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. Jack

    In Heaven no one can hear you scream.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:40 am |


      May 20, 2013 at 4:23 pm |

      im very open minded individual raised in a christain religious household but my views and personal encounters with life has led me to believe religion is way to messed up in todays world right now for me to play blind. The points made my DHW make the most sense and athiest are defninitely attempting to act like they know that what the believers believe in is non sense by being affirmitive but in reality you dont know either. so why fault someone for believing in it. whether consciously or unconsciously in your life you have believed in things you dont even no the answer to so why cant we. We do have souls something created things everything can not just conviently exist for earth to conviently populate people at the right temperature for humans to live and all that THAT IS WHAT I CAN'T BELIEVE there is a creater dont know what or whom but that is my god. I believe in that. i mean you guys believe in logic right? so how is not believing in a creator logical? we are constantly pro-creating but SOMEONE HAD TO START THIS. and someone had to start them so why can't that creator be our god? for athiest to say god exist what started us then? I WOULD love to hear that POV.

      May 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
      • Truth

        The phenomena of 'near' death events contradicts what the Bible teaches about the condition of the dead. Hear what God has to say on this subject.
        (Psalm 146:4) . . .His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; In that day his thoughts do perish. . .
        (Isaiah 26:19) . . .“Your dead ones will live. A corpse of mine—they will rise up. Awake and cry out joyfully, YOU residents in the dust! For your dew is as the dew of mallows, and the earth itself will let even those impotent in death drop [in birth]. . .
        (Acts 24:15) . . .and I have hope toward God, which hope these [men] themselves also entertain, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. . .
        (John 11:23-25) . . .Jesus said to her: “Your brother will rise.” 24 Martha said to him: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life. . .

        September 27, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
      • Truth

        The phenomena of 'near' death events contradicts what the Bible teaches about the condition of the dead. Hear what God has to say on this subject.
        (Acts 24:15) . . .and I have hope toward God, which hope these [men] themselves also entertain, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. . .
        (John 11:23-25) . . .Jesus said to her: “Your brother will rise.” 24 Martha said to him: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life. . .

        September 27, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • fintastic

      @DWH.......... "so how is not believing in a creator logical? "

      Very simple.... there is zero evidence to support a creator, therefore it is logical to not believe in one.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  2. OK

    I hope so. But a flash in the pan doesn't mean we are going to be with our loved ones again. There is a major hallucination going on in those moments and to give more false hope is plain wrong.

    My father was clinically dead from a heart attack.......he came back.....but said there was nothing.....just blackness and voices in the distance. Does that mean there is nothing also?? Believe in what we know......next to nothing about it.

    But I hope he is right.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • DWH

      False hope is wrong but consider that fear is just an illusion. Just because your father didn't have an experience like the one being discussed does not mean there is nothing or that he would have just gone on in blackness had he died. I hope you will have an experience that will reveal the truth to you.

      One of the difficult things in this time is that people rip apart these experiences because they seem 'too good to be true' in our very negative world (currently). God didn't create us to suffer or to never see our loved ones again or be condemned to a 'meaningless' existance. – At least that is my opinion.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  3. Fernando

    I feel truly saddened for those who still choose to not believe. God gave us all the freedom in the world to do whatever we wished.He gave us all the freedom in the world to choose what we would do and what we would should not do. It is all up to us me, you your brother your sister and all other family members to in the end of our lives to choose wether we believe in Jesus or choose nothing or even the Devil himself. There already are members here who have chosen the Devil. I choose to believe in my Lord GOD almighty and when you do choose our LORD your entire life changes. I have had 18 major strokes and can still move the only person I can thank is my LORD JESUS and finally I received the answer to why I still live. I am but a humble servant and because I have chosen to believe in our LORD JESUS CHRIST he has chosen to allow me to keep on living and spreading his truth. Love yourself as you're mother and father loves you, Love others in this way, rely on Jesus's ever lasting love for his Love can and will save you. I love you all and will get harrassed for it but Jesus received this harrassment first. I shall not be bothered by your hatred but know that I one of Jesus's chosen will enter Heaven. The LORD has chosen all of us but some refuse to listen. I am saddened.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • Bleh

      "I am Vinz, Vinz Clortho, Keymaster of Gozer...Volguus Zildrohoar, Lord of the Seboullia. are you the

      May 19, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Bleh


      May 19, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Colin

      "I have had 18 major strokes and can still move the only person I can thank is my LORD JESUS".

