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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. flightfromfrostmtn

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

    It says that humans make up stories....who going to call a little kid out on this? and because it is connected to religion it is doubly taboo to cast doubt......when it cant be verified – the 'lawyers' will make it socially unacceptable to take a hard stand against such stories (and the doctrine it is based on) no matter how unlikely it is.

    April 21, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
  2. Dyslexic doG

    A question for Christians please.

    Where are all our souls before we are born? Do they exist somewhere?

    Or are they born with us and develop with us throughout our lives? If so, who or what creates them?

    Also, will heaven ever get full?

    Also, after the rapture, wouldn't the souls rather stay in heaven than come back down to earth again?

    April 21, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
    • workingcopy12

      Do you really want answers to these questions from a Christian perspective, or are you (as you often do) looking to mock whatever response you receive?

      April 21, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        honest questions. would appreciate an answer. thanks.

        April 21, 2014 at 5:18 pm |
        • midmomood

          I didn't create myself, my soul or my spirit. At birth I was given a soul. It tells me to like and dislike things, fit in or not fit in, what I should want, things like that. If I'm like most people I spend my life listening to it and suffering for it. The spirit watches the entire performance. It doesn't get involved in anything that's not right. Finally my soul destroys my body and it goes to wherever it was before it was placed in my body. My body and everything about me are then ended. I can't get at God because I would cause God problems if I could. My soul is in the same predicament, something that must be managed. It could change and so could I. We both choose not to. These are the important points, not how many there are, where they come from or anything else. God's law is the controlling factor behind all of it, the thing that controls everything. That's the thing the souls and bodies rebel against. God could change us all so we don't rebel against it but we're supposed to make that choice willingly. God's law is supposed to be so engrained within us that it's what we'd want even if there were no God and no divine law.

          April 21, 2014 at 9:48 pm |
  3. widem1575

    What competing faiths get wrong about ideas which we can't substantiate.

    FIFY

    April 21, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
  4. bostontola

    The whole afterlife concept does conform to human behavior. Anxiety over ceasing to exist leads to the same behavior any kind of anxiety elicits:

    First try to solve the problem.
    Next comes denial. Put those together and you get an afterlife.
    Next comes projection, other people must feel this.
    Next comes rationalization and intellectualization to make it unemotional.

    Human reaction to fear and anxiety is pretty predictable and it fits here.

    April 21, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
  5. thefinisher1

    Atheism=fairy tale.

    April 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
    • Doris

      thefinisher1=butthurt

      April 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      Please don't feed the trolls!

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

      Atheism = what is left when you realise how stupid all major religions are.

      April 21, 2014 at 3:36 pm |
    • kudlak

      Meanwhile, the Christian tale is imagined to end with King Jesus returning, slaughtering all who object to bowing down to him, and everyone else living happily ever after.

      April 21, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        LET's Religiosity Law #10 – If Jesus came back today he would be shot in the head. That's what you do to put down zombies; otherwise they eat your brains.

        April 21, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
        • kudlak

          Or shot with a canon.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7smv5laUHY

          April 21, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        That movie has been coming on one of the cable channels that I have... is it funny/worth watching?

        April 21, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
        • kudlak

          This Is The End was a bit funnier, but neither was really my cup of tea.

          I think that Hollywood could do a serious movie about a Satan who decides to pick up a Bible and go off script, like any real evil genius would do. I remember reading the Left Behind books and trying to decide who was stupider: The Devil for slavishly sticking to the script knowing that he'll ultimately fail, or the Tribulation Force (that still cracks me up) for not being able to do anything to actually disrupt the Devil and his minions.

          April 21, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
        • bostontola

          I agree, This is the End was really funny.

          April 21, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
    • gulliblenomore

      Finisher....my word, you are quite an idiot, aren't you. Atheism is the disbelief of the fairy tale. You need to change your '=' to a '>'.

      April 21, 2014 at 4:39 pm |
  6. Sungrazer

    So, the old "heaven is scary" ti.tle must have ruffled some feathers.

    April 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
    • fintronics

      They're certainly not afraid of pope articles... (grin)

      April 21, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
  7. bostontola

    What Hollywood gets wrong about heaven: That it exists.

    I think the existence of some creator of our universe is much more likely than the existence of an afterlife. Science is getting closer to understanding how the brain works at a very detailed level. The brain is fully accessible to us to study (unlike the past creation which must be studied by it's echoes). Our personalities, who we are, can be changed by physical events to the brain. Who we are, our ideas, sense of morality, likes/dislikes, bravery/cowardice, focus, etc. are all a result of electro-chemical processes in a highly connected network of neurons. When that network stops functioning properly, we change. When that network ceases to function at all, we cease to exist.

    Even if some being created the universe, it wouldn't have to omnipotent nor omniscient to do so. Creating the universe would be child's play compared to extracting our essence from our brains and maintaining it in some non-physical spirit medium. I could imagine some being in another set of dimensions working in their version of the LHC creating universes (who knows, maybe we are doing that unknowingly). Universes can come into existence through physical processes, afterlifes can't.

    Obviously, if there were an omnipotent being, all this would be trivial. But omnipotence is not required to create universes. The Christian notion of God is much less likely than a straightforward advanced creator, which is less likely than a purely natural starting of our observable universe.

    The notion of an afterlife is more fantasy than any other religious notion.

    April 21, 2014 at 3:18 pm |
  8. Dyslexic doG

    did jesus have a rainbow-colored horse in the bible?

    April 21, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
    • noahsdadtopher

      No

      April 21, 2014 at 3:18 pm |
      • Alias

        WHOA there topher;
        Unless the animal that Mary rode into the barn was described in detail there is no way to definatively conclude that it was not rainbow collored.

