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. it is

    CNN executives woupdn't take their cars to the worst mechanic they could find. They didn't chose their universities based upon reports from their worst students. They would never go to a doctor with the worst reputation for an operation, yet they continually report on our Church's worst members, as though they are representative of the Church itself. By his logic, all mechanics are bad, there are bo good universities and nor are the any good Drs. CNN, I would hope is capable of much better. Come on folks.

    May 19, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Magnus

      You are doing the same thing by believing in an old tribal shamanist religion like Christianity. Instead of investigating and checking to see what the real truth is before you jump off the cliff of belief, you risk your soul by taking the first swindle to float down the river.
      If you value your soul more than a car to be fixed, then why don't you check out the honesty of the religion you are following?
      I expect you to refuse and ignore and deny my words because you are already brainwashed. Isn't that ironic?
      You waste your life on lies, give money to swindlers and child molesters, and have the gall to claim your religion is the "best" instead of worrying about if it's even true or not? You should be put in a rubber room.

      May 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • it is

      "Magnus" , you don't know ANYTHING about me, or it seems REAL Christianity.

      May 19, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • Magnus

      Here's a newsflash for you:
      Most atheists in this country are ex-Christians because they are the largest demographic here. I KNOW all about "real" Christianity because I was more devout than you'll probably ever be when I was in the cult you say is "real".
      See? You are wrong again. We can keep this up all week long, month after month, year after year.
      Religious arguments always lose here because religion is not based upon anything real or true.
      I know this because I used to have a "strong faith" which is just another label for "unthinking mental slavery to a cult".
      Put your god to a REAL test. He will fail every time because he doesn't exist.
      This is testable and proven over and over again.

      May 19, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  2. commentator gator

    Where they went horribly wrong in the teachings of Christ...Let's start with the most dumb...gates and streets made of gold. Really stupid. Then, there's the, only certain types of factions go to heaven. How much stupidity can go wrong in teaching religion? LOTS. In the hands of stupid you can only expect the teachings to be stupid and full of conflicting philosophies. God is all forgiving? Or God is a vengeful god? Which is it? Or, is he selectively vengeful and forgiving? ...that right thar isn't from the heart and soul of some omnipotent being. It's straight out of the vanity and biases of a human mind.

    May 19, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Do you know anything about the "Triune Cosmologies of Spatial Relationships"? If not, then remain as a barren land unfit for spiritual habitation.

      May 19, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  3. SDiDiego

    For All,

    Decriptions of heaven are available to all everyday as told by Jesus the Christ/Jeshua the Messiah/Angel of the Lord. Read and pray over the Holy Bible – the Word of God. Places to start regarding heaven are Genesis, Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation.

    RE: the articles statement “only those who confess their faith in Jesus get to heaven, while others suffer eternal damnation”
    COMMENT: YES Jesus (God-Man) directly stated this, so reject this at your peril.
    Jesus also stated he is “the way the truth and the life” and he came as the seed of Abraham, the promised Messiah – to save everyone – all nations, all peoples.
    God gave everyone free will. The choice to confess one’s faith in Jesus is up to each of us. God included everyone in this invitation to salvation.

    More, Jesus clearly said there will be “eternal heaven” – living with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit in the new Jerusalem in the real Temple of the living God – open to all those who confess Jesus as Lord. On the other hand Jesus also said that those who hear AND reject this promise of eternal salvation shall be separate from the living God forever and instead be eternal in lake of fire/hell. Those are God’s own words and promises.

    RE: “Any religion that claims to be the true one and the rest of them are wrong is wrong.”
    COMMENT: This is an audacious comment from a human being. This is not about a religions claim.
    According to Almighty God himself (El Shaddai), there is one true God – who offers life to all and eternal heaven with him. Jesus reaffirmed this – that he is “the way, the truth, and the life”. Let God himself reveal the truth of this.

