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. Snaffew

    The zombie apocalypse show on discovery boasts more truth and hard science behind it than the existence of heaven and god. I laugh at people who have watched this program and view it as utter nonsense and then say, "well, I'm off to go to church!" To each his own, but one must realize that zombies, fairies, trolls and vampires are just as believable as Jesus Christ, Allah, heaven and hell. Enjoy!

    May 19, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  2. The real Tom

    Wait for it. Any minute now, Austintatious will, for the fiftieth time, post his inane drivel about his dreams.

    May 19, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      It was entertaining the first time, but like a bad movie, I'd rather change the channel.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • faith

      corrie ten boom was a true saint

      May 19, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Science

      faith....................is a peachy devil................if there was one !

      You know faith......................on Christians Be Nice.............the fvcking circle you weave aye faith.

      You know...............Ma and Pa...........did it.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  3. Michael

    If people would stop spending so much time thinking about some afterlife that's never going to happen, then they could actually enjoy the real life that they are supposed to be living while alive. The though of having to live eternally in some heaven is much scarier and worse to me than getting to die.

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

      however religion is all about fear, without fear it wouldn't exist.

      Consider if someone told you since you were a child that airplanes crash, and went on to describe the horrible burning and suffering. You'd be afraid to fly. Hence, they are afraid to live.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • faith

      knowing paradise is just around the corner makes people much more productive

      May 19, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • The real Tom

      What are you "producing", faith?

      May 19, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  4. Karl Stewart

    The article ignores the fact that a large number of people experience these same things without any threat of death... sometimes on a regular basis and very often with NO specific religious content at all. I had one in high school, and while it did change my life it never struck me as being a religious experience, even though I was attending church in those days. If anything it seemed to be evidence AGAINST what my church was teaching.
    Whatever it was it did snap me out of a dangerously self-destructive path and 'fixed' issues I'd had with anger management.
    These days I'm agnostic at best, leaning towards Atheist... but I'm still glad I had that... whatever it was... happen to me.

    May 19, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  5. N&W 1000

    For God so loved the world, (that includes YOU) that he gave his only begotten son, that WHOSOEVER (that means ANYBODY) would believe on Him should not perish (eternally) but have everlasting life(assurance of heaven when your body dies).

    May 19, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Colin

      Why did he have to execute his own son (who is himself) to himself to forgive us? That makes no sense. Why not just forgive us. Christianity is the belief that a god that created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies impregnated a Greco-Roman with himself, to give birth to himself, so he could sacrifice himself to himself to forgive the "original sin" of a couple we now all know never existed.

      Atheism is the belief that the above belief is really fvcking silly.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • One one

      Can I get a money back guarantee on that claim ?

      May 19, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • One one

      @colin, he could have just lifted the curse he put on mankind in the first place by waving his magic wand. But apparently god prefers a bloody drama with torture and death before he is satisfied.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • N&W 1000

      He did not "Execute" his son; Jesus gave his life willingly; again, you do not know even the rudiments of what you are trying to talk about.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • The real Tom

      Why does a god, an omnipotent, omniscient god, require a person to believe in him?

      May 19, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  6. Vic

    IMO, one of the biggest mistakes the Scientific Community has ever made throughout history is the dismissal of Metaphysics!

    May 19, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Jim

      The Church doesn't talk about "CREATION" much either ! Fact is, neither Church nor State are letting the public know that science, evolution and the paleontological record SUPPORT the account in Genesis, which was written several thousand years before modern day science discovered that there was indeed a BEGINNING !

      May 19, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Jim, please provide references to support your claim that science, etc. supports creationism. I bet you cannot provide a single reference to a peer reviewed scientific paper published in a credible (as in, non religious based) scientific periodical.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Jim

      To HotAir. See my replies to Colin below. Peer review scientists are forbidden from addressing the fact that the scientific evidence is consistent with CREATION. So you will never see it written in a peer review. However, the facts are clear, abiogenesis has not and likely will never be able to be replicated. The single occurrence of life one afternoon 4 billion years ago only on earth, can hardly be called a 'NATURAL" event. And it culminated in the eventual formation of man, who has been given dominion over the earth. No life anywhere else that we know of ? Not on mars or any of the seventy or so planets and moons in our own solar system, And the Space Federation STILL hasn't contacted us !

      May 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  7. Colin

    N&W1000 – here are some problems with the Biblical creation theory of life on Earth.

    First and most obviously is the fossil record. The fossil record is much, much more than just dinosaurs. Indeed, dinosaurs only get the press because of their size, but they make up less than 1% of the entire fossil record. Life had been evolving on Earth for over 3 thousand million years before dinosaurs evolved and has gone on evolving for 65 million years after the Chicxulub meteor likely wiped them out.