        April 21, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
        • Doris

          I guess that makes sense. Unless it was described in detail, to any suggestion of what color it might have been, there is always the possibility that it was a horse of a different color.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          One, we wouldn't be talking about the same animal. Two, Jesus' horse is white.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
        • Alias

          Where does the bible say that jesus has exactly one horse?

          April 21, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          so the little boy is just making his story up?

          April 21, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
        • noahsdadtopher

          Dyslexic doG

          "so the little boy is just making his story up?"

          Did he see something and is telling the truth? No idea. But what I do know is that he didn't go to Heaven and return.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          thanks.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
        • Sungrazer

          I think there may have been a breed of rainbow colored horses. The hide of one was used to make Joseph's coat.

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

      You people are talking as if these events actually occurred.....

      April 21, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
  9. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    "One man's theology is another man's belly laugh." – Robert A. Heinlein

    April 21, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
  10. ausphor

    Topher
    You are ridiculous...
    You blindly declare that the biblical creation story happened.
    You blindly declare that the Noah story happened.
    You blindly declare that the Tower of Babel story happened.
    You blindly declare that supernatural miracles were performed.
    You blindly declare that people have risen from the dead.
    I feel sorry for you.

    April 21, 2014 at 2:59 pm |
  11. ogamidiagoro

    So this brainwashed child ( or his delusional father ) makes up a story to make a fast buck.

    April 21, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      over the centuries, religion has proved a very good earner ...

      April 21, 2014 at 3:02 pm |
  12. His Panic

    Oh I get it, I get it! This is the thing, I get it and you don't!

    Here it is watch how I can tell it like it is!

    Someone goes to College, Bible College or Seminary for 4 to 6 years, which is very expensive for Dad & Mom and for themselves. Then after all time and Money plus maybe 10 plus years of Ministerial work "experience". This person, he or she, gets his/her "Theology from his 4 year old son. Then he writes a book that becomes a Best Seller then a movie.

    At this point in time, I'll have to say that seeing angels could well be a good reason for anyone to Panic and go run and hide. Angels and other Celestial Created beings, as described in the Bible are really awesome, fearsome, and scary to see. Maybe I, even I, will Panic if I ever see one!!

    You will not only Panic but you may die and be no more, if an Angel appears to you all the while you are not in Friendly terms with God.

    April 21, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      So you'll be nice and calm when the eyeball covered Cherubim appear in clouds of fire and lightning, revealing they four faces of a lion, human, ox and eagle, while they point their 20 condemning fingers from beneath bat wings?

      April 21, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
      • His Panic

        The last sentence in my second paragraph answered your silly ninny even before you asked. Are you able to read, can you read well enough?

        April 21, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          boor.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
    • kudlak

      Maybe you should call Roma Downey, and blame here for the modern feel-good image of angels? If she'll make time from counting all the money she's making from The Bible mini-series, that is?

      April 21, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
  13. truthfollower01

    A question for atheists and agnostics.

    Why is there something rather than nothing?

    April 21, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
    • Alias

      Because there has always been something.

      April 21, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
      • noahsdadtopher

        Impossible. Second Law of Thermodynamics.

        April 21, 2014 at 6:36 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      What is a rhetorical question?

      April 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
    • yeahright14

      Nobody know why there is something rather than nothing. The only difference is, atheists dont accept a bunch of nonsense as an answer. Just because we dont know, doesnt prove your nonsense correct. Why do you feel the need to accept nonsense instead of just saying "I dont know?" Thats a pretty cowardly thing to do, dont you think?

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

      "The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?"

      Stephen Hawking

      April 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
      • Vic

        This question is inline with the OP's.

        April 21, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
      • kudlak

        There happens to be a universe, but why "should" there have been a universe?

        April 21, 2014 at 3:36 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      Is "nothing" even possble?

      April 21, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
      • truthfollower01

        Why wouldn't it have been?

        April 21, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
        • G to the T

          Who says there was ever nothing? My understanding of quantum physics and the big bang theory doesn't allow that there ever was "nothing".

          April 21, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
        • truthfollower01

          Do you believe material is infinite? A material infinite leads to absurdities. Sure we can talk about abstract notions such as numbers being infinite, but material infinities are absurd.

          April 21, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
        • Doris

          Actually, to me, truthf, either case seems absurd. Although I tend to think of the case where there is not an infinite material past a bit more absurd, because that case seems to natural contain the set of things we know back to a point where we don't know but suspect there is something before. But really I don't think we have direct experience with either case in the material world – an infinite past vs a finite past. And by the way, by infinite/finite past, I don't mean specifically this universe, I mean everything ever into the past, of which this universe may only be a part.

          April 21, 2014 at 5:28 pm |
        • truthfollower01

          Doris,

          If the past is infinite, why would this universe have just come into being a finite time ago?

          April 21, 2014 at 5:41 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          I don't know, we've never seen "nothing".

          April 21, 2014 at 7:31 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          @truthfollower01
          "Why wouldn't it have been?"

          One thought would be that If as you might claim that

          'something can not come from "nothing"'
          and
          there is something now
          therefore
          there could never have been "nothing", or there has always been something or some thing.

          April 21, 2014 at 7:38 pm |
        • G to the T

          "material is infinite?"
          I'm not certain what you mean by "material", but if you mean the same as matter, I believe energy (and therefore matter) cannot be created or destroyed. That we cannot see "before" the singularity is a limitation of our perception as temporal beings. But I do believe it's quite possible that energy (and therefore matter) could well have existed in a universe previous to our own. So in that sense they would be eternal, but not infinite from our point of view.

