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April 21st, 2014
11:00 AM ET

What Hollywood gets wrong about heaven

Opinion by Drew Dyck, special to CNN 

(CNN) - The 4-year-old boy sees angels floating toward him. They start out as stars, then slowly become more visible, wings flapping behind orbs of white light.

As they approach, they sing a melodious song. The boy cocks his head, squints into the sky, and makes a strange request. “Can you sing ‘We Will Rock You’?”

The angels giggle.

So do people in the theater.

The scene is from “Heaven is for Real,” the latest in a string of religious movies soaring at the box office. Based on the best-selling book of the same name, the film tells the real-life story of Colton Burpo, a 4-year-old boy who awakens from surgery with eye-popping tales of the great beyond. The film took in an estimated $21.5 million in opening on Easter weekend.

Even Colton’s religious parents (his dad, Todd, is a pastor) struggle to accept the celestial encounters their son describes: seeing Jesus and his rainbow-colored horse, meeting his sister who died in utero, and talking to his deceased great-grandfather, “Pop,” who, Colton exclaims, has “huge wings.”

The book and film are part of a larger trend. Depictions of journeys to heaven have never been more numerous or more popular. There’s “90 Minutes in Heaven,” “To Heaven and Back,” “Proof of Heaven,” and “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven,” just to name a few.

Does God have a prayer in Hollywood?

So what should we make of such accounts? And what does their popularity say about us?

Some may be surprised that the Bible contains not one story of a person going to heaven and coming back. In fact Jesus’ own words seem to preclude the possibility: “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven - the Son of Man” (John 3:13).

Scripture does contain several visions of heaven or encounters with celestial beings, but they’re a far cry from the feel-good fare of the to-heaven-and-back genre.

In Scripture, when mortals catch a premature glimpse of God’s glory, they react in remarkably similar ways. They tremble. They cower. They go mute. The ones who can manage speech express despair (or “woe” to use the King James English) and become convinced they are about to die. Fainters abound.

Take the prophet Daniel, for instance. He could stare down lions, but when the heavens opened before him, he swooned. Ezekiel, too, was overwhelmed by his vision of God. After witnessing Yahweh’s throne chariot fly into the air with the sound of a jet engine, he fell face-first to the ground.

Perhaps the most harrowing vision belongs to Isaiah. He sees the Almighty “high and exalted,” surrounded by angels who use their wings to shield their faces and feet from the glory of God. Faced with this awesome spectacle, Isaiah loses it. “Woe to me!” he cries, “I am ruined!” (Isaiah 6:5)

New Testament figures fare no better.

John’s famous revelations of heaven left him lying on the ground “as though dead” (Revelation 1:17). The disciples dropped when they saw Jesus transfigured. Even the intrepid Saul marching to Damascus collapsed before the open heavens - and walked away blind.

How different from our popular depictions. And it isn’t just “Heaven is for Real.” In most movies angels are warm, approachable - teddy bears with wings. God is Morgan Freeman or some other avuncular presence.

Scripture, however, knows nothing of such portrayals. Heavenly encounters are terrifying, leaving even the most stout and spiritual vibrating with fear - or lying facedown, unconscious.

When God plays the villain

Yes, the Bible teaches that heaven is a place of ultimate comfort, with “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).

But it is also a place where the reality of God’s unbridled majesty reigns supreme - and that’s scary.

Did a 4-year-old boy from Nebraska really visit heaven? I don’t know. My hunch is that the popularity of such stories tells us more about our view of God than the place in which he dwells.

Ultimately I believe we flock to gauzy, feel-good depictions of heaven and tiptoe around the biblical passages mentioned above because we’ve lost sight of God’s holiness.

I fear we’ve sentimentalized heaven and by extension its primary occupant. I worry the modern understanding of God owes more to Colton Burpo than the prophet Isaiah. And I think this one-sided portrayal diminishes our experience of God.

We can’t truly appreciate God’s grace until we glimpse his greatness. We won’t be lifted by his love until we’re humbled by his holiness.