    The fossil record includes the Stromatolites, colonies of prokaryotic bacteria, that range in age going back to about 3 billion years, the Ediacara fossils from South Australia, widely regarded as among the earliest multi-celled organisms, the Cambrian species of the Burgess shale in Canada (circa – 450 million years ago) the giant scorpions of the Silurian Period, the giant, wingless insects of the Devonian period, the insects, amphibians, reptiles, fishes, clams, crustaceans of the Carboniferous Period, the many precursors to the dinosaurs, the 700 odd known species of dinosaurs themselves, the subsequent dominant mammals, including the saber tooth tiger, the mammoths and hairy rhinoceros of North America and Asia, the fossils of early man in Africa and the Neanderthals of Europe.

    The fossil record shows a consistent and worldwide evolution of life on Earth dating back to about 3,500,000,000 years ago. There are literally millions of fossils that have been recovered, of thousands of different species and they are all located where they would be in the geological record if life evolved slowly over billions of years. None of them can be explained by a 6,000 year old Earth and Noah’s flood. Were they all on the ark? What happened to them when it docked?

    A Tyrannosaurus Rex ate a lot of food – meat- which means its food would itself have to have been fed, like the food of every other carnivore on the ark for the entire 360 odd days Noah supposedly spent on the ark. T-Rex was not even the largest carnivorous dinosaur we know of. Spinosaurus, Argentinosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus were all larger and ate more even meat. Even they were not large enough to bring down the largest sauropods we know of, many species of which weighed in at close to 100 tons and were about 100 feet long. A bit of “back of the envelope” math quickly shows that “Noah’s Ark” would actually have to have been an armada of ships larger than the D-Day invasion force, manned by thousands and thousands of people – and this is without including the World’s 300,000 current species of plants, none of which could walk merrily in twos onto the ark.

    Then, of course, there are the various races of human beings. There were no Sub-Saharan Africans, Chinese, Australian Aboriginals, blonde haired Scandinavians, Pygmies or Eskimos on the Ark. Where did they come from?

    Second, there are those little things we call oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels. Their mere existence is another independent and fatal blow to the creationists. Speak to any geologist who works for Exxon Mobil, Shell or any of the thousands of mining, oil or natural gas related companies that make a living finding fossil fuels. They will tell you these fossil fuels take millions of years to develop from the remains of large, often Carboniferous Period forests, in the case of coal, or tiny marine creatures in the case of oil. For the fossils to develop into oil or coal takes tens or hundreds of millions of years of “slow baking” under optimum geological conditions. That’s why they are called “fossil fuels.” Have a close look at coal, you can often see the fossilized leaves in it. The geologists know exactly what rocks to look for fossil fuels in, because they know how to date the rocks to tens or hundreds of millions of years ago. Creationists have no credible explanation for this.

    Third, most of astronomy and cosmology would be wrong if the creationists were right. In short, as Einstein showed, light travels at a set speed. Space is so large that light from distant stars takes many years to reach the Earth. In some cases, this is millions or billions of years. The fact that we can see light from such far away stars means it began its journey billions of years ago. The Universe must be billions of years old. We can currently see galaxies whose light left home 13, 700,000,000 years ago. Indeed, on a clear night, one can see the collective, misty light of many stars more than 6,000 light years away with the naked eye, shining down like tiny accusatorial witnesses against the nonsense of creationism.

    Fourth, we have not just carbon dating, but also all other methods used by scientists to date wood, rocks, fossils, and other artifacts. These comprehensively disprove the Bible’s claims. They include uranium-lead dating, potassium-argon dating as well as other non-radioactive methods such as pollen dating, dendrochronology and ice core dating. In order for any particular rock, fossil or other artifact to be aged, generally two or more samples are dated independently by two or more laboratories in order to ensure an accurate result. If results were random, as creationists claim, the two independent results would rarely agree. They generally do. They regularly reveal ages much older than Genesis. Indeed, the Earth is about 750,000 times older than the Bible claims, the Universe about three times the age of the Earth.

    Fifth, the relatively new field of DNA mapping not only convicts criminals, it shows in undeniable, full detail how we differ from other life forms on the planet. For example, about 98.4% of human DNA is identical to that of chimpanzees, about 97% of human DNA is identical to that of gorillas, and slightly less again of human DNA is identical to the DNA of monkeys. This gradual divergence in DNA can only be rationally explained by the two species diverging from a common ancestor, and coincides perfectly with the fossil record. Indeed, scientists can use the percentage of DNA that two animal share (such as humans and bears, or domestic dogs and wolves) to get an idea of how long ago the last common ancestor of both species lived. It perfectly corroborates the fossil record and is completely independently developed.