          April 21, 2014 at 8:37 pm |
    • kudlak

      Was it ever possible for "nothing" to exist? According to quantum fluctuation, even creating a perfect vacuum appears to be an impossibility. For there to be a complete "nothing" it wouldn't even have a single dimension, which calls into question how such a thing could exist. How could anything exist that has no properties by which to establish it's existence, after all?

      April 21, 2014 at 3:02 pm |
      • truthfollower01

        "How could anything exist that has no properties by which to establish it’s existence, after all?"

        That's the point. "Nothing" doesn't exist. It isn't anything.

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

          If "nothing" can't exist, then there must have always been "something" from which the universe could expand, right?

          April 21, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
        • truthfollower01

          "Nothing" is not something that exists. It isn't anything.

          April 21, 2014 at 4:51 pm |
        • kudlak

          truthfollower01
          Then it's silly to postulate a universe coming from nothing, right? "Something" must have always existed, which fits your religious creation idea and the scientific model of a naturally occurring universe.

          Where the natural model calls for only the simplest of things to have always existed, the problem with the religious idea is that it requires something very, very complex, which appears paradoxical. How could something as advanced and powerful as a God-mind capable of creating a whole universe from absolutely nothing (a religious concept, not a scientific one) exist before there was time, or space? It simply goes against everything we do know about beings, intelligence and space-time. That's why the natural model simply makes far more sense.

          April 22, 2014 at 10:00 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, [the Christian] god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. “I don’t know” does not equal “god” to us, much less the Judeo-Christian god. We feel the answers to such a question are much more likely to be found in Einstein’s equations, quantum physics, large particle accelerators and radio telescopes than in Genesis Chapters 1 through 20. We’re crazy aren’t we?

      April 21, 2014 at 3:05 pm |
    • gulliblenomore

      Blindfollower....we don't know for absolute sure how life formed, but we are gathering more evidence daily. Now your question: what proof do you have that a sky wizard created life? And....more importantly....your god, not any of the other 20000 gods man has imagined.

      April 21, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
      • truthfollower01

        Gullible,

        I didn't ask about life forming. I asked why something exists rather than nothing.

        The existence of objective morality and the data surrounding he events after Jesus' crucifixion that point to a historical resurrection are only two of the evidences of the Christian God's existence.

        April 21, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
        • kudlak

          What do you mean by "objective morality"?

          April 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm |
        • truthfollower01

          Objective morality is morality that is valid and binding, independent of personal opinion. As an example, to say that the Holocaust is objectively morally evil is to say that it is evil even if the Nazis who carried it out thought that it was morally good. Even if the Nazis had won World War II and either killed all opposers or brainwashed everyone into believing that the Holocaust was morally good, it would still be morally evil.

          April 21, 2014 at 4:48 pm |
        • Doris

          Once again, you have not demonstrated the existence of any objective moral "truth".

          Prove that you do not just have a similar opinion that you have derived in the same subjective manner as atheists, only from something that only represents a claimed unsubstantiated source. Without your proof, we can only assume that you, and groups with which you have affinity in addressing moral issues, whether those groups be churches, people with the same interpretation of the Bible, governments (a theocracy, for instance), also do so subjectively.

          Prove that objective morality exists without resorting to subjective means. Can you do that? You know – demonstrate either your God or your direct connection to his "truths" without letting subjectivity enter the picture? We wouldn't want subjectivity tainting your demonstration of your direct connection to your god.

          April 21, 2014 at 4:56 pm |
        • kudlak

          truthfollower01
          That would also make the genocides that God ordered in the Bible morally evil, right? If killing 7 million Jews was evil then killing all of the Canaanites and almost all of humanity also has to be evil, objectively.

          April 22, 2014 at 8:21 am |
        • gulliblenomore

          Follower....there is no actual evidence of any resurrection ever occurring. There is also no evidence at all that Jesus was anything other than a man. To claim that objective morality is an indicator of a god is disingenuous, as there are social orders of humans that display objective morality that have no idea who god is.

          April 22, 2014 at 8:38 am |
        • igaftr

          belief follower.
          You are always so caught up on issues of morality as if that shows some sign of some gods. It does not.

          As we are studying various things about various life forms, we are finding out that morality seems to be simply a part of life. PLants show morality, attacking enemies, nurturing friends, not attacking friends. Morality is seen in all life forms that we look for it in.
          I don't know why you are so obsessed with issues of morality. It does not lead down a path to your god ( who clearly is in a moral grey area). Better you study the life on this planet, than your man-made book of myths written by superst!tious and ignorant men.

          April 22, 2014 at 8:49 am |
    • Doris

      Don't know, but if you take the something out of the equation, that's easier.

      William Everett Preston explains:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hfy3d6cJo-g

      April 21, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
    • bostontola

      Why is up to philosophers to ponder. Scientists deal with how. Quantum physics, the most validated precise, and accurate science we have, demands something rather than nothing.

      April 21, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
    • fintronics

      What is the air velocity of an unladen swallow?

      April 21, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
  14. sealchan

    I guess when I woke up today I decided I needed to give my inner atheist a hard time today. (Yes, I claim to be a Christian who actively listens to his inner atheist!) I enjoyed this opinion piece in large part because it seeks to challenge a, perhaps, immature trend in Christian media that these soft and easy visions of a friendly God are not in tune with a deeper understanding of God's broader emotional impact on us. Even if you find this all very quaint, why take approach the article from a purely moral or literary interpretive angle? Here is a Christian believer (presumably) who is providing a comparative literary analysis of what a young boy's vision of heaven is like in comparison to the story we know as the Bible. Is this boy and the popularity of his story somehow a reflection on the cultural tradition today? How is the boy's experience as the son of a Christian pastor involved in this case? How does this vision, coming from a young boy contextualize his faith, his families faith and the whole idea of Christian faith or otherwise?