The affection of a cosmic buddy is one thing. But the love of the Lord of heaven and earth, the one who Isaiah says “dwells in unapproachable light,” means something else entirely.

Of course it means nothing if you think it’s all hokum. If for you the material reality is all the reality there is, any talk of God is white noise. But if you’re like me, and you think heaven is for real, well, it makes all the difference in the world.

Drew Dyck is managing editor of Leadership Journal and author of “Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying.” The views expressed in this column belong to Dyck.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Art • Belief • Bible • Christianity • Heaven • Media • Movies • Opinion

soundoff (2,107 Responses)
  1. colin31714

    So what should we make of such accounts?

    It's complete garbage.

    And what does their popularity say about us?

    Our education system is in the toilet.

    April 21, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
    • nwspiritism

      Science and religion will go hand in hand together to learn about God and heaven according to Spiritism. Allan Kardec in the 1850's revealed the plan of Jesus and the spirit world to us. The doctrine states that anyone who is selfless, honorable, and loves their neighbor, whatever religion or even if they have no religion will go to heaven. The vision of heaven in the movie is quite similar to the book by Francisco. C. Xavier, the Brazilian medium, where heaven is a place we go, not to rest for eternity, but to continue to work. We are reincarnated in order to learn more while on earth. If you would like to explore more about Spiritism please go to http://www.nwspiritism.com

      April 21, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
      • Doris

        I think that site gave me a virus. Well, not a virus exactly, but it did make me feel a bit nauseous.

        April 21, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Nw....religion and science will never go hand in hand. They present opposing viewpoints. See Ken Hams debate with Bill Nye for proof.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
      • kudlak

        Science seeks answers to best fit the evidence, where religion seeks evidence to best fit it's answers.

        It's a pity that so few recognize the better path towards truth.

        April 21, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
        • nwspiritism

          Very true. That is why Spiritism says that science, philosophy and religion must go hand in hand. Some day science will prove the existence of communicating with the spirit world

          April 22, 2014 at 8:59 pm |
      • bobdouglass

        Wait, so you're saying Christians the go to heaven get re-incarnated? There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that suggests that. I think you've been had.

        Also, regarding reincarnation, due to the exponential growth of humanity the past 100 years, we have more people alive today than have died since the beginning of time. Guess that means most of us are "new souls"?

        April 21, 2014 at 4:37 pm |
        • nwspiritism

          Take a look at The Spirits Book by Allan Kardec and you questions will be answered. There are passages that could be references to reincarnation. Also spirits come from many worlds. Lastly, it's not only Christians but everyone who may be reincarnated. You have good questions!

          April 22, 2014 at 11:52 am |
        • Akira

          Bob: untrue, although this is a popular misconception.

          http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-living-outnumber-dead/

          April 22, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
  2. Dyslexic doG

    ♰♰♰ Dyslexic doG Is dorL ♰♰♰

    April 21, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
  3. Dyslexic doG

    Oh I am amazed. I wonder if this has ever happened before in the history of man.

    The faithful flocking to see propaganda about their own faith. It's incredible.

    Who would believe it. WOW!

    April 21, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
  4. noahsdadtopher

    There's very little in this movie that matches up with Scripture. If you want to know what Heaven is like, read the Bible.

    April 21, 2014 at 12:54 pm |
    • igaftr

      So the story in this movie, doesn't match the story from your book.
      Both were written by men, sciprture only means that someone wrote it down, and for all you know, the descriptions of "heaven" are just the imaginings of other men. ( and that is likely)
      There is no indication that any "heaven" exists.

      April 21, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
      • noahsdadtopher

        If we are to believe this story, we should attach it as the 67 book of the Bible. But then you've got the problem of the canon being closed.

        April 21, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
        • igaftr

          you can see heaven in "What dreams may come" or in many. many other works. They are all men imagining what a likely imaginary place is like, just like the ones who wrote your story book.

          This is a story...nothing more, just like your bible.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:17 pm |
        • ausphor

          Topher
          When did you see the movie and what did you not like about it?

