm and fuzzy so she goes with it.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • richunix

      2Pat,

      Those are wonderful remarks and I'm glad you believe in something that promotes what is best in man-kind.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • neednewgov

      Very true. If you experience God then you are certain. If you've never experienced God then you aren't. Simple.
      Let's just say that God is real and everyone DID live as God would like us to live. Love, respect, peace, happiness, caring for others sounds a hell-of-a-lot better world (heaven on earth) to live in than a place of hate, corruption, stab-your-neighbor in the back, greed and apathy. Which unfortunately is more like what we have now.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Ex-Moron

      "We all need to live as good a life as we can, without harming, hurting, or taking away from one another. Hugs, not hits. I'm a mostly-vegetarian."

      Great advice, but why did you feel the need to throw in "I am certain there is a heaven."? It has nothing to do with the rest of your message.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  7. Laerrus

    You people need to eat some magic mushrooms.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • sam stone

      trippy

      May 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  8. truth truth truth 2013

    I feel sorry for all of you who do not believe because one day you will be standing before GOD trying to justify your words and actions . i pray that the LORD has mercey on my soul and I make it to HEAVEN

    May 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Ted Jones the crusader not for khrist

      I feel sorry for people who don't believe in elves and unicorns

      May 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I won't attempt to justify anything before your god, if the opportunity arises. I will merely ask him if he is the type to love his enemies as he commands in the bible or whether he is the most disgusting being of all time to put me in a pit of eternal, fiery torture.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Heretic

      I feel sorry for those infected with religion. For so many to give up intelligence for this, it has to be some kind of viral infection.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • richunix

      @Truth,

      What is the name of your deity? (The word GOD comes from the Germanic word Gott, circa 6th century)

      May 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • sam stone

      fvck you and your proxy threats, punk

      May 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • I AM

      But, we were told by God that we can do no wrong.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • richunix

      Of course the current Christian believe in 3 Gods… but How about the early Christian called the Marcionites, how many God(s) did they believe in?

      May 20, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • As the World Burns

      People just love their soaps!! And the bible is the biggest Soap Opera of all time "The Hung on a Cross and the Restless" which get so many less than educated persons all emotional if they miss an episode of their "stories".

      May 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
  9. richunix

    @Ex-Atheist

    No one BAR NONE has ever been resurrected or has ANYONE (outside modern science) come back from the dead and I’m not looking at the 6 minute rule, because it is a medical FACT that after 6-10 minutes with the brain not receiving oxygen, IT WILL deteriorate to a point of no-return. To finish, I’m very happy with my life and YES I know I’m going to die as it is very much a part of life. I’m not so vain or fearful about what will happen that I need stories to comfort my fears. I know I will live forever, I can see it every day with the next generation and I sigh with relief, that they will make the world a better place. Enjoy your life, do what you can to make it better, don’t live in fear of unknown.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Laerrus

      I've died twice so far.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  10. lionlylamb

    Much of mankind puts themselves upon idyllic pedestals pushing asunder the Gods toward them becoming nothing but dreams of ones' subconscious practicalities. It stands to reasoning that faithlessness is nowadays outpacing faithfulness becoming the dominant rationalities of the mortal ambiences. Sensualistic physical pleasures are washing away religious rationalisms. Religious naysayers are uprooting the historical ancestries laying waste to their forefathers' beliefs. Todays' religious devotees are fast becoming but a singular page in our histories. W h o r e d o m now rising upon the seas of humanisms is drowning out the frugally enamored religious vessels of human life manifestations. Death awaits all! Then will the noxious tares be gathered away from the sired goodness to be piled up high and burned nevermore to be of life's threads!

    May 20, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • richunix

      Please take your med...as for Revelation, I preferred the Gospel of Peter than to the Gospel According to person named John. At lest the Gospel of Peter was used for the first 400 years of Christianity, but then both Gospels are Gnostic…the plot thickens

      May 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  11. APO_AE_09173

    It really depends on the faith as to wether or not Heaven is discussed. The LDS (Mormons) talk quite a bit about what Heaven is and why we are here–as a process. Hindu faith talks extensively about Nirvana and the process of enlightenment.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Laerrus

      The LSD church is more effective at piercing the veil.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Sad

      "The LSD church is more effective at piercing the veil."

      Is that what they call deflowering a 14 year old girl these days?

      May 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Is that what they call deflowering a 14 year old girl these days?"

      Don't know, what do you call it?

      May 20, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  12. richunix

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but is not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.

    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.

    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?

    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why is he called GOD?

    -Epicurus 33 CE

    May 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  13. Ex-Atheist

    Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
    That saved a wretch like me....
    I once was lost but now am found,
    Was blind, but now, I see.

    T'was Grace that taught...
    my heart to fear.
    And Grace, my fears relieved.
    How precious did that Grace appear...
    the hour I first believed.

