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. menotyou

    Everything you need to know about the afterlife – or more appropriately, the other side, since it is only a mirror image of the Earth – can be found in one book – "Ask George Anderson" – not in the Bible, which is a collection of fairy tales. George Anderson did a reading for my family without an ounce of information from us and our relative came through and gave us information about our family and her death that Mr. Anderson would have had no access to.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Uh huh, and how much does it cost?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Ahhh Psychic con artist...some of those guys are really good. But fakes.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  2. Cyril

    Lazarus was dead and resurrected by Jesus, you would think that lazarus would mention how great heaven was or upset that he was removed from it. He made no mention of it becouse as stated in Ecclesiastes 9:5...the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all...

    May 19, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • N&W 1000

      The Physical BODY of the dead person is not conscious; the soul and spirit, that live on, are.

      So I think you point is not accurate.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Brooklyn

      the conscious is part of the physical, proof of evolution.

      It was the evolving of 'conscious' which enabled the biology of life to feed itself and reach change. Even more proof is that conscious reverts back to its primitive conscious when we are threatened.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • HotAirAce

      But the question remains, why didn't the alleged Lazarus reported on the alleged heaven or hell when he was allegedly raised from the dead by the alleged divine jesus?

      May 20, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  3. marianne

    Unfortunately there is no heaven. It's an imaginary place for people who cannot accept the fact life ends. When we die we go back to the same place we were in where we were born....into nothingness.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • N&W 1000

      My, these Christians could certainly learn from you, your rosy picture of the future is certainly inspiring.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  4. disgustedvet

    Atheism 101. From nothingness " BANG " everything. Yep that makes sense.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • .

      Yes, yes it does, educate yourself in something other than myth.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Andrew

      A magical invisible sky daddy makes sense?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Danny

      Gross misrepresentation of atheism.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Colin

      I know of no atheist who thinks that. I know many Christians who believe humans were magically created from dirt, though.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • sybaris

      Using your logic, what created your god?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • sqeptiq

      Sounds sort of like the christian thing. Add a magical sky fairy and BANG...everything from nothing.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • mama k

      lol; gross misrepresentation of everything; lol.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  5. dutchtown

    I read (proof of heaven),by Mr. Alexander and I was under the impression that the last three lines,as told by the angel,was meant to be,after you were in heaven.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  6. Andrew

    Pure mythology.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  7. Mopper

    The Good Reverend Price now believes in Heaven because he heard an evidential story. Gosh,The New Testament wasn't evidential enough for him, a minister? He sure picked a funny business to get into. Whatever happened to ' Blessed are those who haven't seen '. Reverend Price is now what appears to be a universalist...everyone goes to heaven. Does he just selectively dismiss similiar revelations of Hell. Ultimately some people will only believe what they want to believe. I don't know for sure if NDE's are real or not. If they are I think you got a tiger by the tail.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • bill burke

      Like barbers, all clergy should have a license to practice, which license will require them to know at least the ABCs of epistemology, and which license will be revoked for serious grievances such as believing things without adequate proof.

      High time to make the clergy at least as professional as the barbers, don't you think?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • sqeptiq

      People keep coming back from heaven but nobody comes back from hell?

      May 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  8. Brooklyn

    Religious people are so funny. Their need to deny reality goes so far to make up afterlife experiences.

    Reminds me of little kids and their made believe stories

    May 19, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Personally, I have always thought those alien abduction stories were a little made up.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Mopper

      Then why are you wasting your time reading silly articles like this?

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

      agreed,, but a god, jesus and heaven is a huge stretch. People and imaginations,,

      May 19, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  9. lisaais

    Thank you for this post CNN. Having had the privilege of meeting Drs. Moody and Alexander, I consider them kind, sincere, and straightforward individuals sharing information highly worth consideration, if only people take the time and effort to really weigh the compelling evidence.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Brooklyn

      more likely aliens exist..

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

      What evidence?

      May 19, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  10. An Atheist's Perspective

    Is it just me, or does Heaven sound horrifyingly BORING? "Beautiful music, waterfalls, lush fields, laughing children and running dogs." Really? Does this actually appeal to people after the 1800's? Or anybody? Even worse was what my church taught: Heaven was worshiping God forever and ever. That terrified my 8-year old self, the idea that your reward for enduring 3 boring hours once a week was to get to do it forever.

    So basically according to believers my options are:
    -Tormented by fire and horrors unimaginable.
    -Tormented by an inescapable "paradise" where there's nothing to do. Forever. (Plus the damn kids and dogs will never shut up).

    May 19, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • N&W 1000

      It sounds to me, like most atheists, you have bad information, misconceptions, and are unwilling to accept that you do not know absolutely everything.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  11. N&W 1000

    CNN must just do these type stories for amusement, I think it is pretty safe to say maybe 5% of the readers of these type stories believe in God anyway.

