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. Jeff Z

    One thing is for certain. We will all find out one day.

    May 19, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Brooklyn

      or not

      May 19, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  2. Seyedibar

    You want to know what the afterlife is like?
    The sound of worms munching and fungus growing.
    Do we really need to drag these primitive beliefs into the 21st century?

    May 19, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Austin

      No. and I would have no venture in such a bore, had it not been for the revealing work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit bears the truth, and in my life, did so supernaturally!

      May 19, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Squished Kitty Chronicles

      Austin, why not tell us all about it for the hundredth time.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Austin, you should at least know where the concept of Holy Spirit comes from. It's leftovers from the northern Egyptian state religion's worship of a holy trinity: Ptah (the father of all the gods), Horus (the son), and the Spirit (the portion of god's soul that lived in the pharoah's family and justified his right to rule).

      May 19, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  3. Brooklyn

    jesus never brought back anyone from death/ If he did, the bible would have stated how bad they smelled.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Austin

      ya and you are totally wrong. He did and it did.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  4. mindlike.com

    Heaven is like Fight Club

    May 19, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  5. Berserk

    I am not a Christian and according to this I will go to hell.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Brooklyn

      hell would be a great place,, away from christians and muslims is always a blessing

      May 19, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Austin

      no the term christian is meaning less, this is about you and the messiah, Jesus Christ. not taking a label. Your only responsibility is standing before the Messiah and honoring the Lord God.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  6. N&W 1000

    OK, Atheists, HERE is how I know God is true, the Bible is real, and Atheism is FALSE:

    -WHERE do we get the concepts of good, evil, beauty, justice, etc...from? Where do they come from? IOW, when a human murders another human, why do we try to arrest and punish the murderer? Why do animals not do that? Aren't we just one step up from the animals? Didn't we evolve? HOW do we know right and wrong, and animals don't? How can we formulate conceptual ideas, like sin, forgiveness, justice, mercy, and animals cannot?

    The only way this makes sense is, for man to be created, separate and apart from animals, NO evolution, with a conscience and a soul, that the animal does not have, given to us by our Creator.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • morgan


      May 19, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • midwest rail

      With all due respect, there is a significant difference between "knowing" and "believing".

      May 19, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Colin

      Oh nonsense. Cultures that have never heard of JEsus Christ and the Christian god have a sense of right and wrong. Atheists who totally reject the notion of the Christian god have a sense of right and wrong and primates and other mammals have a social order within their societies that can result in the punishment, expulsion or death of individuals that transgress.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Sane Person

      lol. You are so undereducated and deluded that it is pointless to even attempt to explain it to you, again. Its obvious you will intentionally disregard fact and observable evidence in favor of magic. As long as you insist on living in your self-imposed delusion, you are as useless to debate as is a 3 year old.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Brooklyn

      pack dogs protect each other too. Your words are just silly

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

      Circular reasoning 101.

      I believe in objective, imposed morality.


      Because God exists.

      An why do you believe God exists?

      Because objective, imposed morality exists.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • nythern

      You're right. God must exist. Natural selection wouldn't allow someone as stupid as you are to exist.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Colin, thank you, you are the only one who actually gave an answer, however, I agree with you, but, I am not comparing
      primitive to advanced cultures, I am comparing animals to man, with the point being, man and animals are NOT related, due to animals not being able to form conceptual ideas.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • todaypost

      Apparently, you drank too much and let your imagination ran wild. If there is only one god, how do you explain many brands of faith and religious. All these afterlife stories were told by human, same for stories of god, they are, all human invention. On second thought they are all human creation. That is how creationism started

      May 19, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Danny

      And yet fossils still exist.

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

      Our closest non-human relatives other primates have a sense of fairness. Elephants mourn the death of their fellows. A pack of wolves will defend each other to the point of death. Almost all mammals will defend their off spring with little regard to their own safety. It would seem only humans have the ability to drown their children in the bathtub because some voice in their head told them to do it, god you are slow,

      May 19, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Colin

      But animals can form conceptual ideas. They love and protect their offspring, many have social organization, many can use basic tools, many have language and many can experience sensory input that we cannot.

      We do have more developed neocortexes than any animal, but so what. We share 98.4% of our DNA with chimpanzees and about 97.9% with gorillas.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Many social animals have the same exact emotions and social "laws" as men do...we get all of it from our animal ancestors.

      If you study different animals, you will see where we get it from.

      Science has already dis-proven much of the bible...it is not reality.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Austin

      before the fall animals spoke the same dialect as man. our language barrier is part of the curse.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Austin

      so in texas they found a fossilized leg in a cowboy boot from 1950. it was fossilized.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Animals CAN form conceptual ideas, many have problem solving intelligence which shows they can think about cause and effect relationship. Many animals use tools. Many species have language and culture. Even slime mold, though it is a loose collection of independent cells, has shown in a mold colony, problem solving intelligence. They way we make decisions, is nearly exactly the way that a bee hive will make decisions.

