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. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    It would be wonderful to be able to believe that these statements by believers in an afterlife are true, but I do not have a reason to believe them.
    In this life, most actions taken in the name of a deity are based on desires for status, power, and money.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Sue

      The after life is real, but there is no way to prove there is, and it's just as true that there is no way to prove that there isn't. Like you stated, there are so many that want nothing more than to grow their wealth, and using God to get there. A prime example to me is Joel Osteen. He heads a huge church, lives in a home worth millions, and says he's doing God's work. I have never seen the man with a bible. He is not doing God's work, he's doing Joel's work. God's work is giving of yourself. If he (and others like him) were doing God's work, they would live modestly, giving to those less fortunate.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  2. Tim

    Forgive them father, for they know not what they do. They do not know how much it hurts you when they deny your existence. They do not know how much joy that you have waiting for them. Bless them even though they are not deserving as you have blessed me even though I do not deserve. AMEN!

    May 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • jamerini

      in Jesus name Amen !!!!

      May 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Dear Tim

      Let me be the judge of these people. If you don't stop judging you will never get a ticket through the pearly gates and will then be sent for the ride of your life down the tunnel to hell.

      Thank you for obeying me, your father, God

      May 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Warren Moon

      Tim, how can an omnipotent creature get "hurt"?
      Hint: your sky creature doesn't exist, with the characteristics that you assign to it.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I suspect that the feelings being hurt here all reside in Tim's head, much like the god he created in his own image.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Robert

      Why are Christians so scared of their god? If he's truly like a "loving father," there should be no need to fear him, and he shouldn't need to use the threat of hell to convert people. Of course, if he were truly a loving father, hell wouldn't exist. Because the point of punishment is to teach someone the right way to behave, so any punishment that is eternal is merely sadism.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
  3. 21k

    i always look forward to the belief page, it's always good for a hearty laugh. and laughter is the best medicine. for instance, artery-clogged, angry, white americans get saved after they've seen "gawd" or heaven. yet hitler was allowed to murder millions without any interference from this god that created the entire universe from nothing. until a democratic president intervened over the objections of isolationist republicans in congress at the time. maybe that's the real miracle.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • faith

      i always look forward to the belief page, it's always good for a hearty laugh. and laughter is the best medicine. for instance, artery-clogged, angry, white americans get saved after they've seen "gawd" or heaven. yet hitler was allowed to murder millions without any interference from this god that created the entire universe from nothing. until a democratic president intervened over the objections of isolationist republicans in congress at the time. maybe that's the real miracle."

      you mean like that wealthy booze runner who ripped off wall street as the head of the sec, our former ambassador to great britain, joe kennedy?

      May 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  4. CEQL

    And Jesus is caucasian and has blue eyes....

    May 19, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Just like every picture of jesus when I went to Sunday Dead Jew Zombie Death Vampire Cannibal Cult Indoctrination School.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • WhyNot

      Jesus was a Jew, so he was Semitic in appearance. Brown, Brown, & Brown.
      However, it is normal for humans to change the coloring to feel more of a connection. There are also churches who picture him as black or oriental in appearance. Our Lady of Guadalupe is native in appearance. I feel it is appropriate. After all; the infinite is ....Well....Infinite. Jesus was a human vessel containing a portion of an infinite spirit.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  5. Festivusfortherestofus

    Why is the unknown potential of the mind ignored in this equation? All you've got to do to get a glimpse of the potential is light up a particularily good number and allow your mind to venture.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      With no god(s) required – or wanted!

      May 19, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • 21k

      sometimes i see lights above me. headlights from the street shining on the ceiling, before i fall asleep.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  6. vonn33

    The mind can go just so far.. It is called unbelief..