      Hmmm, ever thought of asking him why he keeps smiting you? I'd be inclined to think, "18 fvcking strokes! You've got to be kidding me! You ungrateful pr.ick."

      May 19, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Mark

      @Colin...Ungrateful, that seems to be an adequate description of your life.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      I am saddened by the fact that people still buy into the myths of the bible when so much of it has already been proven false.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • jimbob

      So god tortures you relentlessly & them allows you some movement.Sounds like an evil sadistic monster......

      May 19, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • jrvinnh

      God gives us the free will to do as we please. But if we don't do as he tells us he will fry us in hell forever.

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

      Fernando... now that's a lotta bull. I was off my meds and can't believe what I wrote earlier. Religion is what someone like Dubbya practices: Invade Iraq for no justifiable reason (except some fuzzy mis-interpreted biblical text that Cheney convinced him meant that the US is the 'mountain of Israel... therefore we must kill some non-Israeli's in the Middle East... cuz that's what gawwwwd wants... ) When you are THAT stoooopid, it's of course second nature to say: "Rebuilding plans? We'll just let 'er rip and leave the consequences up to gawwwwwwwwwwwwwwd. Religion. Its good for business, good for Uhmerika.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      You, Fernando, are a tard.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  4. Bleh

    There is no Jesus, there is only Zuul!

    May 19, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  5. Brooklyn

    people buy fantasy.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • DWH

      People would buy reality, if it was offered honestly. It rarely is these days.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  6. trollol

    -cough- bulIsh!t -cough- -cough- As bestseller, it only shows us the sad reality that we live in where people are still awesomely gullible. I imagine only bible thumpers who need other people to reaffirm their delusions and hipsters looking for a conversation piece would waste their money on this garbage.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • Mark

      Awesomely gullible? You appear to fantastically poor in English.

      May 19, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • taffylinden

      The people who write off all religion as the fantasies of frightened idiots are just as simplistic, snobbish, and narrow-minded as those conservative Christians who, according to the article, are angry that they're not the only ones going to heaven.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  7. Colin

    Probably the reason most members of organized religion avoid the topic of heaven is that it makes no sense and they have reflected on it enough to know this. I mean, living forever after you die? How old are you? Does an infant whose brain is not yet developed live for all eternity as a babbling toddler? Does a 90 year-old get his or her 30 year old mind back? Are the schizophrenics now stable, the emotionally infirm now sturdy?

    Also, how does one pass the time? Does one eat, drink, have a se.x drive? The entire human experience is the sum total of our biological needs –eating, sleeping, having se.x, loving and raising the next generation. If you back all these out of the equation, I have no idea what's left.

    All this may be why Jesus and Saint Paul did not even believe in what has since developed as the Christian heaven. They believed in the establishment of a kind of theological Utopia here on Earth. Indeed, the whole idea of an afterlife didn’t get much traction in Judaism itself until after the Bar Kokhba Revolt, about 100 years after Jesus’ death.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • DWH

      The real question is, do you want to know?

      I will throw this at you instead; consider if Earth – this dimension – our 'reality' isn't the center of 'existance' but merely a place where people are born, live, die – and then leave from. Alot of people try to understand 'heaven' or 'other places'
      through a purely Earth Centric perspective. Its very difficult to do that! Earth is a LIMITED place. If all of a sudden Earth
      or this dimension isn't the center of 'what exists' then alot opens up in anyones mind (not brain). But if you want only a 'scientific method' (which itself is very .... primitive – and in very early development even on Earth) I'd suggest going beyond that, although some would argue there isn't anything beyond that – presumptuously, foolishly. No one that ONLY thinks that way will ever understand much.