    Sixth, the entire field of historical linguistics would have to be rewritten to accommodate the Bible. This discipline studies how languages develop and diverge over time. For example, Spanish and Italian are very similar and have a recent common “ancestor” language, Latin, as most people know. However, Russian is quite different and therefore either did not share a common root, or branched off much earlier in time. No respected linguist anywhere in the World traces languages back to the Tower of Babel, the creationists’ simplistic and patently absurd explanation for different languages. Indeed, American Indians, Australian Aboriginals, “true” Indians, Chinese, Mongols, Ja.panese, Sub-Saharan Africans and the Celts and other tribes of ancient Europe were speaking thousands of different languages thousands of years before the date creationist say the Tower of Babel occurred – and even well before the date they claim for the Garden of Eden.

    Seventh, lactose intolerance is also a clear vestige of human evolution. Most mammals only consume milk as infants. After infancy, they no longer produce the enzyme “lactase” that digests the lactose in milk and so become lactose intolerant. Humans are an exception and can drink milk as adults – but not all humans – some humans remain lactose intolerant. So which humans are no longer lactose intolerant? The answer is those who evolved over the past few thousand years raising cows. They evolved slightly to keep producing lactase as adults so as to allow the consumption of milk as adults. This includes most Europeans and some Africans, notably the Tutsi of Rwanda. On the other hand, most Chinese, native Americans and Aboriginal Australians, whose ancestors did not raise cattle, remain lactose intolerant.

    I could go on and elaborate on a number of other disciplines or facts that creationists have to pretend into oblivion to retain their faith, including the Ice Ages, cavemen and early hominids, much of microbiology, paleontology and archeology, continental drift and plate tectonics. Even large parts of medical research would be rendered unusable but for the fact that monkeys and mice share a common ancestor with us and therefore our fundamental cell biology and basic body architecture is identical to theirs.

    In short, and not surprisingly, the World’s most gifted evolutionary biologists, astronomers, cosmologists, geologists, archeologists, paleontologists, historians, modern medical researchers and linguists (and about 2,000 years of accu.mulated knowledge) are right and a handful of Iron Age Middle Eastern goat herders copying then extant mythology were wrong. Creationists aren’t just trying to swim upstream against the weight of scientific evidence; they are trying to ascend a waterfall.

    May 19, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • N&W 1000

      No problem Colin.

      Go to Genesis Ch. 1 and read the first verse, then the second.

      It is called the Gap Theory; when God created the world, it was NOT without form and void, because he only creates life; therefore, something happened between verse 1 and 2 to put creation into this stage.

      I have no problem at all saying the earth is millions of years old; I have no problem with the fossil record; why? Because the bible explains these things.

      Colin, again, you don't have a good grasp of why you are a skeptic; you do not even understand what you are disputing.

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

      Actually N&W1000, there are two contradictory accounts of the story of creation contained in the Book of Genesis. The first is in Chapter 1 and the second is in Chapter 2. In the first version, God creates man and woman together, but in the second version, he creates man first, but Adam becomes lonely and he creates Eve out of Adam’s rib. In the first version he creates man and woman after all the animals, but in the second version, he creates man, then the trees and beasts and then woman. The creation of the birds also precedes or follows the creation of Adam, depending on which version of the myth one reads.

      It is in the second version that we get the appearance of the snake and the temptation of Eve.

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

      How do you explain Luke's gospel in which he traces the geneology back from Jesus to Adam and the time period is about 4,000 years?

      May 19, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Seyedibar

      God didn't create the Earth in Genesis. That is a 6th century revision. What now says "In the Beginning..." literally translates to "When on High... (referring to the mountain temple God was living in, like most Canaanite kings)". In the original versions of Genesis, El and his family build Eden after escaping another land where they have been in a naval war with a rival nation. This makes Genesis somewhat of a sequel to the ending of the Gilgamesh epics.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Jesus to Adam, 4000 years; fine, no problem. I see no contradiction?

      May 19, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • Jim

      Genesis tells us that the DAYS of creation were described from God's perspective of time, not man's. And they were in relation to the original source of light created on the first day, not our sun. God created our sun on the fourth day to give man his perception of days and years. Realizing this fact we can see that there was a beginning, waters did gather unto one place as seas, life WAS brought fourth from the earth and photosynthesis begun. Animal life WAS brought fourth abundantly from the waters, a great diversification of terrestrial mammals DID occur which led to the modern day cattle and beasts that we see today and finally MAN was formed in only the most recent geological period, who's DNA can be traced all the way back to that one original organism that was quite literally CREATED from the clays of the earth !

