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. Brad

    Even if there is no heaven, there is no reason to fear death.

    May 20, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • lol??

      Then how does that survival of the fittest thingie work??

      May 20, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Survival of the fittest works just fine. More fit means more likely to procreate and have the offspring procreate. Why is that incompatible with the OP?

      May 20, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  2. Locker

    There is no heaven, there is no hell.. there is only Newark.

    May 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm |

      Example of living hell.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:07 pm |

    No need to place hindu Prophets, crooks fortune tellers of hinduism denial of truth absolute GOD equal to Naviam of Hebrew teachings, their time is gone long time ago, and the one claiming to be prophets today are none other than hindu Pundits, crook tricksters using hindu corrupted teachings of Naviam, messengers of truth absolute GOD as their Pandora box to hind fool humanity in to hinduism, illegality. Truth absolute can not be divided, but they divide truth absolute GOD in their hindu atheism, crooked self center ism.

    May 20, 2013 at 6:00 pm |


      May 20, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • fubar

      No need to place moslem Prophets, crooks fortune tellers of islam denial of truth absolute GOD equal to donkey mohammed of islam teachings, their time is gone long time ago, and the one claiming to be prophets today are none other than moslem mullahs, crook tricksters using moslem corrupted teachings of donkey mohammed, messengers of truth absolute GOD as their Pandora box to hind fool humanity in to islam, illegality. Truth absolute can not be divided, but they divide truth absolute GOD in their islam atheism, crooked self center ism.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:15 pm |

      Heaven for a hindu pig, filthy secular, self centered by faith, hind filth of hinduism, denial of truth absolute.


      May 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm |



      May 20, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  4. jimmorrisonmania

    I have studied these near death experiences for many years....The stories that really get to me are the ones like this little boy who had a miscarried sister and a great grandfather he knew nothing about..Let's not forget that some people have HELL experiences that seem just as real as the Heaven stories, but are awful and tortured. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason on who gets the good (heaven) experience and those who get a Hell experience...I believe in the afterlife...I look at it this way...Virtually every civilization who has ever existed on the Earth believed in an afterlife. I can't think all this civilizations were wrong. Every time someone I know dies, the first thing I think is, "now you know all the secrets of the Universe – I can't wait until I do to."

    May 20, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Maybe the kid heard his father and mother discussing the miscarriage and grandfather when the parents thought he was sleeping.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • birch please

      The vast majority of humans to have existed also believed the earth was flat and/or was the center of the universe. It will take a few more generations before the majority of humans to have existed do not believe they are the center of the universe.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      When in fact they'll just be worm food

      May 20, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Bill

      Ponder for a moment how many people over time (and still presently) believe that infectious disease is the result of malevolent spirits rather than the action of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes. Even in developed countries there are people who still don't understand how HIV is transmitted and whom rely on all sorts of fallacious folk lore on how to avoid contracting it.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Yakobi

      You will never be able to think for yourself until you consider the possibility that everyone in the world could be wrong.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  5. Chuckles

    3. "@Chad "wrong in virtually every respect..
    Most communists are atheist, not all atheists are communist.
    Atheism is a central aspect of Marxist-Lennist theory.
    No one has ever "proven me wrong" on those two statements, because they cant.. those statements are correct."

    - I wouldn't necessarily say that atheism is a central aspect of Marxist-Leninist theory, but that's a subjective qu.ib.ble that you can't really measure. You focus on atheism in communism because you would like to, I believe THE central aspect of Marxism and Communism in general is socio-economic and governmental in nature.

    Furthermore, you constantly bring up men like Stalin on this board to show that atheism has its own drawbacks, yet you are fully aware that it was Communism, NOT atheism, that was the central drive for these people to commit the acts that they did. Like I pointed out before, if you truly were an "expert" on atheism, then you would know that Atheism has never been used to justify evil acts nor is there anyway to generalize all atheists, and yet you pe.rsi.st.

    4."Chad "again, that is an egregiously incorrect statement.
    I never say that atheism as a belief system incorporates the doctrines of naturalism and determinism. What I DO say, is that the atheist simply has no justification for believing otherwise. And they dont.

    I explain this a great deal to you, you never get it.. I have honestly no idea if this is disingeniousness on your part, or just lack of mental horsepower."

