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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. A believer

    I am a believer in the work and word of Jesus Christ. We all know that spiritual occurrences and activities has no physical evidence. I am an earth-scientist by profession and sometimes I tend to question what I believe. However, I do not want persuade someone into what I believe or put up an argument about who is right. It is right to choose what you want to believe. If you do not believe, then it is only good for you or the reverse is true. All I am saying here is, though we may refuse to accept there is a heaven, a deity, or a demon, we always accept the fact that there is a planet called Earth, people who are lives and dies, and sufferings which are endless familiar to man kind. We do not need to argue, but we need to stay true to our conscience and respect others believes as well.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • Factoidlover

      Your thoughts convey your respect for individual rights – a noble sentiment. And the idea that living more harmoniously is truly a wish many generations have desired. Some individuals and groups, though, chose to believe that their way is the only way and decide to enforce this view on others through small things like social belittling and through large things like maiming and killing. Remaining respectful towards hate expressed through violence is a dangerous position.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  2. Marie

    Jesus told his disciples and others that "If you know me then you know my Father who is in Heaven". He also said "I am going to my Father who is in Heaven". Why some churches don't teach about Heaven I can't understand for the principle of Heaven and Eternal Life are a fundamental part of Jesus' teachings. For Jesus came so that we may have Eternal Life and forgiveniess of sins.

    I believe that I will see my loved ones in Heaven even my cats and other pets. For God created our pets too and He knows that we love them and cherish them as we do all members of our families.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:35 am |
  3. scott

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zejq5EsoTFI&w=640&h=360]

    June 16, 2013 at 12:15 am |
  4. scott

    Every church i've been to talks about heaven all the time.No clue what this author is talking about.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • David

      This author makes no sense. He seems to be writing just for amusement because he surely doesn't have a clue what he's talking about.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Factoidlover

      I've been to churches that emphasize heaven and others that never speak about it. Perhaps the trend is away from speaking about heaven, if you look around the country.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  5. Hesavlie

    Jesus, only Jesus. You're either with him or against. Believe in and follow him on the narrow road to heaven.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Kenneth

      Is Jesus the name of your Hispanic landscaper?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
    • Factoidlover

      This is like saying you are either for Socrates or against him. Or for Augustine or against him. Or for Martin Luther or against him. Or for Calvin or against him. Or for Santa or against him. I'm neither for nor against the tooth fairy, since this magical being doesn't exist.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  6. Michael

    If people actually READ the New Testament of the bible, they would realize that about 10% is repeating morals from the Old Testament, and 90% is talking DIRECTLY about the Kingdom of Heaven. Is "John Blake" a pseudonym for well spoken Atheist / Comedian Ricky Gervais, or is he just THAT misinformed?

    June 15, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • David

      He is just that misinformed. He is probably only writing for the amusement of his readers and not for the facts found in the Bible.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  7. Science

    Who is trying to reach a place in a fairytale............clue fruitcakes from xmas past maybe ?

    Discovery Channel – Prehistoric New york

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj0cP3A9FFc&w=640&h=360]

    June 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • SamStoned

      You have some really stupid posts..

      June 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • Science

      And Mary had a little lamb and her fleece was white as snow you know .

      June 15, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
  8. Andy Prigge

    The angel told him:“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”“You have nothing to fear.”“There is nothing you can do wrong." I as an Evangelical Christian have a problem with this last statement in particular. We are told not to believe all angels but test them by asking: " Has Jesus Christ come in the flesh?" if it is affirmative than it is an angel of GOD, also any person who is familiar with the Bible knows of our fallen sin nature. That angel was lying when he told him "There is nothing you can do wrong." This removes all accountability which is exactly what satan wants us to believe. I don't know what churches the author is talking about because I hear about heaven all the time at the Bible studies and services I go to, not to mention the many references in the Bible. These people may have indeed died and had a vision, but satan and his angels are masters of illusions and able to manipulate time and space. Some of these people could have went to hell, but satan created a buffer around them so they would not see the true hell he was hiding from them. It says in the scripture that in the end time's that the LORD will send men strong disillusions that they should believe a lie. The only way to heaven is through the Salvation of Jesus Christ. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the LORD Jesus , and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Romans 10:9 check it out..................

