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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. Debunking New age tones...

    Was John Blake hoping that the new age philosophy being introduced by eben Alexander be endorsed by the church? what is this heaven you are talking about? As described in the scriptures or, as described by Eben? Yet another commentary, way off the mark when it comes to the truth. Blake, Universalism does not lead to heaven, read the scriptures.

    May 21, 2013 at 3:39 am |
    • Wellman

      Blake' articles are always an interesting read, it introduces the readers to appreciate the truth as stated in the Bible that much more " … Beware of false teachers, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but in-wardly are ravenous wolves.”

      Romans 16:17-18 (KJV) Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple
      Ecclesiastes 10:14 A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him?

      May 21, 2013 at 3:52 am |
  2. Old Shoe

    Evangelical churches do teach about heaven.......and hell. The churches that don't are the ones in the deep freeze that dont stand for any thing, don't teach anything and are pretty much just a social club. As for those that refuse to believe in anything, they aren't the first to reject that there is a God in heaven. History is littered with them. Unbelivers have alot of faith too, in themselves, that they are right, there is no God.They only put their faith in the wrong person.

    May 21, 2013 at 3:35 am |
    • Ak-Haru Kenaustin Ardenol

      Your god fails every test, every question, every point in philosophy, logic, and science.
      I don't need faith in myself, because I know what is real about myself and do my best to avoid delusional thinking regardless of source or process.
      Your sole is worthless, old shoe, and you stink of overweening pride. Dr.Scholl's inserts will help you with that smell.
      But how to fix your stupid? Some say it can't be fixed. We can only try to put you on the path of wisdom.
      You may not be able to walk on that path regardless of your religion.

      May 21, 2013 at 3:49 am |
  3. david campbell100

    before I saw the bank draft 4 $4091, I accept that...my... brother could trully making money part time from there pretty old laptop.. there friend brother had bean doing this 4 only 10 months and recently repaid the mortgage on their house and got a new Buick. we looked here, ............ Fℴx85. ℂℴm

    May 21, 2013 at 3:09 am |
  4. faith

    Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."

    way too healthy

    way, way too healthy

    as long as you can see, you'll be blind

    til the sea shall free them

    May 21, 2013 at 2:41 am |
  5. Ricardo Nogueira

    Thruth is, anyone who hates the light (truth, Jesus Christ) rejects it.

    Anyone who loves the light (truth, Jesus Christ) embraces it.

    I chose to embrace the greatest gift a human could have, forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

    Thank you my Lord, my King, my Savior...!

    You know I love you.

    May 21, 2013 at 2:35 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I refuse to ask forgiveness for being born, a truly loving god wouldn't require me to ask...

      May 21, 2013 at 3:04 am |
    • Momma Nogueira

      My son is retarded. Please do not hate him for his disability.
      The doctor said it was okay to let him post on the internet.

      May 21, 2013 at 3:05 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      For the record, according to your book, God created light on the first day... which means technically god is of the dark, not the light. I refer you to the first chapter of your holy book.

      Some of us, that you see as haters of the light actually believe that the true light or "enlightenment" of man comes from knowledge. You literally cannot light your house tonight, or sit in front of your glowing computer without it. What we know is defined by why we have evidence to believe and what we can then test theories against. We're not haters of the light. On the contrary, it's the "dark ages" and lack of consciousness of the human beast that disturbs us.

      May 21, 2013 at 3:12 am |
    • sam stone

      Ricardo: The god that most christians (at least on these blogs) is a vindictive, petty pr1ck. if you wish to grovel, have at it

      May 21, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • faith

      poor widdle fattie sambo always tests the same on rorschach

      "sam stone
      Ricardo: The god that most christians (at least on these blogs) is a vindictive, petty pr1ck. if you wish to grovel, have at it"

      pretty accurate

      May 21, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
  6. Ellen

    I walked into the ER, knowing something was very wrong with my heart. The RN took one look at me, put me in a wheelchair and told me not to move. Next thing I knew, I was on the operating room table with the OR crew in a circle over me. I was to undergo emergency heart surgery. At some point, I was above the table, going towards a brilliant white-yellow light, more fantastic and phenomenal than anything I'd ever seen before. It was like a tractor beam, pulling me into its brilliance. Then, a woman with long back hair, dressed in a red velvet dressed, told me it wasn't time yet. I still wanted to go into the light–somehow I knew that all my pain would be gone and everything would be perfect if I kept going in that direction. But, she said very firmly, "No, you can't go yet." With a thump, I was back on the table, and in more pain than I had ever imagined. I have never forgotten a bit of that experience, and my faith in that woman, God or heaven as a result.