    –Looky here, looks like someone decided to grow a bit of a b.ackb.one and start throwing out ad homi.nems himself. Looks like you can't take the high road any longer huh?

    Also, this doublespeak is pretty astounding, do you actually read what you write or do you just g.lib.bly write everything in hopes that one or two points actually make sense? This quote for instance, "I never say that atheism as a belief system incorporates the doctrines of naturalism and determinism. What I DO say, is that the atheist simply has no justification for believing otherwise. And they dont" So you are saying that you aren't saying that atheists are naturalists and determinsts but since atheists (in your opinion) can't come up with an answer that satisfies what exactly it is you think is a good enough answer, it means they are naturalists and determinsts, you're just not saying they are?

    So Chad, do you think all atheists are determinists and naturalists? If so then A) you invalidate everything you just posted above by generalizing all atheists when you know that’s a very foolish thing to do and B) you'd be wrong. However, if you do not think that all atheists are naturalists and determinists, then your pers.istance on bringing it up every chance you get is a red he.rri.ng and non-se.qui.ter in a va.in effort to try and sm.ear a group of people (self-proclaimed naturalists and determinists) while discussing your own illogical religion.

    Looks like you've gotten yourself in a real pi.c.kle here huh?

    May 20, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Darn! Stupid reply button, I haven't done this in a while.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Science

      Chuckles...................hate to give Chad............. a............ that a boy (poke)................but he is COMEDY GOLD >

      May 20, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  6. John Bigbooty

    "The rabbit loves the shining wire."

    –Watership Down

    May 20, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  7. Larry Smith

    Alma 30:44 (From the Book of Mormon)

    44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

    May 20, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • sam

      Larry, is it that it's raining too hard today so you can't go door to door, and you're logging your proselytizing hours here with lucky us?

      May 20, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'And there shall in that time be rumours of things going astray, and there will be a great confusion as to where things really are, and nobody will really know where lieth those little things with the sort of raffia work base, that has an attachment…at this time, a friend shall lose his friends’s hammer and the young shall not know where lieth the things possessed by their fathers that their fathers put there only just the night before around eight o’clock...'

      May 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • Larry Smith

      Sorry I am not a missionary. Just a regular member. There are no points whether a missionary or not.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
  8. Kevin Harris

    A few NDE's are interesting, but they are generally unreliable as far as evidence of the afterlife. However, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth gives us a firm historical foundation for faith in him. Because of him, we can be confident there is an afterlife. Reasonable Faith dot org.

    May 20, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • sam

      Nothing about that was reasonable.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • Kevin Harris

      Sam, unless you have a rebuttal, why bother?

      May 20, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Kevin, could you try to be more reasonable. Because if not, why bother?

      May 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • sam

      Kevin, if you can't read your post without thinking 'shit, that made no sense', why bother?

      May 20, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Only The Babble claims jesus was resurrected. Do you have any verifiable, independent, objective or factual evidence or is The Babble all you have, in which case you have nothing?

      May 20, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Kevin Harris

      Questions, Moby?

      May 20, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • .

      stop trying to advertise your crappy site all over the place

      May 20, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      None that I would value your answer on.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • JFCanton

      It must be some sort of logical fallacy to be certain that a supposed event 2,000 years ago DIDN'T happen.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • kurt


      May 20, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  9. .

    Love how many people who claim to be about science will make their own judgements on what an individual experiences and dismisses the person's own views.

    May 20, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Do you believe EVERY crazy story you read on the internet? No. Even religious folk exercise SOME skepticism now and then. Well, that's what we're doing. Get used to it, because in a few generations the western world will be made up of a majority of atheists/agnostics and organized religion will be in the minority.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • birch please

      Because people "about science" (get off the internet and live in a cave if you have a problem with it) know how weak the human mind is, how easily it is fooled (don't sleep for more than three days and you'll be seeing angels too), and how worthless the subjective truly is.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  10. Larry Smith

    Many of the prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church) as well as prophets of old have seen visions of heaven from God. Their description of heaven matches a lot of what these people have seen. There are even atheists that have had these experiences and their experience verifies what I have learned by studying the prophets of God from Old Testament times through prophets of today.