    June 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Factoidlover

      If what you write is true, then it seems likely that the masters of illusion have caused you to write it.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  9. Sam

    Some people seem to think that something as complex as our earth and universe magically and randomly came into existence. For example, atheists and those who claim to be more "intellectual." Well, this scenario sounds to me like something more out of a Harry Potter novel. Imagine that: they have no problem believing that their own home, food, clothing etc. was created by some. Yet something far more complex and creative as the universe was by random chance.

    "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior Spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind." Albert Einstein

    June 14, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Factoidlover

      In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure, a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task.
      Albert Einstein, “Science, Philosophy, and Religion, a Symposium”, New York, 1941.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  10. Science

    Hey bible thumpers the fairytale to heaven...............think of The King James version as Humpty Dumpy Sat on the Wall

    another classic fairytale from England.

    June 12, 2013 — To World War II soldiers, "The White Cliffs of Dover" was a morale-boosting song that lifted spirits in dark times. To geographers,

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130612133050.htm

    June 14, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Camus

      Blab blab blab..say something that carries some importance will ya.

      June 14, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Science

      The Light...is...Science Wins God Loses | Facebook................from the little blue box.........think outside the box. https://www.facebook.com/ScienceWinsGodLoses "Creationists make it sound like a ‘theory’ is something you ... are all over it. ... that says I must submit to him or suffer agonizing punishment for all time? 8,000,000 results Any time.

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/06/04/atheists-to-start-1-800-hotline/#comments

      Your request was successfully submitted.

      Bing will come and visit your site soon. To find out if your site is indexed and receiving traffic from Bing or to submit more URLs, sign up for a free account with

      Bing Webmaster Tools

      June 14, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • Jason Stackhouse

      Why be so awful about it? Saying that you know for certain is untrue, why not just leave yourself open to the possibility that there may be something beyond this life? Or at least stop taunting those that do believe. They have a right to their beliefs, just as much as you do. What gives you the right to be so scornful?

      June 14, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Science

      Blue box

      June 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Hesavlie

      Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Follow him on the narrow road to heaven. The alternative is a broad road that leads to destruction. Don't go there, please. Satan and hell are both real.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • Science

      No divine designer needed..................... so the KJV is a good fairytale.

      Video animation: RNA interference

      http://www.nature.com/nrg/multimedia/rnai/animation/index.html

      And

      .geology...................the deep where green slime grows ............for you know.

      Researchers Sequence the Genome of Global Deep Ocean.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130612133132.htm

      And included this for chadfie./ICR..........no divine creator needed chad.

      Mystery of X-Ray Light from Black Holes Solved

      June 14, 2013 — It is a mystery that has stymied astrophysicists for decades: how do black holes produce so many high-power X-rays?

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130614140504.htm

      June 16, 2013 at 7:48 am |
  11. Mimi

    It's interesting that we have fewer studies on people who've supposedly visited hell during a near death experience. I've heard stories of people visiting hell, which they describe as a terrifying place. But, those stories are out there, folks! I suppose those who have had negative experiences are more reluctant to share such stories of going to hell. If you're going to talk about heaven, you should talk about the other reality as well, which is hell. After all, Jesus talked more about hell than heaven. As for those who seem to think that all paths lead to heaven, that would be a false assumption. If heaven is as described by many NDErs, you'd have to discount some world religions such as Hinduism and/or Buddhism which tend to emphasize reincarnation and doesn't really acknowledge a single diety or angels etc.

    June 14, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • Hesavlie

      Yes, great points.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
  12. David McBroom

    I had a Heart Transplant in 1995, I met God in my sleep, he said to me live, love, cherish every day, I too saw different colored lights in a tunnel.

    June 13, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • Dennis

      What a beautiful way to cheapen the gift the family of the deceased gave you.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • David

      John 1:18 says "No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god* who is in the bosom [position] with the Father is the one that has explained him." Are you claiming that the Bible lies and that you are special? Get real fool.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:51 am |
  13. The message

    The Bible says, “He that hardeneth his heart, being often reproved, shall suddenly be cut off and not without remedy” [see Proverbs 29:1].

    You never know. To some of you who go out on the slick highways this afternoon, this may be the last sermon you will ever hear. In every crusade we have ever conducted anywhere, there have been people who have come to the meeting in good health and never came back because they were dead in the next few hours through an accident, or a heart attack, or something else.

    We never know when our moment is coming. Maybe God spoke to you this afternoon, and your heart is in danger of being hardened. Some of you are older people; some of you are younger people. The Bible says once you hear the Gospel and do nothing about it, you are in danger of being hardening your heart.