    May 21, 2013 at 2:23 am |
    • Dan

      I have heard countless descriptions of my friends trips on shrooms and they sound a lot like that. Also salvia can induce some potent hallucinations. I'm not saying you didn't see God, but your body has a lot of drugs and chemicals it can make and use in times of need and trauma to lessen the reality our bodies may be facing. To attribute that experience to God means you have to attribute any persons hallucinations as divine.

      May 21, 2013 at 2:28 am |
    • Ak-Haru Kenaustin Ardenol

      Somewhere along the line, these people failed to learn the fact that hallucinations are not real. That's about it, really.

      May 21, 2013 at 2:33 am |
    • faith

      when that happened to me, i found myself in front brilliant white light that said all you can eat free hot dogs at stand straight ahead. on my 47th dog when i landed back in the recovery room, mustard all over my face. true story

      May 21, 2013 at 2:47 am |
    • Ak-Haru Kenaustin Ardenol

      @faith – cool story, bro.

      May 21, 2013 at 3:15 am |
  7. Ak-Haru Kenaustin Ardenol

    Anyone with a fair grasp of neuro-biology can see this quackfraud is ignorant of basic medical knowledge and is making wild conclusions about hallucinations being real despite all the evidence to the contrary. His book is already debunked.

    May 21, 2013 at 2:12 am |
  8. Panda

    From an atheist's &/or agnostic's perspective, I see a significant problem. One can make a good argument that there is no evidence of a god or heaven or live-after-death. If one adopts such a view, it can quickly lead to Ecclesiastes' statement that 'all is vanity & striving after the wind'. It is a rather bleak outlook. While that doesn't make it false, neither does it make it true.

    From a scientific view, esp pre-quantum, deterministic thinking, things don't just appear or disappear. Water turns to vapor which turns to clouds which turns to water. Energy is conserved. Mass is conserved. Even Schroedinger's cat ends up dead or alive after a quick peak. Why then should we assume that our soul/essence/consciousness/being just appears from the void ("poof" I'm here), and just as quickly, at an arbitrary time in the future, vanishes into nothingness (Shazam, I'm nothing). Being & Nothingness – it would be the only example of such a phenomena in our world (well, maybe save the book by that name). Why believe it other than a desire to be depressed?

    Personally, I can't see any reason to go there.

    May 21, 2013 at 2:01 am |
    • redzoa

      Not sure if I'm following, but I'd offer from the agnostic perspective, there's simply no way to justifiably reach a conclusion in the absence of further evidence. Similarly, from the atheistic perspective, the absence of positive supporting evidence for any form of mysticism leads to a reasonable conclusion that there is no divinity behind this existence. IMHO, the appeal of these views are first, intellectual honesty, and second, an appreciation and responsibility for the existence we have. I'm certainly not depressed in not knowing what is unknowable, nor am I depressed in not clinging to belief in the vain hope I might escape mortality by kissing the invisible rear-end of some schizophrenic and narcissistic cosmic tyrant. I love this life and the people I'm fortunate to share it with. And if that fails, I have a wide variety of single-malts and an endless supply of adult websites to comfort me.

      May 21, 2013 at 2:16 am |
    • Dan

      " One can make a good argument that there is no evidence of a god or heaven or live-after-death. If one adopts such a view, it can quickly lead to Ecclesiastes' statement that 'all is vanity & striving after the wind'. It is a rather bleak outlook."

      One can make a good argument that there is no evidence of a Santa. If one adopts such a view, it can quickly lead to Ecclesiastes' statement that 'all is vanity & striving after presents'. It is a rather bleak outlook for December. But then again, just because something is boring doesn't mean I need to invent a magic gift bearing fat man.