    May 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Festivusfortherestofus

      Now that you are involved with Tiger I can see your point but the REALITY is the mind is limitless and mostly unexplored (or perhaps better to say explored but not understood at this point). Enjoy the relationship with the faux Buddhist while it lasts :))

      May 19, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  7. WeWereOnTheMoon

    I say let's let Jesus speak for himself, why won't he join the conversation? Come on J.C. don't be shy, let us know what you think.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Jesus

      Don't bring me into this!
      Try asking Paul Bunyan or the Batman.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Mark

      He already did you just don't listen. Your time is short.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Ooh, threats from Mark. How shocking.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • WhyNot

      That was not a threat, The Real Tom. It was simply a realization that we are mayflies in comparison to the infinite no matter what it is called or what form it takes.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Oh, please. You obviously haven't read many of Marky's posts. He's a true believer and thinks that anyone who isn't will go to hell.

      He can suck my left pinky toe.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  8. IveExperiencedThisToo

    I find it incredible that (although proportionally rarely reported) so Many individuals, from so many parts of our planet and time periods, reveal highly similar experiences: cognitively, psychologically, visually, and spiritually. Always be true to a good moral framework, express the boundless capacity for love and caring which we all poses (even if repressed), and share the Love that exists with your family and friends daily. George Harrison said it well – "the Love you Take is equal to the Love you Make." This life can be more rewarding, and passing on to the next level of consciousness when our bodies can no longer host our spirit can be unfathomably peaceful and fulfilling! Peace Out!!

    May 19, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Festivusfortherestofus

      The simple fact is that NOBODY has been dead and come back. Sure....near death but not dead. These experiences are a product of the brain's vast potential as it merges into a solely mind, body and essence meld.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  9. sign me up

    Did the same gawwwwwwd who couldn't do it right the first time, you know, the one who 'blessed' Earth with food-borne pathogens, diarrhea, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, OJ, Bernie Madoff and Dick Cheney, various plagues and epidemics create this fairytale wonderland we call? The same gawwwwwwd who, faster than Jerk Jobs could say "You're holding it wrong" blamed humans for their own misery (even though of course an all-knowing, all-powerful, LOVING god could not possibly cause easily-foreseeable problems to ever crop up in the first place). I know I have complete confidence. Sign me up Jeeeeezus. Here's my 10% of my earnings admission price/'love gift'.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      You mean the same god who put a playground right beside a sewage treatment facility (as Tyson Degrasse likes to ask)?

      May 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Miss Demeanor

      amen... preach it ...

      May 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  10. Mother Nature

    Humans are not sustainable and will perish right along with the other 99% Sad really, so much potential. Marvelous brain but still too primitive.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Chicken Little

      The topic is religion, not ecology, but why have you lost your faith.... in science. People have claimed we're going to overpopulate the planet for as long as they've been able to sell books claiming we're doomed. The sky is falling and Al Gore and Michael Moore (who sell lots of books/movies/speeches for... gulp.... MONEY... EWWWWWWW) said so.... and they blame it on people who want to make... gulp.... MONEY...ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww...

      May 19, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  11. LMB

    True religion is actually logical, for those who care to put a little thought into it. For those who say that there is no God and that all this came about by "accident". Here is a parable to make you think: A 747 airplane has over 6 million parts. If you placed all those separate parts all loose on a surface and then threw them all up in the air, how many times would you have to throw them up in the air before they all came down as a perfectly assembled 747 airplane ready to fly? The logical answer is NEVER. Each of us 7 billion humans now living is even more complex than any 747 airplane, not to mention the billions and billions of animals and all that have died. To believe that all this came about by some big bang is downright ridiculous and utter nonsense. It makes a lot more sense that an intelligent being is behind all this. If this intelligent being exists is it logical that we should seek some connection to him and him with us? I love logic sequences. I wish more people did.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Too bad your love of logic does not extend to understanding the difference between inanimate and animate objects, or natural evolution and design by men.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • allenwoll

      A "Creative Agency" does NOT an anthropomorphic God make ! ! !