    But, last of all, there were some that made a decision [see Acts 17:34]. They received Christ and went their way rejoicing. I am going to ask you today to receive Him. I am not asking you this afternoon to join some special church. I’m asking you today to give your life to Christ.

    You may be a member of a choir. I don’t know who you are or what you are, but you want to give your life to Christ on this opening Sunday afternoon. I’m going to ask you to do a hard thing, because coming to Christ is not easy. So many people have made it too easy. Jesus went to the cross and died in your place. Certainly, you can come a few steps from where you are sitting and stand here, quietly and reverently, and with bowed head. And say, “I need God; I need Christ. I want to be forgiven of my sins. I want a new life, and I want to start a new direction today.” Rev. Graham

    June 13, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
  14. Molly

    Our church talks about heaven all the time. Although Jesus did talk about hell more than He talked about heaven. READ THE NEW TESTAMENT! It will take you just a couple of days. Start with John and read straight through to Jude

    June 13, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • Maybe you should read...

      Please list all the times Jesus talked about heII. I have read the bible several times and I know the few parrables Christ told about Gehenna, but I do not recall Jesus ever mentioning people being sent to an eternity of torment. In fact when he resurects the young girl he tells her family she was "asleep in death" which doesn't sound a lot like fiery torment to me.

      June 13, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      That's a good point about Gehenna, but I think most Christians interpret that word (cause their bibles do) as "hell," and then most Christians interpret "hell" as "the lake of fire" that is never ending torment in flames.

      Do we nonbelievers go with what the majority of Christians misinterpret, misunderstand, misuse, or misconstrue? Or do we just pick one of the minority viewpoints and stick with that? What's an atheist to do?

      June 13, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • Observer

      Maybe you should read...,

      You keep missing parts. Read the Bible more times.

      – Matthew 5:22 "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell"

      June 13, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • Maybe you should read...

      Oh, and I read the OLD TESTEMENT as well since "all scripture is inspired of God" and it told me I can go buy me a slave so I have been checking the internet for slave sales. It also said that if my children are disobedient I can have them stoned which worked out well since the 5 year old needed his own room anyway so now he doesn't have to share with his disobedient older ex-brother... Oh, and boy was the bible (OLD & NEW) great at helping my wife learn her place in the home. I get to read her the headship scriptures each night so she can feel comfortable knowing that it's not my will to dominate her and make all the household decisions, but God wants me to so she can just shut the heII up...

      June 13, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • Science

      Earth’s timeline .

      Trace our planet's geological and biological ages............better than the bibles timeline.

      http://www.nbcnews.com/id/33184839/ns/technology_and_science/

      June 13, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • nwabundo

      You are right, Molly; I am a Catholic and my Church speaks all the time about Heaven. The Holy Eucharist, the Real Presence of Christ, is presented as the foretaste of Heaven and Christ promised that if you eat his Body and drink his Blood He will raise you up (to Heaven) on the last day. The doctrine of the Communion of Saints teaches that those on earth maintain a very real and close relationship with those in Heaven and in Purgatory, hence we ask Saints to intercede for us. Indeed the Church reminds us always to live with our feet planted on earth but with our gaze riveted on Heaven, because all earthly realities – those things we consider indispensable now- will pass away. The Liturgy for the Dead is full of references and consolations about death being the beginning of Life in Heaven. Every church should of necessity speak about Heaven all the time; how else can they get their flock to persevere in doing good in this valley of tears? Silence about heaven by some preachers, especially those who sell a sugar coated religion without pain and sacrificial love, could arise from the fact that unfortunately one has to die first in order to go to Heaven! Yes, time ends and timelessness begins, but no one who has lived with his gaze on God should be afraid of this last act of man: it will be, according to Saint Josemaria, like going home and what good child does not like to go home?

      June 13, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • EJ

      I can see that many continue to misread the Bible, misunderstand the Bible, and generally do not even know what is in the Bible. Hell is not the eternal resting place of the unbelievers. That is the lake of fire for hell and death are to be thrown into it. Hell is where the souls of dead unbelievers must wait for final judgment.

      You are hard pressed to persuade me that God condones slavery, domination of wives, and immorality. God talks about all of these things in the context of them happening in society. Yes, I am to become a "slave" of Jesus Christ's. But He does not mistreat me, beat me, starve me, and sell me off to the highest bidder.