      "Why then should we assume that our soul/essence/consciousness/being just appears from the void ("poof" I'm here), and just as quickly, at an arbitrary time in the future, vanishes into nothingness"

      "Modern science discovers that what we call empty space - a vac u u m - may be empty of "real" things, but that doesn't mean it is completely empty. Modern theory predicts, and experiments demonstrate, that just as particles can tunnel through a barrier in very brief amounts of time, so, too, can "virtual particles" appear and disappear in a vacuum. In a very tiny space over a very brief time, a vacuum can give birth to twins: a particle and its antiparticle. This creation subtracts energy from the vacuum, which is empty of any energy to begin with. The two particles are instantly attracted to each other, and destroy each other in a burst of energy that repays the debt. The net effect is zero, and it all happens so quickly that we can never actually measure it happening, which is why they are called "virtual" particles. Virtual particles do behave exactly like real particles, and they have been discovered in labs by measuring their effects on real particles. We can never measure virtual particles directly, but by observing real particles reacting to them, we know they were there briefly."

      May 21, 2013 at 2:19 am |
    • Ak-Haru Kenaustin Ardenol

      @Panda – So you think that just because an atheist or agnostic lacks a belief in a god, that this somehow forces them to view the universe in only one way.
      Well, that is a great example of jumping to a conclusion that doesn't make sense.

      Religion is not a prerequisite to feeling motivated, purposeful, or moral.
      You have no way of drawing a line of logic from 1. atheism (lack of a belief in gods), to 2. Lack of purpose as a person or human being.
      If you think there's some sort of logical thread that ties number 1 to number 2, then maybe you could share it with the rest of us? We are not scared of new knowledge. If you have something useful and accurate, who could complain about that?

      May 21, 2013 at 2:22 am |
    • Ricky

      There is no such a thing as a soul. Our brain processes and store information in the same way a computer does. So what happens to our soul when we die, the same that happens to information stored in a computer; it remains in the hard drive, unless we download it somewhere else. Since our hard drive is biodegradable, the information starts decaying fairly quick. The experience some people describe as they are near death, is just their brain malfunctioning. Distorted memories that we try to access in the last milliseconds of our life. If brought back to life immediately after that, our brains tries to make sense of that corrupted information and that is what people often describe as images of heaven or hell.

      May 21, 2013 at 2:29 am |
  9. Deaux

    1) Can God see into the future?
    2) Did God create Satan?

    Yes to both. So it follows that God knowingly unleashed evil on man. Since God knew what Satan would become, God is the root of all evil.

    May 21, 2013 at 1:31 am |
    • urmomlol

      This idea is fresh and original!

      May 21, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • lol??

      Your cover-up didn't work so hot either. Now go stand in the corner and hold your breath if you want.

      May 21, 2013 at 1:59 am |
    • Ricardo Nogueira

      1- Yes, God knows all things.
      2- No! God created Lucifer, not Satan.

      God gives free will to people to choose between good and evil.
      Jesus is the truth, anything that doesn't comply with truth is evil and must be punished.

      *God punished Satan and will punish anyone who continue to say no to the truth.

      In other words, God hates evil and evil hates God.

      God wins.

      : )

      May 21, 2013 at 2:19 am |
    • Ak-Haru Kenaustin Ardenol

      LOL Thanks, Ricardo! Your airhead post is so poe I just had to laugh.
      And they will not see it, no, not if it was ever thus.

      May 21, 2013 at 2:39 am |
    • larper2

      God Created Righteous Lucifer; Lucifer Created Wicked Satan

      May 21, 2013 at 2:58 am |
    • sam stone

      ricardo....if god is omniscient, how can free will exist?

      May 21, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • lol??

      Sammy,
      ""holy"
      occurs 611 times in 544 verses in the KJV "
      That has implications for dust balls, 'specially those that have rocks for bwains.

      May 21, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  10. faith

    "HotAirAce
    Given that, after thousands of years of shamans and charlatans claiming that at least one god exists, there is no factual, verifiable, independent and objective evidence for any god, the answer is "Yes.""

    makes no difference if 10,000,000 shamans claim your god exists or no one does. there is no evidence you will ever see

    May 21, 2013 at 1:23 am |
    • HotAirAce

      You are correct because there is no evidence.

      May 21, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • Ricardo Nogueira

      I'm the evidence.

      God exists in my life, I'm a testimony to the truth which is Jesus Christ.

      Anyone who comes to Him shall have eternal life and will be set free from eternal condemnation.

      God gives free will to people to choose between truth and evil.

      Clock is ticking. Choice is yours!

      Remember, free will.