    To me there are many interesting questions that a believer or non-believer could be asking. What I'm asking is to raise the level of conversation. I know, I know, this is a comment section to an opinion piece...just sometimes I like to see what people can rise to.

    April 21, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "How does this vision, coming from a young boy contextualize his faith, his families faith and the whole idea of Christian faith or otherwise?

      For that, you need the control experiment. I'd bet that a four year old boy who was not raised in a faith-saturated household won't have the same near death experience. But I don't want any four year old boys having near death experiences.

      April 21, 2014 at 2:11 pm |
      • His Panic

        I agree with this your last sentence:→ "But I don't want any four year old boys having near death experiences."← I do not either.

        April 21, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
      • kudlak

        Yet, near-death experiences are preferable to true-death experiences, eh?

        If improving medical procedures pull more children away from the brink of death, a few bad visions coming from their oxygen-deprived brains is a small price indeed.

        April 21, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
    • G to the T

      "Even if you find this all very quaint, why take approach the article from a purely moral or literary interpretive angle? Here is a Christian believer (presumably) who is providing a comparative literary analysis of what a young boy's vision of heaven is like in comparison to the story we know as the Bible. Is this boy and the popularity of his story somehow a reflection on the cultural tradition today? How is the boy's experience as the son of a Christian pastor involved in this case? How does this vision, coming from a young boy contextualize his faith, his families faith and the whole idea of Christian faith or otherwise?

      1) I see people speaking to the article on a variety of topics, so I'm not sure what you are trying to say here.
      2) Yes – I would say what he saw was primarily culturally driven.
      3) Yes – I don't see how his father's profession couldn't have played a part in what he envisioned.
      4) Not sure what you mean here, are trying to establish how his story may have influence his and his families beliefs?

      April 21, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
    • kudlak

      You call it your "inner atheist".

      I just call it "common sense".

      April 21, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
  15. Alias

    How is it that there are so many differences in NDEs?
    Exactly hom many heavens are there?
    Just because many have a bright light somewhere, does that mean all the differences are to be overlooked?

    April 21, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
  16. ausphor

    Topher
    An ex-fundamentalist, but still a pastor made a comment to this effect.
    Fundamentalists are
    1. Blindly ignorant out of fear.
    2. Blindly ignorant out of sheer arrogance.
    3. Blindly declare that they are right and all others are wrong by default.
    You fit all three of those statements to a tee, you simply reject all knowledge that proves you are wrong.

    April 21, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
  17. Dyslexic doG

    41,000 sects of the Christian cult. None of them can agree on what god is or who god is or the particulars of what they believe.

    One good Christian makes a movie to explain it all. Another good Christian writes this article about how wrong they are. Other good Christians take to this board to post about how wrong they all are.

    It's mind numbingly flawed. I can't understand how there is any credibility left.

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

      @ Dyslexic:
      you said: "41,000 sects of the Christian cult. None of them can agree on what god is or who god is or the particulars of what they believe."

      that is simply false. google the Apostles' Creed – c. AD 180.
      virtually ALL Christians agree on it.

      April 21, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
      • Alias

        Way to twist a post into something that was never said Russ.

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

          @ Alias: twist? it's called a quote.

          his logic went:
          1) Christians are so subdivided they can't agree on anything
          2) the article is saying "my view is right, yours is wrong"
          3) thus, it just reaffirms point 1

          problem is: his first point was wrong.

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

          @Russ
          Where does he say they canot agree on "anything"?
          He didn't.
          Comment on what he said, not what you wanted to argue against next time.

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

          @ Alias: do you really not think "who god is" represents the entirety of the faith?

          he said they can't agree upon "who god is."
          theology = study of God
          religion practiced = worship of God
          most theists agree existence is contingent upon the character & actions of God

          SUM: it's ALL about God. you don't have to be a theist to see that.

          if the debate is the *entirety* of "who god is," do you really think that's not comprehensive – especially when it comes to one's metaphysical beliefs?

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

          I believe he meant on the different denominations, Russ.

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

          @ Akira: yes. that's precisely what i'm criticizing, though.
          the varied denominations may argue things from adiaphora to more substantive items, but to claim they do not agree upon "who god is" fails to see what unites the Christian faith – and that failure is the basis of his argument here.

          the idea is: 'they don't agree anyway so no surprise here'...
          problem is: they DO agree on what matters most.

          is there an argument he could make in a more qualified manner? sure.
          but this is a classic, repeated overstatement on this blog – as though Christians aren't united in the basic tenets of what they believe.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
        • Alias

          Russ
          So by your logic, if they accept the Apostles' Creed they agree on everything.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
        • Alias

          FYI Russ,
          the baptists think all catholics are going to hell.
          That seems like a substantial dissagreement is occurring somewhere.

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

          @ Alias: "agree on everything"? no. i said "basic tenets" – especially WHO God is, which was what the OP stated explicitly.

          are there still substantial disagreements? yes.
          but on the MOST basic thing, there is agreement.

          that was my point – Dyslexic could have made a more nuanced statement here.
          i'm just tired of the repeated, unsubstantiated claim that Christians don't agree on what is most fundamental – namely "who God is." it's historically, demonstrably untrue. that's why I mentioned the Apostles' Creed.