      May 19, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Colin

      Really? No contradiction. No evolution and 4,000 years from the first human until the time of Jesus, when there were 200 million human beings on Earth. This included black sub-saharan Africans, Chinese, Australian Aboriginals, the American Indians, and blond haired Scandanavians. Where did they all come from? No evolution now, rememeber.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Colin

      Hey N&W1000, you might like to tell the Smithsonian they have it wrong. They have people living throughout North America for the last 10,000 plus years. They base this view on considerable archeological evidence. I wonder how they got it so wrong, becuase Adam lived about 6,000 years ago, right?

      May 19, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Jim

      Colin, there is no contradiction between Genesis 1 and Genesis II. Genesis 1 describes God's formation of our prehistoric ancestors, both man and woman together and gave them dominion over the earth.. Genesis II is about the evolutionary formation of Adam, a particular completed MODERN human who is caused to migrate east out of Africa to a place EDEN, who's environment was changed that caused the animals that God had formed to follow as well. Y chromosome studies confirm that all living males alive today are descendants of a male ancestor who lived in the middle east region appx. 60,000 years ago ! As far as the creation of Eve from the genetic material of Adam, that may have sounded unbelievable in the past but seeing modern day scientists tinker with the idea of cloning humans by taking the genetic material from one human to create another human, it's not so hard to believe any longer !

      May 19, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  8. N&W 1000

    IF evolution is true, and it is not; but if it were, WHY do animals have NO conceptual ability? WHY do they not have laws, as we do? WHERE do laws come from? HOW do people KNOW right from wrong?

    If evolution is a lie, then there is only one alternative to explain where you came from...

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

      See my post above.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • N&W 1000

      I did, and you still did not answer my question.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Danny

      You don't understand evolution, probably because you're being fed bad info. As for your second point, how do you know there is one alternative?

      May 19, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Laws come from agreements on what is best for the tribe. We can call it law because we overdeveloped the spandrel of language (which almost all animals of higher intelligence have a form of). We could develop language because our cerebellum and frontal lobe grew larger than most primates to deal with new environments, while simultaneously the act of walking upright lengthened our necks, lowered our larynx, allowing for a wider range of vocal noise. The complexity of language evolved to meet the complex needs of the tribe. Try studying the science of memetics if you really want to understand how our language evolved etymologically.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  9. Sam

    Remember this is not death. The important word is NEAR. When the brain is under stress and getting less oxygen it will dredge up all kinds of thoughts from the unconscious mind. Death, real final death is very simple unlike what the religious and mystical types would have you believe: you loose consciousness and don't regain it. Thats it, no more no less. We did not exist BEFORE we were born and all of us accept that fact, but for some reason we have problems accepting the fact that we do not exist anymore AFTER death.

    May 19, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • dc1020008

      How do you explain out of body experiences and as the article says..."a boy that met his great-grandfather that he was never told about or a baby sister who was miscarried?"

      May 19, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  10. VidiSensiVici

    Bravo, the story is really about love. Heaven has always been here on earth when we could literally taste, smell, sense, touch, experience all what life has to offer, and we actually learn things from scratch to experience various sides of things. For example, we learn to experience sad and happiness, wet and dry, love and hate, etc... If we never disobeyed God then we would only know about the perfection of what the universe once had to offer. Since we wanted to learn about death, God allowed us to learn both sides of the coin so to speak and consequences associated with them. Knowing what we know now, I suppose we would appreciate much more of what once was, paradise, a land of perfection then. In hindsight, if we never know about death, then we probably would never appreciate of what is perfect. Love is perfection, and it brings joy to us all because as we suffer, we learn to forgive, to embrace love as a mode of survival, and to appreciate everything about love. What I just said seems to be very general, a cliche, a catching phrase, but you see, to those of us who actually experience what love has to offer, to see how a make believe love could destroy trust, brings about betrayal, hate, jealousy, etc... Yet, in that madness and chaos, love seems to survive to bring us peace and back to love again. In that process, we discover God, not so much an authoritative figuge that we have to fear, but someone who loves us unconditionally. For an angel to say, "there is nothing you can do wrong" said it all, that is, God built this world for you to enjoy, to do whatever you see fit, to experience, to discover everything about life but to learn from our mistakes to relieve us from bondage, to understand consequences, to plan well so at least we could live with peace and love, and to love what really matters most so we could be in the kingdom of the afterlife where we thrive and live with God until eternity. Now, the assignment was very simple, but to get there, we probably have to go through many journeys, learn from others, from God at times just to understand life. The Tenth Commandments were given to us by Moses many years ago just to guide us to become more loving and to mind God. Then Jesus came to earth to live with man and to bring along many valuable lessons to help us understand God more. The gift of the Holy Spirit was truly a wonderful gift, that is, God is always a hearbeat away from us, and that we are blessed always. So, we really have to learn to live with God and to love Him with all of our hearts. Hell would be obsolete if we could realize that the thoght of not living with God is much more painful than the burning of hell itself. Just think, if others live in the kingdom of God, and we are just floating in the outskirt, or in that sub zero temperature, or just being in the vast space of the universe until eternity, then could you think of anything else that is worse than hell? So, if there is nothing that we can do wrong, but if we never learn to choose to be in the kingdom of God, then wouldn't you say that fact alone is already hell on earth?