          April 21, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          Hollywood apparently wants to believe in an afterlife ... as long as it isn't the one taught in the Bible.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
        • Anthony Crispino

          The canon closed? Didn't the pope just fire off the canon again making it a law that women should breastfeed in church? The thing is there is something wrong with people in my area. I've been to four different churches for mass recently and I'm not seeing any of this breastfeeding.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          I haven't seen it and I won't waste my money on. I don't need to see it. The Burpos are on quite the media tour. The book's been out for a decade. It's well known what they claim.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
        • ausphor

          Topher
          This is the second time in a few weeks that you play movie critic without even seeing the movie. You are so used to being told what to believe and accept that you have lost all ability to think for yourself. You are pretty sad excuse of a person that should have an enquiring mind.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm |
        • igaftr

          " I don't need to see it."

          And there it is. I don't have to see it to judge it heresy.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          Why would I need to see it when the Burpos are all over TV telling us.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:43 pm |
        • ausphor

          Topher
          You are a perfect example of a faithful brainwashed sheep.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          Ad hominems. Shocking. You have no argument.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
        • Akira

          I said this on the next page, but I think NDE reflect what the person experiencing it has knowledge of. In this case, the 4 year knows about angels, and that's why every person he thinks he encounters has wings.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
        • ausphor

          Topher
          My argument is simply that since you were born again and started hopping along with the crutch that the bible provides you, that you have lost all ability to think for yourself, if you ever did. Ridicule is the last resort for such as you, both mine and Thomas Jefferson's opinion.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          Nonsensical name-calling. Where have I not "thought for myself"?

          April 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
        • igaftr

          "Why would I need to see it when the Burpos are all over TV telling us."

          So I can learn all I should know about the bible from a televangelist, I don't need to read the bible...right? Same logic.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:11 pm |
        • kudlak

          noahsdadtopher
          Maybe the afterlife taught in the Bible isn't interesting, or exciting enough? The standard description of Heaven seems utterly boring to me. Why does it appeal to you?

          April 21, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          Televangelists have been proven to be untrustworthy. Not the same at all. Not only that, but the movie is based on what the Burpos claim. They are directly related. A televangelist is an outside party.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
        • ausphor

          Topher
          You blindly declare you are right and by default all others are wrong. You do no research outside the bible and apologist sites. You opine on movies you have not even seen, you are worthy of ridicule.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          kudlak

          "Maybe the afterlife taught in the Bible isn't interesting, or exciting enough?"

          Not exciting?! God walking among men, miracles everywhere. No, not interesting at all (sarcasm).

          "The standard description of Heaven seems utterly boring to me. Why does it appeal to you?"

          Because it's where my Savior is, for one. And two, it beats the alternative.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Topher....know that for a fact about your description if heaven? Got any proof outside a musty 2000 year old book?

          April 21, 2014 at 3:09 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          ausphor

          "You blindly declare you are right and by default all others are wrong."

          If I am right, by definition all others ARE wrong. Do you not claim to have the correct answer? And aren't you doing the same thing? So then you also deserve to be ridiculed by your definition.

          "You do no research outside the bible and apologist sites. You opine on movies you have not even seen, you are worthy of ridicule."

          What do I need to research that's outside of God's Word on it? And again, I don't need to see the movie when I have the actual people telling me what's in it.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Topher....atheists do not claim to be right. We just contend that you are probably wrong. Big difference. We contend you are making life decisions with no proof. That, we are right about.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
        • ausphor

          Topher
          I am a Deist. I do not have the right answer, I do not KNOW, and neither do you. You are living in a 2000 year old delusional state brought about by that bible bubble, sad really.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
        • Alias

          You are missing an important point topher,
          If you are right, there are very, very, very few people who had it figured out.
          If I'm right, hundreds of millions of people figured it out.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
        • igaftr

          topher
          "Televangelists have been proven to be untrustworthy. Not the same at all. Not only that, but the movie is based on what the Burpos claim."

          OR...

          "The bible has been proven to be untrustworthy. Not the same at all. Not only that, but the book is based on what the men who wrote it claim."