    RE: “There is nothing you can do wrong."
    COMMENT: this is another audacious statement by a human being. Believing this not only denies the claims and existence of the living God, but also sets the stage for all immorality, anarchy – ney hell itself. This is a great deception – which proves the warnings of Jesus about the working in this world of the great deceiver – the devil himself.

    More, anyone who believes this is setting themselves up to be all-knowing and thus to be God themselves. Again the history of the devil himself.

    This is all in the Bible, so you can read it for yourself.

    In truth, God/Jesus/Holy Spirit told us all that “God is love”. “God is Spirit”. God wants us to live in Him – namely in Christ – who claimed to be God and showed us the character of God the Father. God told us how we humans sin – in the Law the 10 commandments. And Jesus-God emphasized most important in the Law is that we must love and worship God first above all else, and to love our neighbors. Not loving is doing wrong, is sinning. YES there is sin in all human beings. People do wrong, people sin everyday.

    As God/Jesus said and Paul, yes we humans are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.

    Jesus the Christ, the Messiah came to take away our sin – once and for all. Importantly – salvation is available to all through Jesus Christ everyday, every moment. Invite the Holy Spirit of the living God into your heart now, confess your sins, turn toward the LIVING GOD, proclaim Jesus as your Lord and Savior and then we can live in Him, with Him and to start to enter heaven with God.

    RE: Last thought:
    Anyone is at a disadvantage in considering these matters who has not yet read and studied the entire Old Testament and New Testament. You can also pray for the Holy Spirit of God, the Counselor, to reveal His personal message to you a child of God, made in the image of God Himself.

    Peace in Chris to All

    May 19, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Clapclapclap

      Very nicely written, well articulated in form and content. Interesting to read the entire commentary!

      May 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • God

      SDiDiego, you are a pig. That is the worst post I have ever seen in my name. I hate you and want to kill you. Go forth immediately to a high building and jump therefrom, becuse thou art an utter bast.ard. I have never in my eternal cosmic existence experienced the burning, gnashing hatred I have for you right now.

      You must be smited.

      May 19, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Mordecai

      👏 👏

      May 19, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • AllOutForChrist

      Love your comment....Praise God!!!!

      May 19, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Allah, Budha and Bramah

      That was complete garbage. How dare you put the Judeo-Christian god before us. We want to kill you, too. Let's face it, one of us has to be true, God, Allah, Buddah, Bramah, Vishnu, Krishna, and there is one thing we all agree on. You are a real cvunt. A fvcking moron and we all want to get our cosmic hands on you and wring your scrawny little neck.

      May 19, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Calabasas

      SD... I have never seen a blog entry dissected so well in pointing the obvious errors and and pit against the truth. Bravo in responding with scriptural context as you have done ! Fantastic response. God bless!

      May 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • The KEY

      @SDiDiego: Amen with many blessings and thank you for presenting this to All! "And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake: Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me." - PHILIPPIANS 1:28-30 (KJV)

      May 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      The Bible is not inerrant.

      May 19, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • FellowTraveler

      Thank you. Great effort and with much truth. I would encourage you to read Mark and Matthew. Put John to the side for a moment. Pray for guidance before you read. Check your understanding on each paragraph. Be honest, and if you don't fully understand something, read it again, and again, and again if need be. Especially concentrate on what JESUS says. Once you have a full understanding of Mark and Matthew, (the 1st, and 2nd written, i.e. oldest, gospels), you will understand what I mean and then be able to put John and the Acts into proper perspective. Also remember that when you have what seems like a discrepency in what Jesus says and what someone who came later and never met him, like Paul, says; who are you going to believe?? P.S. I leave out Luke because aside from the nativity, there's not much that's not already in the other Gospels.

      May 20, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
  4. lionlylamb

    Humanity has put themselves upon the pedestals of the Gods forsaking all of them! The religiously faithful have come against the spiritually faithless. May the sorrowful mercies give to the faithless their just rewards. For the Father of all Life Manifestations knows every name and their deeds done for and against all the people. The perverts of the religious will one day have their just rewards.

