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. runymede

    So Gawd gonna ask me...."What have you done with your life?".....My Gawd, I've better win a lottery and to give it all charity. This would be an appropriate answer, perhaps the best, to Gawd's question, thus to gain entrance into heaven and to meet Gawd with that big smile on his face.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  2. Darketernal

    The bad thing is that there is no proof. I know from personal experience that life goes on after death, but how do you proof that your consciousness keeps on going even after you died?, afteral consciousness is hardly a tangible thing. From a scientific point of view you cannot expect people to accept that without proof.

    But what i can tell you is that you cannot 'make up' these things what you see, its not the result of random firing signals of the brain, which would lead to chaos, its not a figment of the imagination because what you would experience from a dying brain firing random signals would be pure and utter chaos,and everything falling apart, but its not.

    What i saw, was a being made out of light, not only did it emit a tremendous force which i felt it could destroy all the armies in this world with ease, all this power was controlled with intelligent consciousness, he had curled hair, wore a greek/roman type of robe ,and had a rope around his waist, and emitted blue light.

    Now, i tell you i had a lot of fantasy as a person, but this i knew i could not make up in my mind, simply because it was too fantastic, it was too beautifull, and i also would never say such a crazy thing like this, but this guy was the most beautifull person i had ever seen in my life.

    However i can never proof it. The only thing i can do is share my experience, everyone else has to decide for themselves what to think of it. I am not the type of person to lie, but lol that again i cannot proof, so i am just going in circles here.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • snowboarder

      the power of suggestion is significant for a brain in physiological distress.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Colin

      Don't be ashamed of your hom.oerotic fant.asy, Centurian. You can even get married now in about a dozen states.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  3. Tom

    Do you think when a Muslim, Bhudist or Hindu has a near death experience they see Jesus or angels? Nop. They see what was tough to them in their faith.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      even infidels dream of 72 virgins

      May 19, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  4. Elliott Carlin

    The problem is there is no new revelation. The Scriptures tell us woe to him who adds to the book. As well meaning as these people are, they are unscriptural in this approach and it becomes a reproach to the Gospel.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • Austin

      At the same point in time, if they become unscriptural, when Christ left did He not tell us to give testimony to the things that the Holy Spirit has literally done.

      ohn 15:26-27
      New International Version (NIV)
      The Work of the Holy Spirit

      26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

      Why is this un scriptural to speak of the supernatural things that God allowed a person to experience? Does God not inspire His people with experience? My testimony involves experiences that were outside reading the Word. I understand who and what the Word is. There is one Way

      May 19, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • CGDoc

      Where is it written that nothing should be added to this book? Revelations, correct? Even though Revelations is at the end of the Bible, it wasn't the last book written. Many of the other books in the Bible were written after Revelations.

      May 20, 2013 at 12:40 am |
    • HTURCO

      To CGDoc, there is only one Revelation, it is not Revelations.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  5. Livelystone

    The church has a problem about what they have taught about the afterlife for the last 2000 years simply because they refuse to admit they have been wrong about hell and heaven. After I was declared dead following a car accident I crossed over into the afterlife and experienced what the Bible calls the resurrection of the dead 5 years before I found out everything I saw is written in the Bible.

    Naturally, when I found out what I had experienced is in the Bible, the first place I went to talk about it with others was the church. Unfortunately, because their doctrines are contrary to what I experienced, (even though it was exactly as spoken of by the apostle John in the Book of Revelation) the evangelical church labeled my experience as demonic. This was despite some later miracles witnessed by others that caused the church to say more bad things about me.

    Eventually rejection won over and I gave up on the church.

    Google is your friend and there are enough free previews of the first chapter of the book “Modern Day Prophet” where one does not have to purchase a book to read about what happened. What was unique in my experience versus others was the reaction of the medical personnel present when I came back to life that caused enough turmoil for the Highway Patrol to launch an investigation into why someone reported to be dead came back to life.

    Someday I hope to be able to speak to some of those persons to hear what they saw. Obviously it was something they had never seen happen before even though there are others who have for all intents and purposes died and come back to life.

    There are still a lot of unexplained mysteries about what happens to a person after they die, but the one thing we are all guaranteed is someday everyone is going to find out the truth.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • snowboarder

      @lively, that is an entertaining story.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Livelystone

      So was the experience

      Sometimes I wish it had never happened, other times I wish I had never come back

      May 19, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Yeah Yeah

      By "entertaining story" they mean made up.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  6. shipwreck73

    "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."

