Heaven Can Wait

The New York Times yesterday ran this story about the publishing phenomenon, Heaven Is For Real:  A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of his Trip to Heaven and Back.

Oh, but look. The book was “co-authored” by Lynn Vincent, who “co-authored” Going Rogue, Sarah Palin’s autobiography.

Sudden wonderment fail.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Mindy

    Yup. That ruins it in a single beat.

    • Mary G

      Amen. :-P

    • Susan in NY

      Ya think?

  • dana111

    The little boy said that he saw Jesus “who had ‘eyes that were just sort of a sea-blue and they seemed to sparkle.’” Jesus was a Jew from Palestine. If he did have “eyes” that “seemed to sparkle,” more than likely they were not blue…. because Jesus was not European. The little boy is cute, but I think he may have projected onto his “vision” of Jesus what his parents told him Jesus looks like, or from the pictures of a blue eyed and blond Jesus that probably hang on the walls of his dad’s church…

  • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

    In the kid’s defense, one could argue that in Heaven, Jesus would appear just as he wants to be – perhaps in whatever form would make somene the most comfortable / be the most recognizeable, “A Form You Are Comfortable With” to use a TV Tropes term.

    I’ve been talking with people on Huffington Post of all places about NDEs. There have been a couple of articles about them there. I’ve never had one, myself, but I’ve decided that I just don’t know what to make of them. Some people say all they are is the throes of a dying brain (and can cite scientific studies on that), still others will talk about experiences people have had where they remember stuff they shouldn’t from having no brain function at all…

    There’s everything from people meeting Jesus to this…. one person on Huff who speaks of her husband’s experiences and assures everyone that “Christians don’t make it to Heaven” (we’re apparently too stupid and evil for the spirits to let us in).

    It all leads me to think that if any of these things are genuine spiritual experiences, they’re pretty much filtered through limited human brains. Maybe the kid did go to Heaven, but if he did, it was probably too broad an experience for him to comprehend, so ineveitably, upon coming back it gets filtered through his limited human brain, complete with the paradigms and prejudices thereof.

    Which would account for a Palestenian Jew with decidedly Aryan eyes.

    • Suz

      Well said, I agree. Here’s an interesting, albeit biased website.

      http://www.nderf.org/

      I just started reading “The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain,” By Kevin Nelson. He claims BOTH sides are mad at him, so he could be on to something. I’m looking forward to a scientific explanation of independently verifiable Out of Body Experiences. I wonder if he has one…

      Science is pretty dogmatic about dismissing what it can’t define. Most of the evidence of NDE’s is anecdotal, and therefore scientifically weak, but there’s too much of it to ignore.

      • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

        I think that is a problem with current science – the dogma. It’s probably one of the main reasons I contend for religion, the hardline “All we need to know about the universe we know right now!” mentality.

        I think I’m at a point where I can’t even explain *why* I believe in Jesus, I just *do.* – It’s like he’s stuck in my brain, my heart and won’t leave. He’s freeloading on the couch and eating all my ice cream. I can’t just snap my fingers and “ditch” like so many people think I need to in order to become a “full human being.” – and THAT attitude in turn makes me not want to even *try* to ditch. (I’ve said before to a friend that “sometimes I think the athiests might be right but I sure don’t want to become one.” – Because if it means I’ll become jerktastic like that, I want no part of it). When it really comes down to the nitty-gritty of it, however, I’ve told folks who were “trying to save my mind” that the *best* they can hope for out of me is a “loose agnostic.”

        Sure, maybe it makes me a fool to consider the *possibility* of the supernatural, but I am NOT WILLING TO CLOSE THAT DOOR. I am, for lack of a better term, TOO IMAGINATIVE. I am the kind of person who finds more meaning to life behind a paintbrush than in a test tube. I love science, but I’m *never* going to be a Spock-minded scientist.. I am emotional. I love the subjective. I am a “worthless” being because I’m not out to cure cancer or run for office – I just want to paint deer skulls and write fantasy novels.

        The thing that really honks me off about dogmatic materialists is that…. scientist though I am not, I do *know* a bit of history. Some people think of science the same way people used to think of magic, and scientists the same way some of us view priests – “can do no wrong, above reproach.” Nuh-uh. A quick look back in history (and, yes, religion completely aside), there were things that the scientific establisment once believed were iron-clad that we know think our bunk. Every scientific breakthrough, most of the science we know today, HAD TO FIGHT SCIENCE at some point. Doctors used to be *offened* at the notion that they needed to wash their hands. Plate tectonics was once a scandal. It wasn’t *all* Galelio fighting the church. People forget that.

        The multiverse than current physisists are excited about? When that started getting popular, my thought was “Well, duh, artists and writers have been using that trope for centuries if not millienia.” Heck, it’s the stock and trade of the science fiction that my fiance’ enjoys writing. (He even has some of his characters suffer a disease specific to “unique” people who have no other selves in other universes)! Is he a scientist? No. He’s that most SUBJECTIVE of things – an artist.

        It’s my policy to keep open to possiblities. Show me a person who thinks they have existance figured out and I’ll show you a fool.

        • Diana A.

          Shadsie, I love this! This is so on-point!

