Heaven Is For Real

Heaven Is For Real is the title of a book that was written based on the real life story of a little boy who had a near-death experience. He apparently reported to his family that heaven was real and that he had met long-dead relatives. The book is now a movie and Brad and I were subjected to a preview for it when we were in North Carolina.

I’m a little saddened that this story and the experience of this little boy is being turned into Christian propaganda. The book and the movie, from what I’ve seen, both seem to be using the little boy’s experience as a way to “prove” that Christianity must be right. (I have neither read the book nor seen the movie).

It’s not that simple, though.

I believe that in our time of death we are met with whatever we expect and need in that moment. 

God doesn’t want to jar us or scare us. Death should be a peaceful transition. And so if we pray to Krishna every day, I think it will be Krishna who greets us as we leave our current earthly body. If it was Jesus we revered, it would be he who would show up.

If we have always believed that we will see our past loved ones, then their images will be there for us. Even those we never knew or met can manifest because their life is woven into the collective unconscious Being.

Heaven Is For Real doesn’t prove anything. It could be a lovely story of peace and hope if it weren’t being used as a tool to bludgeon other religious belief.

There have been many accounts from people who have died and come back or had near-death experiences (and from what I understand this boy didn’t actually die).  They tend to tell slightly different stories of that experience. Perhaps they really went somewhere, perhaps it was the brain putting out comforting hallucinations to calm one into death.

I see no reason, with the infinite power of the universe, that it wouldn’t give us exactly what we expect, want, and need to smooth over our transition out of our current body.

Christians are invested in everyone believing exactly what they believe (to the point of fighting among themselves about what those beliefs are), so they can’t just enjoy a story. They have to use it as a “I told you so” to everyone else on earth. They cannot accept that an experience they had may not be the same experience everyone else will have. If the pastor who wrote this book could have just been inspired by his son’s story and used it to be a better person, great. But he has to capitalize and monetize that story instead, using it for criticism of those who don’t share his beliefs.

This is, of course, leaving aside that the authority of a three-year-old is not all that compelling.

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • http://western-hindu.org/ Tandava

    There is scientific evidence backing your idea. “Near death experiences” in Thailand see Yama assigning souls to appropriate rebirths. Another source says Evangelicals see Jesus, Catholics Mary, and Hindus yama.

    A Christian boy saying “heaven is real” is no more evidence of Christianity than me seeing a red postbox is evidence that the Royal Mail delivers all the letters in the world

    • Jeramy Hansen

      Huh … I wonder if, as an atheist, I’ll see nothing at all.

      • http://western-hindu.org/ Tandava

        According to the second link you would probably see “beings of light” – and probably put it down to lack of oxygen in the brain afterwards.

        • Jeramy Hansen

          Likely :)

      • Bob Siress

        Many atheist have had NDE’s. None of them are atheist now. It is very easy to read their stories on line if you look. I have come to realize that Atheist ism is a religion in itself. Watch how hard they promote their ideals.

        • Ambaa

          I would not be surprised to hear that some atheists change their beliefs after a NDE. However, I doubt that every single one does. That sounds way too convenient for those of us who do believe in God or Gods.

          • Bob Siress

            in my study of in NDE’s over the past 10 years I’ve discovered that every one that has died and returned coms back with the innate knowledge that God does exist. in fact, it is no longer a faith it became a knowing. Those that came back from a terrifying NDE know of their eternal existence. I don’t recall any exceptions but perhaps there are some.

          • Ambaa

            Well, I’m still skeptical (mostly out of respect to my atheist friends), but you have studied more than I!

        • Jeramy Hansen

          Atheism is a religion the same way bald is a hair color.

          I don’t care to promote my ideas. I’m happy to talk about my lack of belief when a person asks why, but I’m not one to get in the faces of religious people a la Dawkins or his ilk … I find that as distasteful as a religious person getting in my face about atheism.

  • Y. A. Warren

    “Christians are invested in everyone believing exactly what they believe (to the point of fighting among themselves about what those beliefs are), so they can’t just enjoy a story. They have to use it as a “I told you so” to everyone else on earth. They cannot accept that an experience they had may not be the same experience everyone else will have. If the pastor who wrote this book could have just been inspired by his son’s story and used it to be a better person, great. But he has to capitalize and monetize that story instead, using it for criticism of those who don’t share his beliefs.”

    This is the reason that many people honor Jesus, but don’t like “Christians.”

    I have helped someone “party into Paradise” and it was a wonderful experience for almost all who participated in the last three days of the friend’s life. I like to believe that, while I die, my brain will replay pleasant memories, if that is where I keep my focus while I have control of my mind. I have made it clear to my family that I want no clergy or verbalized prayers at my bedside while I die. I am so sick of the sacred being sad that I want my time of death to be a time of laughter as memories of me are shared.