    If you would like to read or watch what true prophets of today are saying click the following link:


    God has always worked through prophets and he continues to do this today. Amos 3:7 from the Old Testament says "surely the Lord God will do nothing save he reveals it to his servants the prophets"

    May 20, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • Yakobi

      No matter how many times you cut & paste this, it won't make you right.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Larry Smith


      I challenge you to read through or watch any of their addresses on this link and see if you don't feel the Holy Ghost testifying to you that what they say is true. God does call prophets today. If you are searching for the truth you will find it here. I am not saying you will only find truth here because God gives his truth to his children through many means (such as NDE's). But I will testify that he has prophets on our earth today and one need only open their mind and listen to what they have to say to know that it is true.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm |

      No need to place hindu Prophets, crooks fortune tellers of hinduism denial of truth absolute GOD equal to Naviam of Hebrew teachings, their time is gone long time ago, and the one claiming to be prophets today are none other than hindu Pundits, crook tricksters using hindu corrupted teachings of Naviam, messengers of truth absolute GOD as teirh Pandora box to hind fool humanity in to hinduism, illegality.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Proselytize all you like, Larry, but you're not going to ensnare me into your delusion.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • Larry Smith

      Listen to what they have to say. My goal is not to ensnare you, but to empower you. Knowledge is power and these men have knowledge. If you listen or read their words, you will find power in their teachings. I am only sharing what has brought me joy because it can bring joy and faith and knowledge to others. I have no other motivation for posting. Nobody I know will ever know I posted today, but I have the hope that someone will have enough curiosity and faith in their own ability to decipher the truth that they will view the link I posted.

      I have read all sorts of stuff from other religions because I am not afraid of what I may read. If it is true, I will learn from it, whatever the source may be. If it is false, I trust my own judgement enough that I will recognize false teachings. As I said knowledge is power even if it is knowledge of others' false beliefs. If you find our beliefs to be false, you will be better for reading and knowing why they are false and you will be able to convince others of why they are false. If you find they are true, then you have a lot to gain as I did from these teachings. Peace out, I have got to go! I am sure I will be missed by all 🙂

      May 20, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • birch please

      dum dum dum dum dum

      May 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Whatever floats your boat, Larry. Understand, though, that going from, "Allow me to share this interesting religion with you" to persecuting people for not adhering to your beliefs is not a very long journey.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • hopefulspam

      Thanks Larry. I appreciate you kind testimony.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  11. Bostontola

    Some post that atheism is a religion because it is based on faith in science. Even if atheists had faith in science, why does that make atheism a religion. Religion is not synonymous with faith. Many people believe in god and enjoy a spiritual life with no religion. Given that, why would atheists have a religion? A religion is a common set of beliefs, traditions, and rituals shared by its members, I've not met 2 atheists with the same beliefs. Atheism is no more a religion than the unaffiliated believers in god. There could be an atheist religion some day, but I don't know of one today.

    May 20, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      That is why atheism will always be a subordinate stance to religion.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Yakobi

      "Atheism" is the absence of religion, much as sanity is the absence of insanity.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I wish that god belief was so rare that there was no word for "atheism." After all, we don't have a word for non-believers-of-loch-ness because not enough people believe that stupidity.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • lionlylamb


      One's Word is the bonding agent for one's conscious issues of tenured faith issues of sanctifying beliefs. No two Words of individualism are exactly of sameness. The differences of individualities makes for Life's abundances within seeded nurturing relativities.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Larry Smith

      It takes more faith to be a believer in "no God" than it takes to be a believer in God. The reason I say this is because the consequences of being wrong for atheists are much higher than those for Christians. Not only that, I have tried not following God's teachings and have been much happier when living the way God's teachings proscribe.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • rafael

      @Bill Deacon: Now there's an impressive lack of logic for you.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yakob most atheist will correct you and say that atheism is the lack of a belief in God not a reaction to any religion aimed at him but just to see what you stand against religiously, is this correct?

      Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Go ahead Rafe show me logically how atheism will overcome religion without organization. I'll check back later.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Moby Schtick


      It is very easy to not have faith in god. Because god is invisible and undetectable, he is also irrelevant. I have as much trouble not believing in god as not beleiving in unicorns or fairies. No belief = no faith. Easy peasy.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • Moby Schtick


      Could you please try to be a little less boring. Obviously you're trolling, but you're just sooooooo boring!!