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

          Russ, if the denominations agreed with each other on all of the tenets of Christianity, there would be significantly fewer of them. They would merely combine.

          There isn't.

          Thus, the OP's point.

          If you are tired of reading it, by all means, skip over it.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Akira:
          1) no, that was not his claim. he said they couldn't agree on "who God is."
          there's no minutia there, no adiaphora, no sense of weighting some items over others.
          it's simply big picture. and that's why i objected.

          note well: his argument loses its force if he concedes at the outset that Christians all agree on what's most basic, but have splintered along the lines of lesser disagreements. it would still be a conversation worth having, but it defeats his entire point about 40,000 different manifestations of the faith – because that same diversity has unity. that's completely contrary to the OP's argument ("i can't understand how there's any credibility left.").

          2) i didn't say i was tired of reading, i said i was tired of the same repeated, unsubstantiated claims about Christianity – especially ones so demonstrably false.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
        • Alias

          @Russ
          Since they cannot agree on what it takes to get into heaven, they clearly do not agree on some rather basic things

          April 21, 2014 at 3:18 pm |
        • Akira

          You focused on one part of the quote, Russ. I am focusing on "[...is or the particulars of what they believe.]"

          April 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Alias:
          1) as i said, there are still some *substantial* differences
          2) on this point, note what all that they *still* agree upon: Jesus is God, he came and lived the life we couldn't, died the death we deserved in our place, and rose from the dead.

          while the implications & models of atonement may be under debate (moral exemplar, penal subst.itution, Christus Victor, etc.), THAT he atoned for us is not.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Alias: yes, if he'd only made the latter claim it'd be a different discussion.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
        • Akira

          I don't think so, Russ, as they are both part of the same sentence.

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

          @ Akira: as i said below...

          1) go read what Dyslexic writes not his blog on a daily basis.
          do you really think I've missed his intended meaning?

          2) again, if he only mean disagreements "on the particulars", his final statement is a non-sequitur ("I can't understand how there is any credibility left.").

          SUM: it is not reading whatever i want. it's what he said. it's the clear intent of what he said. his goal was to debunk the *whole* of Christianity. do you really think it was something else?

          April 21, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
        • Russ

          *on this blog

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

          Do you deny that there many, many, many sects of Christianity, Russ?

          April 21, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Akira: answered below (trying to avoid duplicate threads).

          April 21, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
      • G to the T

        The fact that you used the word "virtually" pretty much proves the point though doesn't it? Besides anyone not conforming to that creed wouldn't be considered a christian by you correct? So we're back to varying interpretations on the same themes.

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

          @ G to the T:
          the only reason I didn't simply say ALL is because of the confusion on this blog over groups that classically orthodox Christianity (again, the three major branches & all the subdivisions – which is the VAST majority to which he's appealing) regard as outside the faith (JWs, Mormons, Arians, etc.). Just because a group talks about Jesus doesn't make them Christian – or would you include Muslims as Christians?

          April 21, 2014 at 2:24 pm |
        • G to the T

          "or would you include Muslims as Christians?"

          I wouldn't because they don't follow Jesus as the focus of their beliefs. The others you mentioned do, they just disagree with you (and to be fair, most of the rest of Christians) on who he was and what his death meant. What you seem to be saying would be like saying that Mahayana Buddhism isn't really Buddhism because they believe differently than the Theravada schools about who the Buddha was and what is the best way to follow him.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
        • Russ

          @ G to the T: on the contrary, talk to a Muslim!
          they regard Jesus as a true prophet who was corrupted by his followers.
          read the Koranic claims about Jesus. he certainly is a major piece of their faith.
          ultimately, Mohammed had to come because – in their estimation – we failed to hear Jesus.
          they say Jesus was merely a man telling us about the true God.

          guess what JWs claim? how about Mormons? different slant, but similar distinctions.
          Muslim = monotheists and Jesus is not God
          JWs = Jesus is not *the* God (Jehovah) but was the first created being
          Mormons = henotheists and Jesus is one God among many, which one day they might themselves become

          Christians = Trinitarian monotheists & Jesus IS the God we worship

          April 21, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
        • joey3467

          To me a Christian is anyone who thinks that Jesus died to forgive their sins. So I don't think a Christian has to believe in the Trinity.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
        • Russ

          @ joey: so why did Jesus send them out to baptize in a Trinitarian name (Mt.28:19-20)?
          isn't baptism the outward picture of the inward reality of conversion?

          April 21, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
        • joey3467

          I have no idea, I am just stating my opinion. If you think Jesus died for your sins then I consider you to be a Christian, as to me that seems to be the only important part.

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

          @ joey: Romans 10:9 partly supports you, partly presses you (Jesus is called "Lord" – the same term used for YHWH in the LXX). these are interwoven doctrines, but as i said elsewhere here – there are competing models of the atonement within the diverse unity of the Christian faith.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
        • G to the T

          "they regard Jesus as a true prophet who was corrupted by his followers." (side note – I think they're half right).

          Actually I know quite a few. I've studied Islam since before 9/11 made it popular.

          They believe Jesus was A prophet, but not THE prophet, nor the actual "son of god". Therefore, Jesus is not the FOCUS of their belief (much as Moses isn't the focus of your belief).

          I really do believe that if you sat down a group of christians and had them start listing what they considered the important, non-negotiable parts of their faith, you would have somethings they all easily agree on (existence of God for example) but I'm almost as certain there would be other aspects that they would disagree (if not outright conflict) with each other over.

          April 21, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
        • Russ

          @ G to the T:
          i never contested that there are disagreement – even substantial ones.