      I will convey one more clue : your body is not you. Its merely a construction that allows you to interact in this time and this place. So when people say things like 'its your brain' – pure nonsense. Yes I know some people in the military think they can 'reproduce' near death experiences – but they can NEVER reproduce the messages, the sounds, the colors, the details in their higher dimensional forms much less the actual interactions with other beings. They do not know what they are talking about. Moving on to the point, when you die or even just partially detach from your body , your mind goes with your spirit (higher body inside your physical body) and can travel very easily. There is a time distortion between realms beyond here and this one. Time there functions differently and isnt limited by our third dimensional rules – and yet there is a 'science' of its own, there. Again the way to see it is they look at us like fish in a bottle by comparison. They are outside, above – not contained in this 'dimension'. We are, for as long as we 'live' here in these bodies – to interact and have experiences and learn things here. Our lives have purpose... souless evolution is frankly – a simple lie, believed by people who want to believe it – to justify whatever they wish it to. Its supported by people who dislike religion, which I too dislike – but who themselves have become a bunch of 'scientific religionists' in my opinion. They have replaced the stuff they hated with more junk and then try to poo poo anything else – just like religions have done. Not so great an accomplishment.

      An open mind doesnt need science, nor does it need religion – it sees and seeks because it CAN – because it was designed to. Designed, not 'evolved'. Or do people think biological things cant be 'designed'. Even science is proving the foolhardiness of that claim – and they really do not know all that much – just the surface at best. Science cant even make a true copy of a living seed from scratch on their own! Why? because they do NOT UNDERSTAND how to make it work! They will try Im sure. Just like they dont understand death, or life! I say this not to impugn the pursuit of scientific knowledge but just to hopefully cause people to question their precious 'science/ scientific dogma' arguments once in a while – and realize there is way way more to learn, even about themselves. If you would not be limited by the bounds of religious doctrines, then please do not bind yourself to scientific ones – which can be just as restricting and just as rotten.

      I might have a final suggestion – start with an honest answer ' I don't know what the truth is about this , but I want to '
      I certainly don't expect people to accept what I just posted as 'the answer'. Hopefully its food for thought in this case.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      You make some interesting points, that are actually backed up by sciences, but then you leap to a designer, with a design.

      There is nothing to indicate that is true. Nothing.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • iconoclast1919@yahoo.com

      @DWH Very nice post and I completely agree with you. Most people from religion, and anti-religion, or scientists who've turned it into a relgion are just too close minded to learn without preconceptions. History has illustrated this point time and time again when they hold onto dogma despite clear evidence to the contrary. True learning doesn't dismiss possibilities.

      May 20, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
  8. Bob

    1868 was in the 19th century, not the 18th. I stopped reading after that.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Science

      Bob.............reading the ti-tle was enough !

      For all creationists ................ID believers...........bible thumbers.....

      Question...............if you SH-IT can the red horn-y devil...................what happens to your fairy in the sky ?

      May 19, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • Brooklyn

      no it didn't.. Read it again.

      Two separate points at different times.

      Odd people believe the bible with so much BS and contradictions in it

      May 19, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  9. thomas

    all this "white light" and seeing relatives and god etc... Has been explained scientifically as all air force and NASA pilots are spun on a centrifuge to test how much G force they can withstand and all, 100% say the saw a bright white light and saw relatives yet none died. It was just there brains being starved for oxygen. But why rely on science when we have the church to tell us the "truth" wake up people educate yourself

    May 19, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • Redgmac

      We only use approximately 12% of our brain, if science has all the answers, why can't it figure out what the other portion of our brain is for? Maybe lack of oxygen or death is a trigger for the unused portion of our brain.

      May 19, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • thomas

      no one said science has all the answers. We are still learning but with each new thing we learn we find more mistakes in the old bible. As for your "we only use 12% remark. I believe the figure is much more like 50%. As for why. Well perhaps evolution is your answer. We are no longer wild animals that hunt and be hunted so perhaps that part of the brain is no longer needed.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      We use 100% of our brain. The brain is continuously fighting itself for more real estate. If One section is not being used, say someone who has lost one of their senses, that area will be taken over by something else that can use the space. There are multiple redundancies all throughout. That old information was speculative. We now know after studying brains with the precision we now have, and studying people with abnormalities or brain injuries, that 100% of the brain is used.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  10. watching4jesus

    Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the Father but by Me." (John 14:6)
    Romans 3:3-4, "3What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?
    4May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man [be found] a liar, as it is written, "THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED."
    Hebrews 9:27, "And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,"

    May 19, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • Bleh

      "Gozer the Traveller, he will come in one of the pre-chosen forms. During the rectification of the Vuldronaii, the Traveller came as a large and moving Torb! Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the Meketrex Supplicants they chose a new form for him... that of a Giant Sloar! many Shubs and Zulls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Sloar that day I can tell you."

