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.