      Why choose pride, arrogance, disobedience... ?

      Choose life, choose Jesus!

      May 21, 2013 at 2:32 am |
    • faith

      "HotAirAce
      You are correct because there is no evidence."

      The General answers the phone and says the Baroness is coming up with a lady. He tells Chernov and Petrovin to go away. The General tells Anastasia to get ready. The Empress comes in alone, and she asks him to bring her in. Anastasia comes in slowly and asks if she recognizes her. The Empress asks where she was born. Anastasia says for a long time she did not know who she was. She calls her grandmama, and the Empress says she did not give her permission to call her that. She says that the love she wants belongs to one who is dead. Anastasia says she cares nothing about the money. She says the Empress is hard, and she says she quarreled over a necklace. Anastasia talks about her sisters, and the Empress calls her an imposture. Anastasia refers to the pain she went through from the flies in the cellar. The Empress stands up and says she failed to win her over. Anastasia kneels before her and pleads with her to stay. She coughs, and the Empress asks if she is ill and if she has seen a doctor. Anastasia says she has changed little, and she is strong. The Empress appears confused and says they should meet when her mind is clearer. Anastasia talks about her running, and she coughs. She says she coughs when she is frightened. The Empress says that when she was a little girl, she coughed when she was frightened. She embraces her and looks forward to celebrating with her. She tells Anastasia that she has come back.

      May 21, 2013 at 2:34 am |
    • sam stone

      ricardo: do you seriously desire ETERNAL life?

      May 21, 2013 at 8:02 am |
  11. Epidi

    Heaven is felt lying in the arms of my husband. Heaven is heard in the laughter of a child. Heaven smells like honeysuckle on a spring morning. Heaven tastes like strawberries. Heaven looks like the sun burning thru the mist on a mountain. I won't go into what hell is like because it is as different for each individual as heaven is. I don't view them as places or destinations. I view them as a state of being.

    May 21, 2013 at 1:11 am |
    • faith

      getting there

      May 21, 2013 at 1:29 am |
    • Inquisitor

      No, it does not taste like Strawberries. It tastes like Raspberries. You and your heathen fruit will burn!

      May 21, 2013 at 2:13 am |
    • Ak-Haru Kenaustin Ardenol

      @Epidi – So you are saying that there is no heaven or hell but only states of being and not of place? Ha ha ha ha!
      That is so ridiculous. Your state of being is electrochemical. Better start worshiping magnets or something. Got it.

      May 21, 2013 at 2:44 am |
  12. ejw zeus

    the church or mosq or synagog receives tons of $ from their community leaders who just ask this, don't let them realize they are being used till its too late..ahem I mean life after death is great.....awesome security system.

    May 21, 2013 at 1:03 am |
  13. Wedge

    I read Alexander's book and it changed my life.

    May 21, 2013 at 1:01 am |
    • Ak-Haru Kenaustin Ardenol

      You could try to get a refund.

      May 21, 2013 at 3:40 am |
  14. Pete

    Pathetic.

    May 21, 2013 at 12:57 am |
  15. Sami

    I only have a question to Aethists, The Abrahamic religions namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam disagree on everything almost, but they do agree on the existence of God, my question is it possible that from these hundred of prophets or more that we know of and are historically proven to exist, is it possible that they are all pathological liars and daemons as they drove Billion of People into madness? Is it possible that ALL of them, although many of them are well known to be honest people in their time, to be all pure liars despite the fact that centuries are between them? what are the Mathematical probability of this happening? And what if ONE, only one happened to be right and honest? Where do that make Aethists really in the after life?

    May 21, 2013 at 12:47 am |
    • ilovemazes

      It's possible they ALL had real, emotional, psychological or spiritual-like experiences, all of which were either unexplainable or which they interpreted by using their culture's myths and beliefs, that they all then mis-attributed to mystical explanations rather than biological or scientific explanations that were beyond their knowledge, or a misunderstanding of the actual frequency of 'miraculous' coincidences. Therefore they are not intentional charlatans, but merely common people who interpreted their experiences in the only way they could. That does not mean their interpretations of their experiences proves the existence of a supernatural being. Just that those type of experiences are quite common.

      May 21, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Given that, after thousands of years of shamans and charlatans claiming that at least one god exists, there is no factual, verifiable, independent and objective evidence for any god, the answer is "Yes."