    This little boy is fortunate that he was fed a positive image of “God” rather than the fear of hell fire and damnation images that so many feed their children as a control mechanism.

    • Ambaa

      “This little boy is fortunate that he was fed a positive image of “God” rather than the fear of hell fire and damnation images that so many feed their children as a control mechanism.”

      Very good point!

    • Paul Julian Gould

      Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians… they are so unlike your Christ.

      • Y. A. Warren

        There is too much assumed when we talk about religion.

        In the spirit of Jesus, I am now prone to asking who is the christ that an avowed “Christian” is following. I also ask people about their image of any god in whom they profess faith. Unless the manifestation of spirituality is leading to greater world peace, I am not willing to call it truly righteous religion.

        • Paul Julian Gould

          I’ve often said that if there is any truth to the general image of a heaven or a hell, there will be a multitude of surprises in each place as to whom is and isn’t there. (I tend to think of them as situations, as opposed to places, and can’t reconcile a loving God with an eternal hell… I believe that a hellish condition has an ultimate karmic lesson to teach, and once the lesson is learned, it’s done… but a burning lake of fire? Oh, please… /*weary smile*/)

  • Doug

    Your theories are cute.

  • Madonna Narog

    I remember as a young child saying to my family – what if everyone is right? What if the element of belief is so strong that people experience what they immerse themselves in during their lifetime. They all seemed to think something was wrong with me and couldn’t fathom where such crazy ideas were coming from. It wasn’t until I discovered Hinduism that I realized my way of thinking wasn’t “out there,” it was just different than what I had been taught.

    • Ambaa

      I love that. My parents always told me that our next life depends on our thoughts at the moment of death. They said to practice good thoughts because in the panic of death, your mind will go to your most frequent thoughts for comfort.

  • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

    I would be interested in seeing this movie. I think you would probably enjoy it, too, if you were able to take a step back and look at it from an academic perspective, with the goal of answering a few questions:

    - What does this movie say about God/the divine?
    - What does this movie say about society?

    - What is this movie saying TO society?
    - Who is this movie being marketed to?
    - Is it serving as propaganda or is it trying to tell a story within its cultural context?

    There are a lot of Biblically-themed movies coming out in 2014 (Noah is one, and there’s yet another movie about the life of Jesus coming out) and this is really just part of American culture. It will be interesting to see how they are portrayed; to be honest, most of the “Christian” movies I have seen have been pretty terrible and/or star Kirk Cameron, who should have never made the jump to film.

    • Ambaa

      There are a bunch of Bible movies coming out! I just heard of yet another one. Abraham I think it was. The Noah movie looked pretty spectacular from the previews.

      • Paul Julian Gould

        A bit of full-disclosure on my part, regarding my individual impatience and irritation with films of that sort:

        My first wife, the mother of my daughters and co-grandparent of 4, seriously got the, as I term it, “non-denominational denomination” American Evangelical Protestant bug 2 years into our almost 14-year marriage. She still is in that, as I see, quite limiting and limited mindset, and bless her if that’s where she needs to be. Without checking my brain at the door, I was an announcer and production manager for a couple of so-called “Christian rock” and gospel stations in the 1980′s. I played in various “worship” bands, with some wonderful folks whose day gig was a 100 or so miles north, at Muscle Shoals studios. And, I was honored to work for the first interracial gospel station in Birmingham, Alabama history, being a dinner guest and fishin’ buddy with some folks that marched with Dr. King, knew Aretha Franklin’s daddy, Rev. C.L., up in Detroit, and were just generally walking talking pieces of history who also happened to be some really nice ladies and guys.

        But, I never was able to fully commit to what I saw and still see as a very narrow and binary way thinking and living.

        I knew people that just loved stories like this, and seemed to base their “faith” on needing “signs and wonders.” Any spirituality that depends constant validation and leans on seeing one’s self as constantly under persecution is a spirituality that is a mile long but an inch deep.

        I lived among those folks for a decade, and see so many of them now, with whatever joy of those bygone days has turned to TeaParty rage… it’s sad – so unutterably sad, as so many were otherwise seemingly intelligent… bile kills brain cells.

    • 5w_haul

      how these religious films gets viewership in usa. in india after a few flops they don’t try anymore, may be we are too addicted to sunday morning soaps.

  • monica

    I would like to share an interesting article on Hindu’s religious ceremony, Thaipusam.

    http://www.malaysiandigest.com/frontpage/282-main-tile/484321-a-big-no-no-to-unconventional-kavadis.html

  • Shesadri Sekhar Bagchi

    as a hindu, i like christ, but 90% of christianity is not abot christ. its all about adam , eve, sin, israel, hell, heaven, angels, satan, which I dont like at all. islam has no kind figure like jesus.

    • Maeva

      As a Pagan, I agree with you 100%. A Christian was asking how I could reject ‘the truth’ as she put it, and I basically told her that. She didn’t understand.


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