    CNN, why not do a story on the demise of the Amazon Rain Forest Crunchy Monkey and with it, the only hope for curing cancer?

    May 19, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  12. casey

    Lies, lies and more lies.
    We are made from dust and are returning to the dust.
    People and animals are made of the same material, so there is no superiority of the man over the beast, all are going to one place, either in a hole in the ground, or burned to ashes.
    Religions are full with lies, because they make money out of all their stories.
    God told Adam , the first human, that he would return to the dust.
    Ecclesiastis 9:5 tells us, The living are concious that they die, but as for the dead, they are concious of nothing.
    Use your own grey matter, and do not be misled, look it up in the Bible yourself.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Kansas rocks.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • midwest rail

      The state or the band ??

      May 19, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • N&W 1000

      The Band.

      Did you ever hear Vinyl Confessions, from 1982, the song "Crossfire," and "Borderline?"

      May 19, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • midwest rail

      Meh – never liked them much, but I understand why some do. Not a criticism, just not my style.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Oh. OK. Great album, check it out.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • mama k

      I bought the first two albums as soon as they came out. that kind of sound was better in those days coming off the vinyl through the older amps into large box speakers.

      May 19, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  13. shipwreck73

    Death has a dignity all its own.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • N&W 1000

      That is why everyone is clamoring to experience it.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  14. N&W 1000

    God does NOT ask you, "What have you done with your life, WHY should I let you in, or other such nonsense; he accepts only one thing, the finished work of Jesus, as our sacrifice and payment for sin, do we trust in that, and that alone, to reconcile us to him.

    THAT is your ticket to heaven.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • sybaris

      I don't have enough self loathing to be a Christian

      May 19, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Neither do I, but I do respect, admire, and love Jesus enough to be one.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • shipwreck73

      I'm with Eddie Money on this one "I've got 2 tickets to paradise!" Oh and it AIN't heaven.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Ahhhh...Ship Wreck (appropriate?) are you a Jehovah Witness, waiting on paradise on earth?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • sybaris

      You couldn't even pick this alleged Jesus person out of a crowd.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Well, if you can read the description of him in Revelation Chapter 1, and think you cannot pick him out of a crowd, then you are nuts.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • sqeptiq

      Why would jesus need to ask you anything? Doesn't he know everything?

      May 19, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  15. Paul

    Energy can neither be created or destroyed–therefore we live forever.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • N&W 1000


      But where?

      May 19, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • G to the T

      Nooooooo... all the energy in your body is dissipated into the environment. The rest is locked up in matter which is slowly broken apart until it equalizes with the environment. Then you are "one" with everything... if that makes you feel better.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      In a sense that is true...The atoms that make up your body are billions of years old...drink a glass of water....take a good look at it...it is billions of years old. The Energy that comprises life should conform to the law of conservation of energy, but we cannot know that for sure.

      When you die, the life energy should dissipate and be recycled naturally as all known energy does, so in a sense, you live now, and part of your energy and matter will live again...think about how many of your atoms have been the chemical make-up of another human. In a sense, part of them lives again.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  16. acounselorsperspective

    What this message offers is the installation of hope. Hope is a motivating force in our lives and without hope we are often met with dispair. For those who choose to believe in a heaven, good for them. I hope they find it. For those skeptics out there, I hope you find the answer(s) you're looking for.

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

      You illustrate some of the catalysts for religion, that people are in need of something to hope for, that they are looking for answers, that they need purpose. Religions have made billions pandering to the weakness of others.

      How about accepting that this is all there is and live your life to the fullest? You don't need religion for that and it's free!

      May 19, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • acounselorsperspective

      Can we please hear from an atheist who has experienced a near death experience please? How many of you have come back from an experience like this and said, "Oh, that was only a neurological event involving the visual cortex, nothing more than a bunch of random neurons firing off and releasing enormous amounts of Dopamine and Serotonin into the synaptic cleft."

      May 19, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  17. N&W 1000

    Mostly the Church does NOT talk about Heaven because of the Charismatic Name it Claim it Prosperity movement; the Copeland, Cho, Tilton, Price, Dollar, type preachers who tell their people God wants them rich in the here and now, and never tell them to
    "Lay their treasures us in Heaven," as Jesus did.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      I don't think Jesus would have spoken incoherent English.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Covenanter

      Regarding Kenneth Copeland, I can actually speak with authority.....having listened/watched him preach for 30 years.....he frequently teaches on heaven,,,,,,you are, respectfully........wrong!

      May 20, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  18. Maria

    Increase Your Bible IQ

    Will You Go to Heaven When You Die?