          BUT if you asked them if they could affirm the Apostles' Creed, ALL of them would say YES.
          and the creed states a wide array of beliefs, not simply one single one.

          that's the point. the OP overstates his claim. it needs to be nuanced, which kills the thrust of his argument.

          April 22, 2014 at 5:58 pm |
        • G to the T

          "BUT if you asked them if they could affirm the Apostles' Creed, ALL of them would say YES."

          Really? If a I had a Roman Catholic, a Mormon, a Greek Orthodox, a JW and a Baptist they would all agree to the creed?

          If your response is "those that don't agree with the creed aren't christians" you're back to saying christians are only christians if they agree with MY interpretation of what a christian is.

          April 23, 2014 at 9:58 am |
        • Russ

          @ G to the T:
          why are you jettisoning what we've discussed above?

          ALL of the classically orthodox (literal meaning here) Christian denominations agree. you are objecting to that distinction, but it's an historical fact.

          consider:
          Roman Catholics: 1.2 billion
          Orthodox: 300 million
          Protestant: 600-800 million

          Those are the 3 classic branches of Christianity (Orthodox broke off in 1054, Protestants in the Reformation) – totaling over 2 billion members, and ALL of which agree with the Apostles' Creed.

          now, you want to object with several groups who:
          a) are a completely different theological category (not Trinitarian monotheists)
          b) claim "Jesus Christ" in their theology, but DO NOT regard him as the one true God (self-admittedly talking about a DIFFERENT God)
          c) when totaled, even if they were included (which I'm arguing they obviously should NOT be), only represent 2% of the entire number.

          do you not see the problem?
          these groups fail to meet the theological & historical criteria, they and are statistically marginal – yet you want to claim somehow there is not unity.

          for example, even if i conceded your point (and again, I'm not!):
          if the 300+ million US citizens ever found 98% agreement on ANY topic, wouldn't you call that a virtual unanimity? now what if that topic was the DEFINITION of citizenship?

          point being: it's the admitted logical hole in the "no true Scotsman" fallacy: that there actually is a definition of Scotsman & there are people who are truly NOT Scottish.

          April 23, 2014 at 11:00 am |
      • Akira

        The original Apostles may not have agreed on it, having been written after all have died...but I suppose we'll never know.

        April 21, 2014 at 2:24 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Akira: the name is not claiming the Apostles wrote it – but rather because it is based on their teaching (the NT).

          April 21, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
        • Akira

          I never said they did. What I said was the original Apostles may not have agreed on it, being as it was written so long after they died....I suppose we'll never know.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Akira:
          that's kind of like saying we don't know if Calvin would agree with the 5 points of Calvinism (which were written after he died).

          would he have written them exactly that way? probably not.
          can you actually doubt that's what he taught? not if you've read what he wrote.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:06 pm |
        • Akira

          So?
          You don't know. That's the point.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Akira: actually the whole point of my example with Calvin is that we CAN know. just read what he wrote. each point is directly from his writings.

          the same is true with the Creed. do a quick search & you can find annotated versions (Scripture references included). each point is directly from Scripture.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
        • Akira

          Yes, the events in the AC are contained in the NT. So?
          Of course my original post was "The original Apostles may not have agreed on it, having been written after all have died…but I suppose we’ll never know."
          Because that's true.

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

          @ Akira: not just the events, but the theological claims.
          note well: it begins "i believe in..."

          that's why it's called the Apostles' Creed. it what THEY taught us to believe in.
          you can make an argument here that the Scriptures aren't from the apostles (which i'd press), but you can't argue that the claims are different than those Scripture makes.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
        • G to the T

          "just read what he wrote."

          You have much more faith in the ability of people to reach consensul interpretation than I do. In my studies of history and the historiographical process, I have found that most often this is not the case. It is extremely easy for people to misinterpret what others are saying (or in the case of the apostles, allegedly said). Especially if they have pre-conceived notions about what it is "supposed" to mean.

          April 21, 2014 at 4:22 pm |
        • Akira

          So you are saying that the Apostles would have written it exactly as it was written a century after their deaths? How can you know that, Russ?

          April 21, 2014 at 5:14 pm |
        • Russ

          @ G to the T:
          no, i actually believe in the depravity of humanity – so i do not have an exceedingly high regard for a "consensual reading," especially regarding increasingly peripheral matters.
          however! on central, thematic matters, i wouldn't be surprised if a much greater statistical consistency would be found.

          again regarding the Calvin example: while there may be many varied interpretations of his Inst.itutes, virtually no scholar doubts the 5 points of Calvinism are a direct reflection of central themes of his work. it's the nature of themes: they keep coming up, making it increasingly difficult to dodge.

          will everyone come to the exact same conclusion? no.
          will most see the central claim? yes.

          again, despite the debate here, 2 billion Christians agree on the Apostles' Creed as an accurate summation of the NT's teaching on "who God is".

          April 22, 2014 at 5:41 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Akira:

          as I said above...
          "would he have written them exactly that way? probably not.
          can you actually doubt that's what he taught? not if you've read what he wrote."

          April 22, 2014 at 5:42 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Every Christian believes in the holy catholic church and the communion of saints?
        You might want to tell that to all the people around here who say that the Catholic Church aren't true Scotsmen.

        April 21, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Doc: thank you for actually reading it.

          note: "catholic" there is the OLD, literal meaning of "universal." hence the LOWER case 'c'.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          The meaning of "communion of saints" is not the same for Protestants as for the faith that originated the term.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:02 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Doc: much to the contrary, consider the origin (Scripture).
          the cry of the reformation leaders was "to the sources!"
          they were considered liberals in their day because of their willingness to abandon tradition for historical purity.

          does Catholic tradition mean something different by "communion of the saints"? in some cases.
          but the goal of the Protestants was to go back to the original meaning (i.e., what the Bible intended by the term).