    May 19, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  5. shawbrooke

    Talk of heaven was dropped when the public school system made it a laughing matter. The Bible says not to "cast your pearls before swine" and the churches in NA learned the truth of that Biblical passage the hard way. Yes, science brought back heaven. The ideals that are exemplified in the concept of heaven drove the social gospel (eg MLK). Affluence does not protect us from death, so the idea that affluence makes heaven irrelevant is difficult to credit.

    May 19, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Zeromus

      Yea... NDE's aren't proof of heaven, and can be reproduced in humans in a lab setting without harming the person. Confirmation bias prevents most christians from understanding this basic precept.

      May 19, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
  6. ccw

    Why are people OK believing they "died and went to heaven" hen they can't believe in life elsewhere in the universe. When I read these stories all I can think to myself is just swap the words out of body experience and god with alien abduction and aliens and it's the same thing..

    and to the author/proof readers of this story...the Civil War happened in the 19th century, not the 18th....

    May 19, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Donald Shimoda

      God created the universe. Many billions of years ago, a life form evolved on a planet not so far distant and their scientists deduced the building blocks for life existed in the universe and from it, new life forms could be created.

      These ancient ones populated Mars with life and eventually, due to asteroid events over millions of years, life arrived here on Earth. We are a product of that primeval turbulence. Therefore, we must worship the Aliens, not God. The Aliens have to worship God.

      This is all true because I have faith that it happened just this way.

      May 19, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Do these people not believe in life elsewhere in the universe? The last survey I saw indicated US Christians, at least, were generally pretty open on that issue.

      Life in other parts of the universe is, btw, a very different issue than alien abduction. A lot of people assume thee is life elsewhere based on theory and probability while alien abductions are based on personal stories often in great contradiction to material evidence.

      It's a lot easier to falsify many of these alien abduction claims than the NDE claims simply based on other observation during and followeing the alleged abductions, and there is a lot more data on the difference in the personality types of those who claim to have been abducted compared to the general population. The research on triggering NDEs in the lab offers a compelling and believable alternative explanation but it can't easily disprove most of these scenarios however dubious they may sound.

      May 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • lol??

      If there is other worldly intelligent "life", it ain't gonna be friendlies. Jesus only died once. He didn't die for them.

      May 19, 2013 at 7:21 pm |

    Truth is positive and hindu atheism, criminal denial of truth by secular ism, self center ism is negative. Existence of every thing is dependent on truth absolute, proven by science, If any one recognizes, truth absolute, positive, than he must recognize, negative. one can not be without the other. If there is truth absolute, than there is heaven, and if there is positive heaven, than diffidently is hind, hell. Regardless how much a hindu crook denies existence of heaven by his hindu atheism, stupid self center ism.

    May 19, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  8. Emil Posavac

    The 3rd message is said to be: "There is nothing you can do wrong." That is the hardest part of the story to believe. If believed, this could make earth into hell.

    May 19, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • lol??


      May 19, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  9. Cardon Neeley

    People are religious because 1) they're afraid of death; and 2) they want to feel superior to others.

    May 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Wow...take a few psych and anthro courses and get back to us. Seriously, that's scary ignorant...and I am not religious in the least.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      They also want to conveniently fill in the gaps of their limited knowledge with "god did it."

      May 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • lol??

      WWWwwaaaaa, WWWWWwwwwwaaaa, wanna figure out dust ball creepoes.

      May 19, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
  10. ChrisZ

    If it could be proven with 100% scientific accuracy, that there is an afterlife, what would be the purpose of life?
    Would being born become completely redundant?
    Why do we exist in this reality? Surely we can do better than make wisecracks about our lot in life!

    May 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  11. Donald Shimoda

    If you want to teach people the meaning of life, first remove your tongue and eyes.