      May 20, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • Science

      Numbers help Bill Deacon


      May 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Larry Smith – It takes more faith to be a believer in "no God" than it takes to be a believer in God. The reason I say this is because the consequences of being wrong for atheists are much higher than those for Christians'

      Thats bizarre logic. Those 'consequences' do not form part of an atheists thinking when it comes to belief in a god or not. No atheists thiinks 'well i dont believe in god but boy i will be in trouble if i dont because that god will punish me'. That kind of contradicts the whole disbelief in god thing.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Madtown

      I have tried not following God's teachings
      Larry, you are free of course to take inspiration from whatever source you wish, and follow any teachings you desire. You discredit yourself by suggesting the bible contains the "teachings of God". God did not author the bible, vey fallible men did.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Larry, 3 things for you to consider:
      1. We're all born atheists. We have to LEARN religion.
      2. A faith of convenience is a hollow faith.
      3. You've chosen the wrong religion. You're not praying to the Mutant Cosmic Star Goat (braise His mane!), so you will be burned upon the great grill in the afterlife.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Atheism isn't the absence of religion (in principle), it's believing there is no god. Sanity really isn't the absence of insanity. There is a continuum and the border between sanity and insanity is not well defined.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Not exactly, Bostontola. Atheism literally means "without god". Sanity and insanity are opposite states of mind.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Insanity and sanity are opposites but are not a good analogy with atheism and belief in god because sanity is not well defined, while atheism is well defined.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Yakobi

      I find the comparison spot-on, since I consider religious belief a form of insanity.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Larry, Pascal's Wager is severely flawed.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • MoveForward

      Faith is a belief in something for which there is zero proof. Science has mountains of proof so belief in science is NOT faith. Atheists typically hold a belief in something for which there is proof, hence the dis-belief in a supernatural being called God. Despite all the stories within this article there is still no proof that either Heaven or Hell exist but it's a sure thing that man will continue to believe what he wants to believe regardless of proof – or lack of it.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Science has mountains of evidence, not mountains of proof.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • Francis and Benny Sharing

      Bill Deacon
      Your RCC is losing, churches and schools closing in the developed world at an ever increasing rate, deny it all you want. Sure you may be able to get the poor and desperate say they are Catholic in order to get aid but they can just as easily turn on you and bite the hand that seduces them. Going, going, gone, the sooner the better.

      May 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  12. waterman

    Google "Why a Near-Death Experience Isn’t Proof of Heaven" and read that article.

    May 20, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Larry Smith

      Many of the prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church) as well as prophets of old have seen visions of heaven from God. Their description of heaven matches a lot of what these people have seen. There are even atheists that have had these experiences and their experience verifies what I have learned by studying the prophets of God from Old Testament times through prophets of today.

      If you would like to read or watch what true prophets of today are saying click the following link:


      God has always worked through prophets and he continues to do this today. Amos 3:7 from the Old Testament says "surely the Lord God will do nothing save he reveals it to his servants the prophets"

      May 20, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Hey, that's neat Larry. Now put your ancient texts down and study why there's a common physiological explanation.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • Harald

      Larry, I'm always baffled when I hear people saying such things. Why on earth do you look for answers in some ancient (not even scientific) texts ? Why don't you look for answers in modern scientific literature ? I assume you don't try to explain lightning and thunder as did cavemen but you explain it based on our scientific knowledge.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • MoveForward

      It's always a hoot to see a Mormon jump and offer "proof" of various tenants of Christianity. One only has to look at it's foundation as a religion to see it's based of snake oil sales.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  13. waterman

    When you are near death or having seizures, uncontrolled firing of neurons creates many types of sensations. A sense of being out of your body and seeing light is very common. There is nothing supernatural about it. Depending on your religious upbringing and surroundings, you can attribute that to the characters of your religion. A muslim or buddhist or jew will never meet jesus, somehow, they will see their own religious figures.

    May 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  14. Yakobi

    "He found himself soaring toward a brilliant white light tinged with gold"
    That's due to the euphoria caused by lack of oxygen to the brain.