    PROOF?! Are you flippin kidding me with that?! NDE is a crook and has been disproven by the scientific community. Look death is scary as scary can get and many people want to think happy thoughts or think they will see their loved ones that have died when they go. This may be comforting but it is a false hope

    May 19, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  7. Natalie_L

    I was in a car accident 10 years ago, I was revived three times, and then in a drug induced coma. when I woke, the only thing I was told was that I had been in an accident.. and then a few days later I was told that my mom and niece died. I wasn't sad when I was told that they had died. I felt like i already knew they had died. I can remember a bright light, and feeling really happy. I can remember being in the presence of my mom and niece but I could not see their bodies. It was the strangest experience. I didn't want to leave but I knew I had to go. That is when I woke up in the hospital. I have never experienced anything like that before.. and there is no word that could possibly describe the peace that I felt when I was surrounded by the light.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  8. Susan Houghtlin

    10:00 pm, while driving North bound on the highway heading home, I came up on a slower moving vehicle. I got in the passing lane after checking in front and behind me to make sure I was clear to pass. I looked in my right outside mirror to see if the vehicle I was passing was clear for me to move back over. As I looked forward, I saw headlights coming at me in my lane!! Knowing I could not move over to the right (the car I was passing was still in my mirror), and I thought not to go into the margin on the left, this oncoming car would go that way, I froze. I braced my hands on the steering wheel, locked my elbows, and prepared for impact. I had no exit of what was going to happen. I knew I was going to have a head on collision. All of a sudden I see a picture in my minds eyes of this vehicle hitting the front of my truck. That vehicles hood crunched back towards the windshield. My trucks hood crumpled back towards my windshield. Somehow I knew, it was instant death for both people in these two vehicles. Then all of a sudden I was standing in front of "The Gates of Heaven". They were magnificent in beauty, and as tall and wide as the eye could see. The gate was open and I saw myself starting to walk towards it. Then I heard a voice say to me, "it is not your time, you must go back for I have a task for you." Just as suddenly I was back in my truck, watching this car speed along the left side of my truck. I watched this car to see how close it would graze my drivers side mirror, barely missing it. When this vehicle passed my truck, I looked in my mirror and noticed the vehicle didn't even put on it's brakes! I was able to stop my truck in the middle of the passing lane and just sat there shocked, and bewildered!! I asked myself, "what did I just see!!". I remember having a deep over whelming sadness that I had to "come back", and was not allowed to walk in the Gates. For about a week afterwards, I tried in vain to draw the "Gates of Heaven". During this time, I could not concentrate on my work at the office. I was consumed with trying to draw what I saw. I could not shake what should have happen on that dark highway, and I could not get the picture of the "Gates of Heaven" out of my mind, until finally I excepted what happen and wonder what task I was to have. Although I was not allowed to step through the "Gates", I know Heaven is real. That Gate sure was. And if the magnificence of that Gate was that beautiful, then I can only imagine what inside would look like.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • Honey Hush

      You did not heed the warning. That the brown acid circulating around us isn't too good. Bad trip.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  9. Nancybee

    The idea that only believers in Jesus will go to heaven can be countered by asking, "What happened to all the souls who died before Jesus was born? He wasn't around yet, ergo they could not have believed in him. Did they go to eternal damnation because of that technicality?"

    May 19, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • Trevor

      The Old Testament is written about people who believed in Jesus before he was born.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      The Trinity is spoken of in the first chapter of Genesis. The Father/Son and Holy Ghost are eternal and have always "been there">

      May 19, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Austin

      Great statement and fact Trevor!

      May 19, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Rabs


      May 19, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Regnery001

      Well its simple really, even before Jesus there were good men and women. It matters not if Jesus was not around for them, just being good honest and unsinful humans could get u a ticket to heaven or you could be a ghost, no one knows. However they had Jewish religion that in its own right its almost the same as the Islamic and Christian beliefs. But the ancients ones worshiped their own gods, they could had be pagan or what not. But just being a good and honest human its more than enough to be seen as a worthy person to walk in heave. But we cant know, we will only know when we die.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Colin

      Actually, the Holy Trinity is not mentioned in the Bible at all. This made a Medieval scribe so uncomfortable, that he forged a reference to it in Second John, but he was found out. It is one of the quirks of the Bible that the /////////christian God is not even mentioned. The reason for this is that he was not developed in Christian theology until well after the last books of the Bible were written. Jesus is mentioned nowhere in the Old Testament.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Austin

      Nancy the correct answer is that the old testament is different from the new testament in that they had atoning ceremonies involving animal blood atonement, fore shadowing the final lamb, Christ.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Austin

      Colin , Jesus is foreshadowed however and this is what the old testament is, a prophecy about Christ and the revealing and interveining of God with man.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • G to the T

      Austin – there you go working backwards from the premise again. Have you thought to ask a jew or biblical what these "prophecies" are referring to? Prophets weren't peering into a crystal ball, they were referring to very real events in their own times. There are no prophecies that predict christ, there are only people working backwards interpreting them as such. PS – any new Psychic visions? You know, the ones you thought were divine?