    Through many dangers, toils and snares...
    we have already come.
    T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
    and Grace will lead us home.

    The Lord has promised good to me...
    His word my hope secures.
    He will my shield and portion be...
    as long as life endures.

    When we've been here ten thousand years...
    bright shining as the sun.
    We've no less days to sing God's praise...
    then when we've first begun.

    Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
    That saved a wretch like me....
    I once was lost but now am found,
    Was blind, but now, I see.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      so, you stopped thinking for yourself. twit.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Ex-Atheist

      Open your eyes – and your mind will follow.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      You opened your mind and your brain fell out.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Ex-Moron

      Yeah, I admit it, I went to Church and believed for nearly twenty years before I decided fighting ignorance with ignorance was getting me no where. So I read the bible cover to cover, and became an atheist.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Finally, the fifth time reading through the bible, I realized it was absolutely silly.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Break those words down...they're basically speaking of how unworthy you are without this imaginary being. So your own god is saying you're not worthy...I wouldn't tell my child that ever, what gives your god the right to say it or make you feel like that? In reality, it would be considered abuse...so in reality your imaginary friend looks like a monster.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  14. The Jackdaw

    God watches you have s.e.x.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      But if you watch someone, you are sick or a criminal. Typical religious hypocrisy!

      May 20, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • In the corner crying while pleasuring myself...

      "Don't look at me!" – sob – sob – "Don't you dare look at me with those judgemental eyes!!"

      May 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  15. The Jackdaw

    When you die your brain turns off like an unplugged computer. That is all there is to it. Stop dreaming up fantasies. You will not live forever.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Ex-Atheist

      Sounds like you are in hell.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Nope, everything is pretty sweet actually. Be a free thinker, not a follower. Remember, sheep are lead to the slaughter.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Ex-Atheist

      We all die. Well, our bodies do – the spirit doesn't die.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Can you explain to me what the spirit is? No? Can you describe the evidence you have of it? No? Can you define it in any way? No? Is the only source of your belief in it your elders that taught you to believe in it? Yes? Is there any evidence of the divine? No? Can you describe Heaven? No? Is there evidence of any of your beliefs, other than old dusty books and people who profess to also believe it? No?

      So what that tells me is that you have to spend your life worshiping something that you have no evidence of and giving your money to an organization that protects pedophiles so that something you do not understand, cannot define or sense and have no evidence for can go to a place that you cannot define, explain, have evidence for or hope to see with your own eyes.

      Where exactly should I start buying into this?

      May 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • HamsterDancer

      But don't you upload to the cloud? 🙂

      May 20, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  16. Ed

    If I were trying to sell heaven, I wouldn't want to talk about it much either. Imagine trying to convince people that with enough worshipping and denial of the self, they may be deemed worthy of the heavenly reward, which is to worship and deny the self for eternity. No thanks.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      An eternity of pefection and worship.......I agree, no thanks.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  17. really?

    It's to busy hating everything else on this planet but their own....

    May 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  18. palintwit

    Why is it everytime someone mentions Chick-fil-A I think of toothless teabilly inbreds?

    May 20, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Quick Question

      What's a teabilly?

      May 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Because you have eaten at a Chick-fil-A.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • Teabilly

      A Teabilly is a person, likely of southern state decent, who hates gays, loves guns and drinks large amounts of "Sweet Tea" that has so much sugar they have diabetes by age 14 and start shopping for their first hoverround by age 22 and has more faith in their pastors version of the bible than they do belly folds.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  19. AM

    Thats what I tell my fellow muslims that muslims will not be the only ones going to heaven....there are sincere followers of Almighty in all religions..

    May 20, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  20. The Jackdaw

    Church, heaven, God and Jesus are a fantasy and a waste of time.

    May 20, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Striker

      You'll be wishing you believed when the tribulation has come and you are left behind to deal with the Anti Christ and his hell on earth for seven years.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      The rapture is malarkey if you are Catholic. It's pop-culture garbage.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • neednewgov

      And you actually have proof that God, Jesus are not real? As for the church, it's manmade with manmade rules, you can't really believe everything organized religion tells you.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Striker: Oh and you're certain of this how??? The problem is that nothing you believe can be verified as true. I don't worry about things that can't be verified, I worry about what is verified and can affect the here and now. I really don't give a rats ass what happens after I die because like before I was born, I won't have any memories of it IF by a very slim chance, that is, that you are right. I refuse to live in fear of a god who demands idolatry or threatens an eternity of suffering for not doing so; I refuse to live in fear of a god who would murder numerous people because it screwed up; I refuse to live in fear in general...there simply is no evidence to rationalize believing in your god.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Ex-Moron

      "And you actually have proof that God, Jesus are not real?"

      Don't need it, just like I don't need proof that Santa isn't real. I know you found out he wasn't real at some point, what evidence did you have to prove he was not real for you to stop believing in him?

      May 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
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About this blog

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