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

      a wonderful fantasy, isn't it

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

      ..a wonderful fantasy, isn't it

      May 19, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  11. N&W 1000

    The other day, at the zoo, I saw a polar bear, and a lion, then finally a gorilla, and tried to get an answer to the question that I asked our atheist friends on the last page, but all they did was growl and try to claw my face off.

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

      try asking a sensible question, as an adult might

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

      Either you cannot conceptualize my point, or, you cannot refute it.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • G to the T

      We get it. We just think it's a lousy tactic...

      May 20, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
  12. tenaciousdeucer

    These afterlife experiences sound like nitrous oxide trips.

    May 19, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Laughing gas. Used to be used to pull teeth.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  13. N&W 1000

    Wow, Brooklyn, your explanations sure are convincing; I think deep down you know you are on quicksand and you feel very insecure about it.
    My faith is on the solid rock, and I wish the same for you.

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

      sure it is

      May 19, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Yes, my friend, it is.

      Again, WHY doesn't a committee of lions arrest the tiger that kills the zebra?????

      Seriously, tell me.

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

      wow, you are starting to understand evolution. What you forget to do is understand that earthly humans aren't so bright. We arrest more people in christian USA than any other country.

      Let's also not forget that christians love to call mentally ill people, 'sinners'. Not too advanced.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  14. mtksier

    One thing I've learned in life is that, unless we've been there, we don't know what we're talking about. Though left-winged and not a church goer, I profess that I do not know what happens in the afterlife any more than I can assure you of what happens in other peoples' houses. The best thing is to keep an open mind. Don't be so arrogant to talk like you know what did or did not happen to someone else. Pure narcissism.

    May 19, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • tenaciousdeucer

      Its just far too easy to make this stuff up. I'll pass on believing that some kid saw heaven because his dad says he did and wrote a book about it.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  15. Mickey Weedon

    Christian nut bags. 5,000 different religions trying to explain the unexplainable.
    You worship some dead guy on a stick. Your going to get beamed up to some invisible space daddy in the sky?
    Lost my amazing wife to a Christian cult. A bunch of brain dead people who are not going anywhere. Heaven, yea right.

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

      the religious fear hell,, they can't face reality.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Christian lady

      It's " you're" not your

      May 19, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  16. OneofMe

    I tend to think that life on this planet is a retroactive Hell and that everyone goes to Heaven, unless you do very badly here and in that case you may get another go around.

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

    OK, I AM REALLY DISAPPOINTED in you atheists; ALL YOU DO IS NAME CALL and belittle? Come on guys??????


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

      what q?

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

      your question failed, intellectually.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • N&W 1000

      The one on the last page; thank you Colin, you did answer, the rest of our atheist friends only called names and insulted, which is normal.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Brooklyn

      you were answered,, you ignore facts

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

      You're right, ridicule and scorn is all that's left to some bargain-basement atheists as they are very weak in presenting their 'rational' arguments.or they really don't know why they are atheists in the first place. Even the whole dreary inference of atheism that we are merely matter in motion inflating towards a inexorable extinction preceded by a meaningless existence underscores their morose disposition. Are these people already part way into Hell?

      May 19, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  18. 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 10:01 am |
  19. sybaris

    The author presents a fallacy that no one talks about heaven anymore. Sounds like a sound bite from a Tea Party rally.

    Anyway, the last time I was in a Christian church the Pastor said, "We need to be more concerned about our children's knowledge of an afterlife than their education in this one"

    Like I said, it was the last time I was in a church.

    May 19, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  20. runymede

    I have often wondered if those people, in the Middle Ages, who paid their indulgence, went to heaven.

    May 19, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      No they didn't. There is no heaven.

      May 19, 2013 at 10:09 am |
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About this blog

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