          At least you can speak with the Burpos... cannot verify ANYTHING from the bible, so in reality, THEY make a claim, that cannot be verified, the bible makes many claims that cannot be verified...looks pretty much like a duck to me.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          Alias

          "If you are right, there are very, very, very few people who had it figured out."

          True. And that's exactly what the Bible says will happen.

          "If I'm right, hundreds of millions of people figured it out."

          What's your official position?

          April 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
        • snuffleupagus

          Topher, you are just what you claim not to be, by the fact that you say so, and then saying that others are. Priceless

          Topher and ausphor:
          You blindly declare you are right and by default all others are wrong."

          If I am right, by definition all others ARE wrong. Do you not claim to have the correct answer? And aren't you doing the same thing? So then you also deserve to be ridiculed by your definition.

          "You do no research outside the bible and apologist sites. You opine on movies you have not even seen, you are worthy of ridicule."

          What do I need to research that's outside of God's Word on it? And again, I don't need to see the movie when I have the actual people telling me what's in it.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
        • ausphor

          Topher
          You blindly declare you are right, without any evidence or facts to back up your assertions. You say, if I am right, but who is the judge of that. You do not KNOW, you just claim you do.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          ausphor

          "You blindly declare you are right, without any evidence or facts to back up your assertions."

          Not true at all. There's tons of evidence. You just reject it.

          "You say, if I am right, but who is the judge of that."

          God is.

          "You do not KNOW, you just claim you do."

          I know you won't like that I say it, but yes, I do know.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Topher....you do not know for sure, you just think you do. There is no verifiable evidence in any god at all. If you really believed, why aren't you there now?

          April 21, 2014 at 3:32 pm |
        • fintronics

          " There's tons of evidence"

          Let the lying begin!

          April 21, 2014 at 3:35 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          gulliblenomore

          "There is no verifiable evidence in any god at all."

          You mean besides the Creation?

          "If you really believed, why aren't you there now?"

          Because ... I haven't died.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:37 pm |
        • igaftr

          topher
          "You mean besides the Creation?"
          No, existance is not evidence of any creator. There are still too many other possibilities, that would be impossible for you to logically disregard.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          igaftr

          "No, existance is not evidence of any creator."

          Sure it is. If there's a Creation, there MUST be a Creator. First Law of Thermodynamics.

          "There are still too many other possibilities, that would be impossible for you to logically disregard."

          Such as?

          April 21, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
        • kudlak

          noahsdadtopher
          God walked with Adam and Eve all the time too, but they still got bored enough to start talking to snakes.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:56 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          kudlak

          Man rejects God at every turn.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:58 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          topher, how exactly have you excluded all other gods except yours as the creator? Are you so blindly narrow minded that in your warped mind the only possible explanation at all was that your particular god waved a magic wand and just created 400 billion planets, put human beings on one of those obscure planets, then sat back and watched while we made a mess of things here, not once (Noah), not twice (WWI), not even three times (WW2), but many times over, all the while doing absolutely nothing to help the situation here. And, I realize that you haven't died yet....I was just indicating that if you just can't wait to be with your lord and creator, you could make that leap right now. What are you waiting for?

          April 21, 2014 at 8:33 pm |
        • sam stone

          And you have rejected every other culture's god at every turn, gopher.

          Your smug certrainty invites ridicule.....and you are one of several here very deserving of it

          Now, you are going infect your son with your madness. Child abuse at it's most indisidious

          April 21, 2014 at 8:40 pm |
        • sam stone

          gulliblenomore: it is because topher, above all, is a coward

          he feels he is deserving of hell, but does not have the test-i-t-cular for-t-i-t-ude to stand up and take his punishment

          he runs from logical arguments

          he doesn't have the guts to take that leap to go meet jeebus himself

          he is a pious bigot

          and he will spread his sickness to his child

          April 22, 2014 at 5:59 am |
  5. Dyslexic doG

    and then there's the little 4 year old boy in india waking up after surgery and talking about seeing his soul going into another baby to be reincarnated. Very real to him but why no angels or Jesus and his rainbow-colored horse?

    and then there's the aboriginal tribesman waking up after surgery and talking about seeing the rainbow serpent in all its glory and all his ancestors. Very real to him but why no angels or Jesus and his rainbow-colored horse?

