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Nov 17 2013

Heaven is not for real

It looks like 2014 is going to be big year from religious mush in films. In addition to the Noah film I wrote about yesterday, Heaven Is For Real will be released around Easter, supposedly based on a true story about a little boy who had a near death experience and then gave a remarkably detailed and accurate account of all the people and things that he had seen in heaven, including things that he could not have known about.

Here’s the trailer, if you can avoid gagging at its maudlin sentimentality.

This film is based on a best-selling book of the same name. The fact that the book was co-written by the boy’s father, who just so happens to be an evangelical pastor (the other author was Sarah Palin’s co-author), did not seem to arouse much skepticism. Books and films such as these take advantage of the desire of people to believe in the afterlife and seize upon near-death experiences as evidence of it.

Susan Jacoby says that what this is really evidence for is not heaven but the immaturity of the American mind. (The book did not do that well overseas.)

To summarize the young Colton Burpo’s (he is now 11) “nonfiction” experience, he visited heaven while he was under anesthesia and encountered a great many vivid colors, Jesus displaying the stigmata, various creatures with wings of different sizes, and his unborn baby sister (who looked very much like his born older sister). His parents, appearing on the Today show with their son (who admitted that his memories of heaven weren’t as clear as they used to be) said they were skeptical at first but lost their skepticism as their child described more details of his experience in the months after his operation.

These were details, his father said, that the boy could not possibly have known had he not really visited heaven, because he had never been shown a picture of the wounded Jesus. Right. It’s understandable that the son of an evangelical pastor must have seen absolutely no prior images of the crucified Jesus or heard anything about heaven as a place with puffy clouds and winged creatures.

Can there possibly be any child raised by devout Christian parents who does not, well before kindergarten, have images of winged beings and puffy clouds embedded in his or her brain? Small children believe in Santa Claus for the same reason–because their parents, whom they love, teach them to believe in Santa. The difference is that, at an appropriate age, parents admit that the Santa story isn’t true. They never admit, however, that heaven is the same sort of story.

Brace yourselves. It looks like 2014 is going to be a big year for religious propaganda. The apocalypse must be upon us.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Rob Grigjanis

    Jesus displaying the stigmata

    Doesn’t say much for Heavenly Health Care, does it?

  2. 2
    Reginald Selkirk

    The fact that the book was co-written by the boy’s father, who just so happens to be an evangelical pastor…

    And yet in the trailer, the father is portrayed as being skeptical of the supernatural story elements.

  3. 3
    Chiroptera

    …including things that he could not have known about.

    Those words always seem to set off my Skeptometer.

    -

    …who just so happens to be an evangelical pastor….

    You know, when I was a lad and an evangelical fundamentalists, near death experiences were considered heretical and blasphemous. At best, the experiencers were being deluded by whatever the psychologists say this is, at worst they were being lied by Satan himself.

  4. 4
    Chiroptera

    Oops. I meant when I was a fundamentalist, singular. I wasn’t a trinity or nothing.

  5. 5
    ursa major

    When I was fairly young I had dreams of being in heaven as the Bible describes it – all stone and metal. When awake I believed the indoctrination of how wonderful the place would be but when I tried to dream it it always quickly twisted into a nightmare since as described it can not be anything else. Sometimes I wonder if my dreams played a role in my eventual atheism.

  6. 6
    raven

    The fact that the book was co-written by the boy’s father, who just so happens to be an evangelical pastor…

    Follow the money. This is America we are talking about here.

    In this case, the trail is a short four lane freeway.

    Much of the money xians donate ends up in the hands of scammers. Oh well, I’m sure it gets recycled to high end home builders, luxury car makers, jewelry makers, yacht designers, and private jet charter services. It all works out. They need to eat too.

  7. 7
    wtfwhateverd00d

    This, and life (and death) on other planets explains why the universe is forced to expand at a constant rate.

  8. 8
    Pierce R. Butler

    Here’s the trailer, if you can avoid gagging at its maudlin sentimentality.

    And there it is, even if you can’t.

  9. 9
    Matt G

    Wow. They keep telling us that their theology is sophisticated… but then they give us winged animals! Will the Real Heaven please stand up??

  10. 10
    Acolyte of Sagan

    Brace yourselves. It looks like 2014 is going to be a big year for religious propaganda. The apocalypse must be upon us.

    And you’ll be hearing a lot more about it in the U.S. if the coming storms are as bad as some are predicting. There’s nothing gets the End Timers salivating like a good old-fashioned natural disaster on their home soil.

  11. 11
    Matt G

    So silly that even in the age of science, so many see the hand of god behind natural disasters.

  12. 12
    lanir

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs.

    Since that obviously can’t happen, they’ll mix up the recipe with their own patentend blend of hype, nonsense, fake persecution and threats.

    And when none of those old tricks work, screw it. They’ll just Go Hollywood.

    Which is awesome on the face of it. It’s kind of the ultimate admission that none of this shit is real and it shouldn’t be taken very seriously.

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