      May 20, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • HTURCO

      I think you all realy need to read the Bible, the trinity is not mentioned in the Bible. And Jesus is not mentioned in the old testament.

      May 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  10. xMoonWitchx

    Hi, logic and reason here to do-away with yet another Sunday morning contrivance of the human mind. I look forward to this now. CNN's weekly delve into the bizarre and insane world of religion. I haven't read a single comment so I may be redundant here, but simply put, dying and whatever sensations you do have, rest assured, are created by your brain, for your brain and the same effects are reports by pilots undergoing G-force training and blacking out in a centrifuge.

    Religion is for the hopelessly incurious, hopelessly unimaginative and void of all critical thinking or application of logic or reason. You, as human animals, are absolutely inconsequential as any other living thing and therefore your demise or success as entire species isn't guaranteed (and I hope it's not). Given that, individually, you're just about as important as dust. ...and you thought you were important. Silly, narcissistic animal you are.

    The irony here is, disease couldn't kill us, the elements couldn't kill us but a mind firmly rooted in iron age logic reasoning will. It's poetry, actually. This thing that you believe gives you life, is going to kill you.

    Happy Sunday, worshippers.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • Austin

      quite the contrary, the Holy Spirit and Angels (who were not saved, and look intently into salvation) are ministering spirits. The at times, reveal truth supernaturally. These acts are not constructs of the brain. They are receptions or spiritual forces and reality.

      Would the battle for truth in life be better off lost? NO you would forfeit eternal life for the sake of temporary mental debasement and appeasement. So you could believe you are free to reject God.

      Jehovah Shammah The Lord is There

      May 19, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • Trevor

      "hopelessly incurious, hopelessly unimaginative and void of all critical thinking or application of logic or reason."...Yeah, just like Obama.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • The real Tom

      Trevor, honey, the election was LAST YEAR. Get over it. Nobody cares that you hate Obama.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Tcl80

      The problem is, humans think they know it all...as apparently you do. Our minds can only accept what we see and know and anything that doesn't fit our logic is dismissed as a con or craziness. Scientists have one view of life. The religious and non-religious have another. No one knows why we are here, why we are who we are, and why we are in a certain place at a certain time. It is arrogant to think that tiny beings such as humans floating on a rock in the universe would be able to explain here, now or what happens after we die. We may think we are important because of wealth or fame or intellect. But death is the great equalizer and none of what we think makes us smart or great in the eyes of humans will matter in the end. Does religion reveal the truth of life? Does science? Who knows...I'm betting we will all find out soon enough.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  11. Eden Isle Publishing

    Reblogged this on Church Marketing University Blog.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  12. snowboarder

    heaven and hell are constructs of supersti tious men afraid of death and the unknown.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Austin

      No sir, I hated the Bible for the purpose of truth, and then the Holy spirit revealed the truth of God's word as reality supernaturally. The Holy Spirit bears the truth.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • snowboarder

      austin, you probably have a genetic predisposition to spiritual belief making you highy susceptible to religious influences. probably not significantly different than the trait which causes a person to be attracted to members of their own gender.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Austin

      you know for a fact that there is no "trait" involved in the reality of good vs. evil. Scientific appeasement for spiritual debasing is something you do to yourself. It is not a trait.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • midwest rail

      " Scientific appeasement for spiritual debasing is something you do to yourself. It is not a trait. "
      Most unintentionally funny (and ill-informed) comment so far. But it's early.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • snowboarder

      austin, good and evil are relative to society and perspective. there is no truth in religion. just fantasy to sooth the supersti tious mind.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • shipwreck73


      May 19, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  13. K

    1 Corinthians 15 talks about heaven and its 3 glories:

    41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Reality

      Let us begin:


      Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

      "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

      Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

      Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

      Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does BO and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan)

      The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

      Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Reality

      Let us continue:

      Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15: 14, Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

      The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Reality

      Concluding with:

      The Apostles' Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (references used are available upon request)

      May 19, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  14. El Flaco

    Dead is dead.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Cyril

      For the living are concious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are concious of nothing at all... (Eccleciastes 9:5)

      May 19, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • shipwreck73

      Death has a dignity all its own.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  15. digitalhusky

    What if life as we know it is actually the afterlife, and real life is the paradise........

    May 19, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  16. Puckfair

    I've yet to meet a single Catholic relative whose near death experience was one of purgatory! The ones who have survived heart attacks all claim to have had them. (Nothing like being rejoined with their screwed up families)
    So many Greek ideas translated out of a Jewish mysticism makes you wonder how any of these sects keep their stories straight for a couple of centuries at a time!

    May 19, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • .

      Actually the Christian Apologists have to scurry around to make up a plausible explanation when new scientific discoveries
      are made. RCC dumps creation myth in favor of evolution, even our resident jesus freak, Chad, has resorted to theistic evolution to try and explain the bible BS.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  17. AnonaMoose

    Anyone here every hear of something called Confirming Bias?