    There is no heaven or hell. It's regional fairy tales put into impressionable minds by parents and elders and the rest is just the workings of our animal brain when subjected to abnormal conditions. Sheesh!

    April 21, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
    • sealchan

      A true scientist would have to wonder why these kinds of brain experiences happen, not to dismiss them because they are culturally subjective. Oh yes, I forgot, science cannot yet handle culture except to dismiss it.

      April 21, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        scientists know exactly how and why these visions happen in these circ.umstances. All well researched and docu.mented and proven.

        What are you talking about?

        April 21, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        "science cannot yet handle culture except to dismiss it."

        Ever hear of anthropology?

        April 21, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
        • sealchan

          I was being facetious because I see so much simple-minded dismissal. Science studies cultures and psychology (hence the -ology) but is in a mode of categorization and comparative analysis mainly rather than being able to yield results from the experimental method. Of course, we do have the evolution of a scientific psychology over the course of the last century into cognitive science. But even here, the experimental aspect of cognitive science is limited to neurobiology and some computer aided cognitive psychology. Much of the rest is from the softer sciences and even actively involves philosophy. Anyone who has studied the history of religion or of myth knows that that majority of human beings utilize a spiritual or faith belief or otherwise reflect deeply and personally on their cultural inheritance of "story" without always concerning themselves with its historicity or provability. This is a phenomenon to explore scientifically, academically and perhaps one day experimentally. To dismiss it is simple ignorance whatever your metaphysical opinions or lack thereof.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
        • G to the T

          Sealchan – what you seem to not be aware of is that this work is already in process and we have a much better idea how/why supernatural belief is so ubiquitous in humanity and other species. I would recommend the "The Believing Brain" by Michael Shermer to get you started. He is explicit that while his work may explain why we believe, it does not necessarily mean that the object of that belief does not exist. I recommend it to anyone interested in knowing more about why people have beliefs in general.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
  6. igaftr

    When you watch Godzilla backwards, it is about a giant lizerd that builds a city, then moonwalks into the ocean.

    April 21, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      LOL... very true. I was hoping with this new movie, Godzilla would walk out of the ocean and stomp Matthew Broderick to a smelly paste...

      April 21, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
    • Akira

      It's all in how one views it, lol...maybe that's why he's called GODzilla...
      Made me laugh, igaftr. Thanks.

      April 21, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
  7. ddeevviinn

    " So what should we make of such accounts"?

    Take it with a grain of salt.

    April 21, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
    • sealchan

      Why not explore the psychology of the vision even if you don't believe in its faith interpretation. Oh yes, science is afraid of human psychology and culture because it is too complicated so let's dismiss it.

      Just as Dawkins accuses theists with a lack of imagination regarding an understanding of science, so to might atheists be accused with a lack of imagination when trying to understand why someone would say anything less than F=ma or E=mc2.

      Too much simple-mindedness having too much to say.

      April 21, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
      • gulliblenomore

        Sealchan...I agree with you about one thing....you are simple minded and have too much to say

        April 21, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
      • ddeevviinn

        Sorry my friend, you completely missed the boat on this one. You have misconstrued the intent and motive of my statement.

        April 21, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
  8. Dyslexic doG

    “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man” (John 3:13).

    Soooooo the bible is obviously wrong?

    April 21, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      What I find amusing is that biblical accounts of heaven and meeting angels... leads to biblical figures capping their pants in terror.

      But modern day accounts are all fluffy opiate clouds and rainbow farting unicorns

      April 21, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
  9. thefinisher1

    The atheist belief that there is no life after death is a childish fairytale meant to scare kids into becoming atheists. Atheism should be kept away from our children. Amen.

    April 21, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
    • kudlak

      How would the idea of no Hell actually scare anyone except those who were sadistically looking forward to seeing their enemies fry?

      Why would the idea of there being no Heaven scare anyone into becoming atheists? If anything, it's the thing that keeps many people away from accepting that there's likely no God out of fear of never seeing their dead loved ones anymore.