      The one thing that we do not see often is thinking in the abstract, though there are some animals other than us that can.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • sybaris

      You're posing a fallacy that animals don't have a human feature then a God must have given this feature to humans exclusively. It's a common trap that religionists fall into, "I can't explain it so goddidit!"

      May 19, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • sybaris

      You're looking at a snapshot in time and from a Christo-centric perspective. Human (and some animal) social attributes evolved over time through the su.ccess of the group.

      Using your logic, every non-Christian group/country/region/clan etc., etc would be in total chaos. That is simply not the case.

      As for lower order animals, who knows, in a couple million years they might also develop human-like social codes.

      Have you ever taken college level anthropology or sociology clas.ses? This stuff is well docu.mented.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  7. kfgsynic

    debate away people...all the while authors of these books are laughing all the way to the bank.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Brooklyn

      as religions do..

      May 19, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Jesus, the son of God, Paul, the killer or Christians and lawyer, Isaiah, the great prophet; ALL were active debaters.

      That is one huge mistake the atheists make; they think Christians should not or do not DEBATE their faith; I love to.

      God said, Come, let us REASON together.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  8. Doodlebug2222

    I believe it is not talked about – because it is becoming an unpopular thing to believe in and also becomes argumentative fairly quickly. Instead of simply letting people believe as they may – there is a very big movement quietly moving around us that tries to make you feel.. embarassed if you believe in God and the afterlife.

    But then my question is – why does so many not believing affect my belief? It should not. I am secure in myself as a person and the pointing fingers and laughing never really swayed me.

    Live and let live – as they may. Believe and let others believe as they will. Simple.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Brooklyn

      fear of death is an enabler to engage in fantasy.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • morgan

      Faith is what YOU believe not what others want you to believe!

      May 19, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Brooklyn

      Faith, just as a gambler is gambling away his mortgage payment having faith he will win,

      May 19, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      morgan: Stop listening to what Mommy and the minister spew at you. Faith is nothing more than belief without evidence, so while you may not care that what you believe is true, there are those of us who do care that our beliefs are and thus that our beliefs are based on evidence. So where's your scientifically reviewed evidence to support your imaginary friend, its arch nemisis, heaven, hell...any of the crap the buybull spews???

      May 19, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  9. Greg

    These near death experiences are just naturally occurring DMT in the brain. Lookup DMT.

    I myself have had crazy near death experiences when I experienced a seizure and a really bad ATV accident.

    I've also dabbled into DMT for recreational use and I can say they are pretty much the same thing.

    DMT is heaven and hell and it is released when your body thinks its dying

    May 19, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • N&W 1000

      I heard of a man once, he took LSD, and studied the Book of Revelation, he said even the Beast came to life.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Doodlebug2222

      I remember in the early 60's how some things were explained to us to.. make sense. Now, 40+ years later – most of those explainations are almost.. laughable.

      Not to insult what you say – but we are children in the world and as children we think we know so very much – when in reality, we really know so very little.

      The idea is to keep an open mind.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Brooklyn

      it's a self protective mechanism to calm us. Primitive stuff.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Tom

      Like you are have a DMT experience as you write your notes on this blog.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  10. TG

    The churches have taught that "all good people go to heaven", yet fail to grasp even the 1st inkling what is required for a person to gain entrance into heaven.

    First off, these must be disciples of Jesus Christ, whereby the word "disciple", Greek matheteuo, means "to become a pupil" as well as "to disciple", thus showing that when a person becomes a disciple (or pupil) of Jesus, then must go and make disciples like Jesus, "going from house to house" and making known the "good news of the kingdom" (Matt 24:14), teaching honest-hearted ones to ' observe all the things (Jesus) commanded.' (Matt 28:20)

    How many of the churches go from "house to house" (Acts 20:20) preaching about God's heavenly kingdom or government ?(Isa 9:6) How many are following Jesus "footsteps" (1 Pet 2:21) to "make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them" ?(Matt 28:19)

    And 2nd, after a person has qualified as a Christian, these must be selected by God.(2 Thess 2:13) The prevailing view is that a person, in effect, chooses themselves. However, this is not true, for Jesus told James and John that "this sitting at my right hand and at my left is not mine to give (not theirs), but it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."(Matt 20:23)

    And 3rd, only a select few are chosen that number 144,000.(Rev 7:4; 14:1) For what purpose ? To rule as "kings and priests over the earth".(Rev. 5:9, 10) These have to be "counted worthy of the kingdom of God".(2 Thess 1:5) The churches thus have no understanding of why these are to be "priests" in addition to being "kings".

    May 19, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • morgan

      You are a Jehovah witness! this like guess that religion! I absolutely loved how you took all of those scripture passages out of context to fit them all together, Charles Russell would be very proud of you! This is how he convinced so many gullible idiots into believing his lies and buying his magazine (that HE published, not god) so he could get a couple extra bucks! oh ya and don't forget that time, or should I say TIMES when the world was going to end! 1914, 1915, 1918, 1942,etctera! I absolutely love stupidity!