      May 19, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • Mark

      @Bleh, wait did you see this happen? Because thousands saw Jesus do what he did.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • Bleh

      Yes I did see this happen along with millions of others at the movies and last week on HBO. Beat that jesus!

      May 19, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • Mark

      Good point Bleh and 2000 years from now people from all over the world will be talking about it and debating it.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Ringo 3:13 I had a hard day's night that day.

      May 19, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
  11. lvanlaer

    Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell is by far the definitive work on this subject. Too bad so few are familiar with it; they ought to be.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:21 am |
  12. RamituptheChurch

    It's funny how ONLY Christians would see Jesus and god! Deluded are always deluded. Ha, ha, ha...

    May 19, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • .

      the first danger sign of delusion is when someone has to add their own phony laughter to their own statement

      May 19, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • Mark

      And the condemned always condemned. Have fun!

      May 19, 2013 at 7:50 am |
  13. Colin

    Well, there is a sleight of hand going on in this article. It is where Moody claims he's collected after death stories “from Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists.” The article continues: “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 Ja.pan about meeting a being of complete love and compassion.” This is then suggested as universal evidence of the existence of a Christian type heaven.
    But, if one accepts these other personal experiences as evidence, one has just accepted evidence of a lot of different gods/religions. He mentioned a few (Jews/Muslims/atheists). But there’s a lot more. Hindus tend to have after death experiences with Brahma, Vishnu or Krishna, for example and Jains with Devas. These “experiences” cannot be shanghaied and shoehorned into being evidence for the Christian god or heaven.

    Further, if we were to accept these personal experiences as evidence of any god, we would believe in a lot of deities. We would also believe in the various spirits of Native Americans, the Dreamtime deities of the Australian Aboriginals, the gods of the Aztecs and Incas along with a couple of hundred others.

    Every culture has its gods and a proportion of its population will always claim personal experiences. It might be evidence if we all had the same experience across faiths. If Buddhists, Hindus and Jains regularly experienced Jesus or Mary. They don’t. Only young Christian women seem to experience Mary, especially around puberty. The other faiths are busy experiencing reincarnation or their own deity(ies) or other post mortem expectations.

    It might also be evidence if a bystander ever witnessed the near death “experience,” but they tend to always be internal.

    David Koresh and Charles Manson had innumerable personal experiences telling them they were the messiah, while Mark Chapman had experiences telling him he was Holden Caulfield. Thousands of people also believe they have had personal experiences with angels, sprits, “presences” or ghosts, with aliens who abduct them or with devils that torment them.

    Unfortunately, the internal, subjective experiences people honestly believe they have, around death or otherwise, are not at all probative of external reality.

    To think otherwise would be as silly as accepting the word of a three year-old or four year-old. Oh wait…..

    May 19, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • .

      bull sh it

      May 19, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • Max

      Very well put ..at this point all gods and all fairy stories can become real ...no matter waht living religion you are .

      May 19, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • noooooooooo, our imaginary santa is not real, ohnooooo

      Nicely done, Colin, as usual.
      This article has been refuted and debunked.
      But they want to be treated like children expecting Santa at Christmas. They don't want the truth.
      They don't want to think about anything but the presents that will magically appear.

      Hyped up on too much sugar and obsessed thanks to constant bombardment of imagery, these children dream of their Santa because that is all they have on their minds.

      They will get angry if you try to reason with them or mention that Santa might not be coming. Oh, the cries of rage and disappointment that fill the air!

      They refuse to listen just like any other child. They are deaf to reason, deaf to the honest truth because they've always been told differently.
      They can see Santa in person in their dreams! What? Dreams are not real? Oh noes!