      May 21, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • Fikken Dü

      Allow me to translate: Sincerity is not proof of truth or honesty, but there were probably some who really believed the lies.

      May 21, 2013 at 1:12 am |
    • faith

      "Fikken Dü
      Allow me to translate: Sincerity is not proof of truth or honesty, but there were probably some who really believed the lies."

      count those lies

      May 21, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • Fikken Dü

      Why don't you learn to count? Do you need me to cut up your vegetables for you, too? Is this babby's big day on the internet?

      May 21, 2013 at 1:44 am |
    • tallulah13

      Religious worship has been shown to create endorphins. Endorphins produce a feeling of euphoria. People indoctrinated into a religion could very well confuse that euphoria with the "presence" of their god.

      Also, the Abrahamic religions come from a time when very little was understood about the natural phenomena that shape this planet. At that point in history, they had no better answer than "god did it". We no longer have that excuse. Clinging to a comforting myth is not longer the most mature or wise choice.

      May 21, 2013 at 1:47 am |
    • faith

      "tallulah13
      Religious worship has been shown to create endorphins. Endorphins produce a feeling of euphoria. People indoctrinated into a religion could very well confuse that euphoria with the "presence" of their god.

      Also, the Abrahamic religions come from a time when very little was understood about the natural phenomena that shape this planet. At that point in history, they had no better answer than "god did it". We no longer have that excuse. Clinging to a comforting myth is not longer the most mature or wise choice."

      mel brooks was interviewed on the radio today. love that guy. kills me. dodo is funnier

      May 21, 2013 at 1:58 am |
    • Ricky

      Greeks had many prophets who claim to have talked to their gods, and so did the Romans and the Egyptians. They all claimed to have "experienced" the presence of gods, but they can't all be truth, right? What drove people to say they saw what they saw? You can think of many reasons. Lycurgus. for example, told the Spartans that his laws were given to him by the god Apollo, and so people trusted him and followed his laws and his system of government lasted 500 years. It is easier to tell other people that they should listen to you because a god told you what to do, than telling them, "do what I say because I'm smarter than you."

      May 21, 2013 at 3:01 am |
    • Ak-Haru Kenaustin Ardenol

      How can a wrong person be right?
      It doesn't matter if they know they are wrong, they remain wrong.
      Belief doesn't change that.
      Sincerity can be faked.
      Honesty does not prove anything.
      Honest or dishonest makes no difference on whether they are right or wrong.

      Only the facts of the matter can be used to determine what is correct or most likely to be correct.
      Most delusional people cannot help being unable to face reality.
      Their brains have been conditioned or developed in such a way that avoidance techniques are automatic and pervasive.
      This leads to further bias and can easily become a vicious circle of delusional thinking.
      Your illusions are only illusions, not some mystical truth.

      May 21, 2013 at 3:39 am |
    • sam stone

      to say that they are liars implies that they knew what they saying was not true.

      perhaps "delusional" would be more accurate

      May 21, 2013 at 8:06 am |
  16. AG

    "Faith is always at a disadvantage; it is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all of its conquerors," wrote G. K. Chesterton. Belief cannot be seen or directly perceived, nor proven by mere logic. If you can prove it, you don’t need faith.
    This problem of proof is only solved when the One who is above all men communicates with man. This communication, of course, reaches perfection in the Incarnation, when God became man—that is, when the Word, God’s perfect communication, became flesh.
    Calling Christians and other religious believers stupid and unreasonable is often the default argument; it is also an approach, crude yet often effective, embraced by many who believe that religious faith is an offense to enlightened, modern man.

    May 21, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • JJ

      Christianity is still bullshit.

      May 21, 2013 at 12:47 am |
    • Dippy

      Actually, all religions are bullshit. Nothing special about christianity.

      May 21, 2013 at 1:12 am |
  17. Micheal

    I can only hope there is a heaven where i will one day feel the embrace of my loving mother again. That is my belief. Why must everyone try to knock down others peaceful , self assuring beliefs. I feel better thinking there is something else beyond this life.

    May 21, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • faith

      my uncle plays fullback in heaven

      May 21, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • LinCA

      @Micheal

      You said, "Why must everyone try to knock down others peaceful , self assuring beliefs."
      You are free to hold whatever belief you want. If you post them on a public forum, such as this, you are asking for them to be scrutinized and criticized. If you don't want that, you should keep them to yourself.