    May 19, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  12. silentcount

    Perhaps, when your body dies, so does your mental self. However, what if it actually doesn't? What if your ability to think continues on in the original dimension it came from? If that were indeed the case, why worry about being embarrassed by thinking something that you later found out was actually true? Why hate when love is the emotion that people who go through a near death experience describe the most. This can't be ignored when searching for evidence of one way or the other.

    May 19, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • Qualia is BS

      You can't think without a physical brain. If you are given another brain to think with after death, then you would have another body of some sort. Reincarnation is the only possibility left, and even that can be ruled out as being predictable in any way due to the randomness of this life. There are no magic consequences for anything in this life and no magic consequences for anything after death. Without any magic to back you up on possibilities, your whole argument falls apart.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • faith

      "This can't be ignored when searching for evidence of one way or the other."

      u r better off ignoring all those fairy tales in the good book. genius at work. thanks dodo. what a complete moron. lol

      May 19, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
  13. Answer

    Another feel good piece to bring back the comfort of one's religion...


    May 19, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • faith


      May 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  14. Joseph Chandler

    If there's a heaven then there must also be a hell. So how is it that everyone who had a near death experience only saw heaven and not even one person has ever claimed to have been to hell and back.and written a book. -"Skeptics may scoff at a story like Alexander’s, but their popularity has made a believer out of another group: the evangelical publishing industry." This sentence from the article explains everything.

    May 19, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Saraswati

      "If there's a heaven then there must also be a hell."

      Could you explain how you derive hell's existence from the existence of heaven? Neither fit into my own beliefs, but I don't see one as necessitating the other. Thanks.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Yeah, cause every where you see an apple pie there's always a key lime pie, too.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • silentcount

      If you go to Utube, you will indeed find people describing a near death experience where hell was felt very vividly. Pain and evil was trying to pull them away from the bright light of love. Go watch and listen for yourself.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Some Native Americans ONLY believed in a "happy hunting ground," which would be analogous to "heaven" in the Judeo-Christo-Islamo-fascist paradigm. So your if condition fails.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • faith

      “Conservative Christians aren’t the only ones going to heaven," said Price, "and that makes them mad." lol

      there's a hell, too, my friend. guaranteed. it is the most horrible state of being. it is impossible to comprehend. it is so awful, if you knew, you would do anything to avoid it. anything

      May 19, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Knows Moar

      faith is a victim of terrorist psychological torture. Terror against a made up place of torment is sad. You poor thing.

      May 19, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • dan

      I understand what your saying. I too agree with the publishing and possibly the 5 yrs old testimony, however the Mormons were not mentioned in the article and they have believed and talk every Sunday about where we come from, why we are here and where we are going. Not one Sunday goes by that I don't hear about heaven and occasionally hell (outer darkness or telestial kingdom in Mormon lingo). If this author wanted a real conversation starter, they would have mentioned that the 4th largest christian denomination in the US talks about it and believes and that spirits walk among us; albeit unseen except in necessity. The veil is quite thin over our eyes so are allowed to see if its necessary. Some people have joined the Mormon church because of spiritual experiences they have had and then, that no other church besides the Mormons could define.

      May 19, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  15. Jo black

    Hell sells more tickets.

    May 19, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • lol??

      Some are sellin' lakefront lots, but remember what happened to Lot's wife.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  16. Donald Shimoda

    Each one of us can decide for ourselves what is truth and what is fiction. Walk through walls if you wish. No one can stop you but you.

    May 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm |

      Hey, look everybody. I can spell ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTlTUTION without a space!

      May 19, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • AB Negative

      Islamabot can't stand it unless he poops on every post.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Athy

      Hit "abuse" on him.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  17. silentcount

    Can the "so-called" intelligent atheist explain how something was created from nothing? Perhaps the most logical and scientific explanation is that another dimension controls the one that contains physical matter. It's the original dimension from where we come from and where we'll return. However, some will not be able to stay for long. How sad that they willingly make that choice now.