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

          Thus the OP's point. Differences rather than the similarities.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:17 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Akira: read what i wrote you above where you made this same point.

          the OP argument is NOT about lesser differences, but the entirety of the faith ("who God is"). if he had qualified lesser differences while acknowledging ongoing unity in what is MOST essential, the entire force of his argument would be lost ("I can't understand how there is any credibility left.").

          April 21, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
        • Akira

          I think you read what you wanted to in order to argue. That's nice.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Akira:
          1) go read what Dyslexic writes not his blog on a daily basis.
          do you really think I've missed his intended meaning?

          2) again, if he only mean disagreements "on the particulars", his final statement is a non-sequitur ("I can't understand how there is any credibility left.").

          SUM: it is not reading whatever i want. it's what he said. it's the clear intent of what he said. his goal was to debunk the *whole* of Christianity. do you really think it was something else?

          April 21, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
        • Russ

          *on this blog

          April 21, 2014 at 3:37 pm |
        • joey3467

          You say they are lesser differences, but how do you know that god doesn't find them to be huge differences?

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

          @ joey: are there still huge topics? yes.
          as was pointed out above, some of these groups still think others are going to Hell.
          it doesn't get much bigger than that.

          but the OP makes a categorical reference ("who God is"). that's the definition of theology.
          there are still enormous topics underneath it, but he has invoked the *whole* of the category...
          because – as i've said to Akira – it seems clear his intent was to dismiss the whole of Christianity categorically.

          there are plenty of remaining worthwhile discussions, but my point here was to push against such an historically false, overarchingly misrepresentative dismissal of the Christian faith. we may disagree on a lot of things, but we agree on a lot of majors.

          when the argument is "there's no credibility left" because of disagreements, there's a failure to see what unites 2 billion people across 40,000 denominations.

          April 21, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
        • Akira

          I've read it, Russ.

          Do you deny that there are many, many, many denominations of Christianity?

          April 21, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Akira: i've already typed 40,000 several times above. why even ask that question?

          the better questions are:
          does 40,000 sub groupings of 2,000,000,000 discount the larger number?
          isn't it amazing that despite 40,000 different distinctions, there is still such unity across 2,000,000,000?

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

          @Russ
          How can you call them united when most of the 40,000 think the others are going to hell?

          April 21, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Alias: i don't know where you're getting your numbers from. you are right to note that some groups think that some others (like the Southern Baptists about the Catholics) are going to Hell. but that's one group among 40,000. that's anecdotal.

          yes, Catholics represent 1B of the 2B, so that matters (something I'd press Southern Baptists with), but that wasn't your point. I'd be interested to see any sociological data you have on such a claim.

          April 21, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
        • Alias

          The Born Again think they are the only ones going to heaven.
          Ditto for the Baptists.
          Ditto for the JWs.
          Ditto for any other of the remaining sects that think they are the ONLY ones to understand the bible correctly.

          April 21, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
        • Akira

          Russ, I didn't specify the number. You can type whatever number you please, but the question is, if there is such unity, why are there so many?

          April 21, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Akira: 40k sub groupings of 2B.
          is 40k an unreasonably high number of sub groupings of 2B?
          that's an avg of over 50k in each group.

          an example:
          do you ask the same question of 50 states in a union?

          April 22, 2014 at 5:32 pm |
    • His Panic

      I am sure he counted them one by one!! Or maybe he is just parroting something.

      April 21, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
  18. bostontola

    http://ap-gfkpoll.com/featured/findings-from-our-latest-poll-2

    Thanks to Vic for the reference. Americans question the Big Bang and evolution in this poll.

    Americans don't spend much time pondering science at any depth except when it conflicts with their beliefs. There's no organized campaign against Quantum Physics or Statistical Mechanics. In fact almost no one in the poll questioned the link between smoking and cancer. The fact is, there is more evidence of evolution of species than there is evidence of the link between cancer and smoking (and there is a lot of evidence of the link between cancer and smoking).

    I wouldn't care much 25 years ago. The US was so far ahead of our competi.tors and their systems hobbled them so much, we could withstand this kind of ignorance in some quarters. But our competi.tors have changed. They are embracing the free market and they have a huge numbers advantage on us. China and India each have 4 times our population. That means they have 4 times the number of geniuses than we do. As they learn to use those geniuses, we will be in trouble. We can no longer rest on our intellectual and economic lead. Choosing ignorance is choosing to relinquish our leadership in the world.

    To take an old tagline, A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

    April 21, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      unfortunately half the geniuses in the USA are Chinese and Indian ... and they'll go home one day.

      Our potential geniuses are being defused at a young age by religion's war on science.

      Christianity = America's cancer.

      April 21, 2014 at 1:43 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Christianity = America's cancer.

        I have to disagree. This is a silly thing to say.

        I'll agree with you that the willful ignorance of many bible literalists in Evangelical Protestant affilliations is damaging, but blanket generalizations like "Christianity = cancer" just eliminate all credibility of anything else that you might say.

        April 21, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          a cancer is an insidious growing thing inside of you that will eventually destroy you.