      May 21, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • faith

      dodo, u could be honest and tell the boy onst u eliminate all xtards, u will support freedom of speech (as long as they say whatever it is you approve)

      May 21, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • Micheal

      @ LinCa
      I have no problem with others debating my thoughts or beliefs . I was just wondering why others like to "bash". I am always up for a nice chat about all things.

      May 21, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Jennifer

      Micheal, you will see your dear mother again. Family is forever.

      May 21, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • AtheistsMorons

      Michael you will see your loving mother again, and don't worry about those atheists. That's how they are, pretending to bring goods in this world and on the other hand always there to take away you dreams. Jesus said you will recognize a tree by its own fruits. You will be with your loving mother again when the time comes. Got to go to bed, have to work tomorrow and have a good night Micheal. May peace be upon you.

      May 21, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • Miss Demeanor troll la la

      your well-crafted writing seems like it came from someone who is not a mere waif... more like someone with a gift for writing and persuading... certainly you can use that to comfort others... not to appeal to those who don't share your beliefs to believe what you do...

      May 21, 2013 at 1:25 am |
    • sam stone

      michael: it is a comforting thought. it is not a rational, though

      May 21, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • sam stone

      though = thought

      May 21, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • LinCA

      @Micheal

      You said, "I was just wondering why others like to "bash"."
      What would you consider "bashing"? Is it bashing to point out that there is no rational support for a belief in heaven and hell? Is it bashing to point out that a belief in gods is not fundamentally different from a belief in the Tooth Fairy?

      I realize that it may be uncomfortable to have closely held beliefs exposed for what they are, without having any defense other than "but I still believe it". Reality may be painful, but I don't consider it bashing, especially since nobody is forcing you to come here (I hope).

      You said, "I am always up for a nice chat about all things."
      On this blog, that will require a close examination of your beliefs.

      May 21, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  18. I seen Elvis

    You have to admire the first shyster who said "I have seen god" or "God talks to me" or I saw a burning bush and didn't have any water to put it out, so guess how I did and then god got mad and said he was going to initiate Armageddon as soon as he got around to coming back to check on Earth. That is my prophecy. I seen Elvis a few minutes after that. He looks the same, but his infantile trailer-trash lyrics haven't improved one bit...

    May 21, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • faith

      elvis told me he was coming back om october 16th in time for lunch

      May 21, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • faith

      i mean, who is gonna try to convince people god showed up in their driveway one day born from a chick that ain't been with a dude? and he was born in a stinky old barn. RIGHT! and i suppose he went for a stroll on top of a lake. SURE HE DID. GREAT JOB BERNIE. I BELIEVE BABY

      May 21, 2013 at 12:23 am |
  19. faith

    they made up the whole thing. ob vi ous. san ta. fs m, to oth f a i ry people. grow up. no one seriously wrote about some god dude back in the day.

    May 21, 2013 at 12:12 am |
    • faith

      they were ju st trying not to sta rve to d e a th. it was a co mic st r ip pu bli s hed in the d ail y da v id i an di s pa t ch

      May 21, 2013 at 12:14 am |
    • faith

      and some knu ckle he ads strung the m tog ether and mar ke ted it as the co m pl ete work of mu rr y and ber n ie's supe rma n ex tr a v a g a n z a .

      no one really be lieves these guys w ere seri ous. get real

      May 21, 2013 at 12:15 am |
    • I seen Elvis

      I like how you think, Faith, but puhleeze remove the freakin' e x t r a spaces between your l e t t e r s... unless of course yer speekin' in tongues and that's the proper way to write it. Thanks. Later... I gotta save more souls from beleeevin' fairy-tales

      May 21, 2013 at 12:53 am |
  20. teach them science instead

    It fills me with delight to know that the son of a pastor (whom I'm guessing is a fundamentalist) has found a way to monetize spiritual beliefs without much formal education.
    Seriously, though... this is one result of telling children fairy-tales about an afterlife, then telling them the tales are true. The brain makes up all kinds of things when we are unconscious. How in the name of sanity-check-missing-here does that PROVE the experience was a spiritual lesson that gawwwwd wants this child to monetize his religion at a young age?

    May 21, 2013 at 12:08 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.