      June 14, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Andy Prigge

      That's the key you have to read the Bible. But the right Bible "King James" or "New King James" are some good ones. Before the Cross "Jesus' Crucifixion " Jewish saints went to Abraham's Bu-sum" After the Cross the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. After Jesus Christ died on the cross the graves were opened and many of the saints and went into the holy city and were seen by many (paraphrased) Mat 27:52-53.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Hear This

      Andy<

      "graves were opened and many of the saints and went into the holy city and were seen by many"

      Who, exactly. Where are the reports?

      I''m going to open up a used food cafe for Believers - they'll swallow anything!

      June 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  15. ArGa27

    In reponse to In Santa We Trust:
    Hell is best discribed as the absence of Jesus. Which is exactly what this world has become. The Bible is real and Jesus is real. Looking forward to one day being in a place where there is no suffering, where all people are kind to each other and being with Jesus. In God I Trust.

    June 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  16. Heaven

    The existence of heaven, the desire for heaven, the nature of heaven, and the relevance of heaven are all important questions. But there is only one question that's absolutely essential, one question compared with which how we might save the world from a nuclear holocaust is trivial: "What must I do to be saved?" When I'm honest enough to look through the door of death, infinite joy or infinite joylessness loom up as my only two possible destinies. What decides for joy? What is heaven's entrance ticket? What is the Way, the Truth and the Life?

    I am horrified to report that I've asked this question of hundreds of college students, and far fewer than half have known the answer. Most reply either "God is good to everybody" or "I'm basically a good person."

    If anyone out there is unsure of the correct answer, then for the love of God get out your Bible and study for your finals! To save you time—since you may die while reaching for your Bible—I will quote God's scandalously simple answer to the most important question in the world, how to get to heaven: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).
    Kreeft

    June 13, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Amazing!

      The Truth is Jesus.

      June 13, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      There is no evidence of a god or heaven or hell.

      June 13, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • In GOD trust!~

      The Way (JESUS), the truth (JESUS) and the LIGHT (JESUS). No man shall enter the Kingdom of God but through JESUS CHRIST YOUR SAVIOR!!! Salvation by Grace.....what could be easier? And yet, I remain shocked at the number of people who deny that truth!~
      When you come to your hour of death.......to whom do you call upon??

      June 14, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • David

      Only a moron would say that there is no evidence of God. As for Gehenna, this name appears 12 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and whereas many translators take the liberty to render it by the word “hell,” a number of modern translations transliterate the word from the Greek ge′en·na. But did taking this liberty to change the word to hell make the translation accurate?

      There was no Symbol of Everlasting Torment. Jesus Christ associated fire with Gehenna as did the disciple James, the only Biblical writer besides Matthew, Mark, and Luke to use the word. Some commentators endeavor to link such fiery characteristic of Gehenna with the burning of human sacrifices that was carried on prior to Josiah’s reign and, on this basis, hold that Gehenna was used by Jesus as a symbol of everlasting torment. However, since God expressed repugnance for such practice, saying that it was “a thing that I had not commanded and that had not come up into my heart” it seems most unlikely that God’s Son, in discussing divine judgment, would make such idolatrous practice the basis for the symbolic meaning of Gehenna. It may be noted that God prophetically decreed that the Valley of Hinnom would serve as a place for mass disposal of dead bodies rather than for the torture of live victims. (out onto the offered would doubtless be viewed by the idolaters as “sacred” and would not be left lying in the valley. It is evident that Jesus used Gehenna as representative of utter destruction resulting from adverse judgment by God, hence with no resurrection to life as a soul being possible.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:03 am |
  17. Jean LaFitte

    This would be funny if it wasn't so sad. "Proof of Heaven" – where's the proof again? Oh yeah, because he says so. There's no proof, there's just his word for it. The Christians say, "But you have to have faith!" Which means believing in something just because you want it to be true. Okay – I have faith that Santa Claus will come this Christmas and give me a new house, tax-free. How's that for faith? I have just as much "proof" as the guy who wrote the book about Heaven.
    Humans since the beginning of recorded history have been afraid of death, because they don't know what happens. In order to deal with that fear, they invent gods, heaven, hell, purgatory, and all sorts of other weird stories to alleviate their fear. It's unfortunate that we're still so primitive that we have to believe in fairy tales to control our fear of the unknown.

    June 13, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • GUIDE

      ok Jean Lafitte,what is your proof about your fourth or fifth grand father existence?

      you didn't see him and you didn't hear him, how you believe that he was there?