    May 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • yep

      so sorry,, didn't realize you have so many limitations, silentc.

      Bet in a 1,000 years scientists will be able to tell everyone. Just like so many things weren't known before science discovered.

      Imagine if you could have shown a TV in the 15600 or 1800's...

      May 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Go read "A Universe from Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss, or watch the video, and get back to us. I don't think you have the guts to step outside your cult's indoctrination.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "Can the "so-called" intelligent atheist explain how something was created from nothing?"
      How is that relevant? Not knowing the answer to a question doesn't justify making up some bullshit one. Without evidence, saying "I don't know" is far better than claiming "goddidit".

      You said, "Perhaps the most logical and scientific explanation is that another dimension controls the one that contains physical matter. It's the original dimension from where we come from and where we'll return. However, some will not be able to stay for long. How sad that they willingly make that choice now."
      That is scientifically supported, how?

      May 19, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Can a religious dolt explain how "god" was created from nothing? Was there a SUPER-GOD before that?

      May 19, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • One one

      Can the Christian explain How you go from not fully understanding the origin of lthe universe to
      the belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie who is his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in all humanity because a rib-woman was convinced to eat from a magical tree by an infinitely sadistic being disguised as a talking snake with legs ?

      May 19, 2013 at 5:19 pm |

      Ya, some ones hinduism, absurdity proven wrong, Study results of LR2 and see results your self. the dark matter is spirit, known to humanity for ages, but scientifically proven today.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • bmurdoc

      Same way your "so called" God came into existence hypocrite.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I don't know. It's the only honest answer, currently.

      It's a much better answer than "big invisible sky wizard did it with magic spellz."

      May 19, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • The KEY

      @LinCA and others: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." - 2 JOHN 9-11 (KJV)

      May 19, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Sane Person

      I dont know how my microwave creates such tastey hot pockets of goodness in under 2 minutes, but I know its not some undead, invisible, would-be wish granter who lives in the clouds doing it.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      1/4-inch electromagnetic radiation causes water molecules to rotate, thus causing friction, and therefore heat.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • exlonghorn

      I love that the only possible explanation for something you don't understand is an even more fantastic explanation that has even less proof to back it. That line of thinking never fails to amuse me. That's like saying we KNOW we will fall of the edge of the earth if we sail far enough. At one time, that was a well-respected 'fact', supported by the church. Funny how the cult stories change as the facts of the universe are revealed through science. Tell you what, silentcount...show me ONE scientific theory or law that was later found to have a better explanation rooted in religion and not science. Motion, gravity, energy, force, strong force, weak force, Higgs boson...Can't do it, right? EVERY scientific theory has only been overturned by greater scientific understanding, and not some sudden revelation that religion is the best possible explanation. It should be totally obvious by reading this article that the key believers were believers before their near-death incidents, or they were surrounded by believers that created an environment of religion surrounding them. Kids are sponges, and they easily absorb the environments created around them. Show me someone from an aboriginal tribe...completely unaware of Christianity...who talks of meeting Jesus in a near-death experience and you MIGHT have a basis for conversation. Unlikely to say the least.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • evoc

      Absolute nothingness is not 'nothing'. Absolute emptiness is not empty.
      Understanding that seeming contradiction requires the ability to see polar opposites without confusion.

      May 19, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • LinCA

      @The KEY

      You said, "@LinCA and others: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." – 2 JOHN 9-11 (KJV)"
      Your fairy tale only has meaning for those that are ignorant enough to think it has.

      May 19, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • Colin

      LinCA- how do you do italics on this site?

      May 19, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • Colin

      Exlonghorn – every now and then I read a penetrating response that goes straight to the heart of the matter and is logical, coherent and very well written. Yours was one of them. Very well said. Very, very well said.