    May 19, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  18. Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

    My opinion is that these experiences are simply the result of neurological activity. The human brain is stunningly complex, and we have only started to unravel its mysteries. Having said that, it makes for a nice story, and if people change their perspectives and actions for the better after having such an experience, then good for them.

    But could consciousness survive death? The scientific answer of "No, consciousness dies when the brain dies" relies on the premise that a person's consciousness arises solely from the brain. I happen to believe that, but I am also interested in the concept that consciousness could be some form of universal force that attaches or manifests or transmits in a certain way and to a certain degree based on the level of complexity of the host brain. A very bad analogy would be that of radio receivers of differing complexities are capable of picking up differing signals. In this model, the signals are "consciousness" and the receiver is the host brain.

    Just a thought.

    May 19, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • Mark

      Interesting that someone who actually knows about neuroscience through becoming a neuroscientist totally disagrees with your simple opinion.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Yes, Mark, it IS a simple opinion. But the fact that someone is a neurologist does NOT mean that they know everything about the brain. There are many neurologists who would agree with the opinion that OBEs are entirely brain-based. I would hazard the guess that the majority of neurologists hold this opinion.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • Jeff Z

      My father died a year ago. My sister died two years ago (leukemia). My wife and I met with a "psychic" that has a very good reputation. We sat for an hour. I'm as skeptical as they come. However, there were things she said (messages to us and events) that there is no way she could have known or researched. I can understand the disbelief of many. However, I believe there is something more. In the end, we'll all find out eventually.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Rabs

      & that is where the problem is. In the case of the nuero surgeon who wrote the book, his neocortex died – the part which creates dreams and all. There are other cases such as those of Anita Moorjani and another dude who were clinically dead under controlled & monitored conditions so technically consciousness should not exist. If the brain dies, the parts of brain responsible for storing memories should not function either.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  19. a dose of reality

    Ten Reasons You Know you are an Atheist.
    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to appreciate human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.
    2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.
    3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.
    4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.
    5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.
    6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump of a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.
    7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar”.
    8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.
    9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.
    10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

    May 19, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • jesuswithoutbaggage

      Though I am not an atheist, I must say this is well stated. Almost all your points describe me. As you do, I find most Christian believers to be ill informed on science, history, and biblical criticism. My entire blogging dffort is to point out and help correct the exptreme traditional views among believers.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Mark

      It just cuts and paste, no reason to give "it" credit.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Mark: No unlike what most of the believers here do-cut and paste. Where's your evidence to support you claims?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      No should be NOT.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • Mark

      Easter 2012 I prayed Easter morning that I just wanted to help somebody that day to show them how much Jesus loves them. Within an hour a random person knocked at my door and asked if I could fix her tire. I did and told her what I had prayed. She wept and said I really needed to hear that. He is real and undeniable.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Cyril

      Could you please repeat that ?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • a dose of reality

      Ole Mark has a different story every week about how he helped someone and it somehow proves gawd. Yes Mark some of us read your tripe and keep track and KNOW that you lie. I'm very certain that to lie is to sin. But then, that is par for the course from a x-tian.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Mark

      Hey dose your ignorance is legion. I don't lie. That is a true story. And as Jack Nicholson said so well, "You can't handle the truth." Grow up quit yelling liar liar pants on fire.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "Within an hour a random person knocked at my door and asked if I could fix her tire. I did and told her what I had prayed. She wept and said I really needed to hear that."

      That does not prove that prayer works. It is pure coincidence. The fact that she 'needed to hear that' only indicates that she too has been brainwashed to believe prayer works.
      Please xplain why there so many starving children...why is your imaginary friend not answering their pleas?

      May 19, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Mark

      We have free choice. And through our church we feed the poor, therefore he is answering prayer. Everything can be explained by "coincidence" just a very remedial explanation.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  20. scot pederson

    Plenty of biblically based preachers preach about Heaven & Hell & as we see in the bible the road to heaven is narrow and few that find it, so FYI-only Born Again believers are going to heaven. If one has not repented and believed in Jesus as their savior they are not going to heaven. The so-called experiences we keep reading about don't prove anything because the bible clearly says no one has seen the face of God. Paul said "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" but it doesn't say we see his face and can return back to tell others about it. Satan can deceive unbelievers into thinking they are going to heaven with lies such as "everyone is going to heaven so you don't have to serve and believe in Jesus".

    May 19, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • jesuswithoutbaggage

      Scot, I am also a believer and a follower of Jesus, but I must disagree with your assertion. There is no eternal punishment like hell and whatever heaven turns out to be, it will not be restricted to born-again believers. However, I look forward to meeting you there some time.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:17 am |
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About this blog

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