    From the March 2012 Trumpet Print Edition »
    The Philadelphia Trumpet, in conjunction with the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course, presents this brief excursion into the fascinating study of the Bible. Simply turn to and read in your Bible each verse given in answer to the questions. You will be amazed at the new understanding gained from this short study!

    The Philadelphia Trumpet, in conjunction with the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course, presents this brief excursion into the fascinating study of the Bible. Simply turn to and read in your Bible each verse given in answer to the questions. You will be amazed at the new understanding gained from this short study!Why, if the righteous go to heaven, did Jesus say: “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man [Jesus Christ] which is in heaven”? (John 3:13).

    If the saved go to heaven when they die, why did Peter say that King David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), “is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. … For David is not ascended into the heavens”? (Acts 2:29, 34).

    Yes, why?

    What a paradox! Millions today believe the saved go to heaven, yet righteous David didn’t go there!

    And if the saved go to heaven when they die, what need is there for a resurrection from the dead? Why a resurrection if they have already “gone to their reward”?

    Isn’t it about time these puzzling, yet vitally important, questions were answered?

    To Inherit the ‘Kingdom of God’

    1. What message did Jesus Christ proclaim during His ministry on Earth? Mark 1:14; Matthew 9:35.

    Comment: Christ preached the gospel—the “good news”—of the coming Kingdom of God.

    2. Will all the righteous men of old be “in” the Kingdom of God? Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:28.

    Comment: The promises God made to the fathers included entrance into the Kingdom of God!

    3. What did Jesus say Christians should strive to enter? Matthew 6:33; 7:21.

    Comment: Notice in Matthew 7:21 that it is the Kingdom “of” heaven—not in heaven! It is the Kingdom of, or owned and ruled by, heaven, in the same sense that the Bank of Morgan was not in Mr. Morgan—but was owned and managed by him.

    Matthew uses the term “kingdom of heaven” to express exactly the same idea that Mark, Luke and John express as “kingdom of God.” But the expression “kingdom of heaven” does not mean a kingdom in heaven, any more than it means a kingdom in God! But it does mean a kingdom owned and ruled by God, whose throne and dwelling place is in heaven.

    4. What did Jesus say the “meek” shall inherit? Matthew 5:5. But what did He say of the “poor in spirit”? Verse 3.

    Comment: Is this a contradiction? Of course not! The “meek” and the “poor in spirit”—in other words, humble Christians—shall inherit the Earth for an everlasting possession, and shall enter the “kingdom of heaven,” which will be on Earth! As is explained in our free booklet Just What Do You Mean Born Again?, the Kingdom of God, which Christ will establish on Earth at His return, is the divine Family of God, which will rule by the government of God!

    To enter into—or “inherit”—the divine Kingdom of God is a destiny of such marvelous glory that the human mind cannot really grasp it! We mortals have no concept of what is really in store for those who obey God.

    As we read in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” The full extent of the inheritance God has promised true Christians cannot be even remotely imagined by the natural mind of man—but God does reveal it to us “by his Spirit” (verse 10).

    5. What does Matthew 6:10 also tell us about God’s Kingdom?

    Comment: Christians today are to pray earnestly: “thy kingdom COME”! The word “come” implies it will come to Earth. Christ did not tell us to pray, “Let us go to heaven”! Obviously God’s Kingdom has not come to the Earth yet.

    6. Where is the Christian’s inheritance being kept? 1 Peter 1:3-4; Matthew 5:12; Luke 6:23.

    Comment: These verses do not say, “Great is your reward when you get to heaven.” They do not tell us when or where Christians will receive their inheritance and rewards—only that they are now being “reserved” for them in heaven!

    7. When will the righteous inherit the Kingdom of God? Matthew 25:31-34. Is this also when the rewards reserved in heaven will be conferred? Revelation 22:12.

    Comment: Clearly, it is when Christ returns that Abraham and his children through Christ will become inheritors of the promises and receive their reward! But notice what else will happen at Christ’s coming.

    Importance of the Resurrection

    1. Can anyone inherit the divine Kingdom of God while still a mortal flesh-and-blood human being? 
1 Corinthians 15:50.

    2. What did Paul say must happen to our mortal bodies in order to inherit—to actually become a part of—that spiritual Kingdom? Verses 51, 53. When will our bodies be changed—converted from flesh to spirit? Verse 52. Does that trumpet sound at the Second Coming of Christ? 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Is this when Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and others will inherit the promises? Same verses. What did Jesus tell Nicodemus about this change? John 3:6, 8. And if we are “born of the spirit,” can we finally “see”—enter—the divine, spiritual Kingdom of God? Verse 3.

    Comment: At Jesus Christ’s Second Coming, all the dead in Christ will be raised with new spirit bodies. Those Christians still alive at His return will be instantly changed into the same kind of spirit bodies—bodies that will then be in the Kingdom or Family of God. Our present flesh is corruptible, subject to death and decay. Spirit beings, however, are eternally new—immortal, incorruptible, never subject to death or decay!