          Christianity is growing inside this country and replacing real knowledge with fairy tales and suppressing science and dumbing down the population and changing the laws of the land to suppress free speech and discriminate against groups of American citizens and influencing presidents to start wars ... in so many ways Christianity = America's cancer.

          thanks for your thoughts though.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:57 pm |
        • Alias

          Except that christianity isn't growing in this country.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "The poll highlights “the iron triangle of science, religion and politics,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

      And very subtly pre-saged in Neil DeGrasse Tyson's latest Cosmos episode which aired last night and described the lengths that the petrochemical companies went to to head off the research by Clair Cameron Patterson that lead gasoline additives were unhealthy. Tyson's subtext was that the same thing is being done with climate science today.

      (This was extensively covered in Bill Byron's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" – an excellent read on science history for the non-scientist and scientist alike.)

      April 21, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
      • bostontola

        Great tie in to Cosmos last night. It clearly showed the extreme measures scientists took to age the earth. It is beyond reproach. The earth is about 4.5B years old, yet that is one of the facts in most doubt in this poll.

        April 21, 2014 at 1:50 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Yes.

        And it's an interesting contrast that people are now willing to believe the causal link between smoking and cancer. The tobacco companies tried for years to assert that there was no connection.

        Just like the gasoline companies tried to do with lead additives.

        Just like the hydrocarbon industry does with climate change today.

        Summary of the survey results:
        AP-GfK Poll (2014)
        Percentage of Americans who are skeptical that:
        4% ........ Smoking causes cancer
        6% ........ Mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain
        8% ........ There’s a genetic code inside our cells
        15% ...... Vaccines are safe and effective
        40% ..... The earth is warming, mostly a result of man-made heat-trapping gases
        40% ..... The Earth is 4.5 billion years old
        40% ...... Life on Earth evolved through a process of natural selection
        51% ...... The Big Bang theory

        April 21, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Smoking causes cancer
          Everyone knows that 4 out of 5 doctors recommend Chesterfields to keep your "T-Zone" in tip-top shape.

          Mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain
          Only if you classify "demonic possession" as a medical condition.

          There’s a genetic code inside our cells
          Cell theory comes straight from Satan.

          Vaccines are safe and effective
          Not as safe and effective as prayer!

          The earth is warming, mostly a result of man-made heat-trapping gases
          The Earth is warming because The Anti-Christ cometh and he will bring Hell with him.

          The Earth is 4.5 billion years old
          If the Earth is that old, why aren't there 100 more pages of "begats" in Genesis?

          Life on Earth evolved through a process of natural selection
          If man evolved from rodent-like mammals, why are there still ferrets? Put that in your evilutionary pipe and smoke it, Charles Darwood.

          The Big Bang theory
          I doubt it'll last much longer than another 2 seasons.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          The Big Bang Theory officially 'jumps the shark' when:

          Sheldon and Amy 'do it'.
          or
          Leonard and Penny get married.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:16 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Ooops – Bryson.

        April 21, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
    • ddeevviinn

      " Americans don't spend much time pondering science at any depth except when it conflicts with their belief."

      You mean like this guy?

      http://youtu.be/HMZ7uemnjCQ

      April 21, 2014 at 1:53 pm |
      • bostontola

        1. I didn't say Christians, I said Americans.
        2. There are 300M Americans, showing 1 means nothing to my point.

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

          " Americans ... their belief "

          1. In that 225M of those Americans are Christians, it is only logical to assume you were equating Americans/belief/Christans.
          2. " 1 " was shown as an example. There are many, many more.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          So when I say "Americans" I really mean Democrats because a majority of people voted for the President?

          Nonsense.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
        • bostontola

          The only thing clear here is that you made the assumption. Do you really think most Americans probe science deeply? Preposterous positions you are taking.

          April 21, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
        • ddeevviinn

          Nope, not a preposterous position. You made the initial statement that " Americans don't spend much time pondering science..." Now you are qualifying it with " Do you really think MOST Americans probe science..." Most Americans may in fact not probe science deeply, but that is irrelevant to the reality that many do.

          I stand by my initial assumption. Not only was it "clear" that I made it, it was also clear that it was accurate.

          April 21, 2014 at 5:26 pm |
  19. Doc Vestibule

    In "Republic", Plato described the near death experience of a soldier named Er.
    He talks about a "cosmic axis" – a rainbow light holding together the eight spheres revolving around the Earth, each guided by its Fate, a daughter of Necessity.
    One of these Fates casts before the crowd to be reincarnated a number of earthly destinies from which they may choose.
    Before returning to Earth as a shooting star, each soul is required to drink from the River of Forgetfulness, so that all the cosmic events will fade from memory. (Er was not required to drink and so could relay his story)

    Strange that it doesn't sound much like Christian NDE visions, eh?

    April 21, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
    • Akira

      I think NDE are what the person experiencing it previously had some knowledge of...in the case of the 4 year old, it was angels.

      April 21, 2014 at 1:35 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        and rainbow horsies!

        April 21, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
        • Akira

          Lol, I'm sure just about every kid has seen the commercials for "My Little Pony".

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

      Doc,
      Thanks for that reference, I didn't realize these recorded events went so far back. Researching it has been fascinating.

      April 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
  20. MadeFromDirt

    Thank you Drew for providing a voice of truth and reason about this movie and NDE's. Individual subjectivity detracts from the glory of God, and promotes confusion among believers and deniers alike. God does not conform to our desires or imagination; He conforms us to His purposes.

    April 21, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      classic cult-speak

      April 21, 2014 at 1:30 pm |
      • Doris

        No kidding. They write as if they have an inside track free from all subjectivity.

        April 21, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
        • G to the T

          Certainty is a comfort for many.

          April 21, 2014 at 1:53 pm |
    • kudlak

      Every dictator seems to find a following eager to see their "purposes" fulfilled in trade of promised special treatment.

      April 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
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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.