      May 19, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Anon

      More Jehovah's Witnesses claptrap.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      oh how cute, one gullible fool calling another gullible.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  11. 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. Creating NDE fantasies is just another method humans use to continue in a struggle to survive.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  12. Everymom

    I read this article because I'm not sure what I believe about the afterlife. But why do people who are so sure there's no afterlife read articles like this? And why, after reading articles like this, do they all feel compelled to impart their wisdom to the benighted rest of us? To show us how smart and scientific they are? It makes me smile.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Brooklyn

      maybe it makes people smile when we read these articles and see the believer responses..

      It makes me laugh/

      May 19, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • morgan

      They claim religion doesn't effect their life, but it seems like they spent a descent time reading a lengthily article on religion and commented on religion!

      May 19, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Seyedibar

      When it's not being harmful, bigoted, or antisocial, religion is pretty hilarious. Sometimes it's quite funny to listen to adult humans prattle on over fairy tales. It makes me feel grateful for the education I received.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • morgan

      hey Brooklyn! is the your laughter out of jealousy!

      May 19, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      No morgan, you will never find an Atheist claiming religion doesn't affect their life. In fact it affects every aspect of life because it tries to pushes its way in to a secular world. We come to these articles because these articles help educate people on the absurdities of religion and it's interesting to watch christians squirm when they can't properly refute things (evolution; earth age; the crap within their buybull; heaven; hell; god's existence, etc). It truly is humorous to see how many people are still so gullible and fooled by the teachings of a 2000 year old book (written by men to control men).

      May 19, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  13. Mike P

    "You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong."

    Well, if there's anything that confirms, "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Cor 11:14), it's that.

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

      If there's anything that proves Satan masquerades as an angel of light, it's the judgement and hate that most Christians have in their hearts.

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

      exactly! I think the ignorance of hell is a little more realistic for pastors, not heaven.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Everybody will accept the Prize, i.e., heaven, but no sir, don't you haters talk to me about the punishment, i.e., hell.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  14. myway

    Heaven is not a consistent place in the scriptures. Neither is the concept of God. It appears monotheistic themes were retrifitted to the OT during the last few hundred years before the common era. The ascension theme was probably added to the NT at a later date to reinforce the claim Jesus was devine, a concept that was far from accepted by all early Christian sects. I doubt the church wants to shed much light on a potential real interpretation of heaven. That could bring many conflicts to the surface for which there are no easy answers. Besides if ordinary people can have a devine experience what do we need the churches for? Perhaps churches should be a place where people meet and exchange their own experiences rather than listen to stories about people we don't even know if they've ever lived.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • N&W 1000

      You are completely wrong; all the way back in the OT, the bible told us that GOD would be born as a human to save us from our sins.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Seyedibar

      That's because your god was always a human. In the oldest version of Genesis, he lived on a mountain, not in the sky or another dimension, and he also used his hands to chop down trees and build the Eden garden with his family.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • G to the T

      Sorry N&W – that may be your interpretation of the bible, but it is not one shared by the majority of biblical scholars.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  15. David From Canada

    I've read many near-death experiences and there are just too many of them for them not to be true – Something big is going on behind the scenes of life. And behind everything is love, light and God........

    May 19, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  16. keith

    Good article. May we all be ready when our day comes

    May 19, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  17. ipmutt

    The last place you want to come to for advice on spirituality is CNN.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  18. Bob Knippel

    If most people go to heaven, it wouldn't be heaven to me, as I don't particularly care for most people.

    May 19, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  19. el_incr

    It is appointed for a man ONCE to die, then the judgment. Hebrews 9:27

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

      GASP! Are you saying man is NOT reincarnated???????

      May 19, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  20. N&W 1000

    You know the sad thing is, so many people make up their minds based upon what somebody else tells them; what somebody else tells them something says; the mistaken presentation of something; it never dawns on them to pick it up and read it for yourself, give it a fair hearing.

    IF you applied the same standard to your atheism that you do to the bible, would you be an atheist; I doubt it.

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

      We do...and yes we would.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • N&W 1000

      You don't either, you accept every word of the skeptic because you are predisposed to that opinion.

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

      You have absolutely no clue what you are talking about.

      I was a devout "born again" Christian for most of my life. For most of that time I accepted that belief system because it was the one that I was given to me by my family and my community. When I began to examine it with logic and reason, it became clear to me that it was just a bunch of fairytales. If it brings you comfort and makes you feel like you have a grasp on reality, then continue to cling to it. I'm happy that I no longer do.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • N&W 1000

      So that is it; I wonder, as Paul did to the Galatians, who beguiled and fooled you that you would believe foolishness, the so called wisdom of men, and ship wreck your faith. I am sorry for you and hope you find the truth again.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Religion

      I hope that you continue to find comfort in the stories that you believe to be true and that you learn humility.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • G to the T

      Actually I started as a Christian and in my devote study of the bible, found it to be a book by men. That was the start (though certainly not the only reason) I left christianity.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62
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.