      April 21, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
    • gulliblenomore

      Finisher....I hope you aren't stupid enough to think that a lack of belief of something is a fairy tale? Now, if I was telling my children that they would burn for all eternity if they didn't bow down to an invisible deity, that would be some scary fairy tale!

      April 21, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
    • igaftr

      "the atheist belief"...and then you jumped the logic train.
      Atheists "belief" is that the belief in gods is baseless. That says nothing of what an indivisual atheist believes.

      Can you show any evidence of any "afterlife" or that anyone has ever "returned" from being dead? Do not even bother with any biblical reference, because the claims cannot be verifed.

      Stop telling atheists what they believe, since atheism ends with not believing in gods. It says nothing about the individuals beliefs.
      Just your wek strawman.

      April 21, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      who's meg?

      April 21, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Family Guy reference... whenever the daughter Meg starts talking, they all ignore her and say 'Shut up Meg"

        April 21, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      Please don't feed the trolls!

      April 21, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
    • readerpan

      Probably the most illogical statement produced since comment pages were initiated.

      April 22, 2014 at 12:32 am |
    • fintronics

      finisher, a comment you can understand.... you are a dupid poopy head!

      April 22, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
  10. kudlak

    Did a little checking, and there appears to be quite a few preachers out there willing to call the little boy from "Heaven Is For Real", Colton Burpo, either a lier, or someone deceived by the devil. Apparently, they quote the verse below as evidence that near-death experiences can't be describing Heaven.

    1 Corinthians 2:9
    But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"

    April 21, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
  11. kudlak

    Has anyone else seen the trailer for the movie Persecuted?

    Like God Is Not Dead this one seems like a fantasy film of sorts.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4FslottUKo

    April 21, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
    • Akira

      This cracked me up:

      http://www.benningtonvalepress.com/2011/03/local-girls-near-death-visit-to-heaven.html?m=1

      April 21, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
      • kudlak

        I had an idea for a short story once about, after the final judgment, all the big-C Christians look around Heaven, realize that lots of other groups are there too, decide that this must actually be Hell and actually leave. Because they find more people like themselves in Hell they mistakenly believe that Satan is their God, and work out justifications from Scripture to prove it to themselves.

        Sound plausible?

        April 21, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
        • joey3467

          South Park pretty much did that by putting all the Mormons in heaven and everyone else in hell.

          April 21, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
        • Akira

          I read a novel one time named Hell, by Robert Olen Butler, about a man who made it out of Hell into Heaven and found out it wasn't all it was cracked up to be...
          He found Heaven to be exactly as he used to say in throwaway comments such as, "it would be Heaven if there was no traffic" and "it would be Heaven if I woke up every morning and there was a hot Starbucks triple-whatever waiting for me."
          So he found a Starbucks waiting for him, and drove down empty streets...
          No other souls around, because apparently he had once said "it would be Heaven if I were alone."

          It was an interesting concept that I haver never forgotten.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
        • kudlak

          Akira
          Thanks! I just checked my local library and put a hold on that book. Sounds interesting.

          April 21, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
        • Akira

          Oh, it is, kudlak. I think you'll like it. Let me know what you think.

          It touched on a lot of religious beliefs. You'll see.

          And the cover just never fails to make me laugh.

          April 21, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
      • mk

        God is gay...love it. Too funny, Akira.

        April 21, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
        • Akira

          Well, like the article says, God is all things...

          April 21, 2014 at 1:29 pm |
    • honeykira

      That looks like it will be an interesting movie and worth watching!

      April 21, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
      • gulliblenomore

        Worth watching? Based on what exactly?

        April 21, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
        • G to the T

          In my experience, it's usually because the story will bolster what they arleady believe to be true.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
  12. Vic

    ♰♰♰ Jesus Christ Is Lord ♰♰♰

    [
    "We can’t truly appreciate God’s grace until we glimpse his greatness. We won’t be lifted by his love until we’re humbled by his holiness."
    ]

    I couldn't agree more!

    April 21, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
    • gulliblenomore

      Vic....change the word 'greatness' to 'realness' and you may have something there.