    3. Did Jesus declare that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will—in the future—be resurrected? Matthew 22:31-32.

    Comment: This text is often twisted and perverted in an attempt to prove that Abraham is not dead—that he went to heaven when he died—just the diametric opposite of what Jesus used this illustration to point out.

    God is the God of the living, not the dead. God sometimes speaks of things that are to be as though they have already happened (Romans 4:17). Jesus was speaking of their future resurrection to immortal life! For He plainly said, in context, “As touching the resurrection of the dead .…”

    We can now see why Abraham and his children through Christ have not, as yet, inherited the promises. They simply cannot come into their eternal inheritance until they receive eternal life! This, as Paul explained, will happen at the resurrection from the dead!

    Without a resurrection, the dead would never live again (1 Corinthians 15:16, 18); therefore, the resurrection of the dead is central to God’s plan. And, unless Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all deceased Christians are resurrected from the dead at Christ’s coming, they cannot inherit the promises!

    How different the plain truth of God’s Word is from the ancient religious fables and myths the world embraces today!

    Heaven on Earth

    After studying the Bible carefully, we see that the plain truth is that heaven is not the “reward of the saved.” Christians do not go to heaven when they die, or when resurrected.

    The surprising truth is that heaven is coming to the Earth. The Earth will eventually become the very headquarters from which the Father will rule His vast creation!

    Will you dwell on that new Earth? Will you be a part of that glorious world?

    When Jesus Christ returns, He will say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you …” (Matthew 25:34). May God help you to be among those who will inherit the Kingdom of God along with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! ▪

    Copyright © 2013 Philadelphia Church of God, All Rights Reserved.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Thanks, do not want nor need Mr. Armstrong, just give me the Bible thank you.

      Any yes, BTW, the bible does tell Christians they have passed from death to life, that they have eternal life, that they CAN know and be assured of that, without the help of preacher, pope, prophet, etc...

      May 19, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • shipwreck73

      SPAM off!

      May 19, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      "Bible IQ"...another hilarious comment.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  19. Aahmused

    I hope the neurosurgeon who now believes heaven is "true" uses a more scientific approach to his surgical procedures to discover if a diagnosis is true or false. Not the same thing? Yes, it is. The same practice for determining what is true in medicine applies to what else we call true. If this neurosurgeon said to a patient, "I could not tell from your tests, but in a near death experience God told me you had a tumor and I should remove it" the patient would be a fool to let him proceed.

    If the neurosurgeon said something like, "I choose to believe in heaven, but I cannot prove it is true based upon anecdotal experiences" that would be one thing. To take the leap that he knows it is true is another. For every near death experience where someone has a glimpse of heaven there are many more where no glimpse is had. By the way, which heaven did he experience? Was it the Muslim heaven, the Catholic heaven, or the Protestant heaven?

    I would like for there to be an afterlife (I think), but I have no verifiable evidence there is one. Whether I personally choose to believe in one is a choice I am free to make, but to say I know it is true, or it is not true, would reveal extreme hubris and dishonesty, or self deceit.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  20. a dose of reality

    Dear Christians:
    God here.
    To the extent any of you died for your faith, I am afraid you threw your life away. Because, you see, I do not exist. The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the actions and thoughts of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous.
    Second, if I did exist, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was compiled with certain writings included and others excluded, nor how it has been edited over the centuries, yet you cite it for the most extraordinary of supernatural claims.
    Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.
    Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who elected to withhold all evidence of my existence in the first place.
    Fifthly, in the same vein, I would not make about 5% of the human population gay, then punish them for being that way. In fact, I wouldn’t care about how humans have $ex at all, given that I created all of the millions of millions of species on the planet, all of whom are furiously reproducing all the time. Human $ex would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Has it ever occurred to you that your obsession with making rules around human $ex is an entirely human affair?
    Sixth, I would have smitten all you Christian activists, and all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric even for a sick, sadistic bast.ard like me to contemplate).
    Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.
    Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.
    Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?
    Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you cringed in fear during the Dark Ages and thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.
    Move on – get over me. I did.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Sorry, but you are NOT God, you are merely a disgruntled human being who is sadly misinformed, trying to harm others.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • shipwreck73

      @ N&W 1000,

      How do you know he is NOT god. You speak like you know who god is.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • disgustedvet


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


      May 19, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • bill burke

      Thank you Mr. god, but this is not enough. It will take one or two of your miracles to convince the average member of my species that it should not believe in unproven things of tis magnitude.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Ship Wreck, I do, I learned about Him in the bible.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Dave W

      Best reply and a worthy read...

      Thanks god!

      May 19, 2013 at 6:24 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.