      Because your grand father was there, you are here.

      And because God is there,evey thing is here and there.

      June 14, 2013 at 3:28 am |
  18. Yazi

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimethyltryptamine

    June 13, 2013 at 2:28 am |
  19. faith

    anybody believes in heaven is a sick nutjob. how could anyone actually think there r worlds where people live? right! like they have water 2 drink and food 2 eat, i bet? and cars and t.v. and oceans and an earth. RIGHT!

    and i am alive and a human being! sure i am!

    June 11, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Science

      Comedy Gold update ............seems like all links are !

      http://piersmorgan.blogs.cnn.com/2013/06/07/piers-morgan-live-rewind-bringing-religion-into-school-the-nsa-data-mining-program-and-what-to-do-about-it/#comment-191620

      And

      Do not forget faith you know faithy.

      The MATRIX faith........................great mind game..............all between the ears.

      Hey bible thumpers it is all between your ears that red horn-y beast.........look what the little blue box has to offer .too !

      My take: A word to Christians – Be nice – CNN Belief Blog ...

      religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/02/09/my-take-a-word-to-christians-be-nice

      Feb 09, 2013 · Hey all creationists ... No horn-y red beast needed ... bible thumpers ? Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought.

      http://www.bing.com/search?q=Hey+bible+thumpers+it+is+all+between+your+ears+that+red+horn-y+beast.&form=HPNTDF&pc=HPNTDF&src=IE-SearchBox

      Other links there too faith at Bing.

      June 11, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • Science

      The EARTH was not created by a fairy in the sky...............fred............you too faithy

      No heaven on fire pit of hell.

      The water and chondrites................life providing stones.

      Water On Moon, Earth Came from Same Primitive Meteorites

      Water On May 9, 2013 — The water found on the moon, like that on Earth, came from small meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites in the first 100 million years or so after the solar system formed, researchers from Brown and Case Western Reserve universities and Carnegie Insti-tution of Washington have found.Moon, Earth Came from Same Prim-itive Meteorites

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130509142102.htm

      Peace

      June 12, 2013 at 6:51 am |
  20. John Patrick Grace

    We are not our own makers. None of us figured out how to get into this world. We were put here as a result of a process that goes back to the beginning of time, and which we could not possibly control. To think that there is no intelligent being in control of the process, that all this came from 'some stuff that was floating around in the universe," is madness.

    The truth is there was no stuff, there was no universe. All stuff and all universes have beginnings. God alone has no beginning, always was and always will be.

    It is petty and unthinking to rail against religion as "fairy tales." You may as well rail against your own existence as a fairy tale. That's how crazy such raillery is.

    You've been given a mind, so T H I N K . Try to come up with something logical, something that makes sense, something that resonates in your inner being as true.

    Everything else is a waste of time. Before you decide to post another trashing of God or religion, think–at least a little.
    That will help. And perhaps you will start to make some sense.

    John Patrick Grace
    Huntington, West Virginia

    June 11, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      There is a possiblity of a god pre-Big Bang but we have no evidence of that. Would we even consider it a possibility if we came to our current state of knowledge somehow bypassing the superstitions of our ancestors. They thought thunder was caused by the gods being angry, eclipses were a sign from the gods, floods and droughts etc. the result of the whims of capricious gods.

      June 11, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • the Reality beyond

      Its amazing how non-scientists think science explains all or can potentially do so. As a scientist, I can say no one will ever explain the mere state of existence. The critics take great pleasure in their supposed intellectual superiority yet it is they who believe man, a mere animal slightly more intelligent than a dog, can in its intellect understand all there is to know about reality. Hmmm. Something is wrong with that assumption. Perhaps there is more than meets the eye. Or measurement.

      June 12, 2013 at 1:36 am |
    • Joma

      If all stuff and all universes have a beginning, then your GOD must also have a beginning. According to you. I don't see how you can ignore your OWN logic and reasoning from the opening paragraph of your comment so easily. God, if he exists, can not have always existed. Surely something infinitely more complex than man (who needs a creator according to you) would also need to have been created by something. IT cannot have always existed, its too complex for that (according to you).

      June 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Mary Rogers

      @The Reality Beyond

      You claim that you are a scientist and yet you think that man is only slighty more intelligent than a dog? Speak for yourself, because that surely does not describe the rest of us!

      June 13, 2013 at 12:30 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.