      May 19, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  14. Donatello

    So if I make up that I saw a bright light and described Jesus as being who I saw in Heaven not Shiva, Muhammad, or any other God/Prophet, then I can sell millions and become a New York Bestseller? Why have I been going to college all this time?

    May 19, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • .

      in other words you've been an ass hole for so long it would be a shame to break the trend

      May 19, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • Choomed

      You're wasting your time in college? Poor kid. You will likely have to work in minimum wage jobs for years while you try to use your diploma to get a job in that field. Your student loan will harass you the whole time. You will never make enough to pay it back and never find a job in your field.
      Our university system is designed to produce professors for the university system which has the only jobs available for most advanced degree holders. You wil find your fancy degree is worthless outside the universities.
      I'm not trying to rub it in or laugh at you. I wasted my time on a degree and now no one will hire me anyway.
      My advice is to escape and go to a trade school or sucker the religious. Trades are always needing workers and put you in the middle class immediately. Suckering the religious is lucrative and only needs a greedy unscrupulous person to rake in the money and the sky is the limit. Write a book on how your faith is now stronger because of whatever and stand back as the checks roll in.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  15. One one

    It's funny how accounts from near death experiences always involve white light. And it's always heaven, never hell. I wonder when in heaven, anyone saw Elvis.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • nope

      @no one

      May 19, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • Kinimod

      Not true. There is tones of books of folks experiencing going to hell, not heaven.

      May 19, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  16. BO

    Atheists read at your own risk. You surely insist that everyone else should not believe in something that does not exist. don't want any

    May 19, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • Mr Dalloway

      What a load of afterbirth

      May 19, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  17. ArgleBargle

    Talking about Heaven doesn't make as much money as picking on gays and lesbians. Why even the poor mass murderer is a victim compared to "them thar hom'seguals."

    Churches are going to preach what gets people to pay...what they want to hear.

    They are truly the Who^res of the Earth.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:09 am |
  18. Pokydoke

    Nice thought and it would be great if it were true but all these accounts are "near" death experiences. There are no accounts of "I've been dead for three weeks and it's beautiful". I will find out one day and I hope that day is far off.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • as always

      it is getting closer there are those who have been and offer their testimonies as to what is there

      May 19, 2013 at 7:11 am |
  19. One one

    I can understand how it would be a challenge to talk about myths and fairy tales as if they were actually real.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • as always

      personal testimony will never convince an ass hole of anything back in the day there was a percentage that thought columbus never went anywhere

      May 19, 2013 at 7:08 am |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    May 19, 2013 at 6:22 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      yes, it does, it turns a sane person into a deluded one

      May 19, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • Science

      Evokution wins !..................Cap't ass wipe !

      A Nobel Prize with help from sea slugs

      By Edythe McNamee and Jacque Wilson, CNN


      May 19, 2013 at 7:06 am |
    • nope


      May 19, 2013 at 7:06 am |
    • nope


      May 19, 2013 at 7:06 am |
    • One one

      How is praying for world peace working out for you ? Are you making any progress ?

      May 19, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • RamituptheChurch

      Neanderthals like you still exist?

      May 19, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • just one dering

      Are you killing anyone besides yourself today oney?

      May 19, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • nope


      May 19, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • Donatello

      Indeed it does. You go from being a sobbing individual to a sobbing individual who prays to his imagination friend: I see the change you're referring to.

      May 19, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • Science

      hey ...............nonpe...........and Cap'y...ass wipe................go play with your red thingy.............the devil aye ?

      Not mine................I did not create the red sh-it head with horns....................or how far are the horns stuck

      where the sun does not shine ?

      May 19, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • Science

      Hey Cap'y

      Simple math...................SH_IT can the red horn-y devil and what happens to the fairy in the sky ?

      May 19, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • Bleh


      May 19, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • OK

      Like what??

      Any evidence??? Any real evidence?????

      Not trying to be a troll......but what does it change???

      Me flushing the toilet changes things also.

      May 19, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • nope

      @no ok

      May 19, 2013 at 7:45 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!'

      May 20, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Really?

      "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"

      That's why the data, has shown that atheists have happier and healthier lives than conservative Christians. Your post is built on a lie!

      May 20, 2013 at 9:40 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.