      May 19, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "LinCA- how do you do italics on this site?"
      <i>italics</i> will show as italics
      <b>bold</b> will show as bold

      May 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
  18. One one

    When I was a child my mom said "if you are good, you go to heaven."
    "If you are bad, you go to hell"
    "And if you are VERY VERY good, you go to heaven and get to go to hell on weekends".

    May 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  19. worth a try!

    Turn to a loving G-d, who LOVES YOU, who sent HIS SON to die, and then take back the power of death by raising again from the dead. Who has the power to defeat evil, to redeem ones soul (IF YOU ARE WILLING TO BE REDEEMED), to take a true sinner and turn them into a saint, if you are willing to go through that process. The problem is; we don't want a process, we want an event. HE DOES LOVE US, but he will NOt invade your life, YOU MUST ASK HIM TO COME INTO YOUR LIFE. He will not violate your own will. YOU MUST GIVE IT to Jesus. IF you surrender, which is a very BIG WORD, then you will be confronted with two things: a very real evil being that will oppose that process, and you WILL ALSO be confronted with the Son of the LIVING GOD. It's a risk, but there's nothing to lose and everything to gain. Just pray the surrender prayer that says; Jesus, if you are real, come into my life, and let me know you are real. I confess all sins, and I surrender to you Lord Jesus. Amen (and it's as simple as that!) Do it, and you will live. Do it not, and you're on your own.

    May 19, 2013 at 5:03 pm |

      Truth absolute GOD has no wife, how he can have a son, by the way, can any one split constant?

      May 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Roger that

      Have you heard the good news? The evil dictator Bible god does not exist.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • George

      wat–That is the truth that everyone ought to hear.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • One one

      No one likes being told they will burn in hell for not believing as you do. But Christians do it ALL THE TIME. Sometimes directly, sometimes more subtlety, as you have done here. Either way, it makes the message and the messenger come across as very annoying. This is your religion's biggest downfall.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • The KEY

      @Roger that and others: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." - 2 JOHN 9-11 (KJV)

      May 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Roger that

      The Key,

      Your god is an evil tyrant. He murders innocents. He creates so he may torture. He's one worthless p o s bas tard. Don't take my word for it, read the Bible.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • Roger that

      The Key,

      Your god is an evil tyrant. He murders innocent people. He creates so that he may torture. He's one worthless p o s bas tard. Don't take my word for it, read the Bible.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • The KEY

      @Roger that, in answer I have to say: "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified." - I PETER 4:14 (KJV)

      May 19, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Robert

      You hear this crap your whole life and then guess what happens? Something you can't explain, so therefore it must be Jeezus and his Daddy. And anyone who doesn't believe what you believe will burn in eternal fire. No thanks, I've heard enough of this fiction. Bunch of self righteous hypocrites! Do us a favor, all you Pastors and Reverends and other phony creeps out there, reject the tax-free status this sinful country gives you and pay your fair share! No? I thought not.

      May 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • The KEY

      @Robert: "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing." - 1 PETER 3: 15-17 (KJV)

      May 19, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Antony

      The Key- That indeed is the key message!

      May 19, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • The KEY

      @Antony, Indeed it is and thank not me but He who has given me the words of His Truth.

      May 19, 2013 at 6:05 pm |

    No one can get any one to heaven, but only with mercy of truth absolute GOD, True ruler of the universe, in command of the universe all the time. rest of it is hindu secular ism, ignorant self center ism of pot head hindu swamis, crook shamans, pretending to be gods.

    May 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Joseph Chandler

      Ayesha's parents may not have known that it was wrong to marry their 9 year daughter to an old man. Mohammed may not have realized that it was a vile act to marry and have an eleven year old as wife, but no way, no how , in no universe an all knowing God would allow that. If there was an Allah who was giving all tiny little messages to Mohammed, then he should, could have, and certainly would have dispatched Gabriel in a hurry to tell Mohammed NOOOOOO. Not only he would have told Mohammed it was wrong, he would have instructed him to put that in the first page of quran

      May 19, 2013 at 7:00 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.