        • Suz

          Go Shadsie, go! Are we twins separated at birth? OK, I hesitate to expose my inner self to the amazingly intelligent commenters on this blog, but you might take a peek at two things: http://shiningpearlsofsomething.blogspot.com/2011/02/no-i-am-not-new-age-spiritualist.html

          (But frankly, you said it WAAAY better than I did.)

          and

          http://www.considerateatheist.com/

          (I really like this guy – our views are so close, yet come from opposite directions.)

          *

          I’m about a third of the way through “…Doorway…” and it’s absolutely fascinating!

          *

          And John, I feel like all kinds of an idiot for pimping my blog; I won’t be offended if you remove this.

        • Don Rappe

          I agree that many of those who claim to speak for “science” are dogmatic, often to an extreme. I know about a dozen physicists here at the U. Texas in Brownsville and I know that more than half keep their faiths. I learn this when I offer to pray for someone who has a serious problem or tell someone of my problem and they offer to pray for me. We represent Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist. There are others who hold quietly to various types of secular belief. I have not met a real scientist who spouts the kind of dogmatic atheism we encounter so much in cyberspace. I recall a cyber-spouter recently saying no Christian could ever discover anything about nature. Famous names who “got lucky” include Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Gilbert, Maxwell.and Darwin. Chandrasekhar was a practicing Hindu. Einstein was a peculiar sort of Jew. My opinion is that most scientists have a deep reverence for nature inspired by its beauty and order at all levels, microcosmic, human sized, and cosmic.

          • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

            I read an article once about that sort of thing – done by a reporter who clandestinely asked many scientists about their beliefs. While many scientists were secular – agnostic types, only about 6% were hardcore athiests actually working against religion. 6% !

            Of the scientists that had a religion or “believed in a higher power and/or spiritual things” most confessed that they *kept it under wraps* because of the establisment, for fear of being ostracized or even losing their jobs / positions!

            I think some things are just trendy for establisment. I remember reading an article about the art world – the hoity-toity New York Gallery scene and how a few galleries were actually showing work by religious artists and how *novel* that was this day and age because it’s been established for a long time that “blasphemous” art – that stuff that protests religion has been the cool, edgy thing that the establisment looks for. The art world loves “Piss Christ” while the uneducated, unwashed masses like Thomas Kinkade. And maybe, just a little bit, it’s been established for so long that people are getting bored with it and it’s just *starting* to come back around.

            Even media… it’s all spin. Of course, your spin depends upon what you watch. Fox News has its spin, the rest of the news has theirs. I’ve been thinking lately about an old show I used to like, late 90s, early 2000′s – how it was popular for a while, but became deader than Disco after 2001. I admit with a blush that I used to like “Touched by an Angel.” I’ve been looking up some clips of it on YouTube, and I think “Hey, maybe it was a bit corny, but it really was a sweet show.” I also think “There is NO way this show could be made today.” – The culture is just too cynical right now.

            I think it’s pretty much just establishments and public perceptions, which, to me are things that are often false and to be fought against. I also don’t worry too much about people’s Internet vitriol. I figure most people who scream and opine online are folks like me – utterly powerless people with little expertise and an overabudnance of opinion.

          • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

            Another stray thought:

            The multiverse thing – I keep thinking that, 50 years ago, people may have been laughed out of the establishment for that. Even today, it’s pretty far out.

            I suspect the *only* reason such a “weird” theory is gaining acceptance today is because it is Hawking’s opinion that it negates the need for God. I think people who have prejudices are latching onto the theory like hungry cats go to the food bowl just because a prominent man has the opinion that “many worlds” kicks the idea of God to the curb. They’re only into it because they’re eager to “scientifically grind the stupid religious people into the dirt.”

            And this puzzles me, actually. While I know that the scientific idea of many dimensions has more to do with “Here, the big bang didn’t happen” or “Here, no stars formed, only dust” and they don’t think much of the science fiction writers’ imaginings, I can’t help but think “How would alternate universes disproove religion? Every or almost every religion has believed in at least ONE alternate universe since time immemorial! The spirit-world / spiritual dimension!”

            Multiverse theory would seem to be more *proof* of spiritual things to me, just because of that.

    • DR

      I agree with this too.

  • Tim

    I don’t get the wonderment fail. Back in October you seemed to have a sympathetic heart for Lynn when you said (referring to Lynn Vincent’s acknowledgement), “I’m actually astounded more by such a buried, cursory, and calculatingly dismissive reference to the book’s ghostwriter (what a difference there is between writing and helping to “get the words on paper”), than I was to think that Palin had chosen to simply ignore Vincent altogether.” I get that Palin isn’t a popular person, but does writing for Palin make Lynn a pariah? If so, why was she worthy of defending five months ago.

  • Don Rappe

    I believe every spiritual experience is also a psychological experience. And what better to cause our conscious mind to plumb the depths of our psyche than near death. The boys story, like every good religious story has been told, retold and polished. Bible stories can say the same. I am not inclined to dishonor the vision of heaven by confusing it with an account of some material existence. If it is filled with numinous symbolic figures and events, it is as real as any holy vision can be. IMHO


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