      April 21, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
    • Vic

      A side note:

      I see a new blog coming. There is a new Associated Press-GfK poll on public doubts about the Big Bang Theory.

      April 21, 2014 at 12:23 pm |
      • bostontola

        It is interesting that the public has doubts about the Big Bang Theory, plate tectonic theory, and Evolution but doesn't doubt Quantum Physics, Thermodynamics, etc. It's only where science conflicts with the bible that the "public" has doubts regarding science.

        April 21, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
        • joey3467

          I am not really sure why anyone should care what the public thinks. What is important is what scientists think.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
        • bostontola

          joey,
          If only that were true.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
        • readerpan

          Only a small portion of the "public" has any idea what the Big Bang, evolution, or plate techtonics really are.

          April 22, 2014 at 12:41 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      ♰♰♰ Dyslexic doG Is Lord ♰♰♰

      April 21, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
    • flightfromfrostmtn

      $$$ The Federal Reserve Saves $$$

      no...really it does...true story!!!111

      April 21, 2014 at 3:10 pm |
  13. mk

    Could it be that those who have been ingrained with the idea of Jesus would have visions of Jesus?

    April 21, 2014 at 11:57 am |
    • fintronics

      No friggin way!!!!

      April 22, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
  14. bostontola

    Isn't God infallible? Then how would God allow so many people near death to enter heaven?

    Every piece of "evidence" of God is conveniently within some person's subjective experience. If omniscient God wanted to provide evidence of his existence, he would know that subjective testimony would be discounted. If that was God's aim, a global supernatural act would convince everyone instantly. How about waking up tomorrow and the global CO2 levels are back to safe levels, that would be nice. I can only conclude that these people who sneaked into heaven were not to provide evidence.

    April 21, 2014 at 11:50 am |
  15. Doc Vestibule

    There is no evidence for an afterlife.
    However, there is no evidence against it either.
    Soon enough you'll know for sure, so why fret about it now?

    April 21, 2014 at 11:45 am |
  16. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    A 4 year old typically can't even tie their own shoes... excuse me if I don't run out and go see this stupid movie

    April 21, 2014 at 11:39 am |
    • Akira

      This happened in 2003, IIRC...

      April 21, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
      • Akira

        Hit post too soon ...I wonder if he still experiences these things?

        April 21, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
  17. jknbt

    such criticism! when was the last time you had a heavenly vision?

    I have heard sermons like this where preachers rage about how unfaithful Peter was in Matt. 14. I always want to ask them, "okay, bud...when was the last time you walked on water?"

    a better response would be to let the boy tell his story, and not to fight against God. See Acts 23:9.

    April 21, 2014 at 11:36 am |
    • gulliblenomore

      jknbt....having a vision is hardly cause for proclaiming it 'real'.

      April 21, 2014 at 11:42 am |
    • igaftr

      the boy can tell his story...he just needs to be corrected when he jumps to a conclusion about any "gods". He did not die and come back, he ALMOST died.

      2 men walk across the street. one ALMOST gets hit by a bus, the other does get hit. Their experiences will be vastly different.

      I would simply point out to the boy that his experience shows no evidence of any gods, and claiming it does is irresponsible.

      April 21, 2014 at 11:46 am |
    • Sungrazer

      People have had visions for thousands of years. Many of them were messages from gods other than your own. Do you find those authentic? Some Christians have had visions and subsequently said and/or did some awful things. Did those visions come from god or were they just delusions or symptoms of insanity?

      April 21, 2014 at 11:51 am |
      • kudlak

        Makes one wonder whether Moses inhaled from that burning bush, eh?

        April 21, 2014 at 12:35 pm |
    • gulliblenomore

      Nobody said he can't have his imaginations. Just remove the word 'real' and I will be happy. How do you think the old movie would have fared had they called it 'Oz is for real'?

      April 21, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
    • fintronics

      "such criticism! when was the last time you had a heavenly vision?

      When I was young, I tried LSD and has visions...... ... it was enhanced imagination... just like belief in gods.. nothing more than imagination...