      May 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Straw man argument.
      Argument from incredulity.
      Affirming the antecedent.
      Yup, gotta love logic.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Take a billion years to try and tell us your results.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • mama k

      Wow – so much straw needed for that argument, you may as well outfit Solomon's stables with it. Well, that is if you can figure out how many stables there really were.....

      May 19, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Doobs

      You keep posting these crappy analogies, and calling them logical. They aren't.

      A 747 is real, you can see and touch it. Each of it's millions of parts are real. The people who made the parts are real. The people who engineered the parts are real. The SOPs, LPs, MPs and various training, assembly, manufacturing, and usage manuals were designed, tested and validated by real people. Everything about a 747, from concept to flight, was thought of and made by real people. Just because a 747 doesn't assemble itself doesn't prove that a god or gods created the universe.

      Just because you slap the label of "logical" on your belief in creation by a deity doesn't make it so.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Our worldly evolution of all things that are cellular in nature are but guided-by-godliness encroachments innerness regions throughout Time itself. We live upon celestial shores of atomized wavelengths. Our bodies do bristle with atomic heavenly amalgamations. We truly are Godly buildings inhabited by Godly beings!

      May 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Miss Demeanor

      Relax and know that if there is a god, science will never be able to prove that god doesn't exist... it's just that simple. That Also means that the same god gave us intelligence to use science... not to deny the truth that science exposes. Denying proven facts is actually no different than lying, you know. I know 8 year olds who can grasp that. All science can do is prove that many fundamentalist over-simplistic, literal interpretations of the bible are not correct. That doesn't disprove the words. It DOES prove these churches are largely misleading... which of course violates the very same commandments they usually focus on.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      That science can or cannot prove the existence of any god does not concern me one bit. That believers cannot concerns me greatly!

      May 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • LMB

      Doobs; you missed my point entirely. If the chances of a 747 assembling itself are ziltch, the chances of all creation, including humans, of putting all their cells together perfectly are even less. All creation is evidence of a creator. For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  12. STFU

    if heaven is just "a brilliant white light tinged with gold", then no thanks I really don't want it, I guess earth, with all mountains, rainforests, deserts and oceans is the most beautiful and the most desirable place to be than heaven, who wants to walk around in heaven 24X7 in dark glasses?

    May 19, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • WhyNot

      You do realize those experiences were from people who returned to earthly life. They only went to the edge of eternity not past it. That is just like saying you do not like the furniture in a house you have never entered because you stood on the sidewalk looking at the front porch.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  13. lionlylamb

    Heaven is the capital of the kingdom domains of God which lays upon the inner space places of our human bodies. Inner space places of atomic cosmologies within any human body are heavenly abodes. For, it is so written that, "The kingdom of God is within you". Everybody's physical being has their own son of God living within their body's inner space regions. Our brain-yards are heaped full of inner space relations as being a kingdom domain of godliness. We all are God's 'husbandry' and all do labor equally with our individualized personal son of God living upon the inner depths of one's cellular embodiments. When one dies, their spirited egoistically centered soul traverses inwardly into their body's atomized dimensions where heaven awaits them!

    May 19, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    •  psych ward staff

      Uh oh, he threw up his word salad again. Clean-up on page 16 – stat!

      May 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      psych, still laughing!!

      May 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      You know what they say about word-salads? They taste great and aren't too filling! Word-salads leave plenty of room for the main course!