    Remember: there are no gods or goddesses, demons or devils, ghosts or goblins. Religion was invented by man to control the masses.

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

      Religion was invented by man to control the masses.
      Disagree. I think humans for the most part are wired to have a concept of spirituality, a notion of "something else out there". I think religion is the result of humans trying to explain things that we just can't explain, but no argument that it was invented by man.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Rae

      all of you who dismiss a person's beliefs are so predictable and sad. One day you too will face your end and you will not be so smug. Also you sound like a bunch of robots – not one sincere sounding thought amongst you.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Rae, you're the one that sounds like a smug, condescending robot. I guess you should stick with what works though. That sort of att.itude does work, right?

      May 20, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Karl Marx

      "Remember: there are no gods or goddesses, demons or devils, ghosts or goblins. Religion was invented by man to control the masses."


      How about somebody who knows what they are talking about:

      " Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

      The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo."

      May 20, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Yakobi

      I dismiss ALL forms of insanity, Rae, which is what religion is. So long as you're not a danger to others or yourself, you're free to believe in whatever hogwash you want...just don't include me in your delusions.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Karl, Sounds good on paper.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • sam

      @Rae – you mean one day we will GO TO THE LAKE OF FIRE??

      May 20, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
  15. birch please

    There is no such things as ghosts/spirits/souls, all you are is in your brain and is gone once it stops working. Man's knowledge has moved beyond bronze age explanations for consciousness.

    May 20, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Harald

      Problem is that many people can't deal with this harsh reality therefore they prefer to believe in some afterlife. In any case, they never will know that they are wrong.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  16. KT


    May 20, 2013 at 5:13 pm |



      May 20, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • birch please

      Thats excatly how jesus wants you to act... lol christians: 95% a joke 5% crazy

      May 20, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  17. birch please


    May 20, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  18. lol??

    Darwin was an apostate Christian and now science is chasing endless genealogies like the Mormons. Things ain't lookin' so hot for the one human race right here in River City.

    May 20, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • lol??

      Well, I should say.
      Friends, lemme tell you what I mean.
      Ya got one, two, three, four, five, six pockets in a table.
      Pockets that mark the diff'rence
      Between a gentlemen and a bum,
      With a capital "B,"
      And that rhymes with "P" and that stands for pool!
      And all week long your River City
      Youth'll be frittern away,
      I say your young men'll be frittern!
      Frittern away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too!
      Get the ball in the pocket,
      Never mind gittin' Dandelions pulled
      Or the screen door patched or the beefsteak pounded.
      Never mind pumpin' any water
      'Til your parents are caught with the Cistern empty
      On a Saturday night and that's trouble,
      Oh, yes we got lots and lots a' trouble.
      I'm thinkin' of the kids in the knickerbockers,
      Shirt-tail young ones, peekin' in the pool
      Hall window after school, look, folks!
      Right here in River City.
      Trouble with a capital "T"

      May 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Robert Preston just threw up in his grave.

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

      Beats modern rap, rail.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Since I agree with you, I'm sure the apocalypse is nigh.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:21 pm |

    Heaven is real if you want it. I wrote a book about it.

    Truly, it is all good and God is at the end....but only if you want it.

    May 20, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • Science

      No fairy at the end.............or red devil thingy..............you know ?

      Kepler or not, we'll find life in space


      Where Does All Earth's Gold Come From? Precious Metals the Result of Meteorite Bombardment, Rock Analysis Finds


      May 20, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Grover

      That book was already written. And I am the monster at the end of it.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  20. IveExperiencedThisToo

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

    May 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Harald

      I don't find it incredible considering that our make up is basically the same regardless of race, origin or location.
      As to moral, this has nothing to do with religion. You can have amoral religious people as you can have moral atheists.
      Moral is more a set of rules that hold societies together and perhaps certain moral characteristics might even be genetically programmed into us and be part of our survival mechanism. We are social animals therefore killing each other, while it can be beneficial to the individual doing the killing, is detrimental to the human race in general. Therefore, "don't kill" (unless for self defense) might be hardwired into us.

      May 20, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Awww!

      Isn't this cute! A little child living in a bubble! Hello, little bubble child! We see you in there! Don't pop that bubble!

      May 20, 2013 at 5:21 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.