      April 21, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
  18. G to the T

    NDE's = NEAR Death Expiences.
    So for one, they weren't really dead only nearly so.
    And second these "visions" have also been seen by pilots in the centrifuge.
    And third, what people "see" tends to depend on their culture and upbringing (for example people in Africa tend to see scenes of things they wish they done in life).

    April 21, 2014 at 11:34 am |
  19. igaftr

    It never ceases to amaze me that people with near death experiences, that people then somehow claim it has something to do with actuall death, which no one has ever come back from.

    While the brain is still alive, it will do a lot of unpredictable and interesting things, but NOTHING the brain does indicates anything about death.

    This is loosely based on a true story of a NDE, not of someone who died. Stop reading more into it than there is.

    April 21, 2014 at 11:30 am |
  20. fintronics

    Heaven is just as "real" as leprechauns..... no evidence for either one..

    April 21, 2014 at 11:18 am |
    • sealchan

      It may be that a child's vision of Heaven is what was granted to that child by God for whatever reason. It may not be for a child's mind to have the more Biblical vision. But adults who cannot bare to contemplate the more horrific, even destructive aspect of God are, perhaps, still emotionally immature in their faith.

      It is also true that the brain under extreme duress may produce any number of unusual visions and even leave a person with a persistent experience of them. Interpreting these "expressions" in the context of one's faith is appropriate. Altered states of consciousness can provide unique perspectives on our world that are instructive to faith.

      April 21, 2014 at 11:46 am |
      • igaftr

        " Interpreting these "expressions" in the context of one's faith is appropriate."
        "Altered states of consciousness can provide unique perspectives on our world that are instructive to faith.
        "

        No, not appropriate, nor instructive, since there is nothing indicating the experience was anything other than the brain doing it's thing. You can leap to unjustifiable bias and claim a connection, but none is indicated.

        April 21, 2014 at 12:36 pm |
        • sealchan

          The mind is what the brain does, but no one here has the imagination to want to discuss this. I guess for many, to understand what the brain does is too much for science and too subjective in religion so we will just not think about it. Zzzzz

          April 21, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
        • igaftr

          Not too much for science at all, and any religious connotations cannot be scientific, since all religion is based on the imaginations of ignorant men.
          Science IS studying intelligence, including the intelligences we see in life forms without a brain, and NDE's are also being studied.

          I have no idea why you would claim science is afraid of anything. That is absurd. We may not have full understanding, but that does not mean we won't try.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:22 pm |
        • sealchan

          Where I'm coming from, I would like to see the scientifically-minded atheist acknowledge that even if heaven is as real as leprechauns, it is worth attempting to understand why these imaginary ideas have persisted in the human imagination for so long. For the minority of you who, apparently do not find any truth value in the use of your imagination to relate to reality, it would, perhaps, be instructive for you to not dismiss this pervasive brain-based behavior so readily. If you ridicule so easily what is so commonly and so personally subscribed to, you run the risk of divorcing yourself from a large portion of that reality of human behavior that you might, with shame, suppress to find occurring within yourself.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
        • Alias

          @sealchan

          April 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
        • Alias

          @sealchan
          Religion persists because governments have used it to control people for so long. It was difficult to try to live in America as an atheist until just a few generations ago.
          It is dangerous to try to live in Iran or Saudi Arabia as anything other than a muslim today.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          @sealchan,
          This happens quite often. 'Theory of mind' is one approach. Here is another: http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/04/18/304156771/how-do-we-explain-the-evolution-of-religion

          April 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
        • igaftr

          sealchan
          I don't think you understand what science is. The phenomenon is being studied, but science can only go where verifiable observable data can go. So far, no indication of anything spirtual, supernatural, nor heaven nor gods. If science leads us down one of those paths, we will take that path to whatever can be found, but there is no sense in chasing imagination in such a manner. Imagination is a survival tool and a play toy, depending on what you are using it for.It is a toy when you see familiar shapes in the clouds, it is a survival tool when you are trying to imagine what that lion over there sees and imaginae a way to beat it or escape it.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:53 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.