      May 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  14. Darwin was right

    The ABENAKI INDIANS have a story that explains how you GET INTO HEAVEN: When you die you walk out into the middle of the village and see a path that leads up into the mountains. You walk up this path and realize that this is the path that leads to heaven. As you approach the mountains you see a pass ahead and on the other side of this pass must be PARADISE. As you climb up to this pass you see that it is guarded by animals. As you get closer you see that these animals are dogs. And when you walk up to them, you realize that they are all the DOGS that you have OWNED during your lifetime, and THEY DECIDE WHETHER YOU GET INTO HEAVEN OR NOT! This makes a lot more sense to me than the Christian doctrine about believing in a 2000 year old dead guy.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • pedro bundol

      But of course, you are right.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • kennyzales

      What about cats? I know that if I brought Buster a dairy treat, he'd open the pearly gates for me.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  15. Vic


    May 19, 2013 at 1:12 pm |

      (physics without meta- "spooky" physics)

      May 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  16. nofluer

    "Why doesn’t the church talk about heaven anymore?" Because "church" isn't about faith, it's about religion. The more you have of one, the less you have of the other.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Len

      What do you have "faith" in then, if not religious concepts developed by the Church?

      May 19, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  17. We know there's a heaven because our KING on earth tells us so!!!!


    May 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • i seen elvis

      When did Elvis say that?

      May 19, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  18. WeWereOnTheMoon

    The only afterlife there will ever be is the one that humans will create as a virtual reality. We are the creators and ( hold on to your socks) we created god in our own image.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Mark

      Oh and we created the Universe also, whoops no we didn't.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Oh, look. You can tell when Mark is lying; he's posting.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Mark: Right we didn't but that doesn't mean you get to give credit to your imaginary friend. Look up the God Of The Gaps argument.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • WeWereOnTheMoon

      Nature developed a brain and that brain is us humans, now it is our job to understand nature. Yes nature is trying to understand itself and we are natures neurons. God has nothing on this unbelievable realisation, reality is stranger then fiction.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • jamerini

      preachers , unfortunately teach falsely !! Romans 16/..17-18 Ezekiel 34 talks about how the preacher's feed themselves but don't feed the flocks spiritually .. also to be absent from the flesh is to be with the Lord 2nd Corinthians 5/..6-8

      May 19, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • pedro bundol

      If only you were there in the beginning of time, man would not have this foolishness of fairth and religion. But it is not too late. Just keep educating those miserable uneducated fools.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Mark

      Ok Tom has no idea what a lie is. Nature created a brain is simply comical. And an intelligent designer is far more reachable an argument than something from nothing. There is more to the universe than simple material. If it were so would material carry hope and love and sadness in it? Just sayin!

      May 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Mark –

      Weak. Nothing more required.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Mark

      @Really..I understand. I feel for you.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Poor Mark.

      May 19, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • lionlylamb


      Virtual relativisms are nowhere nearing any religious relativities. Neither are naturalistic evolutions. Religions are humanities' considerations of the egoistically spiritual endowments of conditioned soulfully individualized relevancies. Beliefs in the Godly domains' kingdoms is a no-brainer for me. These Godly kingdom domains are universal constructs of human physiologies.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "a no-brainer for me."

      Good thing, since you have no brain and since anyone who does have one can see you're bonkers.

      May 19, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
  19. ellvuss wuz the king

    Ah know thet thar iz a hevin cuz I been thar.... an ah kno it wuz hevin cuz I seen Elvis thar. That proves it was hevin. I'm gonna write a book about it too, soon as my pastor says god wants us all to learn to read 'n write and that we kin read other things besides the bible... "You ain't nuttin' but a houn' dawg"...them's the best lyrics ever sung... "oh ya think yer so high class... you ain't nuttin' but white trash..." ... hit jest don't git no better'n that. Elvis taught Jeeezus to dance too!

    May 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  20. fatdogtavern

    Why do people believe in a god? Are you afraid of what happens after you'd die? Is that it? Well I can alleviate that fear. What happens after you die is just the same as what happened before you were born. There is nothing. Embrace the nothing. You have no choice. God? I like the Three Bears better.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • WeWereOnTheMoon

      There is a choice, we can redesign ourselves and live much longer, we could create a virtual world just for our brains that will live for thousands of years...

      May 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • fatdogtavern

      @wwotm – its coming. Human/computer interface is right around the corner. All the hippest races are doing it!

      May 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
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About this blog

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